Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has called for urgent reforms in the legal profession as such move would rescue it from the looming extinction of its credibility.
Prof. Osinbajo posited that the rule of law, which is the pillar of any democracy, can only thrive if the legal profession maintains high ethical standard by all practitioners.
The vice president said this at the weekend, during the Body of Benchers Award Night, held at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja.
While commending the Body for providing a gateway into the legal profession as well as custodians of values, Osinbajo, who was among the awardees, however, lamented the decline in the profession’s ethical values.
“I commend the Body of Benchers for organising this award night. As a statutory body established by the Legal Practitioners Act, it still remains the gateway into the Nigerian Bar and custodians of the values of the legal profession. The rule of law, which is the pivot of our democracy, cannot be achieved if the ethical values of the legal profession are eroded. Today, our profession is facing difficult times as it faces extinction of its credibility, which has been eroded over the years.
“There is, therefore, the need to carry out a self-assessment reform; to reclaim the values and ethics of our profession. We can only achieve a free, fair and impartial system of justice if we stand firm to protect our cherished ethical values; no matter whose ox is gored.
“We have a duty to protect the social structure of our nation; to bring about a just society through deliberate sacrifice and efforts.
“Our greatest debt to the future generation is to be worthy mentors who must fearlessly insist on the rule of law and corporate integrity.
“The weaknesses that have recently been exposed in our profession, as disturbing as they are, have, at the same time, provided us great opportunity for deep introspection and self-assessment
“This is an opportunity for reform and reclaim of that tradition of virtuous ethics; a tradition of moral inquiry and doggedness in the dispassionate and impartial application of law no matter whose ox is gored.”
In his speech, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, expressed the need for judicial integrity, where power and money shall not bow to justice.
He explained that integrity has a role to play in the legitimacy of the Judiciary, where truth and justice prevail.
On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, decried the way and manner in which orders of court are being treated by the Executive arm of government; just as he called for a strong and formidable judiciary.
“If the judiciary is not strong, there is no way our democracy can be strong. If our judiciary is not strong, there is no way the judiciary can be independent. We must all come out of our comfort zones and take the challenge to redeem the judiciary.”
Earlier, in his welcome speech, Chairman, Body of Benchers, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, disclosed that the Body is making some regulations towards upholding the core values of the legal profession.
Among the dignitaries who attended the event were Governors Muhammed Abubakar (Buachi State); Simon Lalong (Plateau State); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson.
Others included the Minister of Works, Housing and Power; Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; his Communication counterpart, Adabayo Shittu and that of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung.
The highlight of the event was the presentation of awards to 132 legal practitioners made up of serving and former justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Senior Advocates of Nigeria; among others.