Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Lawyers practising in Onitsha, Anambra State, ended the year 2019 on a jolly note. They brainstormed on the events of the year and also re-positioned themselves to face 2020 with greater prospects and productivity.
The lawyers were encouraged to embrace taxation and not to see it as a means of extortion, while the young ones among them were also charged to hold fast to the tenets and ethics of the legal profession as a means of protecting the legal profession from extinction, adulteration and infiltration
These formed part of the papers presented during the Nigerian Bar association (NBA), Onitsha Branch’s, 2019 Law Week and Dinner. The theme of the event, which held at the Sir Louis Mbanefo Bar Centre, High Court Complex, Onitsha, was “Protecting the Legal Profession from Extinction, Adulteration and Infiltration.”
Chairman Onitsha Branch, Ozo Erinne, Esq., in his welcome address, said the theme of the Bar week underscores the frustration and worry faced by lawyers in Nigeria.
“With the deliberate and flagrant disregard of the judiciary and disobedience of court orders which has attained frightening heights, the infiltration of our profession by quacks, the consequent adulteration of our ethics, laws, rules and regulations guiding the profession, incessant police harassments, humiliation and assaults and the looming possibilities of extinction of our noble profession. If we fail to act now, very soon our voice will be muffled,” said Erinne.
Discussing a paper, “Equipping Young lawyers: A Way of Protecting the Legal Profession from Extinction,” Chief Chidi Onyiuke, Justice Onyinye Anumonye, Dr. Chukwudubem Anyigbo, Onyechi Ononye Esq. Boss Anyeji and Sir Ejike Ezenwa, in separate speeches, admonished the lawyers on professional ethics and conduct.
Dr. Anyigbo posited that, as long as laws exist in a society, there must be legal practitioners but urged older lawyers to exhibit standards worthy of emulation by younger lawyers. A lawyer should be an embodiment of knowledge, should be respectful, dignified, honourable, honest, gentle and smart, he added.
Justice Anumonye revealed that only about four out of 60 lawyers enter the courtroom to do the actual practice saying that those few eventually reap the dividends.
“If there is nobody to equip you, equip yourself. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Build up your strength by embracing the area of law that interests you the most. Know the character of the judge you are approaching in court,” said Anumonye.
Ononye harped on the importance of establishing good relationships with senior lawyers, judges and colleagues. “Impress your principal. Decide for yourself before graduating from law school whether to end at the bench, become a lecturer or a SAN,” he said.
Moreover, the chairman of the Bar week planning committee, Ejike Ezenwa, stressed the virtues of patience and endurance, especially when someone is being mentored by a principal.
“Chastisement is not evil. Bend down and serve. Some great partners today like Gozie Obi are now eating the fattest bone as a result of patience,” he observed.
Prof. Meshak Umenweke of Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Chief Ikenna Egbuna, SAN, reiterated the importance of lawyers as patriotic citizens.
Said Umenweke: “Lawyers should tidy up their accounts on daily basis or employ accountants/tax consultants to assist them. This would enable the law firm to present a near accurate self-assessment of income called tax return at the end of the month.”
Egbuna noted that tax evasion involves outright fraud and deceit, when taxpayers achieve minimization of tax through illegal means. He stated that without clearance, lawyers couldn’t apply for fiat to prosecute any criminal case.
The event featured free medical check-ups and medical lectures, health walk, a dinner/award night, visitation of the elderly and sick, pro-bono legal services by lawyers, novelty football match, and others.