By Dennis osaretin
The major concern of today’s piece is to xray clinically the constitutional functions of the office PUBLICITY SECRETARY beyond the fascade and the glitzs and glamour which many believe might follow, but not necessarily the fulcrum of the office which many now seek to occupy, therefore, suffice to say that the function of a PUBLICITY SECRETARY of our noble association includes;
(a) To publicise the activities of the Branch and if the need arises to assist the National Publicity Secretary of the Association in matters relating to events within the jurisdiction of the Branch;
(b) To present a correct and positive image of the Branch to the public;
(c) To on the direction of the Chairman, issue Press Releases and Statements on matters of general interest to the Branch as approved by the Executive Committee or, in case of emergencies, by the Chairman
From the above, it is crystal clear, that a potential candidate must have the poise and present capacity garnished with some moral fecundity to give voice and public attention to all events of the branch, he may also be asked to assist the national publicity secretary in carrying out some of his assigned functions, which is to assist the national secretariat in cascading the necessary information to members of the public whom the local but autonomous branches are to serve.
Secondly, a publicity secretary MUST PRESENT A CORRECT AND POSITIVE IMAGE OF THE BRANCH TO THE PUBLIC
It goes without saying that the NBA and indeed the legal profession in Nigeria is a professional body, which operates within the confines of laid precepts and rules of professional conduct. For instance the RPC provides abinitio that;
A lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
The purpose of this Episcopal admonition is not far-fetched, because we all know that the Legal Profession is a noble one. The Rules were made to enshrine the minimum best practices for Legal Practitioners.
To buttress the above points, the rules Provides further, in Rule 55(2) that: it is the duty of every lawyer to report any breach of any of these rules that come to his knowledge to the appropriate authorities for necessary disciplinary action.
What then is the purpose of The Rules? Let us turn to members of the exalted bench for guidance.
Fabiyi JSC in FBN Plc v. Maiwada commenting on The Rules observed that: … legal practitioners should reframe their minds to live by it for due accountability and responsibility on their part and for the due protection of the profession.
In this same light, Ariwoola JSC in YAKIs case observed that : The rules are no doubt made by the professionals to protect and guard jealously the enviable legal profession that we all belong.
Flowing from the above, can it then be fit and proper for anybody whether an aspirant in an election or not to dress in a manner not prescribed by our rules of professional conducts, such as wearing apparel which does not reflect or portray our callings as lawyers to the society and minister in the temple of justice? I think not! Can it fall within the confines of our RPC for any one to also start engaging in activities and public display which are not compatible with our profession as lawyers! I leave these posers for my readers and opponent to answer.
In the writers view, conduct unbecoming of a lawyer could include conduct in a lawyer’s personal or private capacity, that tends to bring discredit upon the legal profession including, for example, committing an act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.
It could refer or partain, to the way and manner the lawyer is attired and carry himself or herself, it is interesting to note that the legal profession has a well established tradition and dress code for major if not all of its events including the day to day public appearance of a lawyer. Consequently, the appropriateness or otherswise of this tradition or convention has become an interesting debate due to its prime importance in our profession.
In Nigeria therefore, the Rule of Professional Conduct for the legal profession Rule 6(b) provides that ; While the court is in session, a lawyer should not assume an undignified posture, and should not, without the judge’s permission, remove his wig and gown in the courtroom. He should always be attired in a proper and dignified manner, and abstain from apparel or ornament calculated to attract attention to himself.
By well established conventions and regulation, dark suits, black jacket and wig, and gown(not Papa’s cap or face caps), are traditionally worn in court by men, while lady barristers wear dress and no slacks.
To show how fundamental this topic is, tha Nigeria Council of Legal Education on its establishment has tried to spell out in clear terms, what the dress code of lawyers should be like. The Nigeria Law School Code of Conduct Rule 29(a) provides: He should be well-dressed at all times. The regulation on dress for male students are dark suits, white shirts, black ties (not bow tie), black
socks and black shoes with white breast pocket, handkerchiefs, and
striped black trousers may be worn under dark jackets.
Rule 2(b) of the said Code of Conduct further stipulated the dressing code for females as: For female students, white blouse, dark jacket and black skirts, covering knees (dark suit) or dark ladies and black shoes are to be worn. There should be no embroidery and trimmings of any type, and only moderate jewellery.
The Nigerian Law School Code of Conduct, further stated in Rule 2(b), that at all law dinners, students must be punctual, and be in regulation dress; it further stated that at call to bar ceremonies, qualified students must wear regulation dress and also the Wig, Winged collar and Bids or Collarette and Barristers’ Gown.
Finally, the rule concluded by stating that the above mode of dressing is mandatory for both male and female, while at the law school and other extra curricula activities, and when called to the Bar, and attendance at magistrate and all superior courts.
From the above, it is crystal clear that for anyone to aspire to become the image maker of an August body such as our noble association, the Nigeria Bar association, Benin branch the irreducible minimum is for such aspirant to comply with our dress codes. thus wearing apparels such as T-Shirt, and face cap turned backward akin to those worn and adorned by hip hop artist in some cities in America garnished with ornamental fittings and displaying same without caution within our legal firmament, including our virtual community, including all our what’s app group and social media pages leaves more to be desired, and in the next election such candidate should not be encouraged to portray what our profession is not.
Our professional milleau is that of sobriety, solemnity and regal candour, it does not admit for any flashy and ornamental display similar to that of an American rockstar or better still a Caucasian movie star whose only desire is to attract attention to him or her self rather than to attract attention to the association and it’s activities which remains the most important function of the office of PUBLICITY SECRETARY.
This piece, may appear controversial but the message is clear, plain and simple, lets digest it, apply the message, and leave the messenger alone for his family. Let’s make necessary contributions and commentaries devoid of biases and abuse, so as to enhance the practice and branding of the legal profession in Benin city.
Let’s keep the conversation going
Here I am, send me
DENNIS OSARETIN Esq.
Currentlyserves as Assistant Secretary, of the Nigeria Bar Association, Benin branch.
He is also a dedicated Human right lawyer with special bias for media rights and data protection and freedom of information law advocacy and related developments.
He is currently retained and recognised as one of the selected few media rights lawyer in Nigeria by the Premium Times Center For Investigative journalism.
He make regular guest appearances on various prime timed current affairs program on both radio and television series, to propagate the gospel of the law and legal jurisprudence
A LAWYER IS ALL I AM, AND THAT IS ALL I HAVE EVER BEEN KNOWN OR PERCEIVED TO BE, IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLIC TO WHOM I SEEK TO BE THE IMAGE MAKER OF THE BENIN BAR.