(By Sylvester Udemezue)


Mr Ifeanyi Agwuncha (writing on the Law & Society platform) was perfectly right in his recollection of a PART of my suggestion to the just concluded NBA-AGC:

“Many principals don’t have kobo to pay. As @⁨Sylvester Udemezue ⁩ pointed out in one of the sessions at the [NBA] conference , there must be a break away somewhat from pupilage, exploring other options of employment, and reducing pressure on the law firms.” The truth is, very many law firms just can’t meet the reasonable expectations of our young lawyers with regard to wages and in terms of welfare. Besides, the law firms alone are not enough to satisfy the high demands for employment by our teeming young Lawyers. Yet, New wigs keep dumping their CV’s in law firms that hardly want or need their services. It is the too much pressure (for employment) on the law firms that promote the sexual harassment stories or allegations being talked about here and there. The pressure and desperation to get employed in a law firm lures the young lady into agreeing to any overtures from the opposite sex, made with promises of heaven and earth that are hardly fulfilled/kept at the end. Further, because new wigs are desperately begging the seniors for employment, the seniors feel the liberty to use, abuse, exploit and oppress the new wigs, seeing that majority of the new wigs have very little chance of getting an alternative offer outside law firms. Now, if we work hard and enlarge the employment base/space for lawyers, there would be less pressure on the law firms; Law Firms would begin struggle to see good Lawyers to employ. And when they employ new wigs, the seniors would treat the new wigs with respect knowing that, otherwise, they might lose the services of the new wig and might find it hard to get other reasonably good hands , since most of the lawyers are now gainfully engaged elsewhere. What is more, if all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria create and have legal departments, and each local government employs an everage of 5–10 lawyers in its legal department, we’d have at least 3,870 to 7,740 lawyers gainfully employed at the local government level. These lawyers would in turn supervise and even undertake prosecutorial activities in magistrate courts, and represent the respective LG’s in area courts, Magistrates courts, High Courts, etc. They’d additionally be on hand to render necessary legal advisory services to their local governments. More, the Legal department at the LG level could become in charge of advising on issues relating to issuance of Customary Right of Occupancy at the LG level, thereby playing similar roles as the Ministries of Justice and lands play at the state level. More still, the legal departments at the LG level could take steps to set up (citizens) mediation Centers at the local government level, as well as explore other legal advisory or legal aid services aimed to help the local community or make justice more affordable and easily accessible by local inhabitants. Still more, the pressure of having all the lawyers striving to settle down only in the major cities such as Lagos, PortHarcourt, Kano, Onitsha, Aba, Ibadan, Jos, Abuja, Enugu City, Uyo, Warri, Calabar, Kaduna City, etc would disappear since lawyers employed by the various local governments would have to relocate to the local council headquarters where they’d live and operate from, with their families. Still more, Lawyers and Legal services would move closer to the people at the grass-root, since residents of local communities would no longer need to travel to major cities to get the services of lawyers that would draft their various agreements, contrasts, or to render some legal advice. Then, gradually, from among these lawyers who are LG Legal officers, some Magistrates or even judges are appointed, just as is done at the state level.
There’s yet another beautiful measure that could expand the employment base of lawyers with a view making their services more useful to the society: creating legal departments/sections in state and local government offices of the various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s). Remember that all legal and Legislative draftsmen are necessarily Lawyers. So why do we keep drafting the legislative Bills against our own interests? That’s the question I asked during the 2019 NBA-AGC. Example, if the Police Act is amended to provide for setting up of a legal section in every Police Area Command, and Divisional Police Office, each of such legal sections to be headed by a Divisional Legal Officer (DLO), just as we have Divisional Police Officer(DPO) as the executive head of the entire police division and then a Divisional Crime Officers (DCO) and DTO (Divisional Traffic Officer),etc. The DLO would become the head of the legal section in the police division, with mandate to advice the DPO, DTO, DCO, and other men and officers of each police station on observance of human rights requirements in treatment of arrestees (arrested persons) and detainees, to draft criminal charges and First Information Reports (FIR) for filing in relevant Magistrate Courts, advising the police on what offense to charge to court and on what to not charge, and on when to institute a charge and when to not, etc. This would in turn decongest our courts as fewer cases would be filed, because frivolous charges would have been weeded out at the investigation level. Besides, Lawyer-police officers from the various legal sections of police divisions would also participate in prosecution of cases in Magistrates courts. This has two more additional advantages:1⃣There would be need to employ more lawyers into the police force to meet this high demand for prosecutors; and 2⃣ with Lawyers as prosecutors at Magistrates Courts, defence lawyers would wake up and begin to take their cases at the Magistrates courts more seriously, seeing that they’re no longer dealing as prosecutors, with only police officers who have little or no knowledge of prosecutorial knowhow/expertise or finesse. Besides, the ends of justice would be better realized since we now have only legal officers on all sides — Magistrates, Prosecutors, and Defence Counsel. Finally, with each police station having a LEGAL SECTION headed by a DLO, complaints of Human rights abuses at the police stations would reduce drastically as the level of police compliance with chapter 4 of the Constitution as well as other provisions relating to investigation and prosecution would increase. The same process would gradually be extended to the Customs branches , Civil Defence, Immigration Branches, NDLEA, INEC (with all INEC offices having legal sections to employ lawyers and enjoy easy and proximate legal advisory services). Then, with all government Ministries and Departments being made to have legal sections or Legal Clinics, just as each has a Medical Cunic, Finance/accounting sections, etc. With all these implemented, even if halfway, in the next 5 years, you’d notice that many law firms would have fewer government cases to handle as there might be fewer human rights violations and infractions of the law by police and other law Enforcement agencies, government departments and ministries. Further, the law firms would begin struggle to see good lawyers to employ. And when they employ lawyers, they’d appreciate and value them and treat them in such a manners as would encourage the employees to not think of leaving the firm. Our society would become the much better for it as lawyers would become much more useful to their immediate society, and also be in a position to play their true roles as the eyes and conscience of society. Meanwhile, fewer lawyers (if any) would remain unemployed. There’d be greaters respect for lawyers as society now begins to makes much greater use of lawyers’ services. Tell me for example how a lawyer would be attacked or molested at any police station when his first point of call when he goes to a police station on account or his client’s case is the DLO’s Office or the Office of a Lawyers in the legal section. So, it becomes a lawyer-to-Lawyer affair instead of lawyer to lay police officers , which usually creates a lot of tension as partly occasioned by the very antagonistic and harsh manner lay police officers view and treat lawyers as well as the bragging and pompous attitude of some in discerning Lawyers. There’s much more to be said on this. I am already working on a paper to be submitted to the NBA president and to us all, on how these suggestions could be smoothly implemented to make the economic base of lawyers stronger and leave them less desperate while rendering them more relevant to society’s legal needs. Please note that the idea is not just to create more employments and to enlarge the job space for lawyers; it is more importantly, to in the process bring the lawyers to have more positive impact on their immediate society. Thank you. Please take out some time and read my detailed articles on https://loyalnigerianlawyer.com/delimitating-the-prosecutorial-powers-of-police-officers-for-a-more-efficient-criminal-justice-administration-in-nigeria/ or on https://dnllegalandstyle.com/2019/delimitating-the-prosecutorial-powers-of-police-for-a-more-efficient-criminal-justice-administration-in-nigeria-recommendations-sylvester-c-udemezue/.
Sylvester Udemezue
(UDEMS). 08021365545.

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