Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will tomorrow at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) vote to pass or reject proposals towards amending the NBA Constitution.

While the amendment of NBA Constitution has often been embroiled in suspicions, an effort by the Olumide Akpata Administration ran into hot water due to a face-off with erstwhile NBA General Secretary Joyce Oduah.

CITY LAWYER investigation strongly indicates that the current amendment process may be as feisty as the previous effort due to strong opposition from some blocs against the proposed amendments.

While a notice of amendment of the constitution sighted by CITY LAWYER showed that the proposals are wide-ranging, some lawyers and NBA branches have vowed to truncate the planned amendment. It is noteworthy that some branches have passed resolutions urging their members to vigorously oppose and vote against the proposed amendment.

In a statement by the eight branches in Anambra State, they contended “that the Proposed Amendments especially the controversial areas will not bring progress but controversy and more division to the Bar. Amending our Constitution should not be for fun or self-serving.” In a similar vein, NBA Aba Branch resolved “to reject and vote against the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the NBA, 2015 (As Amended in 2021) in their entirety except the amendment proposed in Section 23(8) of the Constitution for not being in the interest of the NBA and the advancement of the aims and objectives of the Association.”

Similarly, NBA Ikeja Branch has also vowed to oppose the proposed amendments. In a communique issued after its Extra-Ordinary General Meeting (EGM), the branch stated as follows: “That the proposed amendment did not comply with Section 25 of the extant law (which requires at least 60 days notice of the proposed amendment to be brought before the General Secretary). The procedure of carrying out the amendment was not adhered to.”

It stated that “Scrapping the office of the Treasurer and placing all financial matters in the Secretariat under the control of the President is to subject the finances of the association into the whims and caprice of one man thereby jeopardising the principle of transparency and accountability. The ultimate question is – To whom is the Secretariat answerable to? Is it to the Electorate/members or the President?”

According to the branch, “It is obvious that the appointees will be answerable to the “appointor” and not the Bar. Such arrangements suffer from Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

“The Nigerian factor has caught up with the NBA, consequently can NBA tackle politicians for lack of transparency in governance when itself is suffering from AIDS? The answer is obvious.”

On the other hand, some stakeholders have argued in favour of the proposed amendments, saying that that is the direction the Bar should be headed in modern times. CITY LAWYER gathered that NBA President Yakubu Maikyau SAN is especially concerned about the high cost of running NBA affairs.


investigation shows that perhaps the most controversial proposal is that which seeks to enable the Vice President to ascend the post of NBA President without going through the fire of an election. Section 9(3) of the proposed amendments state that “A member of the Association shall be qualified to hold a National Office if he/she (c) With respect to the office of the President, is the immediate past Vice President of the Association. FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, ascension to the office of President of the Association shall be by succession, save for the circumstances listed in paragraph 4, part III of the Second Schedule to this Constitution. Provided that where the office of the Vice President is vacant at the time of succession, election may be held for the office of the President. This provision shall become operative after the 2024 elections of the Association.”

If passed, the amendment would ensure that the incumbent Vice President takes over automatically as the next NBA President. The proponents of the amendment argue that the cost of vying for NBA Presidency is unsustainable while the acrimony generated by the electioneering campaigns is unhealthy. It is also argued that the model is “best practice” among many professional associations.

Many lawyers however contend that NBA is a pressure group unlike other associations like the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) or Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). They also assert that NBA is fundamentally built on democratic ethos, adding that it would be unthinkable that an NBA President would emerge through a “monarchical” process. It is also contended that the stature of aspirants for the post of NBA Vice President is not the same as that for NBA Presidency, moreso as scarcely has any NBA Vice President gone ahead to contest and win NBA Presidency. Proponents of the amendment however counter this, saying that with the amendment, the calibre of aspirants would begin to improve, given that the Vice President is deemed as the President-in-Waiting.

Section 9 of the proposed amendments has shaved off six substantive national offices from the National Executive Committee. These include the posts of First Vice President, Second Vice President, Third Vice President, Treasurer, Welfare Secretary, and Assistant Publicity Secretary. The only posts to be retained are those of President, Vice President, General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and Publicity Secretary. It is noteworthy that previous amendments have deleted the posts of Legal Adviser and Financial Secretary from the list of NBA National Officers.

CITY LAWYER gathered that the proposal is targeted at cost saving and professionalization of the association. It is suggested that a sleuth of professionals including an Executive Director, a Head of Finance as well as a Fund Manager would be recruited by the association to pilot its financial affairs, arguing that the post of Treasurer has become increasingly redundant due to financial automation. Additionally, Section 23(2) of the proposed amendments provide that “There shall be three (3) principal signatories to the Association’s accounts namely, the President, the Vice President, and General Secretary; any two (2) of whom may sign.” Section 24 of the proposed amendments make provisions on sundry financial reports and accounts to be submitted to the National Executive Council by the Executive Director. These include quarterly Management Report and Accounts, audited accounts and balance sheet for the preceding Financial Year, and Annual Report to the Annual General Meeting to which shall be attached the audited accounts and balance sheet for the preceding Financial Year.

For an Election Year, in addition to the audited financial statements for the preceding year, the Executive Director shall also present to the Annual General Meeting through the General Secretary the following financial statements and reports: Half-Year (January-June) Audited Financial Statements and Unaudited Management Report for the period ended one week to the date of the Annual General Meeting. The establishment of a “Stabilization Fund Committee” is also proposed. The committee will invest the association’s funds alongside a National Executive Council-appointed “Fund Manager.”

The Executive Director is also mandated to “present a monthly management report on the activities of the National Secretariat of the Association to the meeting of the National Executive Committee, or at such time as the President may direct.” The Executive Director takes charge of the day-to-day running of the newly created “National Secretariat” (described as “an essential organ” of the association) while reporting to the NBA President via the General Secretary. Section 11 (10) of the proposed amendments establish the “Secretariat Employment Relations Committee” which shall be responsible for the appointment and recruitment of the Executive Director, Heads of the departments, and such other staff for the Association.

Critics however contend that shaving off the posts and hiring other professionals to do the same job is like taking with one hand and giving back with another hand. In fact, the Anambra Branches contend that what is needed is the creation of more posts to ensure that the NBA leadership feels the pulse of the members.

Section 9 (4)(c) of the proposed amendments provide that “Any member who has held an elective office as a national officer for two (2) terms shall not be eligible to contest for a national office until at least Eight (8) years after his/her last term of office. For the avoidance of doubt, this provision shall have retrospective effect.” While proponents of the amendment argue that the current 10-year bar is onerous, CITY LAWYER gathered that the amendment may clear a major hurdle for a top presidential aspirant who is caught by the 10-year bar.

NBA members aspiring to set up new branches now have a higher hurdle to cross, given that Section 16(2) of the proposed amendments now direct that “An application for the creation of a new Branch of the Association shall be signed by not less than One Hundred and Fifty (150) members in good financial standing and submitted to the General Secretary.” This is as against the current threshold of 50 signatories.

The proposed amendments make copious provisions on the election of National Officers. The proposals seem to be targeted at strengthening the ECNBA and curtailing election financing and the longstanding clamour to checkmate the huge spending that has attended NBA Elections over the years. For example, the proposed amendment provides that “All Branches, Sections, and Fora are prohibited from soliciting contributions, donations or sponsorship from candidates seeking election into any national office during the election year. Any officer or member of a Branch, Section or Forum who engages in solicitation for funds or inducement of funds from candidates and/or prospective aspirants in any election in the Association shall be deemed to be guilty of professional misconduct and shall be referred to the Disciplinary Committee for appropriate sanctions.”

Aside from banning aspirants or candidates from organizing, hosting, participating in, or supporting the organisation and/or hosting of shows, hangouts, parties or similar events in relation to any election in the association or engaging in any form of financial inducement including paying annual practicing fees or branch dues for lawyers except those in their employment, the proposals warn that “No Branch, Section or Forum of the Association shall invite prospective aspirants or candidates to sponsor their event or programmes except such an aspirant or candidate is a member of that Branch, Section or Forum.” Branches are also barred from endorsing aspirants or candidates. The ECNBA is also mandated to “prescribe limits for electoral expenses for candidates in any election. Any candidate who violates the prescribed electoral expenses spending limit shall be disqualified from participating in the election.”

While these proposed amendments may seem salutary and aimed at cleaning the Augean stable that NBA electioneering has become, they are bound to be unpopular with many branch leaderships which see such avenues as conduits to fleece aspirants and candidates.

Apparently to obviate the quagmire that marred the effort by the Olumide Akpata Administration to amend the NBA Constitution, it is proposed that “the National Executive Committee through the General Secretary and the (Assistant) General Secretary or any other National Officer as may be directed by the President of the Association shall have circulated same to members of the Association at least thirty (30) days before the proposed amendment is tabled for discussion at the Annual General Meeting of the Association.”

Section 23(8) of the proposed amended constitution plans to jerk up branch share of the Bar Practising Fee from 10 per cent to 20 percent. It provides that “A total of Twenty percent (20%) of the annual Bar Practicing Fees paid by members of each Branch of the Association shall be remitted to the Branch in the months of April and December respectively of each year.” This proposal seems to have thrown the branches into a serious dilemma.

While it is unclear whether the proposal is a bait for branches to enable them align with the other proposed amendments, it has set some branches against others. While some branches have opted to reject the entire proposed amendments, others have urged their members to vote in favour of only that provision while rejecting the others.

It is to be seen how the Yakubu Maikyau Administration will navigate the strong opposition and minefields that litter the current constitution amendment process.

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