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The Oracle: Ethics and Discipline in Law: Akin to Waiting for Godot (Pt. 6)  

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By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

Legal practitioners, as guardians of the law, play a significant role in the preservation of society. As a result, it is the obligation of legal practitioners to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct. The fulfillment of this role requires an in-depth analysis by legal practitioners of their relationship with and their function in our legal system. Today, we shall continue our discourse.

ETHICS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION: HISTORY, NATURE AND MEANING OF ETHICS (continues)

Man was thereby ejected from the cherished garden for not keeping to the ethics attendant thereto, and that to his chagrin. This constitutes the first sanction for failure of ethics. In ancient Rome, they talked about exadiligentia, especially when it involves the business of others. Ethics demands exatadeligentia in regard to everything. It could not be less for it to be ethical. Ethics consist of what ought to be – deferenda. It is objective as against its subjective counterpart “What is” – de lata. What ought to be, also deals with common sense ethics viz; what do we expect will be done in the circumstances? Ethics in its wider sense affects princes, and slaves alike, it has neither physical nor class boundary, it is universal. It postulates that no man is an island of himself entirely. Ethics may be defined simply as the performance of excellence, doing the right thing, at the right time, be it in business, profession or even in ordinary day life.

Ethics demands a round peg in a round hole and will have nothing to do with a spare peg in a round hole. However, ethics, within which the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 is concerned about, crystallizes in the good, positively rejecting the bad and the ugly and dwelling on the mores in the acts or actions of lawyers in all they do. With ethics, there is no partiality, no scapegoat and no sacred cow. Ethics generally craves for honesty, decorum, reliability, trust and reliance to deserve the appellation – ethics. Ethics indeed deals with ideal human conduct.

WHAT IS REQUIRED OF A PROFESSIONAL IN ETHICS

The legal profession is ideally not open to all manner of persons because in the words of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of N.B.A VS. OHIOMA, it was stated thus:

“Legal practice is a very serious business that is to be undertaken by serious minded practitioners particularly as both the legally trained minds and those not so trained always learn from our examples. We therefore owe the legal profession the duty to maintain the very high standards required in the practice of the profession in this country.”

Ethics demands from a lawyer that his client must have absolute confidence in him. Ethics demands that he knows his duty to the court. On these issues, Honourable Kayode Esso enunciated two commandments:

 

  1. A lawyer shall never be rude, insolent or insulting to the court. The above commandment however imports respect to judges but not a commandment for lawyers to fear judges or be intimated by them. This is because part of the qualities a judge expects from an advocate is:

Simplicity of presentation i.e. lucidness.

Selectivity i.e. ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant.

Straight forwardness – ability to go straight to the point. Avoiding being garrulous).

Brevity.

Candour (Court detests deceitful counsel).

Resilience (ability to argue with conviction)

Proper presentation (court must perceive you as thorough in your presentation)

Courage, but not recklessness.

In the case of ETIM VS OBOT the Court of Appeal deprecated counsel’s use of the words ‘strange’ and ‘mysterious’ in describing the judgment of the lower court as not only inappropriate but also inconsistent with high ethical standard of the profession.

Secondly, a judge shall never be rude, even as a result of, or over sensitive to remarks made about or against him in the court. In this respect, it is the ethics of the legal profession that insults are better treated with disdain. The legal practitioner’s duty to the court is higher and more important than his duty to his client. Therefore misleading the court to obtain a judgment for a client is seen as a miscarriage of justice. General knowledge of almost all aspect of practice is advocated while pomposity is to be eschewed. The dress a legal practitioner wears in and out of the court is a reflection of his state of mind. A legal practitioner in Nigeria is expected to be tidy, respectable and sober not necessarily flamboyant. Lateness to court is unethical. A legal practitioner is expected to wait for the court and not the court to wait for him. The responsibility of a legal practitioner to his client and the court extends to knowing the facts of his client’s case, relevant laws, statutes, rules of court, case law, strength and weakness of a client’s case and trying as much as possible to avoid mistakes.

It is ethical for a legal practitioner to know his judge. The rule is that no two human beings are the same. By extension also, no two judges are the same, each judge has his or her own sensitivity, peculiarities of approach and attitude. One must therefore learn how to adopt.

It is unethical to allow or encourage a client to disobey a court order. It is part of the ethics of the legal profession in Nigeria for lawyers to accept briefs pro-bono public (for public good), that is without charging any professional fees.

It is part of the ethics of the legal profession for lawyers, working in the Attorney General’s Chambers whether at the State or Federal Level, to be guided by the “SHOWCROSS DOCTRINE” and not to allow external influences or politics or money considerations to influence their decisions in “whether or not to prosecute”. Yielding to any of these considerations may have a catastrophic effect.

Judges in Nigeria are required to be impartial unto dismal and even unto death. Honourable Justice Kayode Esso remarked as follows:

“… It is the duty of every Judge, after his appointment, conscientiously, to stand clear of all odium. In this sense, he gives no cause whatsoever to be suspected of a process to anything that is shady. He, like linen, remains stainless but more so he guards against stain…

DISCIPLINE

The issues of the ethics and disciplines in society are the study of the problems of peace, order and stability. No form of social grouping can be maintained without the solid foundation of ethic and discipline. They are derived from the normative and value systems of society. They enhance group dynamism, social cohesive and solidarity among members.

Let us consider the above in the way we live and grow in different groups/units such as home, school, market places, working environment, mosques and churches. Why are we not in a state of disorder, conflicts and instability? It is because from these social units, we learn to share and respect common values, norms, goals and aspiration based on daily interaction and relationships. This enable us to share common set of meanings and symbols, together with the feeling of unity, solidarity and a system of mutual obligations to group.

Why is there a need for discipline in society? Discipline is very essential to society because it serves important functions. It makes society able to avoid complex situations of chaos, instability, unrest and other forms of violence. It provides positive orientation to members and provides a means of collective mobilization for societal development. Discipline makes it possible to predict individual and group behaviour under different situations. It also helps society to check activities of deviants and other law-breakers in society. In general ethics and discipline have the advantage of ensuring proper and effective functioning of the individual within a definite and defined societal goals and aims.

DISCIPLINE AND INDISCIPLINE EXPLAINED

Discipline can be generally defined as a set of rules for conduct. It is acknowledged in every society. Its character is defined by different social and cultural contexts and time dimension. It is moralistic and ethical.

Discipline also refers to training, especially of the mind and character to produce self control, and habits of obedience. In sociological terms, disciplined person is therefore, a well-socialized individual. The above is made possible/impossible, successful/unsuccessful through the process of socialization. According to Paul B. Horton and Hunt, socialization is the process whereby an individual internalizes the norms of the group so that a distinct “self” emerges, that is unique to this individual and conscious of social rules and regulations.

Indiscipline is the opposite of discipline. It consists of perverse or debases activities. It means lack of discipline or the growing of or increase in indiscipline over time. In Nigeria, activities that are considered as indiscipline include; Rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices, succession bids by politicians, bribery corruption and perversion of the administration of justice, flamboyant demonstration of individual’s materialistic possession in the midst of social poverty, forgery, drug abuse, child abuse, child and female trafficking, financial misappropriation, all forms of dubious deals like advance payment/fee fraud and (149) activities.

FORMS OF INDISCIPLINE

The causes of indiscipline are as varied as the types of indiscipline that we have. These can be categorized under five distinct areas or typologies:-

Political Indiscipline: this means any form of pervasion of the political process in general or electoral process in particular. Examples are rigging, bungled registration exercise or failure to conduct elections where and when it is supposed to, use of a touts to manipulate election, etc.

Economic indiscipline:   This involves the use of and manipulation of institutional regulations by those in position of authority to hasten or shorten organizational procedures for their personal benefits, for friends and associates.  Examples   are manipulations of foreign, exchange, award of contract and any use of one’s official position for profit motive.

Bureaucratic Indiscipline: This forms the most popular form of indiscipline. Generally, it means the use of any illegitimate governmental process in the conduct of public office. Examples are bribery and corruption, lack of probity and accountability. (To be continued).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“In just about every area of society, there’s nothing more important than ethics”. (Henry Paulson).

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Adding Value

Adding Value: Of Fear and Faith by Henry Ukazu

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Dear Destiny Friends,

Fear and faith are two great rivals in the affairs of man. Where one is found, the other takes a leave. They can either make or mar any progressive being, and anybody who truly wants to succeed must know how to activate and control the inherent powers of these two great forces.

According to Dr. Yomi Garnett, “viewed from a spiritual perspective, fear and faith can be said to be opposites…and what each of them brings to our life is also opposites. Fear can lead to failure, while faith will lead to conquest”.

Question: Do you want to live in fear, or would you like to be associated with a conquered fellow?

One of the major killers of vision is fear,  and one of the enablers of life is faith. When one is possessed with the spirit of fear, it will be difficult for that person to achieve their heart desires, but when one’s spirit is activated with the right amount of faith, even the highest fear will fade out.

One may be wondering, how fear and faith can be positively activated to attract success, ab at the same time be the destruction of man, if not properly managed.

What actually inspires a success-oriented mind? Obviously, several things activate one’s mind. To a lot of people, their greatest fears in life is poverty. These sets of people abhor being poor can mitigate their success in life, and as such they put in all their efforts to succeed.

To some, their greatest fear in life is failure. They can’t imagine the shame and defeat that come with failure, and as such they put in their best in whatever productive work they engage in.

Wen fear becomes extrem, it turns to phobia and dreaded. It’s instructive to note that some people have the phobia of height and flying. Some others have the phobia of pregnancy, traveling on water, approaching, or talking to people due to rejection, making mistakes, threading on new ground, among others.

To conquer this fear however, one needs to activate the inherent power of faith. Faith is the belief in what is not seen but hoped for. Any creative mind that wants to succeed in life must have faith not only in themselves, but in their businesses, academics, personal and professional developmental endeavours.

No great person has ever succeeded in life without faith. They believed in the possibility of their business even when there’s little or no hope of survival. They dared to succeed.

In contrast, fear has been th singular reason for most of the failures men have recorded. Some people even give up before they begin their project because of lack confidence and hope.

In some cases, this fear is projected by friends, family members, mentors or even trusted persons who don’t really know or understand what the person is working on. They just simply believe the project is bound to fail based on the prevailing circumstances or challenges surrounding the person or business.

This is how to activate and stimulate the subconscious and inherent power of faith. Imagine as a young man, you have interest in a lady, but you are wondering how to approach her considering her perceived response. It is not out of place to have a perception of the kind of respinse expected, but then, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

One of the best things the guy can do is to dare to succeed by reaching out to the lady. In the worst-case scenario, the lady might say no. In that case, the man will be satisfied he tried his best because the worst feelings to have in life is the feeling of regret.

Alternatively, the lady might like the guy and just play to the gallery just to gauge the man’s intent and seriousness. If the latter is true, the man is deemed lucky for daring to ask.

As a student, business owner, parent, teacher, government official, or pastor just to name a few; if you have a project or task in mind, don’t allow the fear of failure, disappointment or obstacles to weigh you down, look into the future with bold eyes, and with the mindset of faith in the impossible.

In conclusion, fear and faith are two necessary criteria needed in the journey of life. The ability to nurture both will go a long way in shaping not only our personal lives, but also our professional lives.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator.  He’s the founder of Gloemi. He’s a Transformative Human Capacity and Mindset coach. He is also a public speaker, youth advocate, creative writer and author of Design Your Destiny and Unleash Your Destiny.  He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Opinion

Voice of Emancipation: Leadership with Compassion

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By Kayode Emola

One of any government’s key roles is protecting the lives and properties of their electorate – a function which seems to be lacking in Nigeria’s leadership. It would appear that the Nigerian government has been, at best, absent in the large majority of Nigerians’ daily lives. Many were hoping that the election of Bola Tinubu as president would bring about positive change; but there seems to be little evidence of this so far.

The problem with the Nigerian system is caused in part by the lackadaisical attitude held by the people regarding their own welfare and the government’s absenteeism. Since the 1970s, successive leaderships in Nigeria have gradually eroded the welfare subsidy without any outcry from the people.

First, the Nigerian government stopped free food to school children, but no one objected. Then they stopped paying training teachers their monthly stipend, but no one objected. They started introducing school fees in tertiary institutions, and similarly removed many other subsidies, and yet our people remained silent.

The silence of our people permitted successive governments to continue removing any and all forms of welfare in existence. Included among these was the progressive selling of government properties until there was nothing left except the petroleum subsidy. Tinubu removed this last remaining subsidy early in his term, but its removal has not translated into the promised savings for the government, who is set to borrow another ₦2.5 trillion through bonds from the market.

The northern leaders are keenly aware of the dire situation of Nigeria and exploited it to their advantage during their time in government. Manipulating the currency enabled the creation of jobs for their racketeers, hence the need to constantly have a parallel currency market in the country. They have used this system to amass vast wealth both for themselves and their cronies during the decades when they were in power.

The currency market provided a means for them to rapidly generate revenue without having to manufacture anything. Through their access to the Nigerian treasury, they could obtain hard currencies – e.g. dollars – for cheap government prices, which they then sold at a profit to a multitude of buyers who needed these currencies to conduct their international business. This chicanery was enjoyed by many northerners selling currency for a living within the bureau de change industry.

When President Obasanjo came into power in 1999, he stopped this practice and floated the naira. This caused the currency to initially lose value against major currencies, but its value quickly steadied. For example, during the Abacha years the government rate stood at $1 to ₦22 and the parallel market was $1 to ₦88. When Obasanjo became president and the currency was floated, it rapidly rose until it peaked at $1 to ₦135 in 2005, but then remained stable at $1 to ₦120-₦130 until he left power in 2007.

The next president, the late Yar’Adua, reintroduced the parallel market upon taking office. Fast forward to 2023, upon Buhari’s exit the official government rate was $1 to ₦460, whilst the parallel market was exchanging at $1 to ₦763. This caused the currency manipulators, mainly comprising of northern racketeers, to benefit massively.

When Bola Tinubu became President of Nigeria, he announced his intention to create policies that would generate money for the national treasury. The only means of accomplishing this were either to raise taxes or remove subsidy. With nothing else remaining, he decided to remove the petroleum subsidy and float the naira.

Floating the naira was meant to benefit the people but, as it turns out, it has had precisely the opposite effect. The currency is on a free-fall to oblivion, with the current exchange rate at $1 to ₦1,515 and still rising. Aside from Venezuela and Zimbabwe who experienced dramatic declines in their economy due to sanctions imposed by America, never in my lifetime have I seen this degree of economic decline over such a short time.

All this demonstrates the abject lack of compassion in the successive governments’ leadership. They have taken and taken from the people until there is nothing left. It is only their very lives that the people have remaining, and, if care is not taken, the leaders will start taking these next. Already, the economic hardship is causing people to go days without food, as it is impossible to make enough income to meet the high cost of living.

The simultaneous removal of fuel subsidy and floating of the naira has generated sufficiently huge shock waves that even the government is feeling the pinch. The Nigerian Customs Service recently announced that it cannot fix the cost of clearing goods and would instead have to convert their price with the prevailing exchange rate of the day. This shows that even the government is now indentured to currencies like the dollar to set the benchmark value of goods and services in the country. This situation is capable of inflicting untold hardship on the people.

If only the leadership in Nigeria cared about the people that they govern, life would have been very different for both the general populace and those in power. Instead, the absence of compassionate leadership has brought the country to a position where the only viable option is to wind down this country and allow the indigenous nationalities within Nigeria to independently go and develop their lands and people. If the current president truly cares, this would be the best gift that he could give to Nigerians.

Anybody who thinks that Nigeria can be fixed is still living in a fool’s paradise. President Tinubu worked for over 20 years to become President, promising heaven and earth with the hope of changing Nigeria for good but as it stands, he is making Nigeria even worse by the day. Every day that the Nigerian government remains is another day of increasing pain for the people.

The better option is that we hold a sovereign national conference, with no holds barred, on how to effect a peaceful separation. It is clear that Nigeria is living on borrowed time and, if care is not taken, the low-level rumblings of chaos may escalate, with mass protests on the streets and the loss of many lives. We would be better to quickly tackle this situation by dialogue rather than allow a disorderly separation.

I hope those in Aso rock are listening to the cries on the streets, for if trouble were to break out in Nigeria today, there will be no place for them to hide. If they doubt this, they can ask the Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka who, in 2022 ,when the presidential palace was invaded by angry mobs, could not find a plane to escape from the country. When there is nothing left to take from the people other than their very existence, then those people have nothing holding them back from full scale riot, as they have literally nothing else left to lose. This is a very dangerous position for those in leadership to put themselves into. The bottom line is that Nigeria is beyond repair, and it is time to wind it down peaceably to prevent any further loss of life, should the alternative route be taken.

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Opinion

The Oracle: Harnessing the Potentials of Nigerian Intellectuals with Disability…(Pt.1)

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…for Positive Contributions to the Government

By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

There is no doubt that persons with disabilities have often been disadvantaged and have suffered some forms of discrimination at one time, or the other, in the society. Some of the movers and shakers of this world, were disabled intellectuals who made contributions of gargantuan proportion to the advancement of civilisation and yet, have been relegated to the background as if being disabled equates to lack of potentials. In this paper, we shall briefly discuss ways to harness the potentials of persons with disability both at home and abroad for purposes of national development. Before then, it is apposite to examine the meaning of disability.

DEFINITIONAL TERMS

According to Wikipedia, Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime. “Disabilities” is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions (World Health Organisation: Disabilities. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/ Accessed 15/12/15). Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus, disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Individuals may also qualify as disabled if they have had an impairment in the past or are seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Mental disorders (also known as psychiatric or psychosocial disability) and various types of chronic disease may also qualify as disabilities (DisabledWorld. Disability: Benefits, Facts & Resources for Persons with Disabilities. Available at: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/ Accessed 15/12/15).

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), one out of every seven people in the world—or some 1 billion people—has a disability. Between 785 and 975 million of them are estimated to be of working age, but most do not work. While many are successfully employed and fully integrated into society, as a group, persons with disabilities often face disproportionate poverty and unemployment (ILO, Inclusion of persons with disabilities. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/skills/areas/inclusion-of-persons-with-disabilities/lang–en/index.htm Accessed 15/12/15). Acknowledging the fact that persons with disabilities are imbued with vast and sometimes untapped) potentials, the World health Organisation made the appeal that governments should step up efforts to enable access to mainstream services and to invest in specialized programmes to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities. (World Health Organisation: New world report shows more than 1 billion people with disabilities face substantial barriers in their daily lives. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2011/disabilities_20110609/en/).
In order to effectively discuss the potentials of disabled intellectuals to nation-building, let us consider the barriers and obstacles which the society has advertently or inadvertently, erected on the paths of disabled persons.

BARRIERS ERECTED ON THE PATH OF DISABLED PERSONS

Societal stereotyping of persons with disabilities is the most egregious barrier suffered daily by disabled persons. They are made the scum of the earth, rejected, overlooked, dejected and relegated by the society of which they are part of. Because of such prevailing societal mindset, it is more difficult to get employed, have a carrier, get married, or even get loved as a person with disability.

Denial of access to equal opportunity, integration and self-representation through the lack of appropriate resources which is the result of bad and uninformed planning. This is also as a result of non-communication – verbal and non-verbal-as well as written, e.g. no effort is made to communicate with people who are blind, or whose hearing or speech is impaired or is severely disabled.

The lack of accessible public transport is perhaps, one highly discriminating barrier persons with disabilities daily confront. Without this resource, they are forced to see the world from their windows or in more fortunate cases, their street. They are restricted, relegated and handicapped in movement. The majority of people with disabilities cannot afford their own transport due to the inadequate social securities and the lack of employment opportunities.

The lack of physical access to the built environment is another hurdle a physically challenged person has to surmount. The way houses, institutions and offices are built with no provision or considerations for disabled persons are alarming. How will disabled persons gain equal opportunity, realize integration and attain self-representation if they cannot get into educational and other institutions, libraries, places of recreation, churches, mosques, malls, in fact most places?

POTENTIALS OF PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES

People with disabilities have the skills to pursue meaningful careers and play an important role in any country’s educational and economic success. In fact, experience with disability can offer a competitive edge when it comes to work or nation building. Richard Okoro Eweka, properly captured the great potentials of person with disabilities when he wrote thus:
“Despite the cruelty fate has brought their way, people living with disabilities have proven over the years that there is ability in every disability. They are not saying it to keep faith alive or for us to read to be motivated, but have been able to show it in different ways that they can achieve and attain any desired goal in life that they set for themselves irrespective of the state of deformity. They all have several evidence to show for their determination to succeed and have attained greater height than those without disabilities. The evidence of their successes have further convinced us that they are gifted people just like every other able- bodied men and women around. They have shown the world that disability in any form is an open invitation to take the world by surprise and that they are not made to beg. Some physically challenged persons in our society have come out stronger than the able people in their chosen career. Some have become entrepreneurs and employers of labour despite their disabilities. Some others have become preachers of the word of God, given hope to the hopeless in the society and the world at large. Some others have found strength in singing to lift the soul of those that have lost hope in themselves or those who are distressed with the challenges of life”. (Richard Okoro Eweka, ‘Harnessing the Ability in Disability’. The Nigerian Observer of 3rd July, 2014).

The protection guaranteed in Human rights treaties, and grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should apply to all. Persons with disabilities have, however, remained largely ‘invisible’, often side-lined in the rights debate and unable to enjoy the full range of human rights.

CLOSING THE GAP OF DISABILITY

In recent years, there has been a revolutionary change in approach, globally, to close the protection gap and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same standards of equality, rights and dignity as everyone else. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, signalled a ‘paradigm shift’ from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said, “The celebration of diversity and the empowerment of the individual are essential human rights messages. The Convention embodies and clearly conveys these messages by envisaging a fully active role in society for person with disabilities.” (Statement by Ms. Louise Arbour UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council – Celebration of the entry into force of the Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol – See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=8366&LangID=E#sthash.4m9d82aN.dpuf).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Recognizing and respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better place for everyone”. (Kim Peek).

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