L-R: Prof. Pat Utomi, Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Lead Author, Folake Solanke, co-author, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu and the book reviewer, Olasupo Shasore, at the book presentation in Lagos…recently

As part of efforts to improve advocacy in court processes in Nigeria, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria Folake Solanke and Fabian Ajogwu recently presented a new book on advocacy in Lagos. Write Ugo Aliogo and Jemima Bolokor

Folake Solanke and Fabian Ajogwu are two individuals in the same line of profession. They are both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). In the legal profession, they have made their marks and set outstanding track records. While Solanke represents a symbol of shining light to older lawyers, Ajogwu is a role model for the young lawyers. Recently, they embarked on an intellectually focused adventure at charting a new course in the practice of the profession. They collaborated together and wrote a book titled ‘Oral and Written Advocacy: Law and Practice Traditional and Modern Trends in Advocacy’.

Research explains that advocacy is a very important practice in the legal profession. Advocacy is a process whereby an individual or group aims to influence decisions within the social system and institutions. It aims at providing an opportunity for people to have their voices heard on issues concerning them. It defends and safeguards people’s rights, while ensuring that their views are genuinely considered when decisions concerning them are made.

The public presentation of the book was held recently in Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, and it was well received by members of the Bar and the Bench. The authors said that over the centuries, most lawyers have acquired oral advocacy skills in the public theatre of the courtroom. They also noted that overtime, the amount of time, the huge costs expended on court trials, congestion and the poor quality of infrastructure in the law courts, eventually caused a gradual shift from oral advocacy to written advocacy, first in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Nigeria and other places.
They further stated that the courts and the lawyers have accepted the ascendancy of written advocacy because it saves time and costs of litigation, “only a limited time is allowed by the court rules for oral advocacy.”

Speaking at the event, Human right lawyer, Femi Falana, called on the court to work towards the improvement of the advocacy system in Nigeria, in order to strengthen the practice of the legal profession.

He said the legal profession is facing serious challenges in the Nigeria, stressing that most members of the profession are not representing the profession in a positive light.
Falana stated that the book is a vital intellectual material which will contribute immensely to the practice of the legal profession especially from the angle of advocacy and other vital areas, adding that members of the profession will find it very useful.

He added that the book has thoroughly treated the rules of professional ethnics in legal practices, while lamenting that: “What you have done with this book is to remind us that in the midst of the challenges facing the profession, there are still some decent lawyers in the country. Folake Solanke represents the best among the old while Fabian Ajogwu represents the best among the young.”

In her welcome address, the lead author, Solanke, expressed displeasure over the allegations of scandals against members of the bar and the bench, adding that there are many members of the profession whose practice is beyond reproach, “some members have polluted the stream of justice in gross violation of the cherished, universal tradition of our learned profession.”

She called on lawyers to imbibe the culture of reading, stressing that the reading culture is ‘abysmally low’ in Nigeria and the world, therefore, there is need to use the internet as an additional facility, not as a substitute.

Solanke remarked that in pursuit of superior advocacy, lawyers should pay attention to knowledge in order to know the law properly, while also advocating for increased attention in appearance and language.
She said: “The profession must therefore engage in continuing legal and professional education so that lawyers can be current in their legal knowledge in order to perform admirably in any situation. It is fantastic pleasure to watch supreme spellbinding oral advocacy displayed in the court-room by an erudite advocate. The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) national body and the branches must tackle these unacceptable professional lapses for the sake of the legal profession and the society.

“In my early years at the bar, the NBA Ibadan branch had a programme of continuing legal education on Saturdays. The programme enhanced the legal knowledge of lawyers including the speaker. It is recommended that each NBA branch should institute such a programme for the lawyers, particularly, the younger legal practitioners.

“This academic addition to legal literature is a wake-up call to the entire members of the learned profession to rededicate ourselves to what veritable and superior advocacy is all about, for the restoration of the golden age of the profession, when it was corruption-free.
“We need the young and the senior citizens for a stable society. I seize this opportunity to appeal, vehemently to the youths to desist from the foolish supposition that the older citizens have had turn and therefore should give way to the youths to perform. Any society which abandons or neglects its older generation does it at its peril.”

Solanke stated that advocacy is an area of concern for her, adding that she accepted the invitation to be the lead author purely on professional considerations. “If the title had contained the magical word: ‘advocacy’ my reaction might have been different.”

She lauded the professional bond which exists between members of the legal profession, adding that it enables them to reach out to each other. “I refer to the relationship as a kind of fraternity, particularly among members of the inner bar.”