Esteemed Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure and a profound sense of purpose that I extend my heartfelt greetings to all distinguished conferees at the 1st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Law Society (NLS). This landmark event marks a defining moment in our legal community, and I am honored to join this historic occasion virtually. I am also grateful to the organizers for inviting me to deliver a goodwill message.

As you gather here today for this maiden conference, you must recognize the significance of this moment. It symbolizes the beginning of a new chapter in your journey as Legal Practitioners, one that carries the potential to shape the very fabric of justice and uphold the rule of law in Nigeria.

Verily, the institutions of justice are the bedrock of our society, safeguarding the principles of fairness, equity, and accountability. It is incumbent upon us, as members of the legal fraternity, to strengthen and fortify these institutions to ensure they remain unwavering bastions of justice.

Now, more than ever, Nigeria is at a crucial juncture where the Nigerian Law Society can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our legal profession. NLS must rise to the occasion and cover the field comprehensively, ensuring that our collective efforts in the legal community transcend individual interests, and instead, focus on the collective advancement of the legal profession.

Recent events that have shaken our nation, such as the show of shame between operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), are a stark reminder of the challenges we face. It is imperative that we confront these challenges head-on, leaving no room for ambiguity in our stance of preserving the sanctity of the judiciary, rule of law, the integrity and ethics of the legal profession.

As you deliberate on the theme of this conference “Justice for All” and the topic of the Keynote Speaker, “Freedom of Association of Legal Practitioners; Navigating the Web of Statutory Professional Regulations,” I hope you will engage in candid discussions, seeking pragmatic solutions and charting a course towards a stronger, efficient and effective legal profession.

In other climes, lawyers are not confined to a single law society; they have the freedom to belong to multiple law-related associations, strengthening professional networks and fostering diverse perspectives.

For instance, in South Africa, we witness the presence of various law-related associations, including the Law Society of South Africa, South African Bar Association, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, the National Bar Council of South Africa, and the General Council of the Bar of South Africa among others.

Similarly, in Namibia, lawyers have the opportunity to be part of multiple law-related associations such as the Society of Advocates of Namibia and the Law Society of Namibia.

Ukraine, too, boasts more than one umbrella body devoted to protecting the interests and welfare of legal practitioners. The Ukrainian National Bar Association and the Ukrainian Bar Association, both non-governmental and non-profit organizations, unite lawyers across the country, striving to uphold the principles of the legal profession.

Even in the United Kingdom, lawyers have the privilege of belonging to various law-related professional associations, such as the Law Society of England and Wales and Bar Society of England and Wales. Indeed, on a continental level, Africa is home to two prominent legal associations: the African Bar Association (AFBA) and the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU).

In the realm of accounting, Nigeria is home to two prominent associations – the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN). Both ICAN and ANAN are dedicated to promoting excellence in the accounting profession, setting professional standards, and ensuring the highest level of integrity among their members.

Similarly, in the labor movement, Nigeria has both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). These organizations serve as strong advocates for the rights and welfare of workers in the country, and they play essential roles in negotiating with employers, addressing labor-related issues, and championing workers’ interests.

In the field of alternative dispute resolution, we find the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) from the United Kingdom and the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators (NICArb) in Nigeria. Both CIArb and NICArb provide specialized training and certification for arbitrators and mediators, promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure efficient and fair resolution of disputes.

Just like the legal profession and other callings, having multiple associations within these fields allows professionals to access different resources, engage in specialized training, and participate in various advocacy efforts. This diversity of associations also fosters healthy competition, encourages innovation, and offers professionals a range of opportunities to contribute to their respective callings’ growth and development.

In light of these examples, I call upon this esteemed gathering to reflect on the freedom of association and its significance in strengthening our legal community. As you navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead, let us recognize the value of diverse perspectives, innovative ideas, and collaborative efforts in advancing the cause of justice in Nigeria.

As a legal professional also belonging to the English Bar, I am well aware of the benefits that come from being a part of multiple legal associations. This allows us to tap into a diverse pool of expertise, access international networks, and enrich our understanding of global legal trends. These associations serve as essential platforms for advocacy, professional development, uphold the cause of justice, rule of law and the protection of human rights.

I encourage that you all, in tune with the theme of this conference, will embrace the concept of Law Societies and Bar Associations working in harmony, fostering collaboration, and collectively striving for excellence in our profession. By harnessing the collective strength of these institutions, we can enhance our capabilities, elevate our profession, and make a lasting impact on society. This will enhance the space for participation.

I again commend the efforts of the Nigerian Law Society for organizing this conference, and also for inviting me to deliver this goodwill message and I urge all participants to actively engage in the sessions, share their invaluable insights, and foster meaningful connections with fellow legal minds.

May this conference serve as a catalyst for the much-needed growth and progress within our legal profession, as we collectively endeavor to uphold the highest standards of integrity and excellence.

Wishing you all a successful and impactful conference!

Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama OFR, MFR, SAN
President, Vox Populi Foundation for Leadership

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