Pilot Law

NBA Crisis: It may be difficult for SANs to emerge president again

Chief Rafiu Oyeyemi Balogun was among the pioneer students of the faculty of law, University of Ilorin in 1993 and graduated in 1999, no thanks to the protracted ASUU strike then. He later proceeded to the Bwari campus of the Nigerian law School Abuja and was called to Bar in 2001. After the completion of his NYSC programme at the chambers of the erudite and highly revered Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali in Ilorin, he was retained. After his 7years tutelage, he went ahead to establish R.O Balogun & Co. (Crystal Chambers) with the Head Office situated along Taiwo Road Ilorin. In this interview with ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, he talks about some current issues in the legal profession. Excerpts:
What is your summation of the acrimonious NBA presidential election?
What is certain now is that Akpata has been declared the winner and that fact is sacrosanct. Except something happens, he is our president to be sworn in this week. Up till now, there is no court order and it is not likely there will be to stop him from being sworn in. It’s natural that election of this nature, especially the NBA election always generates hues and cries and I have been involved on two occasions and during one of them, my name was just removed illegally at the eve of the election. You can see the injustice we are doing to ourselves. I wanted to go to court to challenge my illegal removal, but my boss appealed to me. This time, the SANs wanted to support their own as they think they are the leaders of the bar which they actually are. They want to put their own so that somebody like me will not be dictating to them during meetings. They want to continue to assume that role as leaders of the bar. But nowadays, it might not be possible again that they (SANs) will continue to lead because nowadays, array of young lawyers are emerging. If we are turning in over 3000 lawyers yearly, then how many SANs do we have? Now that election is no more about delegate system where was easier for them to use and wield their influence to maneuver and try to influence things but its now universal suffrage because of the electronic voting. So now if care is not taken, it might not be possible for SANs to be there again. That is just the truth because those young lawyers are angry and I think they are hungry coupled with the letter of my respected and highly revered, very venerated (SAN) who is my father my mentor, Chief Awomolo which also spell doom for Adeshina and Akinlade, both SANs. I think the lesson is that we should not underrate our young lawyers, they can determine anybody’s fate now. If you want to contest any election, you must have their support now that some are even clamouring for abolition of SAN. But we need to look critically at those issues raised after the election, they can’t be brushed aside with the view to guarding against reoccurrence. I recommend holistic review of our electoral system even though I feel this election was better compared to the previous one.
Don’t you think the new regime will face acceptability crisis especially from the Outer Bar considering the issues and complaints that trailed the election?
I agree the elders/SANs may not probably accept him and they might not even attend the NEC meetings or participate in the activities of the bar which is not good, there won’t be that cohesion. But I think they suppose to sheath their swords, Akpata has not committed any crime by contesting election and nothing has been established about the issue of alleged rigging. As lawyers, one must be very careful in condemning the election as a fraud when nothing has been established. By and large, I think Akpata will serve his tenure, though he might not have support of some elders, but the young generation want him to be there and if he is able to achieve during his tenure and meet the yearning of the young lawyers on issue of welfare and increase in remuneration, that is the essence then.
Would you advocate for remuneration for bar executives unlike what we have now where there is no salary?
I think at the state level, there is nothing like remuneration or salary and I contributed my quota, financially and otherwise. Recall that when we wanted to change Ilorin NBA House to a storey building, I personally added one million naira among other books and items to the funds the committee realised despite all the attempt to blackmail me. It’s all about service. At the national level, you speak with presidents, speakers and senate presidents. It’s a very big job, look at Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, he was a former NBA President and did very well as an activist. So federal government knew they cannot just do anything unchecked. There is no point in people fighting for the seat, it doesn’t actually worth it if it’s about service.
What is your reaction to the palliative by the national bar?
We have to commend the national bar for this, though the money might be small but it will go a long way in soothing our young lawyers who are less privileged and vulnerable. Some of them receive N10, 000 per month. As lawyers, we don’t pay well except in few cases but you see that is why our profession is somehow. When young lawyers are under tutelage, such knowledge cannot be quantified. And some people even believe a lawyer under such process supposed not to be earning much but face their studies. But now, its all about money, our young lawyers should have to check themselves. During our own time, money is not paramount. In UK, you’re supposed to pay your boss just like when you’re learning a trade. Our profession is unique, it is not just for everybody that is just the truth. According to history, law was for the well to do people. But we can’t bring that into Nigeria and things are changing, I agree our young lawyers must be well paid. In our office, this is not to boast, I am not saying we’re paying much but our health package is free for lawyers including surgeries and operations because we know and believe health is wealth. I borrowed it from my principal, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN). For those that want to acquire vehicles, we also give something to support and subsidised their rents once we see you are committed and want to serve because sometimes such beneficiaries will run away after we have made them comfortable. Also from some of the cases they handle, across several jurisdictions in Offa, Lagos, Abuja and Ekiti states among others, they make one or two naira too and take some allowances that will keep them going. These are some of the things that made me believe that our young lawyers will be committed if they are comfortable not necessarily for you to equip them heavily no! I commend the NBA for doing that but it must be properly monitored so that it won’t be one sided by using practicing fee list. Affidavits and writing of agreements are other areas where lawyers ought to thrive. My ambition while I was running for secretary is welfarism.
How can you say you impacted Kwara(ns) during your time as the national legal adviser of the NBA?
Of course! I was given opportunity to nominate people to the quarterly committees of the bar. But my power is not as wide as that of the General Secretary who can do so many things and can even nominate appointments to the board through the president. As the Legal Adviser, the man is just to look at cases for NBA and advise the president. Now, it has been wiped off after my own tenure they said lawyers cannot have adviser, that you cannot be advising SANs, it has now been abolished. But as NEC member, I recommended somebody from my boss, Yusuf Ali’s office as NBA prosecutor and he is still there till today. I also recommended Professor AbdulKadir Abikan and Professor Muhammed Akanbi to certain committees of NBA and they did very well. This is what I can do at my level as legal adviser but as General Secretary you can do so many things.

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