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“XTA”: RESTRUCTURING AND THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PUZZLE

“XTA”: RESTRUCTURING AND THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PUZZLE


Ease of Doing Business Index has made us smile. Ease of Paying Taxes Index has brought our faces rare glow. VAIDS have ensured the country’s purse swells by USD50 billion. With the present Nigeria, this smile and glow are once-in-a-lifetime trances. Even our easiest fantasies fail to confidently bring solutions to our plight as a sovereign state. So, let us smile and make merry. But how do we even get items for merriment? Oh. You think the 50 billion USD will reach your street? O boy eh, keep dreaming. You see, substantially, there is a wide divide, a chasm between the growth of the economy and its development. Let us not even veer towards sustainability yet. Without bridging this chasm? Let us take a short stroll before we wield the gavel.

Oil prices have nosedived and is nose bleeding gorily. Agriculture and solid minerals remain a viable source of national revenue but not at its optimal shape. Looking through the transparent test-tubes of history, history of the development of the developed countries, we find one curvy, nice-figure-eight appearance. Tax. Yes, tax is the real deal. Like solar power generation, tax does not make noise. Silently, steadily but surely, it goes on and on. Of course, what is constant if not death and taxes. But the truth must be sprinkled on this field straightaway. Taxes can only sustain a socio-political economy which is in itself, sustainable in values, principle and foundation. How sustainable is the Nigerian socio-political turf? Our searchlight must get brighter here.

In the 1960s when regionalism held sway, the budget of the Western Region alone superseded that of the federation and the other regions combined! Sounds quite outrageous right? But this was a budget whose arousal was borne out of regional necessity. There was a plan. The budget was meant to vehicle this plan efficiently. Each region was meant to be ruled, to grow and develop at its own pace, albeit healthily and competitively. Then suddenly, the Aguiyi of this world arrived and supplanted. Unification Decree No. 34 showed up. Regionalism was defiled and murdered in cold blood. Unitary Federalism began in earnest and would never be supplanted till this day. Nigeria’s problems are enormous and sometimes, amoebic and amorphous in description. It is evidently unfair to situate the reason for the inane aging of the Nigerian state on lack of proper federalism alone. Nonetheless, this piece will defy all odds and without noise, situate the blame on it. Let us defy the odds shortly.

The Federal government has been constitutionally made, extremely lucrative and juicy that little attention is paid to the development of the regions anymore. Make no mistake about this – the regions have not grown better than they were during the days of regionalism. VAT, Solid minerals, Companies, Policing, Defence, Petroleum and Liquid minerals, Maritime, et cetera are exclusively concentrated at the centre by the instrumentality of the Exclusive List of powers. If these powers are in the federal government, then just forget about the sharing and revenue allocation formulae deceit. The regions can never get serious, innovative and developed. They will continually slumber and live in economic putrefaction. Then, even if a region or state decides to wake up, the entire federation wakes up with such state but in full opposition to it. I mean, who are you to wake up when we are all sleeping? You are proud o. Enter, case study, Lagos State.

A short digression may be relevant here. Have you ever wondered why Biafra secessionist calls rise and fall like epileptic bouts? Have you not wondered why the notorious and dreadful Niger Delta militancy never ceases to cause alarming concerns? Why will you vandalize pipelines in your own home? Of course, the Nigerian state suffers from epilepsy. But the answer is not far-fetched. Ants can only destroy their castle when it is no longer theirs.

When sense of belonging is lost, the belonging itself loses regard. Historical facts and figures abound. Authoritative dicta abound. But the simple truth is one, and it is the call for the restoration of social, economic and political sense of belonging to the regions. Taxes are yielding record-breaking revenues. Oil prices have been projected to increase soonest. The ministry of solid minerals is showing some spicy promises. Agriculture now contributes over 5% to the economy unlike the abysmal less-than 3% previously. Of all these prospects, this piece sees tax as the mitochondrion of the economy in terms of steady and sustainable source of government revenue. On this note, I seize this moment to announce the solution to the puzzle “XTA” – TAX!

But hey! Do not lose guard just yet. These are all economic growth indices. But the pepper that must be pungent in this soup is the fact that there can be no true development without restructuring the socio-political economy of the Nigerian State. For the tax system, Companies income taxes and VAT should belong to the concurrent list of powers. The States must be made to manage, control and make the best use of their resources, natural and otherwise. Lagos State is the largest contributor of VAT to the Nigerian treasury. But it is one of the least-enjoying States of the same revenue it effulgently sources. Where is the sense of belonging? Where is the motivation to other States to work on their ease of doing business in order to compete healthily with the VAT kings? With the present system, it is a no way!

Our stroll reaches a final lap here. The chasm between the growths we are experiencing at this moment in our history and the fantastic development of our desires lies in Restructuring. Restructuring is just that missing link between the swelling of economic fortunes and the equivalent swelling of personal fortunes. The National puzzle for sustainable development has been unlocked. Then why drag our law-making feet again? Indeed, it is realized that the federal legislature is enrobed with the power to restructure as restructuring fundamentally has to be rooted in the grundnorm, the Constitution. Whether the “cameras” of both houses will capture them in the history books in a sonorous way is a ball in their respective courts. What ball is in our court? Optimism, our only weapon.

Olukolade O. Ehinmosan,

Aspiring Legal Practitioner.

ehinmosanolukolade@yahoo.com

DELAYS IN LITIGATION: A SIMPLE ELIXIR

DELAYS IN LITIGATION: A SIMPLE ELIXIR

Jermaine Thornton died in 2005 from grievous bodily injuries inflicted on him by officials of the Drug control agency in the country. The deceased’s family decided to take a civil action against the agency. As I write, the claimant has not closed his case. More than twelve (12) years! The truth is, nobody is perplexed any longer. Litigation has become a trademark snail of judicial disrepute. It has emerged the easiest frustration of the common man. Lamentation must only last for a short while. Why do we not simply identify the issues first?

Appearances are announced at each trial date. The first witness is called upon for examination-in-chief. This singular process takes at least, one trial date. Some contentious ones involving unending objections and replies, after which a ruling is given by the court takes up to three adjournment dates. Examination-in-chief of each witness must be done at a slow pace, infact, extremely slow pace, because the trial judge is taking notes in long-hand. Cross-examinations follow a very similar pattern particularly the aspect of time-consumption. In some cases, re-examinations are allowed and take time too just because ‘my Lord is taking note’. This happens for each witness called upon to testify, willingly or by subpoena.

This process appears smooth on paper but is dreadfully time-predating. Then, one of the very worst happens. The judge is transferred from one jurisdiction to the other. The trial is to begin de novo. Alternatively, an application for fiat is made to the Chief Judge of the trial court (as the case may be) to permit the transferred judge to continue with the trial of the matter, at any expense, time and finance most notably inclusive. I will desist from making further sketches of the time-devouring judicial system we have in this part of the world. The focus here is the prescription of a viable elixir to this menace of avoidable time wastage.

In truth, the value of observing the countenance of each testifying witness at the trial cannot be swept under the carpet. The weight of justice and fairness attached to taking down comprehensive notes on occurrences during the trial process is invaluable. However, modernity and civilization dictate that we find a way to make laws for our common good and progress and not in ‘wrestlemania’ and contamination of the streams of justice. Justice rushed is surely justice crushed. But this never overrules the fact that justice delayed is justice denied. Witnesses die, get missing and untraceable, and/or become sullen and disinclined towards giving testimonies in court. This becomes commonplace where litigation is allowed to take a life time.

Please, who says there can be no Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) in our courtrooms to ensure that the countenance of witnesses is monitored closely while video records are diligently stored? Please who has declared that the courtroom is immune to computer systems and projectors handled by skilled, fast and accurate computer gurus employable by our judiciary? Why is it not possible for a computer clerk to type every word of counsel, witness and the judge (or amicus curiae) on a computer system while same is simultaneously projected in the courtroom? What is/are that/those factor(s) that make transfer of judges inexorably compelling at the fatal expense of justice and fairness? These are questions that must be answered frankly. Whether Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) becomes lucrative and overarching can and will never extirpate the importance of courtroom litigation. Some cases just ultimately have to pay visits there for much-needed redress. These visits must not metamorphose into imprisonment for life. There must be an end to litigation. This end must strap to its back and entire body, justice and manifest justice. Gentlemen of the largest Bar in Africa, the state of litigation in Nigeria is saddening and tearful. But let us never fail to see while we cry.

Olukolade O. Ehinmosan,

Aspiring Legal Practitioner ehinmosanolukolade@yahoo.com

N.B

The character of Jermaine Thornton is purely fictional. The legal situation is however real. The writer can be reached for details.

Legal Practice and the Internet: The Clash

ETHICS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND THE USE OF THE INTERNET: THE CLASH

Immaculate White. Symbolic Black. Effigy of Justice. Nobility. Solemnity and Formality. Confraternity. These are words and phrases that point emphatically to the legal profession and its practice. White on black strongly suggests the purity of justice in solemnity and sobriety. This White on black has manifested itself right from the very outset of modern legal practice both on the legal turf of our colonial masters and our very legal system. The formal dress code and the appropriate ways of advertising and creating awareness about legal services are instructive in this regard. The emergence and sudden sweep of the information media by the internet appears to have also ensured an equivalently sudden sweep in the adherence to the ethics of the legal profession concerning creating awareness and advertisement. This short write-up soberly beams searchlight on this apparent situation using the law as the benchmark, with the aim of stimulating commentaries and opinions on the issue, converse or approbrating.

Importantly, this brief exposition focuses on two aspects of the display of legal professional ethics. These are, the individual lawyer on one hand, and an association or conglomerate of lawyers called a law firm or chambers as the case may be. Let us get this jaunt rolling.

By Rule 7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007, subject only to the permission of the Bar Council, a legal practitioner is precluded from practising another profession simultaneously with the legal profession. A legal practitioner is equally precluded from practising while simultaneously engaging in ‘trade or business’. Evidently, the varied, multi-faceted and ever-increasing dimensions of legal practice bring one to an obvious realization that the definition of ‘legal practice’ is an unruly horse. Meanwhile, the tenor, spirit and letter of this provision speak volume of the sobriety and minimal competitiveness of legal practice.

With respect to a conglomerate or association of lawyers, of huge germaneness are the provisions of Sections 39 and 40 of the same Rules of Professional Conduct. Advertisement and promotion of legal services must be fair and in conformity with the provisions of the Rules. Sub-rule 2 under Rule 39 categorically outlaws any advertising or promotion of legal practice/service which either makes comparison (direct or implicit) with or criticizes other lawyers, or any advertisement or promotion which includes statement about the quality of the lawyer’s work, the size of success of his practice or his success rate.

Regarding an individual lawyer, Sub-rule 3 of Rule 39 is heavily instructive. Notwithstanding the ‘fairness’ or ‘propriety’ of an advertisement or promotion of legal service/practice, a lawyer shall not solicit professional employment DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY:
“(a) by circulars, handbills, advertisement, through touts or by personal communication or interview;
(b) by furnishing, permitting or inspiring newspaper, radio or television comments in relation to his practice of the law;
(c) by procuring his photograph to be published in connection with matters in which he has been or is engaged, or concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved or the importance of the lawyer’s position;
(d) by permitting or inspiring sound recordings in relation to his practice of law; or
(e) by such similar self-aggrandizement.

We have to make a reconnaissance to the aspect of legal conglomerates again. Rule 41 stipulates that a lawyer or a firm may display at the entrance of or outside any buildings or offices in which he or it carries on practice, a sign or notice, containing his or its name and professional qualifications, the sign or notice being of reasonable size and sober design. Law firms and chambers in recent times are now at least, in two distinct worlds of appearances. Law firms are sited at strategic geographical areas. Law firms are now equally situate at strategic ‘netical’ or internet-based locations too! Truly, the Rules in the instant inquiry evidently neither contemplates the internet advertising situation nor does it contemplate law firms that are both virtual and real in sites. However, the sobriety of advertisements and promotions remains key and infectiously vital.

Flowing from these few points that have been afore-raised, these questions come to fore:

(a) Is it legally ethical for a lawyer to advertise and promote himself on the internet? If so, to what extent?

(b) Is it legally ethical for a lawyer to brandish his legal qualifications, client or clientele achievements and conquests on the internet? If so, to what extent?

(c) Is it legally ethical for a lawyer to make the internet public aware of his availability for job placement or employment connected with legal practice? If so, to what extent?

(d) Is it legally ethical for a law firm or chambers to boast of its achievements on the internet? If so, to what extent?

(e) Is it legally ethical for a law firm or chambers to make its designed insignia, mission statements and other organizational details openly available on the internet? If so, to what extent?

(f) Are virtually (if not all) all law firms, chambers and lawyers alike not culpable of violating the Rules? If so, the instances must now become clearer and easier to highlight and lay bare.

These are questions that require nourishment from informed legal opinions. Let the brainstorm begin in earnest. This writer is equally not exonerated. A follow-up is nigh but certainly, not now. So for now, enjoy your day and night!

Olukolade O. Ehinmosan,
Aspiring Legal Practitioner.
ehinmosanolukolade@yahoo.com