TUNDE OYESINA writes on the upsurge in the number of lawyers in the country owing to the recent call to Bar of 4,350 aspirants who attained success in their Bar examinations
The number of lawyers in Nigeria had risen to 197,015, as the Body of Benchers on July 27, 28 and 29, 2021, called about 4,350 lawyers who successfully passed their Bar final examinations into the Nigerian Bar.
The three days call to Bar ceremony was held at the Eagle Square in Abuja under a very strict COVID-19 protocol. For the first time, parents and wellwishers of the aspirants were not allowed into the venue. This was unlike previous events where aspirants would be given about two invitation cards for their guests.
The body had earlier in a notice to all its members and “aspirants to the Bar,” said that, as part of coronavirus control measures, parents and guardians of the students are barred from the event.
The notice, however, said that the ceremony will be streamed live on national television and on Youtube. The notice, signed by its Secretary, Daniel Manasseh Esq, reads in part: “All attendees are required to maintain physical distance and adhere to all protocols on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus such as the use of facemask and hand sanitisers.
“We regret to inform the parents/ guardians of the aspirants and the general public that the ceremony is strictly for the aspirants, hence, no guest will be allowed in. However, there will be live coverage of the ceremony on national television and live streaming on Youtube.
Aspirants should note that they are required to be seated by 8.30am as the gates will be closed afterwards”. However, the ceremony still took its usual three days of six sessions.
Meanwhile, according to an official entry, with the call to bar of about 4,350 lawyers, it brings the number of lawyers on the Supreme Court roll to 197,015. The Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isah Chiroma (SAN), had on the first day of the call to bar announced that 884 students were qualified to be legal practitioners following their success at the December 2020 examinations.
However, still in 2020, a total of 1,785 students passed the January Bar examination but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their enrolment into the legal profession was delayed till September 15. That implies that a total of 2,669 passed the Bar examination for 2020. It was however gathered that since the inception of the school in 1962, a total of 190,000 lawyers were registered as of 2019.
This was revealed in a Policy Book of the 2019 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA). The NBA had then stated that the figures were given by the Supreme Court.
According to the Supreme Court, the total number of legal practitioners increased from 120,006 in 2017 to 190,000 in 2019, representing an annual growth rate of 32 percent. The summation of the number of lawyers as of 2019, 2020 and March 2021 Bar examinations, puts the total law graduates at 197,015.
Meanwhile, the breakdown of the latest result showed that about 20 candidates passed with first-class out of a total of 4,350 successful candidates who participated in the March 2021 Bar Final Examination of the Nigeria Law School. Prof. Ciroma made the disclosure while presenting the successful candidates to the Body of Benchers.
According to him, a total of 5, 770 candidates sat for the March 2021 Bar final examination. ”Total number of candidates who participated in the examination were 5,770 and out of the number, 4,350 candidates were successful with 20 recording first class”, he said. He however added that the figure represented 75 percent success of the final examination. Ciroma assured that the institution shall continue to remain the gatekeepers of law profession, saying “as teachers and administrators, we will continue to uphold the standard and integrity of the Bar.” Further summary of the result showed that 432 candidates made second class upper, 2,174 made second class lower while 1,724 others had pass. The statistics showed that 20 students (0.007 percent) bagged first class, 432 (7.49 percent) bagged second class (upper division), 2,172 (37.64 percent) bagged second class (lower division) and 1,725 (29.90 percent) scored pass. In his address, the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC (rtd) said that the new wigs were expected to adhere to the provision of rules guiding the profession at all times.
“I urge you to conduct yourselves in the most responsible way expected of you as people in a noble profession. As a lawyer, you are an officer of the court and accordingly, you are not to do any act or conduct in a manner that will obstruct or adversely affect the course of justice.
“The practice of law is not a right but a privilege. It is a privilege that can be lost should you fail to live up the requisite professional standards imposed upon you by virtue of your entry into the community of lawyers”, he said. He warned that the Body of
Benchers Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee was always determined to discipline any lawyer found wanting or breaching set rules of the profession. Rhodes-Vivour hinted that his committee had from January to July, disbarred six lawyers and suspended some following non-adherence to the laid down rules “Be of good behaviour in the course of your operations and abide by the ethics and values of the profession, to avoid being brought before the committee”, he advised.
Rhodes-Vivour also encouraged the graduates to continue to read and update their knowledge on both statute and case law in order to grow in the profession.
Earlier, Ciroma while peaking on the state of the school said adequate safeguards had been put in place on all campuses of the school. He further said that the school under his watch had witnessed “more positive transformations in the area of academics” among other developmental indices.
“By providing and creating better learning and conducive environment for students and staff, our performance at the Bar final examinations effective 2018 have (sic) greatly improved,” Chiroma said.
Ciroma further revealed that the Law School had on June 28, 2021, commenced a “special remedial course” for law graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).