He was called to the Bar in 2011. Oloruntoba Obadofin, an alumnus of the Kogi State University, shares his experience in the legal profession with AKEEM NAFIU
Oloruntoba Obadofin is an associate partner at Niyi Olopade & Co., a law firm at Alausa, Ikeja. He was called to the Bar on October 5, 2011. Obadofin had his secondary education at the Kwara State College of Education Model Secondary School, Ilorin and his LL.B at the Kogi State University, where he graduated in 2008.
I am Oloruntoba Obadofin. I had my Primary Education at Start Right Nursery and Primary School, Taiwo-Oke, Ilorin, Kwara State. From there, I proceeded to Kwara State College of Education Model Secondary School, Ilorin in 1997 and had my University Education in Kogi State University. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on October 5, 2011.
Well, right from the 2nd term of my SS1 days in secondary school, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I had spent the 1st term in science class and I discovered that the core science subjects–Physics and Chemistry were just not for me. So, I moved to the Arts Class and started nursing the ambition to become a lawyer. I always had this impression from way back that I was meant to be a lawyer”.
First day in court
My very first day in court was cool and collected even though I was a little confused as I didn’t really know what the matter was all about because my then boss just gave me an instruction to get a trial date for the matter. I did as I was instructed after I announced my appearance but the judge asked me a few questions to which I could not provide answers. I then became jittery and lost my composure. Her Lordship stood down the matter and asked me to study the file well and address her later on those questions she asked. When the matter was called up later, I’d gleaned some facts from the file and I managed to keep my composure while I addressed the court and got over with the business of the day in court.
Moments of embarrassment
My Most embarrassing moment was when I went to court sometimes in my first year of practice. I had to go and appear in court for a case that had a large file with several processes and letters that had been exchanged by parties and their solicitors and because I was not properly guided by my then boss, I had to figure things out myself and then I saw a letter in which my client admitted to owing the opponent a sum different from what the opponent was alleging in the matter. Based on that letter and due to my naivety, I admitted in open court that my client was owing the sum of N180,000.00 during Case Management Conference (It was called Pre-trial Conference then).
When I got back to the office and informed my then boss, he lambasted me and said I was totally incompetent. The other lawyer filed an application for judgment in the sum of N180,000.00 based on my admission in open court. However, at the next date, my boss went to court to withdraw the admission I made and informed the court and the other counsel that I made a mistake. A few days later I saw the other counsel who informed me that the judge berated my boss for making me handle the case without properly guiding me on the intricacies of the matter.
Oh, I have a handful of fond memories. One event I’d never forget is when I was briefed to recover money for a client. I was envisaging that the matter would go through a long hurdle of litigation. However, all I did was to write a letter after which I followed with a visit and the money was paid to the client. Based on the agreement I had with the client, my professional fees was considerably large, you know when you are paid an amount that is three times more than your salary.
Well, my pupillage has been challenging, interesting and rewarding. I have worked with a couple of firms and I have learnt a lot. I remember a particular firm in which I worked for 2 years, the Carrington Law Firm, where I got the most training in the practice of law, the business of legal practice and I was set on the path to becoming a sound, vibrant and industrious lawyer. I have also built good lasting relationships with senior colleagues in the course of my pupillage.
My judiciary dream
I envision a judiciary that is totally efficient, impartial and incorruptible. One in which there would be speedy dispensation of justice. You know, where you file a case in the High Court and it does not exceed 6 months before the case is finally determined. Also, a system in which the matters before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court would be determined in much shorter time as opposed to what obtains in reality where the matters drag on for years. There may be a need for more judges for this, especially at the High Court level because I know that High Court Judges (in Lagos) have so many cases in their dockets.
The judiciary should be more effective and efficient in administrative matters.
Ali: FG goofed on looters’ list
Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in this interview with TUNDE OYESINA, bares his mind on injustice, inequity, hate speech, corruption and sundry issues
Sir, what is your view on death penalty as punishment for hate speech?
That is too highhanded. What of those who killed directly? For me, we should address the disease not the symptoms. What brought hate speech? It is injustice and inequity in the land. People feel that they are being denied what is due to them ordinarily by being Nigerian citizens. Like people would tell you, when you beat a goat and it runs but when the goat gets to the wall and it cannot escape, it will charge back.
I did not support people who espouse hate speech of any type. What most people forget is that humanity is just one and like I challenge people, who among us chose where we came from in this country or anywhere. Things you don’t have choice over should not be a decisive factor in your relationship with people.
But you can choose your friend because we are all short-sighted, all those things that were imposed on us by nature, so to say, are now what we used to. Even the doctors would tell you, the only person who can tell you who your father is your mother. That tells you how stupid it is to start to fight about this thing and to make all those kind of speeches.
A man who is claiming to be the best Hausa person, actually by origin, may be a Yoruba man or vice versa. If you start to go back to history, most of the people of this country are related in one way or the other from somewhere, lost in history. While the hate speech should be criminalised to serve as a deterrent, I don’t believe killing somebody because he made a speech, could be justifiable. There are more serious offences that should carry death penalty, corruption being one of it.
Are you of the opinion that corruption should be made a capital offence?
That has always been my position. We must be sure that we do everything right, because you don’t just kill people because you hate the persons. We should not be doing it in haphazard way, it has to be thorough. We must first of all ensure there is raw solid investigation with facts built up before you take a person to court and then the rest will follow.
The Federal Government recently released names of alleged looters of public treasury, many of which are undergoing trial in court. What is your take on this?
Our country is an interesting country. We trivialise serious issues and it is quite unfortunate that in spite of all the constitutional safeguards and the principles of rule of law, we are still behaving this way in 21st Century.
The law is settled and sacrosanct above board that once parties submit a case to a court of law, parties hold themselves; you don’t resort to self-help. What I have just seen from all these unfortunate scenarios is that we have allowed politics and grandstanding to override a very solemn issue.
Those individuals who are undergoing trials, it is only the court that pronounces them guilty; it is beyond any of the parties. And you see when I said this thing is being trivialised, the other side too came up with names of others, who belong to the ruling party, who are also in court, being tried for various offences.
So, it shouldn’t be encouraged.
Government should not do such a thing no matter what propelled the federal government. You can only call someone a criminal or a looter or an economic saboteur if he has undergone normal trial in a court of law; he has been so pronounced by a court of law. But you see that it is all politics now.
The people in government named people in opposition who are undergoing trials as looters; the people in opposition came out with people who are also part of the ruling party who are also undergoing trial as looters. We are trivialising very serious matter unfortunately.
With the release of the list now, don’t you think those listed may not have confidence in the Judiciary if they are eventually found guilty?
It may not but I don’t want to speculate. They all know what they are doing, but unfortunately, in one way or another they are sabotaging the rule of law. I don’t think it is right. There is nothing that could justify that. You don’t try to sabotage the rule of law, especially when these matters are in court.
Going by the list of alleged looters from both the ruling party and the opposition, don’t you think Nigerian Judiciary is being put under pressure?
That was what I said at the beginning, that people are not respecting the rule of law. These matters are in court, people must respect the court. It is the same set of people, who will turn round to attack the Judiciary. The Judiciary has become the whipping point of people in power and their collaborators at one point or the other.
Now, the danger in what we are doing is that courts of law don’t decide cases based on rumours or allegations. Those cases must be proved and judgements are given in accordance with the law and the facts.
But when highly placed people do the kind of things that they are doing, then you jeopardise the rule of law; you also jeopardise the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary. You will still come back to blame the Judiciary for your own actions.
To a large extent, you are very correct but I can assure you with the training of judges, they are ordinarily inbuilt for all these ranting. A judge has been trained in a way to maintain his impartiality and his focus. But my worry is the average Nigerian. That is why some of us are opposed to media trial because the average Nigerian only hears one side of an issue. They don’t have the patience or the gift to listen to the other side. If those who made allegation cannot sustain it in court, the general belief in the society is that Judiciary is doing something to free somebody whereas, the person ab initio ought not to have been labelled or branded as a criminal.
What will you proffer as the way forward?
The way forward is for all of us to demonstrate seriousness in all issues. What names of alleged looters have shown is that we are not serious.
Look at what is happening in the U.S about alleged Russian Interference in the election that produced Donald Trump. In spite of the fact that Trump is the President for more than a year, they would use their system because they have strong institutions.
They appointed Independent Council, which has been doing its own work, indicting people, in fact, some people have been convicted.
If it were to be in this country, most of us would start to query that the man is now the President, what are they still looking for. But in their (US) own system, it is very important because of the integrity of the system. Our system here has no integrity. So, there is nothing to defend. It is everything goes. For me, I believe quite honestly that we should show seriousness and those who are in positions of authority have greater responsibilities to show seriousness.
How would you look at General T.Y Danjuma’s view, asking Nigerians to defend themselves against killer herdsmen terrorising the country?
My first reaction is that we would be unserious as a people if we dismiss what he said. And it would be more worrisome if government dismisses it with a wave of the hand. You have to know Danjuma’s antecedents, right from the day when he was a Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army.
Anybody who has followed the history of Nigeria; the first coup, the counter coup, will know that Danjuma is a veteran, and then he rose to become the Chief of Army Staff in our country; he didn’t stop at that, he became the Minister of Defence in 1999.
So, it would be very unserious for anybody to dismiss it because what he said essentially is an indictment against the Nigerian Army, of which at a time he was their Chief and Minister of Defence, superintending all the arms of the Armed Forces.
We cannot take him not to know what he is talking about. And the level of information he has, ordinary people don’t have that kind of information.
For me, truth is sacred. It doesn’t matter, who says what. Substance of what has been said should be the issue.
He is saying Nigerian Army has become partisan in the way they are handling these issues.
So, we should address the issues and that is the problem of our country. Usually, we leave the substance and chase the shadow. I think we should not take his words as “ranting of Mr Nobody”. Danjuma is something in this country; rightly or wrongly and we must take his words seriously. Let’s employ self-introspection.
This attitude of dismissing everything; Transparency International has said that we have gone lower in corruption Index, we dismissed it. Amnesty International made allegation against Armed Forces, we dismissed it. Anything that does not cheer with our perception, we feel there is no substance. I think that is not the correct way of moving forward in a country.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria has set up a committee to monitor corruption cases. What is your assessment of the committee so far?
The committee has no role to play. Politicians are doing their own thing. Luckily, the committee is made up of judges and seasoned lawyers. My own understanding of their work is to ensure that there is adherence to the rule of law in everything that happens to all these trials. And I’m sure at the end of the day, the position some of us took earlier will be vindicated that most corruption cases are lost due to two major reasons; lack of proper investigation and weak prosecution.
The Judiciary is the last leg in the administration of justice and issues of courts. Once you don’t get your investigation right and I give the example, people say in Nigeria James Ibori was discharged by the court whereas in the UK, immediately he was convicted. Yes, it is simple. In the UK or America, nobody would take you to court except you have a raw solid case. Nobody acts on sentiment in those places. Here, most cases are rushed to court based on sentiment and because people who are supposed to be investigators in the agencies want to make a point to show that we are working whereas it is more than that. In those places, they would confront you.
Look at what is happening about an alleged Russia interference in the US election and what the Independent Council is doing. It had facts and that is why you see former officials of Trump going to plead guilty because they built incontrovertible cases against them.
In those places, people are scientific with their forensic investigation and by the time they confront you with facts, you will breakdown. But here, people are first of all arrested, hounded and then you start to look for evidence.
You just talked about strong system over there. And here, the Presidency and the National Assembly are at loggerheads over retention of acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Where do you think we are missing the point?
Everything boils down to our attitude. I have spoken about the continued stay in office of Magu. I have no problem with him as a person. But if we are talking of building an institution and I have made this analogy several times before. The Constitution says these categories of officers must be screened by the Senate and confirmed. If you appoint somebody in acting capacity, and his name has not gone to the Senate, there is no problem about that. That can be accommodated within the spirit of the Constitution.
But immediately you submit the name of the person to the Senate for whatever reason either tenable or untenable, the Senate says no, me, indifference to that institution and in defence of the Constitution, I don’t believe it would be right to say the person must continue. And I give simple example, if the President submits the name of somebody for ministerial appointment and the Senate rejects the name, can you appoint him as an acting Minister? That is the simple logic.
So, in order for us to defend the institution, if only for that, I think the matter should have been handled in a different way. For me, it is as if we are saying there is only one individual in Nigeria, who has the credentials to help us battle the hydra-headed monster of corruption. I don’t think so. I think there are a lot of good men in this country, many of them very silent individuals.
Row over senate’s power to suspend member
Twice, the Senate’s hammer has fallen on two of its members, the latest being Senator Ovie Omo-Agege over an infraction of House rules. Can the National Assembly suspend any of its members indefinitely over the infraction of House rules? FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE reports
For allegedly raising a matter the Senate considered ‘public allegation of impropriety against its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Senator Dino Melaye, the nation’s upper legislative chamber last year suspended one of its members and Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume for 90 legislative days.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions which investigated the matter recommended that Ndume be suspended for one year.
The report presented by the committee’s chairman, Samuel Anyanwu was considered by the lawmakers at plenary.
14 months after, another Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege was barred from the Senate for 90 days over his comment that the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 to reorder sequence of polls in a general election was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
Specifically, Omo-Agege was last week suspended for allegedly dragging the upper legislative chamber to court on the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
Omo-Agege, who was suspended by the Senate for dragging the upper legislative chamber to court on the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010,appeared at the plenary Wednesday last week at a time when suspected thugs invaded the Senate chamber while plenary was ongoing and made away with the mace.
Piqued by his appearance, the senate at the weekend directed its sergeants-at-arm and security personnel to block the lawmaker should he attempt to enter the chamber again.
But Omo-Agege had dismissed the senate’s directive as a joke carried too far, saying his purported suspension was illegal, relying on a court verdict in Ndume versus Senate, which declared Senate’s requisite powers to suspend any member over any infraction of the House rules illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
The court in Ndume’s case had declared the Senate’s powers to suspend members as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
The court presided by Justice Babatunde Quadri not only set aside Ndume’s suspension, it ordered that the senator be allowed to resume his duties in the senate as a senator.
“The suspension of the plaintiff (Ndume) is hereby declared illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional. The purported suspension contained in the letter of March 30 is hereby set aside.
“The first and second defendants (the senate president and the senate) are hereby directed to pay the plaintiff his outstanding salaries and allowances forthwith.”
Can the senate now suspend its members over infraction of House rules in view of the court verdict in Ndume versus Senate? Lawyers yesterday said yes, no.
They were, however, divided over the senate’s requisite powers to bar members from legislative functions.
For instance, while foremost activist lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana said it was unconstitutional for any legislative chamber to suspend or sack a member, his colleagues in the Inner Bar, disagreed.
They said the senate had powers to bar its members who had been found to have conducted himself or herself in an ignoble way.
First to fire the shot is a titled chief and Senior Advocate, Mike Ahamba, who said any lawmaker, may be suspended by his colleagues for infraction committed on the floor of the House.
Ahamba said: “I have made a statement on suspension of members of the National Assembly. A member can be suspended if he or she is involved in a gross misconduct on the floor of the house. But I think the House should be very circumspect in applying the power to avoid denying people of their democratic right of representation.
“An individual, who is in the house is not just an individual, he is representing a whole crowd of people. Before a member can be suspended, it must have to do with something that is not ego-centered. Most of the suspensions in recent times are ego-centered. Any rule that will infringe on members’ right should not be allowed.
“Having said that, I want to say that there can be no justification for the invasion which happened the other day; it has to be condemned in very high terms.
“If some set of thugs can just invade the National Assembly unhindered and carted away the mace successfully, then, a new dimension to security laxity has arisen. It’s an indication that the hoodlums can even attack those present in the House with guns and disappeared.
“How did the thugs pass the three security points, the gate, the entrance into the National Assembly complex and the Senate’s chamber? I strongly believe that there was some compromise. This is same security compromise that has been fueling crisis across the country. It is disturbing that this security lapse has happened at the National Assembly. It has been happening in villages but now it is the National Assembly. Who knows where next?
“I think we have to be serious about it. As far as I am concerned, anyone found to have been involved in the ignoble act should be dealt with according to the law. If it involves a member of the Senate, after such individual is dealt with according to the law, he or she should be shown the way out of the chamber. Such an individual is not fit to be a member of the National Assembly and I think we must in one voice condemn that invasion. Whether the suspension of Omo-Agege is right or wrong is not the issue now, a more serious issue has arisen.”
Ahamba was echoed by another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo. Sowemimo simply said “I don’t think it will be proper for any legislative body to keep quiet in the face of a bad behaviour of any lawmaker simply because he is representing a constituency.”
He went on: “Anyone that intends to represent his constituency must be of good behaviour. If the people in a constituency do not want to lose their representation in the National Assembly, they should be mindful of who was elected to represent them. People of good behaviour must find their way to the hallowed chambers and not individuals of questionable characters. There should be some residual powers for the legislative arm of government to deal with indiscipline.
“The snatching of the maze is an embarrassment to the whole country. If the National Assembly is no longer safe, then, what is the fate of ordinary citizens of this country? The incident portends danger and it is an indication that law and order has broken down in this country.
“It’s quite ridiculous that the thugs had unhindered access to the National Assembly. They just entered and took the maze away. These are things that happen and defile all rules and regulations. This is because no one would have contemplated that thugs would enter the National Assembly and took away the mace, which represents the authority of the second arm of government just like that.”
To a Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, suspension of any member of the legislature must be connected with the commission of a criminal, fraudulent or unethical act.
He said: “If you look at the Senator Ali Ndume’s case, challenging his suspension which was recently decided by the court. It was held that it is wrong for the legislative chamber to suspend a member who is representing a constituency. That has been the decision of the court.
“Now, it would be very wrong for us to continue in that line, especially when a member expressed a contrary opinion. Citizens’ freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, except a lawmaker is involved in something criminal, fraudulent or unethical, it would be improper to suspend such an individual.
“If what a member does is something very ethical and has not impugn on the integrity of the House, I think it would be wrong of the legislative chambers to suspend such a member and consequently halted the representation of his or her constituency.
“It’s not about the person but about those people that he is representing. So, any measure taken in discipline a member must take into consideration the representation of people who have elected that individual.
“So, my thinking is that there is a subsisting court’s decision that has actually rendered any such suspension invalid. If there is such a decision, the legislative chambers should be properly guided on how to discipline members. The power to suspend must be sparingly used.
“There must be a proper definition of conducts that would warrant discipline of a member. The legislative chamber is now making the issue of suspension of ‘erring member’ to look so cheap and it’s quite unfortunate.
“However, on the recent invasion of the Senate by thugs, my view is that the proper procedure to show grievance with any group or person is to seek judicial intervention. Thuggery is not the best approach.
“If Omo-Agege is suspended, he has a right to seek redress in the court of law.
There are even decided court cases about the issue of suspension of a lawmaker by the National Assembly. I think what the senator should do is to seek redress in court. Getting thugs to invade the chamber and carry the mace is not proper.
“However, we have not heard his own side of the story and I think it is necessary that we hear from him. The Omo-Agege that I know is a fine gentleman. I had cause to appear before his committee at a time on one issue and he exhibited high level of intelligence. So, I am at a loss as to what could have led to this incident. Above all, the incident is condemnable.”
But Falana queued behind Ubani, insisting that no legislative House had powers to suspend any member for any infraction of rules.
He said: “No legislative house can suspend or remove a member. It is only a court of law or the constituency that elected them can order the removal or suspension of their representative.
“This is because when you remove or suspend a legislator, his constituency no longer has a representative in that house and that is not legal.
“I handled the case of Dino Melaye and others when they were suspended from NASS in 2011. I handled the case of Dana vs Bauchi House of Assembly from the High Court to Court of Appeal. As of today, his case is the locus classicus on the tenure of members.
“The Senate labours under the very erroneous impression that it can do anything, whether allowed by law or not; particularly when it purports to exercising its oversight functions.
“Allegations of crime, certificate forgery, allegations regarding under-payment of Customs duties, are criminal offences that can only be investigated by the appropriate authorities such as the police.
“Section 88, which the Senate always relies on, begins with the phrase: “subject to the provisions of this Constitution,” which means the powers of the police, the powers of the Auditor General of the Federation, the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the powers of the President, take precedence over the powers of the Senate to carry out an investigation.
“The Senate with profound respect, the House of Representatives with profound respect cannot investigate allegations of crime. That is within the constitutional province of the police.
“In matters regarding some of the distinguished Senators, the court has made definitive judicial pronouncements. Take for instance, no legislative House in Nigeria can suspend a member for one single day and we have a plethora of authorities on this.”
‘Poor remuneration killing new wigs’
She is two year-old at the Bar. Baruwa Adesola, an alumnus of the prestigious University of Lagos obtained his LL.B in 2015 and was called to the Bar in 2016. Adesola shares her journey into the noble profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE
Adesola is a 24 year-old lawyer. Her passion to address injustice and defend the oppressed in the society took her to the University of Lagos, where she began her journey into the noble profession with a Diploma in Law.
Apparently not satisfied, Adesola enrolled for a degree in Law. And six years after the Diploma, the 24 year-old Adesola was qualified and enrolled at the Supreme Court as a Solicitor and Advocate.
She, however, shared her law story with the New Telegraph this way:
“My name is Baruwa Adesola, I am a 24 year- old budding lawyer who hails from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. I had my primary education in Gladys Nursery Primary School, Ketu before proceeding to Ijebu Anglican Diocesan College where I graduated in 2010.
I immediately proceeded to the University of Lagos for my diploma in Law and later bagged my LL.B from the same school in 2015 with a Second Class Upper Division). I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2016 having bagged a Second class Upper Division from the Nigerian law School. I had my Compulsory Service year at Indent Consulting and Training, Abuja from February 2017 to December 2017.
I initially had no expectations. I was only a member of the bandwagon of people who were in the profession for the prestige it brought to them and for the money, maybe; and also to satisfy people’s offhand comments that had somehow found a place of abode in my head to wit: ‘sola you talk a lot, you should study law’. Along the line, I began to really fall in love with the profession. For the many opportunities it affords you to impact the society; and for the several faces it shows forth everyday- its dynamism. Just like every other person, I want to fight strongly for innocent people charged for offences they know nothing of as that is a very rampant case in Nigeria. I want to fight against unfair practices such as nepotism, extortion and exploitation in government agencies. In clearer terms, I want to fight for Justice and what better way to fight than as a lawyer.
First court appearance
First, I would like to clarify at this juncture that as a lawyer, you don’t have to end up in the court of law, although, it is advised that every new wig should garner a bit of experience of litigation. That being said, I served in a Legal Consulting Firm and as such I have not had a real first court appearance. I qualify with ‘REAL” because the one time I went to court to make such appearance for a motion, I did not make an appearance after all. Being my first time and almost at the tail end of my service year, I was a ball of nerves. I was constantly checking my collarets to ensure that it wasn’t loose and constantly pulling my gown back to normalcy as it repeatedly attempted to fall off my back. Basically, I was extra cautious of how I looked because I have heard stories of how dressing was always a bone of contention between the Bench and the Bar. Sadly, our matter was not heard in court that day.
Challenges as a female lawyer
A lot! If within one year, I have garnered enough encounters, I wonder what awaits me in the nearest future. Let me share two of my encounters.
Sometimes during my service year, I got a call from a colleague to the effect that he had a friend who needed the service of a lawyer for the management of a property. I immediately expressed my interest and asked to meet the young man. We got talking on phone and he sounded so excited to have found someone albeit female who would handle the property. He probably was never told that apart from being female I was also unfortunate to be a Corps member at the time. The moment we met, I could almost see his eyes counting my ‘defects’. “she is female, she is too young; she is female, she is a Corps member; How can she handle the property well?” Everything we had finalized on phone began to fall through as he began to give one excuse or the other. I noticed all that and asked that he calls me when he is ready. ‘I should receive the call today’ – so I deluded myself every day till now.
Another experience I had was when a client needed an agreement from my office outside of working hours. He was referred by someone who had told him to come and meet a certain Corps member in the office. Perhaps he would have had more faith in me if he had found a male Corps member in my stead because the moment he saw me, he insisted he was going to call the other number that was given to him. He assumed the other number was for another lawyer and a more senior one and luckily for him a less female one. Right in my presence and while I held my pen and paper to take down his instructions, he excused himself and called this other number to give his instructions on loud speaker. I wasn’t offended because I knew he would come crawling back. So, I took down the little I could through their conversation. He didn’t think me incapable of drafting the agreement but he just thought me too female and ‘corperish’ to understand what he really wanted from the agreement, so, he thought he would call my male senior to give me further and better instructions. The highlight of my day was when this person he called told him clearly “tell everything to Sola, she is the lawyer’. Turned out he was only speaking to our Project Manager who was not in any way a lawyer. Realising his mistake, he apologized and to which I smiled triumphantly. Look who has come crawling back to the incapable female Corps lawyer.
Embarrassing moments so far
While I have had challenges and encounters that could come off as embarrassing, none was ever really embarrassing
Yes! I have had a lot of fond memories. A memorable moment was when I finally got the conviction on what I would be doing with my law degree. I was at the time doing my internship in my 300 level and of all the departments I was attached to, litigation just seemed like an easy peas for me. The department head had given me a task to draft a statement of defence to a statement of claim given to me. By the time I submitted it, he wanted to know so frantically, which lawyer had assisted me in drafting the statement of defence. It was a difficult task convincing him I did it on my own.
No matter how much I may like to deny it, I seek for people’s approval of me especially from people of influence in the society and once I get this approval, I become really fulfilled and my faith in myself becomes rekindled. My fond memories spans across the number of times I was applauded for a job well done by my senior colleagues and moments I had challenges and surmounted them because of my determination and persistence.
‘Ignorantia juris non excusat’, ignorance of the law excuses not. We have heard of situations whereby people’s rights are infringed upon and they get no redress in court. We have also known of situations whereby some people place obligations on themselves without knowing the legal ramifications of these obligations and at the end of the day, it comes back to bite them in the butt. While some others knowing full well that a particular act is wrong don’t know for a fact that that wrong is actually a crime to which punishments in terms of imprisonment is attached. And on a large scale, some people are just not aware of the many protections that the law affords them and where they are aware, they don’t know how to pursue them.
All the aforementioned are one of the many problems and impediments to obtaining justice in Nigeria and I have made it my goal to tackle it using the social media. We are in the digital age and we must start thinking of ways to solve problem in the digital way. Very soon, my page ‘Lex Aware’ on facebook, Instagram and Twitter will become functional towards bringing a chewed out interpretation of the law to the doorstep of all and sundry. This particular ambition is channeled majorly to the ever existent problem of deprivation of human rights as it pertains to public officers generally.
Remuneration for young lawyers has been a topic that has hovered around me for the past few weeks. When I met any of my colleagues, they would tell me about how they are enjoying the practice of law and then comes the ‘but’. ‘But Sola, the pay is not encouraging. I spend more than half of my salary on transportation’. ‘But Sola, I want to leave that place, I barely have any savings at the end of the month.
In my view and from little experience as a trained Human Resource Person, remuneration isn’t only about paying for services rendered by a particular staff. It should serve as a form of encouragement and instill the desire to work better and harder the next month in that person. A lawyer that spends all she earns on transportation and feeding and barely has enough for savings and other important part of her life would not feel encouraged to put in her best in that particular organization or firm. Except of course she has other sources of income and is there solely for the experience.
As for me, I only request for a really reasonable remuneration enough to compensate for the high cost of living in Lagos State and the resultant stress that comes with it as a young lawyer still trying to gather experience. I like to say: “As a new wig, you may not pay me to get rich but pay me to be comfortable and you get more than the best version of me.’
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