Law is defined as the regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of politically organised society, or through social pressure, backed by force, in such a society. It is also defined as the aggregate of legislation, judicial precedents and accepted legal principles. It is the legal system; the set of rules that prescribe acceptable behaviour in a society. In some cases, the laws prescribe punishments that will be imposed on persons who are guilty of infraction of the law. There is a third sense in which law is used in which law is used. In that sense, law defines as the set of rules dealing with a specific area of the legal system. An example of this is criminal law, which is the set of laws that define crimes and prescribe punishment for breach thereof.
In Nigeria, the major laws on crimes and offences are the criminal procedure Code, which regulates offences in the South and the Penal Code, which regulates offences in the North. In addition to these, there are many other legislation and regulations that relate to crimes. Society is a community of people with common history, religion, culture or traditions. Such community of persons may be a nation, state, locality, town or village. The peoples that constitute the society must however possess one or more element(s) common to them. It has been established that there is a relationship between law and society. Nigerian authors of legal literature have rarely addressed the relationship between law and society. With respect to criminal law, there are sociological questions of what the basis for punishment is.
It is reorientation and transformation? Is it merely a means to torture and shame? Or is it a means of putting criminals away from decent living for a very long time? This work will agree with pats-Acholonu, JCA that:
It must be stated here that the purpose of law in any society claiming to be civilized is to bring order, stability and interdependent consciousness in a given society. To that end, the Courts through the well oriented reasoned and seasoned legal activism and society engineering will by their liberal interpretative powers focus on the egalitarian aspects of the life of the society and make the society responsive to the norms and demands of some philosophical tenets which guarantee the well-being and orderliness of the community.
Candidates for political offices in Nigeria in the quest for electoral votes often promise a social contract with the people. This book sets out to ascertain the meaning of social contract and to what extent it exists in Nigeria. It further suggests how its benefits, if any, can be realised. A major challenge to Nigeria’s democracy and the government is the fact of the non-involvement of the people in making the most important law – the Constitution – that will govern them. This has the effect of making them feel left-out and to see the laws as impositions by the government. It is ironical that the 1999 Constitution, which was enacted without any involvement of the people by the military, opens with the words ‘’ we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria….. Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution”:’’ No wonder then that since 1999, there has been a clamour for a sovereign national conference and constitutional; amendment. All these underscore the need for the law to be made for the people and, directly or indirectly, by the people.
This raises the challenge of how that can be achieved. Since 1999 Nigeria’s attempt to amend the Constitution has been made difficult by the lack of consensus on several of the issues and the submission of numerous difference demands by too many interest groups and members of the society. Part A of this book deals with the interconnection between law and society. The few texts on ethics in the legal profession were written by lecturers at the Nigeria Law School essentially for students of that vocational institution. Chief Olanipekun SAN takes the view that a lawyer who was trained at the Nigerian Law School ought to be familiar with the ethics of the profession. It is one thing to be familiar with a concept and quite another to be guided by it. It is important to take a detailed look at the lawyer’s two attributes of professionalism and ethics from the practitioner’s perspective. It is this void that part 2 of this Book seeks to fill.
The incidents of professional misconducts among lawyers call into question the extent to which lawyers are aware of, or have on a personal level imbibed the core values of the profession. The reasons for this include the early stage formation of the individual in terms of character building, greed, a growing culture of impunity on the part of offenders, declining enforcement of the rules guiding the profession, the state of the economy and corruption in the wider society. Of equal concern are the widespread allegation of corruption and bias against judges and the question of whether a segment of lawyers in the private and public sectors of the economy understand their professional duties, the profession and the society.
Having chosen the noble profession of the law however, the lawyers and the judge must aim to lives of integrity and dignity, accompanies by a competent and professional approach to the delivery of legal services and discharge of the judicial function. The legal practitioner must aim for excellence and to hold his own among his peers anywhere in the world. Today’s lawyer and judge must, to paraphrase Achebe, dance the dance that is prevalent in his time. This time, it must not be the dance of corruption, but of high ethical conduct, not of regressive, unorthodox approach to the practice of law, but of progressive, technology driven style of legal practice dictated by the finest traditions of the profession and by ‘the good that happens elsewhere’.
The principles of ethics and professionalism are contained in some written documents such as the Legal practitioners Act and the Rules of professional conduct. Unsurprisingly, these are not exhaustive in their contents. This book brings new perspectives to issues of ethics and professionalism for lawyers and examines compliances with the principles in a fast changing world, bearing in mind that lawyers are the custodians of the law, with its immense relevancies to the society.
The book lays no claim to perfection, and I therefore take full responsibility of any error of omission or commission that may be found herein.