Categories: Viewpoint

AB Mahmoud: A case of the blind leading the learned

Umar Sa'ad Hassan

AB Mahmoud SAN has been the most controversial NBA President in recent memory.When some corrupt judges were clamped down upon by the DSS, he called for their immediate release and even went ahead to threaten that there would be ‘consequences’ if they weren’t.

The question back then was why he was willing to drag the name of the bar in the mud for just a handful of persons primarily responsible for the rot in our judicial system. It was most embarrassing for lawyers having to answer questions on whether the DSS broke any law in the arrest of the judges.The layman like almost everyone of us knew they didn’t so what was Mahmoud’s problem?

A law school student billed to be called to bar at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, recently refused to take off her hijab in line with the guidelines laid down by the authorities in what internet trolls dubbed the ‘girls not hot’ situation.

In response, Mahmoud tweeted a photo of his daughter being called to the New York bar wearing a hijab and said the controversy on hijab was needless and also that the ‘NBA’ will encourage tolerance and diversity.

A lot of people may have jumped to his defence on this occasion but he is expected to know what they may not and that is that even if the constitutionality or otherwise of the use of hijab for Muslim women is raised, what must first be addressed is whether Islam recognizes English or Common law as it is loosely referred to.It doesn’t. And as such,the issue of hijab from a religious perspective in this context is faulty.

The young lady in question impliedly consented to the stipulated terms of the Council of Legal Education by attending the law school.The call to bar conditions weren’t issued to students at the entrance of the ICC,they knew all along and like the all too familiar legal maxim goes-Volunti non fit injuria (that to which a man consents cannot be considered an injury).If anything, Mahmoud was encouraging the violation of the most important criteria for call,the ‘fit and proper’ rule.There couldn’t be a more illustrative instance than a total disregard for set down rules.

I had resigned myself to fate and like most of my colleagues,was eagerly looking forward to the end of the few months he had left in office when I read his speech at the formal hand over ceremony by the outgoing Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Dr.Olanrewaju Onadeko to his successor, Prof. Isa Hayatu last Friday.

He didn’t call for a reduction in law school fees neither did he call for a neutral final arbiter in law school disciplinary cases as the case of the expelled Kayode Bello had necessitated.

Mahmoud, speaking in his official capacity as President of the NBA and Acting Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, bemoaned the quality of lawyers in active practice today and preposterously advocated for a minimum qualification of a Second class Upper (2.1) for all intending law school students.I had had enough and no, I wasn’t going to let that slide.

He represents me and each time he says ‘the NBA’ while making a statement, he is presumably speaking for me regardless of whether or not he has the backing of even his fellow executives which I seriously doubt was sought and obtained in the aforementioned cases.It just doesn’t make sense at all.

How can he decry the quality of lawyers being churned out and neglect to blame the schools for the quality of education they obtained? Like my elementary school teachers would say – ‘garbage in, garbage out’. Regardless of his/her class of degree, a graduate is an embodiment of all he is taught and if he delivers ‘garbage’ then that is exactly what he learnt. A 2.1 is attained just by obtaining good grades but it doesn’t automatically translate to the fact that he was taught well.A man of Mr Mahmoud’s stature should already know that.

Even if his yardstick is adopted for admission into law school (which I totally can’t imagine happening),we must note that it is next to impossible to find a law faculty in this country that graduates up to 10 second class upper students from an average 250 students. If we send less than a 100 students to law school, lawyers would gradually go into extinction. Perhaps his proposal is part of a grand scheme to turn the legal profession into an ‘exclusive’ one because that is the only reasonable summation when one ties this with the lackadaisical attitude of the NBA towards the exorbitant law school fees .A more fruitful end goal if we must pursue one.

A lot of us worry for the profession we so much love and cherish when we appear in court with lawyers who can’t string together 2 decent sentences in English. Just days ago, I appeared before a Chief Magistrate who had to be told the procedure for a trial-within-trial.We share the learned silk’s concern but his way out isn’t the way out.

The right thing to do is to use his seat as acting chairman of the council of legal education to set up a committee comprising the best hands for the vetting of existing and incoming law lecturers. Making it mandatory for all law faculties in the country to notify and submit the names of intended lecturers for a final screening and ratification sounds much better a proposal. Emphasis should be placed on revamping the faculties that graduate half-baked products.That is where our priorities should lie.

A.B Mahmoud SAN hasn’t led the bar well.

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.


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