- August 20, 2023
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Categories: NBA, Opinions
By a press release published on 19 August 2023, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) announced that it has filed some petitions at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) against some lawyers including one Ifunanya Excel Grant, a young lawyer of Aba Branch, widely known as “the Baddest Lawyer”. The news of the petition relating to Ifunanya in particular was received with mixed reactions especially among lawyers within the legal community. I share my thoughts below.
Allegations against “Baddest Lawyer”
I am yet to peruse the contents of the petition filed by the NBA. But according to the NBA’s press release, “the complaints against Ifunanya centred on her social media notoriety of posting pictures and videos of herself unclad and smoking marijuana.”
It is least expected for a member of the legal profession to be involved in online posting of personal erotic pictures and videos. This is a conduct reserved for persons of easy virtue who do not trade their legal knowledge for value but have other ideas.
Under Nigerian law, dealing in (which includes smoking) marijuana (cannabis, indian hemp), also known locally as Igbo, is a criminal offence.
Before I can light up my Igbo, do you have any advice for Me? 🌚 pic.twitter.com/gRXi2MZ3L4
— вα∂∂єѕт ℓαωуєя 🤵🏾♀️ (@Real_Nafu) August 20, 2023
As a responsible and reputable association, the NBA believes it has a duty not to keep mute when a person who is a member of the association is alleged to be proudly advertising herself online as a smoker of Igbo.
Is the NBA justified?
The RPC and the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) contain copious provisions which seem to justify the current move by the NBA. The RPC charges lawyers not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner. The LPA condemns any misconduct that is incompatible with the status of a legal practitioner. The objective of these principles is to make you understand that your professional conduct as a lawyer, and conduct in your personal capacity could be of interest to the gatekeepers of the legal profession.
The alleged posting of unclad photos and videos by Ifunanya as well as the alleged smoking of prohibited substances are conduct unbecoming of a legal practitioner, and undoubtedly incompatible with her status as a lawyer. Therefore, it is immaterial that Ifunanya might have engaged in such conduct, as alleged, in other capacities other than in her capacity as a lawyer. It is also inconsequential that she probably may not be in active legal practice presently. The NBA has the right to proceed against you if you are unwilling to maintain a worthy standard of behaviour, and to disallow you from identifying as a member of the legal profession.
Misconduct unconnected to law practice
From the foregoing, you need to understand that misconduct unconnected to law practice may attract sanctions to you as a lawyer. In a Canadian case, Law Society of Ontario v. Widz, 2022 ONLSTH 140, a lawyer was sanctioned for his physical assault on his intimate partner. This was done in the interest of “general deterrence, and the need to maintain confidence in the Law Society’s self-regulation in the public interest”.
In some cases, an aspirant to the bar may be denied, even after passing requisite exams, due to previous bad conduct. There is the story of Stephen Glass who after graduating from law school and passing the bar exam in California and New York, was unable to be called to the bar in either state because of his past conduct of fabricating stories in his capacity as a reporter. Read more here. You will also see how a Facebook comment landed a lawyer into trouble in the US.
NBA’s main mission
By submitting a petition to the LPDC, the NBA is not seeking to stop Ifunanya from living her life or engaging in other kinds of businesses as she pleases. Instead, the NBA is interested in possibly further preventing her from identifying as a member of the noble profession in Nigeria based on the allegations. If NBA’s petition succeeds, Ifunanya risks either suspension (if she is remorseful and undertakes to change) or disbarment (if she is adamant).
In a situation where Ifunanya expresses regret and commitment to turn a new leaf by leaving her brown leaves behind, and cladding her sublime temples, the NBA may consider making immediate arrangements for her rehabilitation. The NBA is not expected to fold its hands and not make any move to at least clothe any member of the profession who is seen going naked in the market square. Part of the mandate of the NBA is the welfare and well-being of its members.
Meanwhile, it is worthy of note that if posting pictures and videos of herself unclad appear to be earning Ifunanya expected social media engagement and revenue, she may never bother. The NBA may focus on promoting the rule of law, and preserving the dignity of the legal profession only. Ifunanya can care about her private life and personal dignity.
I feel like crying this night thank you so much Elon Musk 😭🫂 pic.twitter.com/xkKxrqXtNp
— вα∂∂єѕт ℓαωуєя 🤵🏾♀️ (@Real_Nafu) August 18, 2023
There’s no room for a baddest lawyer in the legal profession in Nigeria. Having appeared to distance herself from the practice of law, Ifunanya may need to further maintain a considerable distance from actively or passively identifying with the legal profession in Nigeria.
As lawyers, we must accord the legal profession the respect it deserves. We can only achieve this by respecting ourselves in the first place. We need to avoid conduct that can possibly diminish public confidence in the legal profession.