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General News of Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Source: The Nation

‘I aspire to be one of Nigeria’s best lawyers’

The photo used to illustrate the story The photo used to illustrate the story

Saheed Abiola not only changed his professional status when he bagged a First Class at the Nigerian Law School (NLS) in 2016, winning several awards in the process, he also changed his father’s title from ‘Street welder’ to ‘Baba lawyer’. Abiola shares his law story with ROBERT EGBE.Family

I am the first child and first son in a family of five including two girls and two other boys. My dad is a welder while my mummy is a petty trader. We are from Ifelodun Local Government Area of Osun State.

I am the first lawyer in my family, both immediate and extended.

Education

I am a graduate of the Kogi State University, Anyigba with a Second Class Honours degree. I graduated from the Nigerian Law School (Lagos Campus) with a First Class degree in 2016. I have several awards to my credit including Third Overall Best Student, Lagos Campus (2016); Best Student Civil Litigation, Lagos Campus (2016); Third Best Student, Property Law Practice, Lagos Campus (2016); and Director-General’s Award for First Class Students (Bar Exam 2016).

Why Law interested me

What influenced my studying Law was my love to plead the cause of others and I developed this because I hate when a person is punished unjustly; I can fight for him using my last kobo. Law being a way of achieving my objective, I started developing an interest in the profession. When the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) now Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, (UTME) form came up, I obtained it and chose Law as my course of study. I scored well in both my JAMB and Post-JAMB results and was offered Law as a course at the Kogi State University in the year 2009.

Law School was one of my best life moments 

My Law School experience was really tough. Law school is a place to be, but not twice. Do your best to graduate with your set and do not repeat (the Bar Finals); sitting for Bar Part 3 can be challenging and embarrassing. It was a very challenging experience, although also one of my best moments in life. I was actively involved in academic exercises. I was a sub-group leader and participated actively in discussions both in class and group meetings. I did not really have fun at the Law School because it was practically a triangular movement from class, hostel and mosque. I was always busy from class to meetings and mosques.

However, I met some amazing and brilliant colleagues. We studied together during school period and group meetings. I was in the same group discussion with these people and they graduated excellently. About three of us made first class from the Nigerian Law School with awards to our credit. So, Law School was a fulfilling moment.

Call to Bar celebration

My parents were very excited when I graduated. They both attended my Call to the Bar and we celebrated among other friends who had a party in Abuja. I didn’t do any special celebration though, because of the then financial challenges which also made my siblings not to attend the Call to Bar. But thank God I am now a lawyer.

I smile whenever I recall one interesting memory at my Call to Bar ceremony. My dad called me that morning to tell me he saw some parents entering the VIP section. “Where should I go to?” he asked. I told him he had to follow them in too because he had a VIP invitation letter with him, courtesy of my performance at the Law School. This made him very happy.

Dad is now ‘Baba lawyer’. He is no more a ‘street welder’ as people used to call him. That has changed his name.

Relationship with my principal

My Principal, B.A. Oladipo Esq took me as his son and always advised me. So, it wasn’t difficult at all. We relate like family; he is really a nice person. He carries me along in the management of the firm; he takes me to meetings with clients (individuals, corporate bodies and government agencies), trusts my opinions on legal issues. His generosity towards me is beyond my expectations. So far, it’s been a really nice experience.

Most memorable day in court

That was the day I got a judgement in a criminal case discharging and acquitting my client after several years of incarceration, in a criminal case.

Most embarrassing court experience

That was my first appearance in court and, by the records, I thought the matter was for mention only to get to court to discover the file was not properly endorsed and that the matter was for definite hearing. The court compelled me to proceed and I did. But immediately after the examination-in-chief by the claimant’s counsel, I swiftly informed the court and I have some documents to tender and took a date. So, I will advise lawyers to be well prepared before going to court.

How young lawyers can overcome problem of poor remuneration

Indeed, some of our colleagues are poorly paid and overused by some seniors. As to what to do to get extra income, maybe some flexible private practice that will not affect their jobs. I know some colleagues that write and get paid too.

The future 

I look forward to starting my Ph.D. as soon as possible. I am planning towards being one of the best lawyers in this country. I know it takes a lot of hard work, diligence and prayers. I also plan to lecture because it is one thing I have a special affection for. I love to teach too, so, I might end up combining practice with lecturing in future.

What I would change about law

I really dislike the way young colleagues are treated by some senior Lawyers. They overwork and underpay them.

Lastly, I will urge young people like me to be dedicated and committed to their dreams with prayers. It might be tough but it will be worth it in the end.

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