Conferment Of SAN Rank Should Be Suspended For The Next Three Years — BOSAN Writes CJN

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*Expresses Concern That The Number Of Lawyers Elevated In 2020 Is Too High
*Accuses LPPC of whittling Down Prestige of SAN Rank
*CJN Pledges To Look Into The Issue


The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, has written the Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CJN, expressing concern over the manner of elevation of lawyers to the SANship rank, with particular reference to the 2020 exercise.

CITY LAWYER reports that the letter was personally signed by Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN, NNOM), Prof. A. B. Kasunmu (SAN), Chief Folake Solanke (SAN, CON) and BOSAN’s longstanding Secretary, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) titled “LEGAL PRACTITIONERS PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE’S LIST OF 72 LEGAL PRACTITIONERS FOR CONFERMENT WITH THE RANK OF SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA FOR YEAR (SIC) EXERCISE: A STRONG NOTE OF CONCERN FROM THE BODY OF SENIOR ADVOCATES OF NIGERIA (BOSAN),”

The BOSAN lamented that the number of those elevated in 2020 is too high and contrary to the norms and standards established over the years

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“We note with concern the number of persons namely 72 (seventy-two) listed for the conferment of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the LPPC in the past week. Since April 3, 1975, when Chief F.R.A. Williams and Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas were conferred with the prestigious rank till 2019, we have a total number 545 Senior Advocates over 45 years, representing an average conferment of 12 to 13 Senior Advocates per year.

“Conferment in the last five years also show a gradual, incremental approach. For example, in 2015, 19 Senior Advocates were added to the fold, 22 in 2016, 29 in 2017, 31 in 2018 and 38 in 2019.

“BOSAN struggles to understand the rationale for the over 100% increase from the previous year and a 600% increase from a 45-year average. We are dismayed at this out-stepping from the norms and standards established over nearly five decades of our legal history.”

The BOSAN accused the LPDC of whittling down the prestige of the rank which is an equivalent of Queens Counsel in the UK meant to reward excellence in advocacy

“We are of the strong and painful view, and it would appear to many, that the criteria have been whittled down and the bar/benchmark lowered to the extent of defeating the description of excellence as a sine qua non for attaining the prestigious rank.” BOSAN said

The Body therefore advised LPPC to suspend elevation to the SAN rank for the next three years and review the elevation process first. They said, “In being economical with expression, we make bold to state that the weak and further weakened criteria for the conferment of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, including the extant guidelines, have combined to water-down the standard and core requirements of excellence and distinction. In the circumstances, and with all due respect, we strongly suggest that your lordship’s Committee put on hold the processes for the next three years (i.e. 2021, 2022 and 2023); and use the intervening period to conduct a credible and comprehensive review of the entire process.”

In response through a letter dated 26th May, 2021, Signed on behalf of the LPPC by Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha, its secretary and the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of Nigeria promised to look into the issue. He said LPPC has considered their concern.

“I have been directed by the Chairman of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee Hon. Justice I.T. Muhammad, CFR to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 27th November, 202 (sic), on the above subject matter and to inform you that the Committee has considered in detail, your letter and having regard to the role of your Committee decided to set up an Adhoc-Committee to look into ways to strengthening the criteria for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.” the letter reads in part

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