Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has written to lawyers chronicling his “achievements” in his first month in office.
Akpata was on August 28, 2020 sworn-in by the immediate past NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN following a hotly contested presidential election.
In the email sent to lawyers today and titled “FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT: MY FIRST MONTH IN OFFICE (SEPTEMBER 2020),” Akpata stated that the communication was in fulfilment of his electioneering campaign promise “to regularly engage with you and to provide monthly updates from my desk on our activities in each preceding month.”
Noting that “My first month in office was as tough as it was busy,” Akpata however stated that “we are tackling these challenges while also setting the stage for more achievements in the coming months.”
Below is the full text of the address.
FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT: MY FIRST MONTH IN OFFICE (SEPTEMBER 2020)
I hope that my email meets you well.
One of the promises that I made to you during the recent electioneering season was to regularly engage with you and to provide monthly updates from my desk on our activities in each preceding month. It has been one month since I was sworn in as the 30th President of the NBA and I am writing to you to commence the fulfilment of that promise.
My first month in office was as tough as it was busy. Expectedly, it came with challenges like any other leadership role. But we are tackling these challenges while also setting the stage for more achievements in the coming months.
Details of some of our administration’s activities in September 2020 can be viewed by clicking HERE. A summary of the activities is as follows:
Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee: We established an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee to audit the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for future elections. This is important to restore the confidence of our members and the society in our electoral system.
Parley with Northern Leaders: I held a crucial meeting with the Chairmen of about 40 branches of the NBA in the Northern Geopolitical Zone and some leaders of the Bar in the North to reassure every one of my interest in uniting the Bar and running a truly egalitarian association in which each member’s rights will be respected.
Death Sentence Appeal: As a mark of our commitment to human rights and rule of law, we intervened in the case of a certain Yahaya Sharif-Aminu who was sentenced to death by the Kano State Upper Sharia Court for alleged blasphemy but was denied access to lawyers for his appeal.
The Chief Judge of Cross River State (“CRS”): We have intervened in the crisis in CRS where there is currently no Chief Judge because the State House of Assembly has refused to confirm Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme as Chief Judge following the expiration of the tenure of the acting Chief Judge. Our intervention in this matter, at all levels, is ongoing and we are determined to ensure that the Judiciary in CRS, and indeed access to justice in the State, is not hampered in any way.
Rules of Professional Conduct 2007 (“RPC”): The RPC was purportedly amended by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (“HAGF”) in the month under review. We are exploring all options to ensure that appropriate actions are taken with respect to the supposed amendment. I have met with the HAGF and have also written to him. Based on the assurances that I received from him, I am hopeful that the said amendments will be reversed.
Lawyers with special needs: I met with the Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria to discuss and understand their peculiar challenges within the Bar. On your behalf, I pledged that the NBA will be more sensitive to their needs. We are currently exploring ways of dealing with some of the challenges that were identified.
An inclusive Bar: I had a meeting with the leadership of the Law Officers Association of Nigeria at which I got a better appreciation of the salient issues affecting law officers in Nigeria. We are currently setting up a Task Force to look into these issues and make appropriate recommendations.
“Ease” of Doing Business at the CAC: There are numerous complaints about the delay in service delivery at the CAC. Given the central role that the CAC plays in the professional lives of our members, I set up a Presidential Task Force to look into the complaints, identify the issues and engage the Registrar-General of the CAC with a view to finding workable solutions.
Eligibility for SAN rank: We have empaneled the General Purposes Committee (one of the standing committees under the NBA Constitution) to screen prospective candidates for the award of the rank of SAN. This is to assist the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee with the process of selecting the most suitable awardees for the rank in 2020.
A Kidnapped Lawyer: A lawyer, Mr. Uyi Frank Obayagbona was kidnapped around Edo State. Working closely with the Commissioner of Police Edo in State, we were able secure his release.
Branch visits: In keeping with the campaign promise of visiting as many branches as possible during my term, I commenced my visit to our 125 branches this September with a view to creating synergy between the branches and the national body. So far, I have visited and had interactive sessions with legal practitioners in Lafia, Keffi, Ungongo, Kano, Warri, Effurun and Asaba.
Ikeja Branch Crisis: There is a brewing crisis threatening to engulf the Ikeja Branch of the NBA. To forestall a full-blown and intractable crisis, I convened a meeting of stakeholders of the branch to deliberate and brainstorm on the way forward. I have also set up a caretaker committee to manage the branch following the expiration of the term of the caretaker committee appointed by my predecessor.
Supporting the Welfare of Judges: I was in Port Harcourt to participate in the commissioning of residential quarters donated by the Rivers State Government to the Court of Appeal and to serving Judges of the State High Court on an owner/occupier basis. I decided to participate at both events because the welfare of judicial officers is crucial and directly affects the ability of lawyers to practice proficiently and profitably.
Welcome to our New Members: On 15 September 2020, I joined the Body of Benchers in welcoming 1,758 “new wigs” into the profession and into our noble association.
A heart full of sorrow: A number of lawyers and judicial officers in Nigeria either passed on, or were buried, during my first month in office. Mr. Alfred Eghobiamien, SAN, Justice Jude Okeke, Justice Shehu Atiku and many others who contributed in several ways towards the advancement of the legal profession in Nigeria left to the other side of eternity.
While praying for the repose of their souls, I made out time to attend the funeral of some of them. The most recent was the funeral of Late Justice Karibi-Whyte, JSC (rtd) in his hometown in Abonema, Rivers State. His Lordship left an indelible mark in the profession and it was an honour to pay my last respects to him on your behalf.
The other was the funeral of Mr. Sunday Nnabuike Onah, a young man and member of the Enugu branch, whom I did not have the privilege of meeting or speaking with during his lifetime. Just before his funeral, I requested the NBA Secretariat to promptly process the death benefits due to his family from the NBA. On a related note, I will soon commence negotiations with our insurance providers to increase the life assurance and permanent disability pay-outs by 100%. I consider this an important component of the welfare scheme of the NBA for its members.
I thank you for your attention. Please be assured that I remain committed to delivering on your mandate and bequeathing a Bar that you will be most proud of.
Nigerian Bar Association