The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch has stated that its 2019 Annual Dinner posted a whopping N20 Million surplus which it deployed to fund welfare and capacity building programmes for members.

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER and signed by the Branch Chairman, Mr. Ikechukwu Uwanna, the branch blasted former NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Adebayo Akinlade for the “annual ritual” of lampooning the Branch Annual Dinner programme, describing his remarks as “uncharitable.”

Akinlade had berated the branch for its planned 2022 Annual Dinner, saying: “In 2019, I was informed that the Branch spent some 30 million Naira, I wrote about it but it seemed that it’s leaders didn’t get it. How can you spend that much on a 4 hour event?”

He added that “It was very disheartening to note that the same branch cannot even raise substantial funds to enable it’s (sic) members to respond to human rights violations and most of its committees that work to implement the core function of the NBA constitution do not have the funds to operate effectively.”

But Uwanna disagreed, saying: “Ordinarily, I would not respond to the publication given the fact that the NBA Lagos Branch reserves a right to decide how to spend its funds as budgeted and approved by its members but since it has now become an annual ritual for Mr. Akinlade to criticize the very responsible members of the NBA Lagos Branch, I consider it necessary to set the record straight.

“It is important to note that the NBA Lagos Branch has a very robust Human Rights Committee (HRC) and Programme. Indeed, the administration of the NBA Lagos Branch (building on the work of past administrations) has elevated the discourse on human rights and supported its Human Rights Committee in achieving the objectives of the NBA. The HRC has in the past year conducted an audit of inmates in Ikoyi Custodial Center. Over 200 inmates were interviewed and matters litigated in various courts.

“The NBA Lagos Branch HRC has also developed a Human Rights Scheme (the first of its kind by any Branch of the NBA). The comprehensive NBA Lagos Branch Human Rights Scheme has now been adopted by the Branch to address the Human Rights challenges we are faced with daily – in a systematic way.

“To commemorate the International Human Rights Day, the HRC is set to engage principal stakeholders in the administration of justice, through a platform called Stakeholders’ engagement dialogue series, culminating in a world-class summit on the 13th of December 2022 to create awareness on Human Rights issues.

“It is uncharitable for Mr. Akinlade to denigrate the efforts of over fifty (50) volunteers of the NBA Lagos Branch HRC who are working tirelessly to ensure that the NBA Lagos Branch fulfills its mandate to society to uphold the human rights of members and citizens of Nigeria.

“The glamorous yearly dinner of the NBA Lagos Branch is an age-long tradition. Members, Law Firms, and Corporates who find value in the hosting of this annual event donate to fund the event. We inherited this tradition from our past administrations one of which Mr. Akinlade served as Assistant Secretary many years ago. This tradition beyond its social value is another opportunity for the members of the NBA Lagos Branch to network in a very congenial atmosphere, exchange ideas, knowledge, and develop capacity for the year ahead. It is also a business development event for the Branch.

“Interestingly, every branch of the NBA (including the Ikorodu Branch under Mr Akinlade’s leadership) hosts an annual dinner or similar event. We are not aware that Mr Akinlade has stopped wining and dining in his Branch, office or household because he would rather use the funds to address human rights abuses.

“The 2019 Dinner, which Mr. Akinlade referred to in his uncharitable publication generated a surplus of about N20million, which the Branch judiciously utilized to sponsor over 100 of its members to obtain training and CIARB certification in arbitration, provide COVID-19 palliatives for thousands of young and mid-level lawyers during the COVID-19 lockdown, subscribe members to a Health Insurance Scheme and fund other welfare projects for our members. Of course, Mr. Akinlade’s bad faith won’t let him get his facts right.

“The NBA Lagos Branch is committed to a well-rounded capacity and welfare development of its members; that is why issues of Health Insurance, Mental Heath, Soft Skill Training, Mentorship, and Job placements amongst others have been on its front burner and we will continue to address these issues. Indeed, the perennial issue of remuneration of lawyers which the NBA NEC during the Olumide Akpata administration addressed by approving a comprehensive report is receiving attention from the NBA Lagos Branch and the Branch Executive Committee has resolved to recommend that the Branch should set up a TaskForce on Monday 14/11/22 to adopt and implement the new remuneration regime which will largely change the face of the legal profession.

“Our assurance to Mr. Akinlade (and any who may share his unfortunate views) is that the NBA Lagos Branch will continue to raise the Bar and do its best to ameliorate the societal issues bedeviling the Legal Profession.”

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