Adeyemi Muiz Banire, the National Legal Adviser to All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Commissioner in Lagos State for 12 consecutive years, was one of the 21 lawyers that were sworn in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed on Monday, September 21, 2015, as members of the inner bar, an euphemism for lawyers with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Dr. Banire had applied six times before he was eventually successful. He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview what he went through to become a member of the silk.
We want to start by congratulating you on your new attainment as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
How does it feel to be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)?
It’s fulfilling and we thank God for His mercy and grace in that regard because as far as I am concerned in life, I believe that whatever we achieve is not by our own capacity or capability but by the grace of God. So, I am extremely grateful to God.
What was the first thought that came to your mind the day you heard that you have been selected among the new Senior Advocates of Nigeria?
I expressed my gratitude to God immediately, profusely for that matter. That was exactly what I did.
Was it something you have been expecting for long?
Yes, of course. I have been expecting it for long. It’s been a long journey. I have been on it for long. This is not my first application. I have made several applications in the past in respect of it. But it is now that God has deemed it fit that it should happen. I believe God’s time is the best always.
How many times did you apply?
What exactly could stop someone from being granted his wish to become a SAN?
There are so many considerations. For example, the first three or four years, I was applying under academics, which was and possibly still largely discretionary. No clear parameters in that regard. The membership of that sub-committee will always decide who they feel was qualified during those periods to earn that appellation or conferment. Thereafter, at a point in time again, it was decided that you must be a professor. I didn’t wait to become a professor in UNILAG because for me as an academic you need not be a professor to be a seasoned academic. It is your work, your publications that will actually speak for you. You need not be a professor. But in the wisdom of the sub-committee it became a major determinant for the conferment of the honour on academics. So, on that score again I couldn’t make it. So, I now switched to advocacy with clear parameters of what and what you need to meet to even qualify in the first instance. And of course, I went through the several stages.
What are those stages that you went through?
The first stage is that you submit your application. In submitting the application, you are expected to have done a full trial in not less than eight cases. Full means from the beginning to the end and yourself alone. Then, you must have additionally six major judgements at the Court of Appeal level and another six at the Supreme Court level. Those are the minimum criteria. There are other criteria you must fulfill.
Do you have to win those cases?
You don’t have to win them. But, for example, at the appellate level, it must evolve round complex legal issues. It must also be novel. Your argument must be novel. It must add value to law, it must develop law in all those cases. Beyond that, you must have been paying your practicing fee both at the national and local levels (your branch) for 10 years and you must provide evidence.
In fact, some of us lost out in the last one or two years because we couldn’t even trace some of our receipts again.
Another major determinant is your office. Your office must be standard. They come for inspection led by a very Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Beyond that also there must be comments on you from members of your local branches particularly the one you belong to. For example, I belong to Ikeja (branch of NBA). Ikeja must write about your personality as to whether you deserve it or not. Other branches around might also write in that regard.
Most importantly, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) must recommend you again. This year they have introduced another dimension at the NBA level. You must not only have been an active member but you will also come for interactions with a panel. The panel will evaluate you before it can make recommendation.
There is also the aspect that the judges will write from the High Courts, Courts of Appeal to the Supreme Court. All of them too must also make recommendation as to your fitness or otherwise.
Meanwhile, at each of this level they are shortlisting. We had over 100 people that applied this time around. We eventually turned out to be 21 that scaled through ultimately. They called it filtration process. 50 of us got to the final round when we had the final interview. It was after this that the privileges committee sat down and came out with the list of 21. So, it was very, very tedious journey but to God be the glory.
Why would any lawyer want to be a SAN?
That is the zenith of our profession, the peak of our profession. In any profession you will want to reach the peak. It’s just like somebody in academic, he will want to be a professor. The peak of our own profession as a lawyer is the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). It is just natural on the part of anybody to want to get to the peak of his or her profession.
Is it true that when you become a SAN your fees goes up?
It varies. It is not a blanket thing. I know some lawyers that are not Senior Advocates and yet they charge more fee than Senior Advocates and there are some Senior Advocate that charges of course, much more higher than other lawyers. It’s not a straight forward thing like that. It depends on the complexity of the matter they are handling and the quality of services you feel you want to deliver and what it entails. So, it’s not that erratic or arbitrary. They look into a lot of factors before arriving at the fee.
Is it also true SANs get their cases treated first in court before other lawyers.
That is part of the privilege.
What are the other privileges that SANs enjoy?
Largely, that is the main privilege that they enjoy. Your matter can be called out of turn. Again, you are a leader of the bar. To that extent also you enjoy preference, contribution in other quarters than somebody who is not a member of the inner bar. But again, that comes with corresponding responsibilities and burden also. There are so many things that you cannot do at that stage again. For example, you can’t see a SAN going into magistrate court to go and argue a case. Even at other courts you can’t go alone. Sometimes, I used to appear in court alone but I can’t do that again. A junior must appear with me at least.
Some years back when we interviewed you, you mentioned then that, your target was to become a professor and SAN. Now that you have attained the SANship, are you still interested in the professorship?
For professorship, I believe I am even overdue for that but I have not taken it seriously in the sense that I have not applied to any university formally. I believe that I have all what it takes. I have more than sufficient publications in journals and books all over the whole place. But I am not too sure I will have enough time to go to any institution formally to teach now.
Does that mean you are not going back to lecturing anymore?
I have not ruled it out at all. I like impacting knowledge. I deliver a lot of lectures nowadays. I deliver lectures in several institutions and to several bodies from time to time. The only scary thing about going back into the university system is assessing scripts. I don’t think I have the luxury of time to start marking scripts.