Barrister Olori-Aje Adam is the newly elected chairman of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and principal partner of A.O. Olori-Aje & Co law firm based in Abuja. He was called to the bar on January 23, 2001 and was elected chairman of MULAN in April this year. In this interview, he discusses MULAN, capital punishment and the need to ignore calls to abolish the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title.
What is your view on capital punishment?
From the point of view of the human rights activists, it’s some kind of punishment that is too harsh and barbaric. However, you’d discover that countries with capital punishment are the ones maintaining some level of sanity. The essence of that law is not in the execution itself; the essence is in the deterrence and the impression.
Some people complain that Islam advises the amputation of the hand for stealing but during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, the total execution of amputations was only twice because people knew if they steal, it is punishable by hand amputation. The prophet himself said that ‘even if it’s my daughter that does something that would warrant her hand being cut, I’ll cut it’. It’s the fear that will keep people in line, which is why I think capital punishment should stay.
Some people have called for the abolishment of the SAN title. Do you think it should go?
To cut the head is not the solution to a headache. The best thing to happen to you as a lawyer is to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I will never call for the abolishment of that title. If there is a problem with the method of appointment or confinement, let us fine-tune it and restructure it to accommodate those who we believe are qualified and may not have been conferred.
Regarding discipline among the members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), are you satisfied with the disciplinary mechanisms within the association?
The disciplinary mechanisms within the NBA are perfect but we can say that there is room for further development and improvement. To the best of my knowledge, what they do now is if there is any allegation against a member of the bar, the person who is alleging misconduct or any other offence forwards his complaint to the chairman of that branch. The chairman of the branch will look at it and may call for a response from the affected member. They will send you a direct copy of that allegation and put a forwarding letter on it stating the complaint and the date of the complaint with a time limit for a response. If they are satisfied with your response then they will arrange for a meeting with you and the complainant to settle the issue. The complaint can be passed on to higher stages depending on the complexity.
Once the complaint is filed, there is no going back so the complainant withdrawing the filing can’t stop the investigation. As it is today, I believe we have a considerably perfect disciplinary measure.
The NBA has introduced Stamp and Seal. Some people feel that the Stamp and Seal Policy is discriminatory. What is your opinion?
I agree with the Stamp and Seal policy. I believe it’s in the best interest of lawyers in Nigeria. Before, we usually see people in places like business centres preparing documents in their systems and putting the name of a lawyer who may be their uncle or brother in Lokoja, Ibadan or even Lagos who isn’t aware of the transaction. If a problem erupts, one wouldn’t know where to trace it to. It’s the best thing to happen to the Nigerian bar. It gives us a sense of belonging and protects the integrity of the bar. You’ll think twice before putting your seal on any document.
The NBA is the umbrella body for lawyers in Nigeria and MULAN is a sub group. Can you tell us more about MULAN?
Alhamdulillah. MULAN is more of a streamline of a bigger body called the NBA. The NBA is a larger body with a larger responsibility to cover thousands of lawyers in Nigeria by taking care of their welfare and practice. It is productive to have a body that will take care of specific interests and therefore MULAN was introduced to look after the welfare of Muslims who are lawyers; how they do, how they practice, what kind of practice they do, what kind of welfare they need, and so on.
We have other groups like CLASSFON (Christian Lawyers Association of Nigeria). Now, even ethnic groups are coming up. We have the Yoruba and Igbo groups as well as the younger generation of lawyers.
We started at state level before coming together to formally launch the association in the year 2005. There was the need for us to protect our religion, to protect our practice and to have a closer look at our welfare. That was how we virtually came together and since then we have been up and doing.
What achievements have this association made so far?
Within the short period of our existence, we have gone for prison visitations as part of our activities and offered financial assistance to our members, including the payment of penalties and fines depending on the situation. We visit hospitals and IDPs (internally displaced persons). In fact recently, we visited some IDPs and donated a whole lot of things to them. Those are examples of things we do for the welfare of our members. We are currently working on a project that will be very marvelous by the time we unveil it.