KAY BELLO VERSUS NLS: WHY LAWYERS SHOULD NOT INCITE OR SUPPORT CONDUCTS CALCULATED TO DESTROY THE NOBLE PROFESSION OF LAW IN NIGERIA

Regarding whether or not there was a “court order” or whether an “order” has been “served” on the Council or the Law School, I cannot comment because I AM NOT AWARE OF ANY SUCH ORDER AND I AM NOT THE SCHOOL’s SPOKESPERSON and I AM NOT IN THE ABUJA HEADQUARTERS. However, I need to point out that the bar final exams for the 2016/2017 academic session commenced on 29 July 2017. Have we seen this “order” reportedly issued on 9 August 2017? I had suggested on this platform that we should first make efforts to see the said “court order” and check its contents before passing a judgment on the School or the CLE, because this is a very sensitive matter; it touches on the foundation of legal education and our law profession as they pertain to the core principle of “FIT AND PROPER.” In my humble, PERSONAL, opinion, offered here respectfully, the only reasonable step any court of law that has (if any has) been approached on the matter should take is to first order service of the originating processes on the defendant and thereafter afford the defendant an opportunity of being heard before making or refusing any mandatory or prohibitory order on the matter. It is trite thata court cannot stop a COMPLETED ACT. If the affected gentleman had truly gone to court, then the question that was obviously before the Court would be whether his expulsion was proper or improper, lawful or unlawful, and accordingly whether it should stand or be set aside. The fact therefore remains that as at August 09, 2017 when the court EX PARTE order (directing him to go and join ongoing Law School exams) was said to have been made, Mr Kay Bello stood expelled and as such WAS NOT (at least for now) a student of the Nigerian Law School, pending the hearing and determination of the said suit.

Yes, as we read in news reports, Mr Kay Bello did not agree that his expulsion was proper, which was why he went to court to challenge it; nonetheless, the fact that he had gone to court to challenge the expulsion is sufficient evidence of his acceptance of the fact that he was actually expelled. The act of expulsion was therefore COMPLETE in July 2017. In view of the above, I respectfully believe the right thing to do at the ex parte stage of this case WAS NOT for a court to direct him, a non-student,an outsider, to go back to the School to go and start taking the exams that had started since July 29, 2017. The court had not nullified the expulsion nor declared it illegal, and null, so the expulsing was, and still is, subsisting.The effect of the order said to have been made on 09/08/2017 is tantamountto granting a SUBSTANTIVE, final prayer/order at an EX PARTE, interim, stage? There was no situation of irreparable damage to the plaintiff that could justify such an order at that stage! No irremediable harm would have befallen the plaintiff if the court had waited and heard both sides before making any such order, which has a stamp of finality, and is also in the nature of asking a person who is not a student of the School to join the School`s exams.

Call to bar for the current set of students comes in November 2017; so, if in the end the plaintiff wins the case, that is if he wins, the court could still order the defendant to do the needful in the interest of justice — there’s time! Accordingly, even if the plaintiff did/does not participate in the exams, that would not stop the court from making relevant consequential orders in its final judgement, should the plaintiff’s case turn out successful in the end, as was neatly done by the Nigerian Supreme Court in each of ROTIMI CHIBUIKE AMAECHI V. INEC (2007) 18 NWLR (Pt 1065) 2; (2007) 7-10 SC 172 and PETER OBI v. INEC (2007) 7 SC 2682; (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt 1046) 5603.

In AMAECHI v INEC where the PDP had removed/replaced Chibuike AMAECHI as the party`s flag-bearer in then upcoming 2007 Governorship elections in Rivers State. Hon AMAECHI had thereupon gone to court to challenge the substitution, and while at the Supreme Court (on appeal), he had prayed the Supreme Court to halt the upcoming election, pending the determination of the case (appeal). The Supreme Court had declined AMAECHI’s application (to halt the election), advising that there was no cause for alarm; the court had ruled that the election should proceed, even without Amaechi participating as a candidate, but the court hinted further that if the court thereafter discovered (i.e., even after the election) that Amaechi ought to be the rightful candidate of PDP in the election, the court would still give orders that would ensure substantial justice. Exactly this is whatthe apex court did, and as a result, AMAECHI was later installed as the elected Governor of Rivers State, even after the holding of the election, in which he did not personally participate.

The scenario played out again, in a different form, in ANAMBRA State in the case of PETER OBI v. INEC. Mr Obi had been impeached as the Governor of ANAMBRA State at a time when he had not completed his tenure of four years. He had gone to court to challenge the impeachment. And while he was in court (Supreme Court, on appeal), INEC scheduled to conduct an election to fill in the “vacancy” in the ANAMBRA State Government House. Mr Obi had applied to the apex court to stop the planned election, a request the Supreme turned down, but with a promise to give out relevant consequential orders that would ensure substantial justice, should Mr Obi be successful in the end. Then, even though the election in ANAMBRA had come and gone with Mr Andy Uba installed as Governor, the Supreme Court, on finding that Peter Obi’s impeachment was unlawful and so null, had gone ahead and (consequentially) restored Mr Peter Obi to his position as the Governor.

Now, I ask, is the present scenario any different from those cited above? Why would an already expelled student be directed to go and join an ongoing exam when no court of law had determined the legality or otherwise of the expulsion? I ask again, sorry for this repetition, which is necessary, if the plaintiff is directed to join the exams, has the court not determined the case with finality at the ex parte stage? These are some of the issues that we need to look at!! And this is why I advised that, we should not rely on a mere report in the papers, without questions, and without verification, to begin to pass judgments and to condemn the defendant, because that would not be fair on the Law School? Like I said, the very first step should have been for the trial court to have invited all interested parties and then given each of them ample opportunities of being heard on the substance of the case, especially on all circumstances surrounding the action of the School. It’s only after this had been done, that a court of law may proceed to issue or refuse to issue any order one way or the other. IN MY VIEW, THIS MATTER IS TOO SERIOUS TO BE RESOLVED EX PARTE, without hearing from the School.

This is STRICTLY my personal opinion, with due respect and without prejudice to the POWER AND RIGHT of the court of law to exercise its powers as it may think fit and necessary. Meanwhile, we all need to be very careful, so that we do not encourage actions or omissions that are clearly calculated to destroy legal education in Nigeria and this noble profession of law. Every educational institution has RULES, REGULATIONS, and CODE of CONDUCT for its staff members and students. These rules are made to be obeyed because THEY ARE FOR THE GOOD OF THE STUDENTS, TEACHERS, THE PROFESSION AND THE SOCIETY AT LARGE. Each student has only two options: you wither obey school rules or stay away from the School and from the Legal Profession. In the case of Nigerian Law School, each student is given these rules and the Code of Conduct during registration and during the Induction (orientation) Course usually held to educate and acquaint Law School students on the do’s and don’ts in the School. Nigerian Law School is a specialist and specialized vocational, professional school where ethics and good conduct are viewed too seriously. We all are well aware of the case of OKONJO v. Council of Legal Education and how it finally ended and what the court said about the power of the CLE to prescribe rules for maintenance of good conduct of aspirants to Nigerian bar. Each student, on being admitted, signs an Undertaking to faithfully observe the Law School rules and code of conduct, which are by the way reasonable, and simple and designed to ensure that only deserving persons find their way into a noble profession. SO, IF YOU VIOLATE any rule AND GET SANCTIONED, it would be a case of volentinon fit injuria. The CLE, in collaboration with the Body of Benchers, has prescribed certain conditions, which every aspirant to the Nigerian Bar must satisfy in order to qualify for call-to-bar and enrolment as a lawyer in Nigeria. These conditions include: (1) The aspirant must be fit and proper; (2) The aspirant must be successful at Nigerian Law School’s Bar Part 2 (bar final) examinations; (3) The aspirant must have participated in the mandatory three-dining (Law Dinner) terms at the Law School; and (4) The aspirant must be successful in the mandatory Portfolio assessment exercise organized for students in the Law School. Accordingly, every aspirant to the Nigerian bar is expected to maintain a high standard of ethical conduct, failing which he may be disqualified from admission into the Law School, or, if already admitted, may be shown the way out. This is not selectively applied or enforced. This is the crux of the matter!!!! And unless we approach it from this angle, there may be serious issues, which may in the end consume our cherished profession of law.The concept of “Fit & Proper” requires obedience to predetermined Code of Conduct, in line with legal ethics. And as LORD DENNING MR declared in RONDEL v WORSLEY [1967] 1 Q.B. 443 at 501, “the code which requires a barrister (and by extension, an aspirant to the bar) to do all this is not a code of law. It is a code of honour. If he breaks it, he is offending against the rules of the profession, and is subject to its discipline.” Words in bracket are mine, please.Finally, to borrow from Pope Pius XI, Italian scholar & Pope (1857 – 1939), justice requires that to lawfully constituted Authority, there must be given that respect and obedience which is its due…”

Respectfully,
SylvesterUdemezue

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SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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