THE NATION——The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was silent yesterday on the walk-out during yesterday’s proceedings in the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
A team of lawyers representing Saraki walked out on the tribunal after it refused their application to suspend proceedings, but one of the lawyers, Mahmud Magaji, denied walking out on the judge. He said the defence counsel was permitted to leave after applying to “withdraw “from the case.
NBA President Augustine Alegeh (SAN) did not answer or return telephone call to him last night. He also did not reply a text message to his phone.
But a former NBA President Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) said he did not believe the lawyers “walked out” on the judge even though a counsel reserved the right to withdraw appearance for his client at any time, in which case he would inform the judge of his decision before leaving the courtroom.
“It is within a counsel’s right to withdraw further appearance for his client at anytime of his calling. He of course will inform the judge of his decision before exiting the walls of the court. This will not be tantamount to waking out on the court or judge,” he said.
One of the oldest SANs, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, said while it is against the ethics of the legal profession for a lawyer to walk out on a judge in protest, a lawyer cannot be sanctioned if he leaves the courtroom on the judge’s permission or after a ruling had been delivered.
“Was it really a walk-out? If they left after a ruling; that may not amount to a walk-out on the court. In that case, the tribunal can proceed with other cases. I don’t see what has happened as a walkout. I think they left after the ruling. For anyone to describe it as a walk-out would be to blackmail the lawyers,” Fagbohungbe said.
Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), said although the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners does not provide for an express right of walk-out, the circumstances may be such as to leave a counsel with no choice than to withdraw from proceedings based on good conscience and duty of care to a client, especially where participation in a palpably illegal proceedings may prejudice the client’s interest.”