By Jibrin Samuel Okutepa (SAN)

When I woke up this morning, I had a burden in my heart. It is the burden rooted in my genuine concerns for the legal profession of which I am a proud member. I am concerned as the other eminent members of the profession are concerned that all is not well with the legal profession and we must restore the dignity of the profession. It is a task that must be done and it has to be done.

The legal profession should be and ought to be a profession of light that should be visible in the purity of justice in the kingdom of darkness.Yes because darkness flees at the presence of light.
It is a profession that must be intolerant of wickedness and evil. It is the profession that solves problems. It should not be seen to be part of the problems of society. It is the profession whose members are regarded as priests in the temple of justice.

Those who accepted to go to the bench or who have been made to go to the bench are members of the legal profession and they accepted to do so as the chief priests of the temple of justice. The temple of justice is the temple of purity and conscience where evils are not allowed to permeate thereat.Those who accepted to go to the bench ought not and should not do so for monetary or pecuniary considerations.It is an honour to be on the bench.

The lawyers who appeared before the judges are ministers in that temple. In their conduct in courts and outside the courts these lawyers must exhibit the character of justice ministers whose sole aim is the doing of justice. In recent times, it appears, the priesthood and priestly ordinations of this hallowed profession have been under tremendous attacks.

Society now looks at us members of the legal profession as protectors and defenders of evils. People see us as people who have murdered justice and purity of the society. They have taken us members of the legal profession to the cleaners. Of course, the legal profession is unhappy for these attacks.

But can we really blame the society for looking down on members of the legal profession. I do not think so. No one respects a minister in the temple of justice who desecrated his priesthood and priestly ordination by going to brothels to patronizing people of easy virtues or by the type of conduct he exhibited before the public in the decisions he makes or the process he files and obstruction he engaged in to prevent justice being given in courts or in the services he rendered to the society.

Let me be clearer here, and no one should misunderstand me. No sane man or woman of conscience will attend any church or mosque where the preacher in charge does what the ecclesiastical codes prohibit him from doing. In other words, no one will take such a preacher seriously when he preaches against evils for which he himself deeply involved. That is the bane of the legal profession.

The damaged image of the legal profession can not be repaired by ganging up against the the people for their freedom of expression. No, it cannot. The battered image of the legal profession can only be repaired and restored when we, as members of the profession, decided to do what is right. We must avoid doing those things our code of ethics and conduct prohibit us from doing.

As a profession, we must have boundaries beyond which we can not cross. We must begin to do things that inspire confidence in the system of justice and practice we do. We must begin to do the very things our code of conduct enjoys us to do. We must promote and foster the cause of justice.

We must not create or set precedents that are anti-people and expect people to be happy. People will talk and take us to the cleaners if we do things that undermine the sovereignty of the people. People will talk about our practices and decisions if those practices and decisions do not promote the greatest good and happiness of the people.
Laws are made to promote the good and happiness of the people.We must not use law to keep evil men and women in power to oppress the people. The practice we do and the decisions we rendered must not bring hardships on the people. Laws are meant to serve the interest of the people. We cannot ignored the people in our practice and decisions as members of the legal profession.

As members of the legal profession, we must not render decisions that turn the laws on its heads and install those who violated the laws of the land as our leaders. If we do so, people will talk. No amount of intimidation will stop people from talking. The freedom to speak against bad decisions is a fundamental constitutional right that is an essential ingredient of democratic growth and development.

The legal profession hold the key to the growth and development of Nigeria if vast majority of the members both on the bench and at the bar decide to do what is right in the dispensation of justice in our land. I think the discipline for which the legal profession is known has been eroded by some characters in the profession.

The profession of law that I grew up to meet is a profession that does not allow appearances of improprieties. So it is my considered view that for society to stop attacking the legal profession, the legal profession must wake up and start doing what is right and must not be seen to be in conspiracy with darkness permeating every strata of the Nigerian society. That is my honest opinion.

2 thoughts on “A burden in the heart of a Nigerian Senior Lawyer- A burden of concern for the Legal Profession

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