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MALCOLM OMIRHOBO: WHY THE SILENCE IN THE BAR?

 


By

Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

The silence of the Nigeian Bar Association (NBA) towards the lawyer who appeared in Court with his so called traditional attire is seriously baffling. Perhaps I am the one who is not current enough to find their official statement on it. Please endeavour to show me if there is any. 

One of the things that the profession values so much is appearance, especially in official settings. Even outside the Court, you are not expected to dress anyhow, let alone the open courts. Even before you get to the Law School, you are trained how to dress well. That is the reason for the official black and white uniform in virtually all of our higher institutions. It was during our 200 level in Unilorin that the uniform was made compulsory in the Faculty till today. 

There was a time we paid a courtesy visit to one of the most senior members of the Bar in Nigeria, Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salman, SAN representing NAMLAS, Unilorin. He didn't just address us on the importance of dressing properly in the profession, he went ahead to adjust our ties and ensured they were neatly fixed. Also in Law School, you will not be allowed to attend lectures and the compulsory dinners if you dress anyhow. In fact, you must be fit and proper before you are called to the Bar. 

At a One-Day Seminar organised by FIDA, Kwara State on 26th January, 2017, Chief (Mrs) Victoria O. Awomolo, SAN in a paper titled "A Successful Legal Career: Yes We Can" noted thus:

The legal profession is a honourable, conservative profession with extant rules and regulations guiding conduct, appearance and practice in general. Right from the University and the Nigerian Law School, the issue of proper dressing is taken seriously and law students must be attired in the right ‘regulation dress’ Law Students are easily distinguishable among other students in their Black and White attire. This is enforced with the males wearing ties (sometimes black).

It is therefore sad to note, that one Mr. Malcolm Omirhobo can dress in that manner to an open Court and many of those who are expected to talk are not talking. A lawyer dressed in that manner to the Supreme Court and none of the controlling bodies in the profession has issued any official statement. Even though he didn't appear officially on a matter, his action was still contemptuous. He had the efontery to appear before an open court and the judge didn't send him out despite the fact that he was aware that the lawyer's action is in protest of a Supreme Court Judgment on hijāb. I have never seen the Judiciary been this ridiculed. It is trite that the Supreme Court judgment in Nigeria is final and can neither be appealed nor protested in this manner. If the aggrieved parties want the Supreme Court to overturn its decision on a matter, there is a procedure to be follow.

The Judge shouldn't have allowed him to enter the Court and sit with other lawyers in the first place. This is an elementary principle in law. He wasn't properly before the Court and he has no right of audience whatsoever. Those lawyers speaking against him were doing the right. With due respect, the Learned Judge in my opinion condoned him so much. He became a nuisance interrupting other lawyers who had right of audience. To set the record straight, Rule 6 (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for the Legal Profession 2007 states:

While the court is in session, a lawyer should not assume an undignified posture, and should not, without the judge’s permission, remove his wig and gown in the courtroom. He should always be attired in a proper and dignified manner, and abstain from apparel or ornament calculated to attract attention to himself.

One would expect the judge to send him out first. If he is sent out for not dressing properly, then he can then go ahead to file for the enforcement of his fundamental human right to appear in Court like an herbalist. This is the appropriate procedure he can follow to exercise his right. This was what those whose right of hijāb were violated did. They pursued their case up to the Supreme Court and got the victory.

This continuous silence of senior members of the profession on this matter is a slap on the reputation of the Judiciary.


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