From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone: Bar Association alert

By  | 4 September 2015 at 10:48 | 1675 views

The law professon in Sierra Leone has been receiving some hits, extremely bad hits, extremely bad press, for quite some time now.

The reasons are not quite difficult to fathom; some members of that noble profession have simply gone bad, continuously plunging into a cesspool of national disgrace due mainly to greed, professional recklessness and so on.

Yes, we used to have reckless lawyers in the past but the situation now is simply unbearable. Fisticuffs in court, aiding and abetting land grabbers or thieves, consorting with fraudsters and scammers; the list is endless. Of course there are many ethical, decent, hard working and professional lawyers in Sierra Leone, both locally and foreign trained. We commend them for doing what is right under such difficult conditions. May be they should now start throwing out the bad eggs in earnest to gain more public trust and respect.

It is not a surprise that President Ernest Bai Koroma recently admonished them to try to maintain standards (a nice way of saying they have serious problems) when they paid a courtesy call on him at State House in Freetown.

Yes, they have very high standards to maintain. Some of the first Africans to train in Britain as lawyers came from Sierra Leone and Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, was for many years the capital of British West Africa with newspapers, lawyers, teachers, medical doctors, theologian and many other professionals. That was way back in the 19th century and early 20th century. Some Sierra Leonean professionals used to go out and work in places like Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia and so on. Some of their descendants are still living and working in those countries having acquired full citizenship.

So yes, our lawyers have standards to maintain just like our journalists, doctors, academics, you name the rest. There has been too much indiscipline among these gowned compatriots and like the president told them, they have heavy responsibilities on their shoulders as custodians of the country’s legal infrastructure, ethics and day to day practices. A country without a solid legal framework and legal practitioners will sooner or later collapse like a sand castle.

Government should, on their part, look into the training of lawyers in the country. We know there are tremendous problems in the Law department at the University of Sierra Leone (not to talk of the new one at the University of Makeni).

In fact government should set up a Commission of Enquiry on what is going on in the law department at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, many of whose lecturers work pro bono or free of charge; perhaps the only law department in the world with such members of staff. Something is not right about that, it can lead to abuses as we know it has.

Anyway, we wish members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) well and please don’t forget what the president said.