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Okutepa: We’re Getting to a Calamitous End in the Legal Profession

Jibril Okutepa has called for urgent action to restore integrity and discipline in Nigeria’s legal profession.

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Jibril Okutepa, a  Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has  warned that the legal profession in Nigeria is nearing a calamitous end due to a lack of discipline and accountability. His remarks came in response to recent conflicting court orders and the judiciary’s handling of cases.

Okutepa, in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, said that the leadership of the legal profession must act now before it is too late. “This is not the first time we are experiencing such issues in our judiciary system. I recall there were conflicting orders of injunctions everywhere, with people travelling from the southeast to the north to obtain favourable orders at odd hours,” Okutepa said.

He noted that the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Muhammad, had the power to issue warnings. However, controversies in Nigeria often die down quickly due to a lack of consequences for misbehaviour.

“The challenge is that controversies in Nigeria have a lifespan of 15 days, after which they die down because there are no consequences for misbehaviour,” he explained.

Okutepa emphasised that the legal profession he grew up with was one of discipline and adherence to rules and regulations. “Many people don’t have respect for the legal profession because the profession I knew was one of discipline and strict adherence to rules,” he said, noting precedents set as far back as 1989.

“We are too slow and lenient in punishment and sanctions, which has brought the legal profession to total ridicule,” Okutepa said. He lamented the decline in respect for judicial officers and the rise in impropriety within the profession. “Today, not only do we allow impropriety to thrive, but we also condone it on the altar of legality,” he added.

Okutepa argued that recruitment within the judiciary needs reform. “In those days, nobody was appointed as a judge without impeccable character and deep knowledge of the law. But now, some new lawyers do not even appreciate the law,” he said.

He advocated for a meeting among the leadership of the profession, including the National Judiciary Council, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Board of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and the Body of Benchers, to address the deeper issues plaguing the legal profession. “We must agree that all is not well with the legal profession and that there are deeper issues we need to solve in Nigeria,” he stated.

Okutepa also criticised the judiciary for entertaining all manner of frivolous cases. He cited advanced countries like the UK, where filing frivolous processes can lead to severe consequences. “In an advanced country like the UK, when you file a frivolous process, you face severe consequences,” he said.

He emphasised the need for more stringent punishment and better regulation to restore the profession’s integrity. “We are not punishing offences as we should. During my time as chief prosecutor for the Nigerian Bar Association, I saw many issues that need addressing,” he concluded.

Okutepa’s comments highlight the urgent need for reform and accountability within Nigeria’s legal profession to restore its integrity and public respect.


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