By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim
For sometime now, there has been an issue generating a lot of misconceptions which I have refused to join issues with some of our colleagues until now.It will not be an exaggeration to say that the issue seems to be as old as independent Nigeria or Legal Profession itself.
To better illustrate this issue at hand for proper understanding, let me first and foremost cite two examples.
Firstly, Mr. Kola Ibrahim is a lawyer practising law here in Lagos.When he was an undergraduate law student at Usmanu Dan Fodiyo ,Sokoto (UDUS) ,there used to be a man in his neighbourhood who went about parading himself as a lawyer and people called and hailed him as “De Law”.
The first time Kola as a law student attempted to get closer to the neighbourhood’s “De Law”, the experience was very nasty. When Kola introduced himself to him as an undergraduate law student in UDUS, “De Law” dismissed Kola with wave of hand that what they were doing in Sokoto is not law but Arabic and Islamic Studies.
As time went by, it was eventually discovered in the neighbourhood that “De Law” was a fake lawyer. But before the real law could catch up with him, he had bolted and disappeared into the thin air.
Secondly, Mr. Muhammed Doko is another Lagos based lawyer who also graduated from Usmanu Dan Fodiyo, Sokoto. When he was in UDUS studying to become a lawyer ,an uncle of his living in Lagos cynically advised him that when he finished studying law in Sokoto, he should stay behind there to become an ALKALI (Islamic Judge).
After being called to the bar , Doko began to practise law in Lagos and when the son of his said uncle ran into problem, the uncle called him to come and assist his son. Doko reminded his uncle of his admition to him while studying law in Sokoto. The uncle became dumbfounded.
The above is just to lay the foundation for the issue we are trying to discuss here with the view to correct some misconceptions among our colleagues as well as those who are interested in knowing what this issue is really all about. If some lawyers are not getting it right, we owe it a duty to educate or enlighten ourselves on this very important issue.
The argument on the status of a lawyer who holds LLB Degree in Sharia Law became very tense after the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and appointment of an Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Some lawyers argued and were of the view that the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court appointed to act as CJN was not qualified because he was an holder of degree in Shariah Law.A particular lawyer on the facebook used the portrait of the Acting CJN, Hon. Justice Tanko Muhammad as his profile picture and marked letter X acrossed with the caption that : “This is not my CJN”.
If some lawyers are still getting it wrong up till now, I doubt if some non lawyers will get it right. Of all the Universities that are accredited by the National Univeristies Commission (NUC) to offer law as course of studies in Nigeria, very few of them award LLB degrees in Sharia or Islamic Law and Common or Civl Law.Among the Federal universities that award degrees in these area of law are Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Bayero University, Kano; University of Maiduguri and Usmanu Dan Fodiyo Univeristy, Sokoto. Lagos State University is among the prominent state universities that award degree in these areas of law.
In some of these universities mentioned, a student may decide either to study law degree in Sharia (Islamic) Law or in Civil (Common) Law.In the alternative , a student may decide to combined both with the view to at the end of the day be conferred with LLB combined degrees in Sharia (Islamic ) Law and Civil (Common) Law.
A student that chooses to either do Sharia (Islamic) Law or Civil (Common) Law for LLB degree will be required to take some elective courses in either side which he must pass before the conferment of such degree on him.
In Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University ,Sokoto which I attended as well as Messr Kola Ibrahim and Muhammad Doko I referred to in the earlier examples, there is nothing like separation in the study of Sharia (Islamic ) Law from Common (Civil) Law. An undergraduate law student in UDUS is expected to combine both Sharia and Common Law together in the course of the study for the LLB degree programme before he will at the end of the day be conferred with the degree of BACHELOR OF LAWS (COMMON AND ISLAMIC LAW) from that institution. I belonged to the 1999 Law Class of the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University known as the most peaceful university in Nigeria. We take pride in calling ourselves THE GREAT DANFODITES.
For proper understanding and clarification for those who may want to know, the question now is that for the five years we spent in that institution studying law: what were the courses we went through ?
In what is called UG 1, meaning undergraduate year one, we went through these courses : Legal Methods; Introduction to Islamic Law; Development and Administation of Islamic Law; Grammar and Composition in Arabic ; Literature and Juristic Terminology in Ararbic ;Introduction to Fiction; Introduction to Peotry ; Introduction to Drama and Threatre ; Basic English Grammar and Composition; Early History of Islam from Jahiliya to the death of the Prophet; The Basic of Islamic Thought and Civilzation ; Introduction to Political Science; Introduction to African Politics ; Nigerian Consitutional Development; The Citizen and the State. In year two we went through , Constitutional Law ; Public International Law; Law of Contract ; Nigerian Legal System; Quran & Hadith; Grammar Composition in Arabic ;Application of Islamic Law in Nigeria; Literature ,Justic Terminology and Idioms in Arabic; Use of English ; Philosophy and Logic ; Introduction to Computer. In year three, we went through, Criminal Law; Law of Torts; Commercial Law; Al-Mu’amalat; Conflict of Laws; Islamic Law of Crimes and Torts ; Grammar in Arabic; History and Philosophy of Science; Nigerian People and Culture; Appliction of Computer.
In year four, we went through, Land Law; Equity and Trust; Evidence; Copy Right Law; Islamic Family Law; Wasiyyah and Mirath; Islamic Law of War and Peace. In year five, we went through, Jurisprudence ; Company Law; Usul Al Fiqh; Islamic Property Law ; Mura’fat (Islamic Law of Evidence); Long Essay. I have gone into the detail to convince every doubting Thomas on what we went through before we were conferred with the combined LLB degrees. We did not go there to do merry making but to study very hard.
We were majorly exposed to both English Common Law and Islamic Law.
Apart from that we were sent to other faculties or departments i.e. Department of Modern European Languages, Department of Political Sceince, Department of Arabic, Department of Islamic Studies as well as Department of General Studies to do some other courses as you can see from the above.I believe the situation is still the same today in UDUS as well as other universities awarding LLB (combined) degree in Laws.
I only used Usmanu Dan Fodiyo Universty, Sokoto as a case study here because that was where I attended for my LLB programs.If you consult the book titled BENCH AND BAR IN NIGERIA put together by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), you will surely confirm some of these things.
I must equally point out here that the university (UDUS) is never discriminatory to any non-Muslim who wants to read combined Degree in Laws in as much as he or she has the entry qualification for the programs.On the Arabic course, the students are grouped into group A and group B for students’s choice. While those in group A are those are proficient in Arabic Language, those in Group B are not proficient in Arabic Language but are still learners. When we were there we had some non Muslims among us who performed very well.
The message we are are trying to pass here is that as far as training of lawyers is concerned is this country today ,no group of lawyers can claim to be superior to the other.The mere fact that a lawyer obtains his LLB degree from a particular University does not make him better or well trained than another lawyer that obtains his from another university because at the end of the day they will still meet in the Law School where they will sit for the same examinations which they must pass before being admitted to the Nigerian Bar.
That the present Acting CJN has a PH.D in Sharia Law is not in doubt, but how of many of those making mockery of this are aware that one of our great erudite jurists in person of the late Hon. Justice Muri Okunola , who died on the bench of Court of Appeal while serving his fatherland was equally a PH.D holder in Sharia Law?
Some times I become very worried when some people are go about raising dust to put up irrational arguments and it becomes more disturbing when such argument is coming from lawyers admitted to the Nigerian Bar.
There are some of our colleagues who argue as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is written in Greek or French.
For instance, how can we buy into the argument that a person who studied law in a university such as Ahmadu Bello University and elected to major in Sharia Law and thereafter was awarded LLB degree in that area of law and subsequent proceeded to the Nigeria Law School from where he was called to the bar as the Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria was not a qualified lawyer that can be elevated to bench in the Nigerian context? The Constituton states clearly the requirements to be met by any lawyer to become a Judge of superior court of records. By virtue of Section 231 (3) of the 1999 Constitution:
“A person shall not be qualified to hold the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria or A JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT, unless he his qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and as being so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen fifteen years”
For you to qualify to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria, whether at the bar and on the bench whether lower or higher you must first be called to the Bar as a lawyer, then other things follow. Most of the misinformation and misconception we read on the social media are as a result of laziness to do proper research on those writing or posting such stuff.
Unfortunately, some people out of mere hatred without confirming the genuniness of such stuff in this age when internet has made things very easy will continue to spread such false misinformation as if the National Judiciary Council (NJC) that approved the elevation of the man to the bench in the first and later to the Supreme Court went to sleep snoring during its deliberation on the elevation of the man.
The fact still remains that if you are not qualified to practise as legal practitioner in Nigeria there is no way you can practise at the bar or on the bench.
The hatred against the Acting CJN is so overwhelming that some people are said to have gone to court to challenge that the man is unfit for the position.
I have said in one of my previous articles on this platforn titled: ELEVATED JUDGES: WHAT IS THE ARGUMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE?
“Law is not static but continues to develop. Today we have many judges on the High Court bench who are very learned in Common and Shariah Law as well as the Customary Law. Likewise we have many Area Court, Customary Court, Magistrate Court, Shariah Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal Judges who are on the bench today that are equally more learned in Common and Customary law.
Some of them will rise through the rank to the Supreme Court. Now some states’ judiciary have started replacing the laymen presiding on the customary court bench with lawyers.”
Those arguing that a person that obtained LLB degree in Sharia Law and subsequently admitted to bar is not suitable to sit at appellant court like the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are still living in the Stone Age. When the Sharia Division of the Federal Court of Appeal was created at its inception, Hon. Justices Bahir Wali and Uthman Muhammed were elevated to the Court Appeal to be in charge of that division and because they were learned in both Common (Civil) Law and Sharia (Islamic) law, they equally sat on appeal matters that were not related to the Sharia Law.
Please just go through some of the Law Reports to see the quality of the judgments they delivered both on Sharia Law and Common Law while they were on the bench at both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
Even during the colonia era, the colonial masters were able to identify the brilliant and erudite ones among the Alkalis (Islamic Judges) in those old days.
In a tribute in Hon. Justice S.M.A Belgore, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria at 80 , I wrote this about his father:
“The history had it that there once lived in Ilorin a great jurist by name Alkali Yusuf Belgore who was well versed in Islamic law that whenever the Colonial Masters had problems with the knowledge and application of Islamic of law, his advice and opinion were usually sought for. He was later appointed a Provincial Court Judge and to be sworn in 16th November 1960 but unfortunately on 2nd November that year he passed on to the great beyond…”
This article in defence of the holders of the LLB degrees in Sharia and Common Law becomes necessary in view of the misinformation and misconception that has been allowed to exist for a while.
I believe this defence will go a long way to set the record straight.
God bless in the legal profession in Nigeria.
REMARKABLE PRONOUNCEMENTON KNOWLEDGE OF LAW
“I must pause here to make a short observation. It may be that the plaintiff is an intelligent and able medical practitioner. One thing is clear to me; he is not wise in the nuances of the legal profession. It is not enough to read up cases in the law reports and to cram up rules and legal principles read in the books, the correct application of these cases, rules and principles to a given situation is what makes the difference between the legal practitioners and the able medical practitioner, I doubt it much if the plaintiff is doing justice to his cause by conducting these proceedings himself given the intricacies of the questions he has himself raised. His notice and grounds of appeal and other papers that have since been filed by him and his prolix for most part irrelevant, arguments in his “brief” of arguments both in this court and in court below bear testimony to this observation”.
Per OGUNDARE , JSC in Iweka vs. SCOA (2000) 15 WRN Pg 128 Lines 5-10.
THE SETTLED PRINCIPLE OF LAW
On effect of admission under Islamic law of evidence
It is trite in shariah that a free admission or larar made by a mature or sane person, which is clear and devoid of ambiguity in its wording and context against the maker’s interest in favour of another is binding and enforceable against him the maker.
See Hada Vs. Malumfashi (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 303)1 at Paras 14-15; MAI-AIKI Vs. MAI-DAJI (2004) FWLR (Pt. 188) Pgs. 1033-1034 Para A
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