Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), the umbrella body of SAN has written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN) Hon. Justice Tanko Muhammed, and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) asking them not to elevate any lawyer to the level of SAN until 2024 to enable them revamp of the process of appointing SAN to return the prestige the award bestows on lawyers.
BOSAN had in the letter criticized the LPPC for making a mockery of the elevation process with conferment of the rank of SAN on an unprecedented number of 72 senior lawyers in the 2020 exercise.
The letter was signed by Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN, NNOM), Prof. A. B. Kasunmu (SAN), Chief Folake Solanke (SAN, CON) and BOSAN’s Secretary, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), accusing LPPC headed by the CJN of whittling down the prestige of the SAN rank by allowing so many aspirants to be elevated.
BOSAN also pointed out in the strong worded letter that Since April 3, 1975, when Chief F.R.A. Williams and Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas were conferred with the prestigious rank till 2019, a total number 545 have been conferred with the rank of Senior Advocates over 45 years, representing an average conferment of 12 to 13 Senior Advocates per year.
According to BOSAN: “The rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, like its equivalent Queen’s Counsel (QC) in the United Kingdom, is an award on the merit for excellence in advocacy in the higher courts.” It added that “The rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria is a hallowed and hard-earned privilege accorded a practitioner who has attained excellence in the profession.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”