For Tahir Ibn Muhammad, the popular proverb ‘99 days for the thief, one for the owner’ applies. Popularly known as Barrister Easy Kurna, he is a fake lawyer who has been practicing the profession in Kano State for over six years before he was exposed by another lawyer, Barrister Abba Mahmud Salisu on March 13, 2017.
Both Salisu and Easy, Daily Trust gathered, were attending a court session at Kurna Shari’ah court in Dala Local Government Area (LGA) of Kano State when the former, who has been monitoring the latter, blew the whistle.
Trouble started when Salisu, a resident of Kurnar Asabe in Fagge LGA where the fake lawyer was residing whispered to some senior colleagues present in the court that Barrister Easy Kurna was not a genuine lawyer.
Consequently, one of the senior lawyers summoned courage and jokingly confronted the fake lawyer with some questions regarding the legal profession which Easy Kurna failed. Dissatisfied with his response, the senior lawyer returned to his seat and informed his colleagues that he also doubted the man was a lawyer.
Following the development, the whistle blower took the risk of informing the court. He simply stood up and sought the permission of the presiding Shari’ah court to speak. When the judge granted him permission, Salisu told the court that Barrister Easy Kurna was not a genuine lawyer and that he wanted the court to further investigate the matter.
Consequently, the judge, therefore, directed the fake lawyer to borrow a leaf from the whistle blower by standing up before the court to clear his name on the allegation. In his testimony, Kurna admitted that he was a fake lawyer, but pleaded with the court for leniency.
The judge, therefore, ordered for his immediate arrest and directed the police to liaise with the Kano state chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to further investigate the matter. The fake lawyer was first detained in the court’s cell for some hours before he was taken to Kurmawa Central Prison where he was remanded for four days.
On Friday March 17, the fake legal practitioner was arraigned before a Magistrate court sitting at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport Kano for one-count charge of impersonation, an offence contrary to section 179 of the Penal Code Law.
It was like a movie scene when Kurna, who had two pending cases before the court was called to the dock. Many court officials, including the magistrate, were stunned when they saw him marching towards the box.
When the charge sheet was read to him, the fake lawyer pleaded guilty of the offense, therefore, his counsel, Barrister Abbas Rabi’u pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy. In view of his admission, the Presiding Magistrate, Talatu Makama sentenced him to two years without an option of fine.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Barrister Salisu said he discovered the fake lawyer through his behavior, which he said was not in conformity with that of trained lawyers.
“We lawyers have a peculiar behavior, in the way we conduct ourselves in court and how we relate with other people, especially those who do not belong to our profession. I have been following the conduct of Barrister Easy Kurna for a very long time without telling anybody because it occured to me that he is not a genuine lawyer.
“The way he dresses, the way he presents cases in the court, his conduct and the way he relates with other people differs from the way a trained lawyer should behave. Fortunately for me, we reside I the same community, so I kept on monitoring his activities and each time we met, he will do something that would cast doubt in my mind about his authenticity as a lawyer.”
Barrister Salisu said one of the characteristics of fake lawyers is that they don’t go into the rigorous proceedings of the legal profession when they appear before the court. “For instance, they will never cross-examine in the court because they never allow their cases reach that stage. Rather, they always prefer settlement out of court and once they settle the warring parties in the case and collect what they have charged their clients, you will never see them in the court again until they get another case,” he explained, adding that they only entertain cases that involve rural dwellers and capitalize on their ignorance.
Before he exposed the fake lawyer, Barrister Salisu said a senior colleague had asked Kurna about the law school he had attended and the response he gave was that he attended Zaria law school in Kaduna State. There was no such school in Zaria.
Salisu said being the person that exposed the fake lawyer, the secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association, Kano State chapter, assigned him to follow up the case on behalf of the association. He added that they were taken to the Bachirawa police station where they gave their statements.
Findings at the Bachirawa Police Division indicated that even the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) that handled the case has known the fake lawyer as a legal practitioner for almost four years.
However, Daily Trust gathered that although the fake lawyer had appeared before both Kurna Shari’ah court and Magistrate court at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) on several occasions, he had never won a single case.
A Kano based private legal practitioner, Barrister Ali A. Jamilu, who spoke to our correspondent, described the development as unfortunate to every right-thinking legal practitioner who has gone through the hurdles of studies for five years, only for someone who has not gone through all these to present himself as a lawyer.
“This is morally, ethically and spiritually wrong. And whatever such a person collected from his unexpected clients is ill-gotten wealth, because it is obtained illegally. Such person should be dealt with decisively,” he opined.
When contacted, the State Chairman, Kano State Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barrister Ibrahim Mukhtar, said the association is receiving complaints about the activities of fake lawyers in the state. He said the case of Barrister Easy Kurna was not the first reported to the association, noting that a similar case involving a popular fake lawyer called Kantoma is currently before a Chief Magistrate court at No Man’s Land. The man was exposed by a policeman at Police Headquarters, Kano.
“There was another case of impersonation that was taken to Chief Magistrate Kabara, who convicted the accused persons but because he gave him an option of fine, I think the man paid the fine instead of serving his jail term. So, we have such cases in Kano but we are doing our best to stop the trend because it is tarnishing our image and the profession as well,” he said.
Mukhtar explained that some of the fake lawyers had little background of the legal profession. Some of them had obtained diploma in law while others worked in the judiciary for many years. They mostly operate in the Shari’ah courts where proceedings are being conducted in the vernacular language and in some few occasions in the magistrate courts.
“You know it would be difficult to determine the competency of a professional lawyer in such courts and that is why these lawyers always approach these courts with their cases so that they can scale through unchallenged,” he noted.
Barrister Mukhtar added that the association is currently handling an impersonation case involving a fake lawyer that spent over 20 years in practice. “We are investigating the matter and as soon we are through, we will make it known to the public because we will not just fold our hands and watch a few bad eggs among us tarnish our image. The association will not hesitate to take necessary action on whoever is found guilty of impersonation under the umbrella of the legal profession in the state,” he said.
The chairman further said the association would continue to sensitize the general public about the activities of fake lawyers, and appeal to them to help the association with useful information that would help fish out fake lawyers.
If you are happy to be contacted by a Daily Trust journalist please leave a telephone
number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will
be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state
otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures,
video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others,
take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the
terms and conditions.