Five years after my NYSC,I still hold my boss in high esteem.Olumuyiwa Olowokure was not only understanding,patient and tolerant,he was courteous and very refined.He was a black oyibo.Oga O.O it was who when he called me to his office with my law school gra-gra to ask how i thought a certificate relating to a computer-generated document as per the provisions of Section 84(4) of the Evidence Act ought to be prepared and i said we had to prepare a separate document.

He asked me to look up certificate in the black law dictionary.A certificate could be just under the document printed from the computer.I’m a fan for life.

Then there was Lamidi ‘the learned’ Obaro who took interest in me right from my final year in the university.He gave me books,adviced me and always had a little ‘roger’ for the boy.He gave me my first robe and all i had to do was buy a wig for my call.My senior CY in quite a moment that really got to me,told the story of how he was serenaded in school with tales of how it was a tradition for senior lawyers to be generous to their juniors.It wasn’t so in ‘reality’ as only ‘learned’ had ever offered to pay for his pounded yam at the buka.These men have one way or the other helped mould me.

Very fortunately for me,none of these men were present at the last NEC meeting of the NBA.The issue of contempt and what is and what is not prejudicial to the fair hearing of a matter in court is a topic for another day and until that day,I’ll dwell on how lawyers who at the very least, a generation look up to ; some of them mentors of our mentors, gathered in one room to disgustingly talk about ‘attorney-client privilege’ and EFCC being a 3rd party in ‘contractual relationships’.Men who we listen and nod to when they say what you learnt in school is different in practice.

First,we must bear in mind that statutory law supercedes case law and no where in Rule 19 of the Rules of Professional Conduct is fees listed as a privileged matter.Some of those men will be heard proclaiming the dangers of importing foreign meanings into the actual wordings of a law before this week runs out.Sub-rule (3) of 19 clearly states the exceptions in the 2 preceding provisions.

A lawyer can reveal privileged information to defend himself,his employees and associates if accused of wrongful conduct.Supporting that anyone shouldn’t amounts to encouraging illegality and shielding the winds of justice.In a profession where the ‘fit and proper’ criteria supercedes everything,we should be seen to be promoting values like transparency especially when law enforcement agencies come calling.But No.

A group of people that make me want to retire and at the same time think of the abundant opportunities abound with mediocres like them around,are telling us an anti-graft agency adequately empowered by its enabling law to investigate economic and financial crimes has no ‘locus-standi‘ to ask questions regarding fees believed to be the proceeds of a crime because it is a ‘non-party’ to a contractual relationship.Really?. LOL.

I spent a whole day verifying that indeed supposedly trained lawyers would not only spew that nonsense but adopt it as the official stand of the NBA.In December of 2018,lawyers gathered to say the EFCC cannot ask questions as to money it reasonably suspects to be criminally sourced because it cannot meddle into a contractual relationship as a non-party.I’ll never forget.

We sit down in gatherings to severally bemoan the state of the legal profession and if we will continue,it is imperative we all tell ourselves the truth.This is not a fight between the EFCC and the NBA.It is a fight between the EFCC and one man.Abstaining from the needful which in this case is urging Paul Usoro to declare his fees as prescribed by Rule 19 (3) in the best interests of justice and transparency and instead, ridiculously proffering distasteful and invalid legal theories is a most degrading act.The profession is being brought to disrepute.

My dear seniors,equals and juniors,i humbly dissociate myself from not only the NEC resolution on the criminalization of legal fees but any attempt by any legal practitioner to paint the EFCC’s case against Paul Usoro as one against all lawyers.Thank you.

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano 

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