AGC FEES: NBA-NEC COMMUNIQUE CONFIRMS CITY LAWYER REPORT

The controversy over the schedule of registration fees to be charged at this year’s Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference may have been laid to rest following release of the communique for the last quarterly meeting of NBA National Executive Committee.

Though CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report stated that “young lawyers will pay N80,000 for in-person attendance at the conference should they fail to register via the early bird and regular windows,” NBA had issued a Press Release describing the report as “misinformation” and urging stakeholders to disregard it.

In the statement issued by the Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, NBA said: “The attention of the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association has been drawn to the misinformation making the rounds with regards to the Annual General Conference 2021 registration fees.

“We urge members to disregard the said publication as the Technical Committee on Conference Planning will release the appropriate registration fees in due time.”

But the communiqué issued today by the NBA has validated the CITY LAWYER report, stating that “NEC further adopts the proposal of the TCCP that the 2019 conference registration fees be retained for the 2021 conference notwithstanding inflation and increased costs of goods and services.”

It is recalled that the 2019 Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) had in a Press Release stated that lawyers who are 1-5 years post-call would pay N15,000 and N40,000 respectively during the Early Bird and Regular windows while late registration would attract N80,000.

The communiqué also confirmed that the annual conference would be held during the last week of October in Port Harcourt, saying: “Taking into consideration the uncertainties, delays and other challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and other matters, NEC ratifies the proposal of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) that the 2021 Annual General Conference be held in the last week of October 2021 in Port Harcourt, Rives State.

“NEC approves the proposal of the TCCP that the conference be held both physically and virtually. NEC urges NBA President and the TCCP to interface with Rivers State Government and other relevant authorities to ensure a Covid-19 compliant environment for the physical conference and to ensure that the access roads to the conference location, and other necessary logistics of hosting a stress-free conference in the State are created.”

The NBA-NEC also took other far-reaching decisions on the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, the conduct of “certain lawyers serving in the FGN” who fail to advise the government appropriately, increasing spate of insecurity in the polity, attacks on public assets, reported extra-judicial killings of citizens alleged to be associated with secessionist movements, the “inordinate delay in the issuance of enrolment numbers to new lawyers by the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” and encroachment of non-lawyers into the legal space, among others.

Below is the full text of the communiqué.

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE QUARTERLY MEETING OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION HELD ON THURSDAY 24TH DAY OF JUNE 2021 AT THE NBA NATIONAL SECRETARIAT, ABUJA FCT

1.0. INTRODUCTION

1.1. The Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) held her 2nd National Executive Committee (“NEC”) meeting of 2021 on 24th June 2021 at the National Secretariat of the NBA.

1.2. Several issues were discussed including the recently suspended industrial action by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (“JUSUN”); the shrinking of the civic space through recent actions and policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN); the State of the Nation including the deteriorating state of national security; the protracted crises within the Abuja Branch of the NBA; the welfare of lawyers; scale of charges and remuneration in the legal profession; the harassment of lawyers in the course of practicing their vocation; the incursion of the legal services space by non-lawyers; and other matters of interest to the NBA, in particular, and the society at large.

2.0. RESOLUTIONS

At the end of the extended deliberations, the following resolutions, among others, were reached:

STATE OF THE NATION

Judiciary and Administration of Justice

2.01 NEC observes the festering situation in the Gombe State Judiciary where the State Governor, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, continues the elongation of the tenure of the Acting Chief Judge against the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to the effect that Justice Beatrice Iliya should be appointed and sworn in as the substantive Chief Judge of the State.

2.02 NEC resolves that NBA must make a very strong case to the Governor of Gombe State on the unconstitutionality of his actions and of any further extension of the tenure of the Acting Chief Judge, with a demand for the Governor to desist from such constitutional breach forthwith.

2.03 NEC further urges the NJC to take decisive action on the flagrant flouting of its directives, else it could be viewed as being complicit in the Governor’s disrespect for the rule of law.

2.04 NEC observes with displeasure that of the over 24 months’ salary being owed some Magistrates in Cross River State, only one month’s salary has been paid since the NBA’s intervention. NEC resolves that the Chairman of NBA Calabar must, on behalf of NEC, further engage with the Chief Judge of Cross-River State and other stakeholders, with a view to bringing the impasse to an end.

2.05 NEC commends the leadership of the NBA for the various roles it played in seeing that the protracted JUSUN strike was suspended. NEC, however, urges the NBA President to ensure that the terms of the Memorandum of Action signed by JUSUN and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum are respected so that the strike will not be reactivated.

Constriction of civic space

2.06 NEC notes with grave concern (a) recent actions and policies of the FGN that appear to constrict the civic space and limit constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens in a democracy. In particular, NEC condemns the recent suspension of the micro blogging site, Twitter, by the FGN; and (b) the embargo placed by Nigerian Broadcasting Commission on broadcasters from using contents generated from Twitter. NEC considers both acts as veiled gagging of the media, and suppression of the civic space by the government.

2.07 NEC further notes that such actions by the FGN have the tendency of undermining Nigeria’s democracy and investment attractiveness especially as such acts and policies may, if not challenged, be extended to other platforms and avenues that are available to citizens to express their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Accordingly, NEC supports and ratifies the decision of the NBA President to challenge the constitutionality of the said policies and actions through the NBA Public Interest Litigation Committee.

2.08 NEC decries the conduct of certain lawyers serving in the FGN who fail to advise the government appropriately thereby leading to policies by the government which either flout the fundamental rights of citizens or have the tendency of bringing the profession to disrepute. To this end, NEC directs the NBA President to reach out to lawyers serving in the FGN on the need to properly advise and guide the government in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

Increasing spate of insecurity

2.09 NEC strongly condemns the attacks on public assets such as INEC offices, police stations and military formations by the so-called unknown gunmen; the killing of law enforcement agencies and prominent citizens such as Ahmed Gulak and Justice Stanley Nnaji (Rtd.), amongst others. NEC further condemns the reported extra-judicial killings of citizens alleged to be associated with secessionist movements and demands that the government should deploy the carrot and stick approach in tackling the resurgent secessionist agitations so as not to exacerbate the crises.

2.10 NEC decries the worsening security situation in the Nigeria including the unabating insurgency, incessant abductions, unending crisis between herders and farmers, kidnappings and attacks on communities and individuals, and calls upon governments at all levels to take more proactive steps towards stemming this tide.

Lawsuit challenging elongation of IGP’s tenure

2.11 NEC rues the implications of the recent judgment of a Federal High Court which upheld the powers of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to elongate the tenure of the Inspector General of Police.

2.12 NEC notes the pendency of the lawsuit filed by the NBA through its Public Interest Litigation Committee on the same subject matter and urges the NBA to continue to conscientiously prosecute same through all levels of court in Nigeria as such is required to set a precedent for the future conducts and decisions of public office holders in similar circumstances.

STATE OF THE BAR

Enrollment Number for New Lawyers

2.13 NEC expresses deep concerns over the inordinate delay in the issuance of enrolment numbers to new lawyers by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. NEC accordingly urges the NBA President to continue to constantly liaise with the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria with a review to ensuring that the affected new wigs are issued their enrolment numbers.

Scale of Charges and Remuneration of Lawyers

2.14 NEC approves the work being done by the NBA Remuneration Committee in developing a realistic and enforceable scale of charges for lawyers and in addressing the issue of poor remuneration amongst lawyers, and directs the leadership of the various branches of the NBA with similar initiatives to work with the NBA Remuneration Committee in developing a central and robust framework that will be acceptable to lawyers.

Encroachment of Non-Lawyers into the Legal Space

2.15 NEC decries the continued encroachment of non-lawyers (including corporate bodies and other institutions) into areas that are considered to be the preserve of legal practitioners through the offering of legal services, in many cases with the connivance or support of some lawyers.

2.16 NEC also notes, with concern, the increasing trend of lawyers who offer their services in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules or practice of the legal profession.

2.17 NEC further directs that:

(a) the NBA Disciplinary Committee should promptly investigate any complaints against lawyers (including in-house counsel and heads of legal departments) who undertake, advise on, participate in, or supervise the establishment or operation of schemes that purport to, or have the tendency of, unlawfully encroaching into areas of practice of lawyers or who undertake other similar acts that are inconsistent with rules and practice; and (b) the leadership of the NBA Section on Legal Practice to take more proactive steps to address some of the known cases of infraction and possibly prompt the commencement of criminal prosecution of the offenders.

2.18 NEC notes that certain laws in Nigeria require that the services of Nigerian lawyers must be retained in relation to certain matters, and accordingly directs the NBA President to engage with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and other relevant stakeholders with a view to ensuring that foreign and local investors retain indigenous legal practitioners and law firms for their legal services needs in the prescribed cases.

2.19 NEC charges the leadership of NBA Branches to be more pro-active and innovative in checking against sharp practices and other unethical practices by lawyers and court officials such as the use of affidavit to convey or transfer title over real property.

Harassment of Lawyers

2.20 NEC reviles the circumstances leading to the brutalization of the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 8th June 2021.

2.21 NEC commends all the efforts taken by the NBA President thus far, in seeing that the officers involved in the act are disciplined by the EFCC, and further directs the NBA President to take the opportunity of the unfortunate Makurdi incident to finally put an end to the epidemic of brutalization and harassment of legal practitioners by law enforcement agencies in the discharge of the lawyer’s professional duties.

Attitude, language, and conduct of lawyers in public

2.22 NEC observes the deplorable and heightened trend of lawyers commenting in public fora on sensitive matters which are pending before the courts, and urges all lawyers to desist from this practice. NEC further observes that intemperate language is spreading among members of the Bar, both in dealings amongst lawyers and in dealings with the Bench. NEC deprecates such behavior and urges that disciplinary action be taken against lawyers who indulge in such conducts and that reports for disciplinary action be made against members of the Bench who are also found wanting.

Annual General Conference

2.23 Taking into consideration the uncertainties, delays and other challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and other matters, NEC ratifies the proposal of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) that the 2021 Annual General Conference be held in the last week of October 2021 in Port Harcourt, Rives State.

2.24 NEC approves the proposal of the TCCP that the conference be held both physically and virtually. NEC urges NBA President and the TCCP to interface with Rivers State Government and other relevant authorities to ensure a Covid-19 compliant environment for the physical conference and to ensure that the access roads to the conference location, and other necessary logistics of hosting a stress-free conference in the State are created.

2.25 NEC further adopts the proposal of the TCCP that the 2019 conference registration fees be retained for the 2021 conference notwithstanding inflation and increased costs of goods and services.

Reports of Standing and Ad-Hoc Committees

2.26 NEC approves the interim report of the following Standing and Ad-hoc Committees: (i) Constitution Review Committee; (ii) Welfare Committee; (iii) Human Rights Committee;

(iv) Digital Committee; (v) Legal Education Committee and (vi) Remuneration Committee.

2.27 NEC ratifies the appointment of six (6) Zonal Coordinators for the NBA Human Rights Committee which is aimed at ensuring easier coordination and facilitating the achievement of the mandate of the Committee.

NBA Abuja Branch Crisis

2.28 NBA President informs NEC that pursuant to the mandate given to him at the NEC meeting held in Uyo on the 18th of March 2021 to conclusively deal with the crisis in NBA Abuja Branch in the most expedient manner, he has decided to take the option of splitting the branch and will proceed to implement immediately and report back to NEC upon completion.

OTHER MATTERS
Resuscitation of Military and Paramilitary Fora

2.29 NEC resolves that the forum for lawyers in the armed forces and paramilitary should be resuscitated to reignite the interest of such members and to drive the discussions on issues affecting the Bar and the military and paramilitary agencies. NEC further mandates the NBA President set up the Governing Council of the fora for approval by NEC.

Establishment of New Fora

2.30 NEC approves the establishment of three new fora namely: (i) the Corporate Counsel Forum; (ii) the Law Officers Forum; and (iii) the Lawyers with Disability Forum, each to deal with issues concerning, and cater to the peculiar interests of, members who fall within these special interest groups and to engender diversity and inclusion in the affairs of the NBA. NEC further approves the membership of the Governing Council of the new fora as announced by the NBA President.

Young Lawyers Permanent Observers at NEC

2.31 In order to further engender inclusion, NEC approves that the appointment of 10 young lawyers as announced by the NBA President as Permanent Observers at all NEC meetings during the term of the current administration of the NBA, pending such time that the NBA Constitution is amended to allow for young lawyers to be appointed into NEC as members.

Ratifications

2.32 NEC ratifies: (a) the participation of lawyers in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and approves the partnership between the NBA and NHIS which will see lawyers and members of their families enjoy primary, secondary and tertiary health services at a deeply discounted rate of N15,000 per annum. NEC further ratifies that in order to test-run the scheme, NBA should pay the health cover premium for 1,000 eligible lawyers selected from across all branches of the NBA; and (b) the setting up of an NBA Help Desk within the CAC to address the service level issues being faced by lawyers pending such time that the current challenges at the CAC are holistically or satisfactorily dealt with.

Further information

Further information on the above resolutions, including details of other matters discussed, and resolutions passed, at the said NEC meeting can be found in the minutes of the NEC meeting which will be circulated to NEC members, a copy of which will be available for inspection at the NBA Secretariat from 1st July 2021.

Dated this 25th day June 2021

……………………………

OLUMIDE AKPATA
NBA PRESIDENT

………………………………..

JOYCE ODUAH
GENERAL SECRETARY

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AGC REGISTRATION: YOUNG LAWYERS TO PAY 80K IF …

Barring any last-minute change of mind, young lawyers will cough out N80,000 to attend the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference (NBA-AGC) scheduled for Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

According to a schedule of fees obtained by CITY LAWYER, young lawyers will pay N80,000 for in-person attendance at the conference should they fail to register via the early bird and regular windows.

Lawyers of 6-10 years post-call will pay N120,000 as late registration while those of 11-15 years post-call will pay N140,000 late registration for in-person attendance.

There are strong indications that the conference will be a hybrid event, as the schedule contains options for in-person and hybrid attendance.

The Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) had at the recently concluded NBA-NEC Meeting in Abuja proposed the last of week of October as the date for the 2021 AGC. The committee is chaired by former NBA Port Harcourt Branch Chairman, Mr. Victor Frank-Briggs. It was unclear at press time whether the committee has put a seal of finality on the schedule.

The full schedule of fees is available at this link:

http://citylawyermag.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/NBA-AGC-2021-Conference-Fees.pdf 

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MIXED REACTIONS, AS AGC KICKS OFF

  • As final technical sessions hold today

The 2019 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference (AGC) took off on a bumpy note as some delegates swore that not much has changed from the hiccups that attended past exercises. While some delegates poked holes in some aspects, others heaped praises on the organisers. Notwithstanding a late start, the opening ceremony lived up to its billing as a favourite for most delegates.

Though NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was on ground last Friday to assure delegates that distribution of conference materials would commence at 9 am when the week-long conference was billed to take off, some delegates complained of delay in commencement of the distribution exercise.

Said Olaoye Olalere: “Reporting from material collection center. Organisers not ready for us but the President has addressed members that they will start distribution by 9am. Fingers crossed!” He stated later: “Reporting from the same location as earlier, no distribution of materials yet. We don’t know when the distribution will start or whether the materials are at locus yet.”

Another delegate Cyprian Akao also aligned with Olalere, saying: “Collection is very disorganized.”

Olalere however stated at 9: 46 am that “the materials distribution has commenced, and it’s going on smoothly now.”

Others agreed with Olalere that the distribution was without hitches. Former NBA Lagos Financial Secretary Marian Jones said: “Seamless! Impressive.” On her part, Bar-man Amaka Aneke said: “Sleek and Smooth.” NBA Lagos Branch Publicity Secretary added his voice to the praises when he said: “Distribution is still ongoing seamlessly.”

Giving an indication that the distribution exercise may have been fraught with challenges, newly appointed NBA-NEC member Bob Ijioma said: “It ain’t easy asking learned people to be orderly during registration and collection of materials at the AGC today. Thanks to all TCCP and LOC Members. We put in a great job. Thank you President Paul Usoro, SAN and My Lady Mfon Usoro.”

Alluding to the torrid time the organisers had in managing the crowd on day-one, Mrs. Usoro especially hailed newly elected NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe for lending a helping hand, saying: “Lagos Chairman was superb at crowd control today at Harbour Point. Good job, Yemi.”

However, when CITY LAWYER visited the Harbour Point on Saturday, the cubicles were virtually deserted, with delegates trickling in to collect their conference materials. The cubicles were marked according to States while some States were merged.

But the aides said no notebooks were supplied contrary to the checklist, while assuring delegates that the brochure would be given to them during the technical sessions commencing today. However, a partner in one of the leading law firms whom CITY LAWYER met attempting to collect his conference materials was unable to do so as his name was not listed. He was advised to visit the nearby Secretariat to have his name tag printed to enable him collect the materials.

One of the aides also told CITY LAWYER that they had a hectic time processing delegates on Friday. This may not be unconnected with the fact that all delegates in the five branches in Lagos were repeatedly urged by the organisers to endeavor to collect their conference materials on Friday.

While the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) had deployed many channels to publicize the AGC programme, indications emerged at the weekend that some communication gaps persisted. For instance, some members of the TCCP had to escalate posts on several whatsApp platforms to alert delegates that they need not wear wig and gown to the AGC Thanksgiving Service which held at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos. Wrote Chukwuka Ikwuazom, TCCP member and former NBA Lagos Branch Chairman: “Good evening colleagues, following inquiries from members about the dress code for the Church service, we wish to clarify that members are not required to wear their wig and gown to the service. Many thanks.”

This challenge also manifested in relation to the Welcome Cocktail hosted by the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba. As feelers of a change of venue filtered in, one Azeezat Omolara quipped: “So the welcome cocktail venue has been changed from City Hall to Harbour Point which is better 7pm today (sic). Any confirmation for the above?”

In fact, a delegate called CITY LAWYER to complain that he was at City Hall for the event but met the place under lock. A post had however trended earlier in the day stating that “Please be informed that the NBA Conference Cocktail venue has been moved to Harbour Point by 5pm today.”

If the change of venue caught some delegates napping, the Welcome Cocktail itself left a sour taste in the mouth of many delegates. Comparing it with similar events, Omoniyi Onabule said that “Lagos Bar does better cocktail,” adding: “Na water men de sip. I haven’t seen this in my life.”

Another delegate Oliver Omoredia said: “Drinks finished before anything started. Nawa for this cocktail. May the rest of the events not be like this cocktail.” Yet another delegate, Awoyomi Damilola added cryptically: “I was disappointed.”

However, Omoredia urged the delegates to move over to the Friendship Centre – which was unveiled after the welcome cocktail – to shrug off their disappointment. His words: “Friendship centre was more like it!!! Bovi is so funny.”

Held at the high-profile Eko Convention Centre of the Eko Hotel & Suites, the opening ceremony was attended by heavyweights in the legal sector including the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad; newly re-appointed Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami; International Bar Association President, Mr. Horacio Bernardes Neto and several Bar Leaders. This was followed by a surfeit of breakout sessions.

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Welcome to Lagos…, Muoka Beckons AGC Delegates

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Alex Muoka pens a moving welcome note to delegates of the 2019 Annual General Conference

Compliments.

It gives me great joy to welcome you to Lagos – the host city of the 59th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.

Lagos is a cosmopolitan city, a cauldron where all things mesh. It has verve, swag and an energy that is contagious. It is welcoming… alluring…and accommodating.

Welcome.

Whether you are a first-time visitor, or a returning voyager…Lagos smacks you right in the face and wakes you up. If you can stay long enough…you fall in love and become a Lagosian!

In recent years, Lagos has become a regular host city for the NBA Annual Conference – touted as ‘the largest gathering of lawyers anywhere’. And yet each time the Conference comes round to Lagos again, there is something different and fresh.

This year, the NBA President and Executive Committee, the hard-working members of the Conference Planning Committee and the Local Organising Committee have gone to great lengths to plan a rich and rewarding one week event. There is something here for everyone. The theme – “Facing the Future” – is quite ambitious. It is also very topical, and timely.

The Conference opens today with a Juma’at Service at 1.30 pm at the Lagos Central Mosque (for the Muslim faithful) followed by a Reception at Harbour Point . The Christians will have a Multi-Denominational Service at 9.15 am on Sunday at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina.

Health and fitness freaks will be able to showcase their skills (and their track suits) tomorrow (Saturday) at the 10Km Health Walk which starts as early as 7.00 am at Harbour Point. The Conference Programme includes a Football Tournament between various Branches of the NBA (my home Branch – Lagos – is the favoured Team), and a Golf Kitty at the Ikoyi Club Golf Section (what is your handicap?). So you can (literarily) come and ‘try yourself’!

Most conferees will come in on Sunday…either by air or land. Please make your way to the Harbour Point on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, to pick up your conference materials. There will be an NBA – National Executive Committee Meeting (for NEC members) at 12 noon on Sunday at Harbour Point, and a Welcome Cocktail at 5.00 pm at the City Hall, Lagos Island for all conferees. Of course, for the merry at heart, the traditional Formal Opening of the Friendship Centre will take place at 7.00 pm at the Harbour Point.

The formal Opening Ceremony holds on Monday morning at 9.00 am at the Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotel, Lagos. With the array of distinguished guests, and the much-anticipated Keynote by Mr Horacio Bernardes Neto – the President of the IBA, you do not want to miss it. The technical sessions are wide and yet incisive – cutting across almost every area of practice and interest. A rich bouquet of 41 Sessions and 206 Speakers over a 3 Day-period.

And it is not just ‘all work, and no play’. The organisers have put together a very rich and diverse social programme that caters to every taste and interest. From the ‘Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’ Musical on Monday evening at 7.00 pm at the Convention Center, to the President’s Dinner on Tuesday night, and ending with the Pop Music Concert on Wednesday Night – there is something on, every night.

In addition, there are plenty of hosted side-events – already scheduled are the Lagos Branch ‘Jersey Party’ at 7.00 pm on Tuesday night (some people are yet to recover from the Lagos Party at the 2018 Conference in Abuja), and the Ikeja Branch Party on Wednesday night. Indeed Wednesday night will be ‘bloody’ with the Abuja and Port-Harcourt Branches (known for their convivial hospitality) also rolling out the drums (and green bottles). So make sure you pack your dancing shoes…and blue jeans (or visit the shops when you arrive).

The Conference ends on Thursday with the Annual General Meetings of the 3 Sections – SBL, SLP and SPIDEL – at 9.30 am, and the NBA Annual General Meeting at 12 noon, all holding at Harbour Point, followed by the Communique and Press Conference. The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (Clasfon) will then send off conferees with a Dinner at 6.00 pm – themed ‘Help All The Way’.

Friday morning will see conferees hugging, shaking hands and wishing each other ‘safe journey’ back home.

Whew, it promises to be one whirlwind week – and it starts today.

We salute the conference planning team, and you, as you come.

Lagos awaits you.

Ekaabo…Nnoo…Sannu,

Warm regards,

Alex N. Muoka
Former Chairman, NBA Lagos Branch (2013-2015)
Former Secretary, NBA Lagos Branch (2011-2013)

“Let’s be the change we desire…”

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AGC: ‘WHY WE CAN’T RELEASE RATES NOW’

  • Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant

There are strong indications that the inability of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) to agree on the rate for international delegates at its last meeting in Lagos is delaying official release of the fees for the 2019 Annual General Conference (AGC).

An impeccable source within the TCCP told CITY LAWYER at the weekend that the need to attract more international delegates to the conference has necessitated more brainstorming on the matter.

“We want to attract more African delegates to the conference,” he said. “Some stakeholders are of the view that the proposed $500 rate is rather high and may discourage international participants. So, we are still consulting on the appropriate rate. That is why we cannot release the AGC rates now.”

Given that $300 is now the advertised rate for international delegates, it was unclear at press time whether the debacle over the fee for this category of participants has now been resolved.

According to the ranking TCCP member, other rates have however been agreed upon by the committee. “The committee resolved to address the fears of lawyers,” he said. “This led to very lively brainstorming among committee members and made the meeting to be long drawn.” NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN had while inaugurating the committee assured delegates of a “pocket-friendly” conference.

CITY LAWYER had reported that there was anxiety among the legal community on a possible hike in AGC fees as the committee met last Thursday.

The TCCP member however told CITY LAWYER that the committee would retain the 2018 rates, even as 25% discount has been extended to 1-10 years post-call lawyers on early bird rates to allay fears of a prohibitive AGC fees regime. The advertised rates on the 2019 AGC website are as follows:
1-5 years – ₦20,000.00
6-10 Years – ₦30,000.00
11-15 Years – ₦40,000.00
16-20 Years – ₦60,000.00
Above 20 Years – ₦100,000.00
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Honourable Attorneys General, Benchers – ₦200,000.00
Magistrates – ₦50,000.00
Honorable Justices, Honorable Judges, Grand Khadis, Khadis – ₦75,000.00
Senior Citizens (Lawyers age 75 years and above) – ₦50,000.00
Non-Lawyers – ₦100,000.00
International Delegates – $300.00

When discounted for the early bird window, lawyers of 1-5 years post-call will pay N15,000 while those with 6-10 years post-call will pay N22,500.

Asked whether the rates are commensurate with the AGC package, the committee member answered in the affirmative. He said that apart from the huge overhead cost in delivering a world-class conference, each delegate would be given a “convertible, all-purpose” conference bag containing flash drive, charger, calendar “and other freebies.” CITY LAWYER also gathered that the committee is negotiating with some manufacturers and outlets to avail delegates with shopping vouchers with which to purchase items at discounted rates. “We want the delegates to have a feel of this year’s conference,” he emphasized. “But I can tell you that tablets are gone for good.”

“This is the first TCCP that has two chairmen,” he added. “This is informed by the need to deliver a world-class conference and ensure that members do not have any complaints whatsoever.” It is recalled that former NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) Chairman, Mr. Olumide Apata was recently co-opted into the committee. He was not in the original 42-member committee inaugurated by Usoro on January 18, 2019. The NBA-SBL has carved a reputation for organizing seamless conferences.

The TCCP member said that registration for the AGC would commence this month, even as he assured that the draft budget is ready and would be presented to the next NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting in June for approval. This is notwithstanding the “anticipatory approval” given to the committee at the last NBA-NEC in March.

On the controversy surrounding the appointment of Eventful Nigeria Limited as the “event planner” for the conference, the committee member argued that no member raised eye brows when the matter was discussed by the committee, adding: “Even when we asked the lady (Eventful) to leave the meeting briefly, nobody raised any issue. If any member had issues with the appointment or had special skills that would have made such appointment unnecessary, he or she should have said so when the matter was debated. That would have even led to more cost efficiency. However, we are lawyers; we are not event planning experts.”

Also speaking on the concerns being raised on the appointment of former TCCP Chairman, Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi SAN as a “consultant” to the committee, the member said the controversy was unnecessary. “The fact is that no TCCP member is being paid,” he said. “In fact, we use our own money to fund the activities of the committee, paying for our flight tickets and lodging among others. This is not in the public domain.

“Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant. It was decided that due to his privileged status as a former TCCP Chairman, he should be given a special title as ‘consultant.’ That is all. How much can you pay such a person?”

It is recalled that Usoro had while inaugurating the committee said: “The composition of this year’s AGC TCCP comes with some innovations and exciting bonuses. First is the selflessness of all the Committee members. I spoke with each of the 42 members and they all committed to serve on the Committee at minimal, if any, cost to the National NBA purse as it relates in particular to their transport and accommodation for Committee meetings. That is exemplary, and I cannot thank them enough for this commitment and sacrifice.”

This year’s conference, the 59th edition, is scheduled to hold between 23rd and 29th August, 2019 at Eko Hotel & Suites as well as Harbour Point, Ikoyi. The theme is “Facing the Future.” A provisional AGC programme has been uploaded on the conference website. However, the accommodation details are still reflecting the schedule for the 2018 conference held at Abuja.

Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

AGC: FEAR GRIPS LAWYERS OVER FEES

  • AS TCCP MEETS TODAY

There is palpable anxiety within the legal circles as the Technical Committee for Conference Planning (TCCP) meets today to determine the fees for this year’s Annual General Conference (AGC).

The “proposed fees” which were presented to members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Executive Committee (NEC) at their meeting in March have been viewed by many lawyers as prohibitive. The TCCP also seems divided on the appointment of a Consultant and an Event Planner for the flagship conference.

CITY LAWYER gathered that till date, the committee has been working without a budget, even as it continues to make payments for some of the AGC activities.

According to a member of the committee who spoke on condition of anonymity, “I can tell you unequivocally that there is no budget yet at the TCCP. There is also no information on the package for which the AGC fees have been proposed. This issue was raised at the March NEC Meeting but till date, nothing has been done.”

The TCCP member said that “part payment” has been made for EKO Hotel & Suites which is the main venue for the AGC. Other venues being considered to host some AGC events are Nigerian Law School and the highbrow Harbour Point in Ikoyi.

Querying the appointment of a “Consultant” for the conference, the member said that the NBA “has never used a consultant to organize its AGC,” adding, “What is the fee for the consultant?” Prof Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN was appointed “Consultant” by NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN. The member stated that the Consultant has been sparsely attending TCCP meetings.

The TCCP member also carpeted the committee for hiring an “event planner” for the conference, saying that former NBA General Secretary, Chief Phillip Umeh kicked against the plan during the March 28, 2019 NEC Meeting in Abuja. “We have colleagues who can discharge these duties,” the member said. “But instead TCCP is using an event planner.” Eventful Nigeria Limited is the designated event planner for the conference. It has been alleged that such event planners are often used as conduits to siphon AGC funds. The allegations remain unproven.

The member stated that it was such alleged profligacy that led to the current NBA debt over-hang in excess of N50 million, with AGC arrears forming the bulk of the debt. It is also recalled that NBA is yet to redeem the 2018 AGC Raffle Car Prize won by Rabiu Ayuba, a lawyer.

Asked whether the appointment has been firmed up, the member said: “The event planner has been attending meetings, thereby siphoning NBA’s scarce resources. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.”

Reputed as the largest gathering of lawyers on the African continent, the AGC has often been beset by hiccups and occasional scandals. The NBA does not seem to have gotten a handle on the logistical nightmares posed by its flagship conference, with the result that every succeeding year has witnessed a litany of complaints by participants.

CITY LAWYER recalls that former NBA presidential candidate, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) had in a May 14, 2018 letter to former NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) called for a reduction in the 2018 AGC fees. He wrote: “At the NBA NEC meeting Kano, all the speakers (including me) spoke in support of a reduction of the conference fees and Mr. President graciously directed the TCCP not to impose fees more than that of 2017.

“Mr. President may need to guide the TCCP further on this especially on the amount to be paid by lawyers under 10 years for the early bird. There is need to review the rate of 2017 further down especially as members have rejected the use of tablets for the 2018 conference. While everything should be done to support a high standard conference, everything must also be done to reduce the burden on members. Our members are really seriously complaining.”

According to the proposed schedule of fees, lawyers who are 1- 5 years post-call are to pay a humongous N25,000 for early bird; N40,000 for regular fee and N60,000 for late fee. For 6-10 years, the fees are N35,000 for early bird; N50,000 for regular and N80,000 for late fee.

Lawyers who are 11-15 years post-call will pay N50,000 for early bird; N65,000 for regular and N90,000 for late fee. For 16-20 years post-call, the fees are N70,000 for early bird; N85,000 for regular and N100,000 for late fee, while for 20 years post-call, the fees are N100,000 for early bird; N150,000 for regular and N250,000 for late registration. For Senior Advocates, Attorneys-General and benchers, a flat N250,000 applies.

The inability of TCCP to generate a budget upon which expenditures are made seems to be a recurring decimal. Regarding the 2018 AGC, Ojukwu, a former Deputy Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, wrote: “Mr. President expressed surprise during his remarks at the NEC meeting that the TCCP did not submit a budget for the conference. It would be very necessary that this anomaly be rectified as an urgent action Sir to conform to Section 21(c) of our constitution and the principle of openness, transparency and accountability. In fact it is only by providing a budget shall we be able to assess the conference costs by determining what is necessary and reasonable cost we must incur at this time of members’ serious economic difficulties.”

Ojukwu had also queried the absence of the accounts for the 2017 AGC, saying: “At the Uyo NEC meeting of November 2017, the TCCP Report of the Annual General Conference was deferred to the next NEC meeting. See the Para 9.1 of the NBA NEC minutes of 28th Feb-2nd March 2018 at Ilorin.

“That 2017 account was not rendered at the Ilorin NEC or at the recent Kano NEC. It seems to me that this is a fundamental omission. I missed the matter earlier otherwise. I would have drawn your attention to it.”

A source told CITY LAWYER that there are no records at NBA House on the 2017 and 2018 AGC. But there are strong indications that the 2018 AGC Committee led by Mr. George Etomi presented accounts showing that N1.2 Billion was spent on the conference.

An attempt by Ajayi to present the 2017 AGC Report at Uyo NBA-NEC was truncated as NEC members demanded a more detailed breakdown. CITY LAWYER however learned that the accounts ran into troubled waters when Ajayi discovered that some National Officers who were also TCCP members allegedly incurred over N70 million hotel bill on “Bar Leaders,” claiming that was “the tradition.” The source said that while about N1.4 Billion was raised by the committee, the bulk of which was through Ajayi’s goodwill and hands-on marketing, the entire sum was allegedly frittered away. Ajayi was said to have sought a budget ceiling of N800 Million, with the remainder ploughed into NBA coffers. It was unclear at press time whether this has stalled the report. A member of the 2017 TCCP committee however told CITY LAWYER that members never made input into the draft committee report as it was not circulated to members.

The AGC fees were first jerked up in 2017 by almost 100%, with young lawyers who hitherto paid N8,000 compelled to pay N20,000 as “early bird” fee prior to a reduction by the NBA-NEC. Onsite registration was pegged at N25,000 for young lawyers. The hike was attributed to the introduction of tablets as a part of the AGC package. But some lawyers claimed that the tablets were of inferior quality. 2018 fees saw young lawyers in year 1-5 bracket cough out N20,000 each. Unlike 2017 when tablets were dangled as a bait, no such package was included. N25,000 has been proposed by TCCP for young lawyers for this year’s registration, even as the package remains unknown. However, the AGC portal http://nbaconference.com/loader/register_home.php records N20,000 as the early bird fee payable by young lawyers. But registration is yet to commence. 6-10 years post-call fee is N30,000 and 11-15 years post-call fee is N40,000. 16-20 years post-call is pegged at N60,000 while above 20 years post-call is set at N100,000. Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Honourable Attorneys, General Benchers are to pay an early bird fee of N200,000 while Magistrates pay N50,000. Honorable Justices, Honorable Judges, Grand Khadis, Khadis will pay N75,000 while another category tagged “Senior Citizens (Lawyers age 75 years and above)” is to pay N50,000. This category was introduced in 2017.

While inaugurating the 42-member AGC committee, Usoro had especially assured that the AGC fees would be “pocket-friendly.” His words: “In my discussions with the Committee, I have impressed on them the expectations of our members for the best and most memorable Conference in 2019, both in terms of content and in being pocket-friendly vis-à-vis the conferees and the Conference output. I have in that wise extracted the commitment of the Committee, through its Chairman, that the 2019 AGC will live up to those billings. As National Officers, we are mindful of the promises that we made to our members in my Inaugural Address and we shall strive to keep and live by those promises in the planning and hosting of the 2019 AGC.”

He also emphasized that the NBA-NEC must approve all the activities of the committee, saying: “The Committee would report directly to me and would, as required obtain specific approvals from NEC for its assignments.”

NBA Publicity Secretary Kunle Edun again echoed this commitment in a press release when he said: “At the last NEC meeting of the NBA held in Abuja in Abuja on 28/3/2019 the TCCP Chairman presented the Committee’s report to NEC. NEC approved the report and members will be advised soon on the conference fees, which would be pocket friendly.”

The TCCP is chaired by renowned lawyer, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode MFR. It remains to be seen whether the committee will retain the current regime of fees even in the absence of any significant package for conferees and in light of shrinking opportunities for lawyers.

Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

AGC: Human Rights Book Takes Centre-stage

A seminal human rights book written by celebrated human rights activist, Chief Frank Agbedo will be the cynosure of all eyes at the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) Annual General Conference due to its rich content.

Titled ‘Human Rights Litigation in Nigeria,’ the incisive treatise on human rights litigation is based on the provisions of the 2009 FREP Rules, with current case law.

It is available for sale at major book stands at the conference venue from 26th to 31st August, 2018.

Get your copies at special conference prices. Contact Wunmi on 08138544435 or 08029145314 for more information.

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Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

Casa Rerri Set to Thrill AGC Delegates

Casa Rerri Boutique Hotel is a 4-star hotel located at the upscale Asokoro district of Abuja. The terrace hotel offers sundry mouth-watering freebies anchored by a 24-hour front desk. It boasts of superb air conditioning system, daily housekeeping, garden, front desk safe, laundry service, pool bar, meeting room, concierge services, continental breakfast, Wi-Fi services, and free parking among others. Continue Reading