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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NBA-NEC: SIGHTS & SIGHTS OF BARBEQUE DINNER, BREAKFAST

Life Bencher and Bar Leader, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN today hosted Nigerian Bar Association National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) delegates to a Departure Sunrise Breakfast to mark the end of proceedings at the quarterly meeting. He had last Wednesday also hosted the delegates to a Welcome Barbeque Dinner & Dance at his state-of-the-art J-K Gadzama Court in central Abuja.

Below are faces at the events.

ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY: ELECTORAL REFORM C’TE WANTS NBA CONSTITUTION AMENDED

The Nigerian Bar Association Electoral Audit and Reform Committee (NBA-EARC) has called for the amendment of the NBA Constitution to clearly provide for rotational presidency.

In a 44-page report obtained by CITY LAWYER, the committee poked holes in the NBA Constitution as it relates to rotational presidency and recommended that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone since different groups and/or sections do not appear to mean a state within the geographical zone.”

The committee “identified the issues that plagued the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and classified them into three broad categories; namely: (i) Pre-election issues, (ii) Election Day issues and (iii) Post-Election issues.”

Specifically, it identified “Non-implementation of the rotational policy as it relates to the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone as stated in the constitution” as a major stumbling block towards free and fair NBA elections.

Other challenges that hampered the elections were: Delay in appointment and appearance of lack of Independence of the ECNBA; Appearance of lack of transparency in the engagement of service providers; Negative impact of money driven campaigns on the election’s credibility; Involvement of the sitting NBA President in the electoral process; Non-implementation of the rotational policy as it relates to the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone as stated in the constitution; Cumbersome verification process; Lack of integrity and late publication of the list of eligible voters; Lack of integrity of the NBA voting portal; Involvement of the NBA Secretariat in the electoral process; and Poor IT knowledge of some Lawyers.

Turning to the controversial issue of rotational presidency, the committee recommended that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone.”

According to the committee which was chaired by respected senior lawyer and longstanding NBA Lagos Branch Electoral Committee Chairman, Mr. Ayodele Akintunde SAN, “The committee found that “Another area of concern is the interpretation of the constitutional provisions of zoning particularly with respect to the election to the office of the President.

“The rotational presidency of the NBA was initially an informal arrangement until it was formalized by its incorporation into the NBA Constitution. Sadly, what started out as an arrangement geared toward promoting an all-inclusive bar is now posing a threat to the unity of the Bar.

“The NBA is divided into three (3) geographical zones for the purpose of electing National Officers namely- Northern Zone, Eastern Zone and Western Zone. The list of states that make up the respective geographical zones are set out in Paragraph 1.2 (e) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution.

“The Northern Zone is made up of the following states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and Abuja. The Eastern Zone is made up of the following states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Enugu, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Imo, and Rivers while the Western Zone is made up of the following states: Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo.

“Since the amendment of the NBA Constitution in 2015, the geographical rotation of the position of President of the NBA has been complied with. In 2016, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN from the Northern Zone was elected as President while in 2018, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN from the Eastern Zone was elected and more recently in 2020, Mr. Olumide Akpata from the Western Zone was elected as President.

“In past elections, members of the NBA have alleged that some ethnic associations within the NBA amass support for candidates from select states within a geographical zone thereby marginalizing candidates from other states despite the provisions of paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution which provides for the rotation of a position in turn by the different groups and/or sections in the geographical zone.”

The committee therefore recommended that “The provisions of Section 9 (d) and Paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution should be strictly adhered to in order to ensure that no group and/or section in a geographical zone is marginalized and the unity of the bar is preserved.”

It also urged that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone since different groups and/or sections do not appear to mean a state within the geographical zone,” adding that “The ECNBA in its preliminary notice for the election of National Officers of the NBA should specify which group and/or section in a geographical zone the position is rotated to as a measure to ensure adherence to Section 9 (d) and Paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule of the NBA Constitution.”

The Committee stated that it “is of the firm view that if the recommendations contained in this Final Report are implemented, future elections of National Officers of the NBA by electronic voting will be devoid of the controversies which have plagued past elections,” while urging the Olumide Akpata led association to “commit to making the required changes to its electoral processes and reference point for conducting credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria and rebuild confidence in the electoral process for the overall good of all. NBA must be true to its motto which is “promoting the rule of law”.

It is recalled that Akpata had during his inaugural address promised to reform NBA’s electoral system to ensure that it is devoid of the controversies that had trailed its elections especially since the advent of electronic voting. The committee was on September 30, 2020. CITY LAWYER gathered that the NBA-EARC Report was presented to the NBA-NEC Meeting at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The full report is available at this link.
http://citylawyermag.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/FINAL-REPORT-EARC.pdf

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GADZAMA HOSTS NBA-NEC DELEGATES TODAY, HAILS AKPATA

Life Bencher, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN has described the Nigerian Bar Association National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) as the “engine room of the largest bar in Africa,” adding that it “bears on its members the burden of ensuring the legal profession in Nigeria progresses as expected.”

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the leading litigator also commended NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata led Executive “for their tireless work at ensuring the Bar in Nigeria remains alive to its duties and obligation,” adding that “I believe a lot if not all lawyers share this sentiment with me.”

Meanwhile, Gadzama has invited the delegates to Welcome Barbeque Dinner/Dance and Departure Sunrise Breakfast. The notice reads:

Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja Branch has invited NBA-NEC Members arriving today Wednesday, 23 June, 2021 for the NBA-NEC Meeting to a Welcome Barbeque Dinner & Dance this evening by 8:00 pm at the Pent Floor Terrence, 4th Floor, J-K Gadzama Court, Plot 1805, Damaturu Crescent by Kabo Way, Off Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki 2, Abuja.

The learned silk also invites the NEC Members to a Departure Sunrise Breakfast by 7:30 am on Friday, 25 June, 2021 at the same venue before they depart for their respective branches.

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Below is the full text of the Goodwill Message.

GOODWILL MESSAGE FROM JOE-KYARI GADZAMA, SAN TO THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (NEC) MEMBERS AS THEY HOLD THEIR ALL IMPORTANT NBA-NEC MEETING SCHEDULED FOR THURSDAY, 24 JUNE, 2021 AT THE NBA AUDITORIUM, NBA HOUSE IN ABUJA

It is with profound humility and utmost pleasure that I felicitate and welcome the distinguished and hallowed Members of NBA-NEC to another meeting of the body in Abuja, my own primary constituency.

The NBA-NEC being the engine room of the largest bar in Africa bears on its members the burden of ensuring the legal profession in Nigeria progresses as expected. Therefore, I commend every member of the NBA-NEC for your efforts and dedication in ensuring that the legal profession in Nigeria thrives and competes favorably with its counterparts around the world. Posterity will indeed recognize all of your sacrifices.

Furthermore, I must especially commend the leadership of the Olumide Akpata led Executive for their tireless work at ensuring the Bar in Nigeria remains alive to its duties and obligation. I believe a lot if not all lawyers share this sentiment with me.

Once more, I congratulate and welcome NBA-NEC Members and wish them journey mercies to Abuja, successful deliberations and safe travels back to your respective Branches.

God bless you all.

Thank you.

______________________________
JOE-KYARI GADZAMA, OFR, MFR, SAN
Fmr. Chairman, NBA Abuja Branch
Pioneer Chairman, NBA-SPIDEL
Fmr. Vice-Chairman, NBA-SLP

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SHOCKER: A/COURT NOMINEES CAN’T EXPLAIN ‘LIS PENDENS,’ NJC DUMPS THEM

There are strong indications that under-fire National Judicial Council (NJC) may have dropped two jurists who performed woefully during its screening exercise for appointment as Court of Appeal justices.

This may not be unconnected with their inability to answer basic legal questions as well as the backlash the NJC has been receiving following the unprecedented revelation by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata that the entire screening exercise was near shambolic.

CITY LAWYER was told by a reliable source that the dropped candidates (names withheld) are from Kebbi and Katsina States.

Respected human rights activist and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu hinted on the NJC’s decision when he tweeted thus: “The President of @NigBarAssoc, @OlumideAkpata, deserves considerable credit for his advocacy on standards of judicial appointments. He managed to pare back this recent list of #CourtOfAppeal nominees from 20 to 18. The 2 candidates reportedly didn’t know what #LisPendens means! https://t.co/Y9B9bVwoBF.”

CITY LAWYER had gathered from an impeccable source that at least one of the candidates was unable to explain the term, ‘lis pendens.’ Our source said the aspirant argued that the subject ‘had not come before his court!’ Akpata had alluded to this when he sensationally revealed that “Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered,” though he refused to give details. Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘lis pendens’ as “a Latin phrase for a pending suit or a person who has been suspended.”

Narrating his disappointment with the entire screening exercise, Akpata told members of the NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) at their quarterly meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, that the screening exercise was akin to “an old school boys meeting.”

His words: “What I saw and experienced at the NJC meeting on the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal left me aghast. At a point, I, as a “Johnny Just Come’ (new attendee), had to ask, ‘Are these people really going to the Court of Appeal?’

“Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered. The whole proceedings appeared more of an old school boys meeting. When I wondered at this, I heard things like, ‘They will learn on the job.’ We were to interview 20 nominees at a point but only 2 hours was allocated for this important exercise. That meant six minutes only for each nominee. What is this? Let me assure you that the NBA will never be a rubber stamp participant at such bodies. You can quote me.”

CITY LAWYER had exclusively reported that Akpata had also written a petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and NJC Chairman, Justice Tanko Muhammad on the issue.

The NJC is yet to respond to the indictment by the NBA President at press time.

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THE USORO LEGACY: NBA NEC MEETINGS

BY AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Assistant Publicity Secretary, MR. AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL in this article made available to CITY LAWYER tracks the gains of the Paul Usoro SAN-led Administration in organizing National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meetings.

Meetings of the Nigerian Bar Association are above the simplistic coming together of two or more persons to discuss issues of mutual interest. The meetings of members of the NBA are to varying degrees the major decision making organs of the Bar. The essence, in my view, is democratic. And unsurprisingly, by virtue of Article 5 of the NBA Constitution, 2015 (as amended) the supreme authority of the Bar rests in the General Meeting.

At the national end, the NBA is mandated to hold three statutory meetings – National Officers meeting, National Executive Committee meeting and the General Meeting. The monthly National Officers meetings have an expected attendance of the 14 elected officers. The quarterly National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings are attended by almost 500 statutory and co-opted NEC members. The Annual General meeting is open to all members and participants in recent years had hardly been lesser than 1000 in number.

The logistics of holding these statutory meetings are quite heavy on the purse of the association, but we cannot run the extreme by limiting the meetings – both in essence and numbers – as the meetings serve as necessary and statutory checks on the Bar leadership. Thus, while we cannot cut down on the meetings, we can and we have been cutting down on the costs of the meetings since September 2018, when the Paul Usoro, SAN leadership came on board.

It was at the first NEC meeting hosted by the Paul Usoro, SAN administration in December 2018 at the NBA House in Abuja that the tone of changing the status quo was set.

NEC members came expecting their usual hurriedly printed NEC entrance tags, but they were met with bespoke neck tags bearing their names and the duration of their term (2018 to 2020). At the end of the meeting, the Secretariat staff recalled the tags from the participants and kept them. Upon return for the next NEC meeting, the same tags were returned to the respective NEC members and this has been the culture since 2018. One NEC tag for one NEC member in one NEC term. No reprinting tags. No return of money to the NEC Printer!

Hitherto, NBA used to ‘bless’ her NEC members with what was known as NEC Bundle. NEC Bundles were nicely printed hard books with the sober green logo of the NBA on their covers. A flip through the pages welcome you with the glossy pictures of National officers and ordinary prints of quarterly reports of all NBA activities. In a year, a NEC member would go home with 4 of such and if well arranged, you would easily mistake NEC Bundles for useful law books on the shelves of the library of a NEC member. The only difference is that they were bought for the half of a thousand NEC members with NBA funds – running into tens of millions.

Since December 2018, the ‘NEC Bundle’ and its contractors regime has been ousted. In its stead, NEC reports are sent via emails and special WhatsApp Groups to all NEC members prior to the meetings. NEC members are encouraged to attend the meetings with their devices and, in place of heavy NEC bundles, the Paul Usoro leadership makes pervasive fast internet facilities at the venue of the meeting to aid free and easier downloads of the electronic reports. In addition to this, the reports are projected on a large screen for members to follow proceedings.

It was the same initiative that the present NBA leadership adopted on a bigger scale at her first Annual General meeting in 2019. The yearly reports were electronically reduced into PDF formats and were sent to members via emails. By this seemingly simple but ingenious efforts, we saved our association hundreds of millions that would have gone to some printers. And this is one of the reasons we were able to record for the first time ever hundreds of millions as surplus, post -2019 annual general conference.

While the conversation about the NBA picking the hotel bills of statutory NEC members is ongoing, the Paul Usoro administration has made the process more transparent and prudent. Shifting from the earlier system of reserving hotel accommodation for statutory members who may end up not attending the meeting, presently, until a NEC member is confirmed physically present for the meeting, reservations of accommodation are not availed. An indication of the success of this system is that in 2019 and for arguably the first time ever in the NBA history, the present Welfare Secretary, Joshua Enemali Usman returned more than a million Naira of un-utilized hotel bills to the coffers of the NBA.

In respect of meetings of National Officers, long before Covid-19 pandemic, and at the first constitutional amendment opportunity in August 2019, this NBA administration caused the General meeting to amend the NBA Constitution by adding a proviso to Article 8 (6). The said provision now allows for the monthly national officers meeting to hold via teleconference, videoconference and other electronic means, thereby cutting hotel and travel costs that would otherwise have been incurred.

This forward looking provision defines how leadership stands tall to take a peep into the future and face it by earnestly changing the status quo.

“Upon return for the next NEC meeting, the same tags were returned to the respective NEC members and this has been the culture since 2018. One NEC tag for one NEC member in one NEC term. No reprinting tags. No return of money to the NEC Printer!”

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FORMER SCRIBE HAILS NBA AT NEC

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 1ST Assistant Secretary, Mr. Okey Leo Ohagba has advised lawyers to be “more selfless in offering meaningful contributions towards repositioning the NBA as that Voice of the Voiceless.”

In a goodwill message to NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) members, he also called on lawyers to “focus more on welfare and capacity building programs for lawyers (especially the young lawyers), so as to enable them compete more favorably in the emerging global legal market.”

Below is the full text of the message.

GOODWILL MESSAGE

It is my profound pleasure to felicitate with the NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN, NBA NEC Members and observers alike, as we converge in Abuja for the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of our dear Association, holding from the 4th to the 6th day of December, 2019.

As we gather to lend our voices for the good of our Nation and particularly our NBA, I call on us to be more selfless in offering meaningful contributions towards repositioning the NBA as that “Voice of the Voiceless”, particularly at a time when our nation’s core democratic foundations are being threatened, even more overtly.

Let me also remind us that the future of the Bar and Legal Profession in Nigeria can only be assessed by the level of investment we make today in younger members of the profession. Therefore, I urge us to focus more on welfare and capacity building programs for lawyers (especially the young lawyers), so as to enable them compete more favorably in the emerging global legal market.

Finally, I wish the NBA – NEC, fruitful deliberations and meaningful resolutions. Do have a pleasant stay in the Federal Capital Territory

and journey mercies to and fro your respective abodes.

With Compliments from;

Okey Leo Ohagba

Immediate Past NBA 1st Asst. Secretary

FRAUD CHARGE: WE MUST STOP EFCC, SAYS USORO

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) has urged lawyers to rise against the alleged incursion into the legal profession by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Continue Reading

NBA ELECTIONS: Usoro Wins ‘Round One’

*As NBA NEC Ratifies Election

*Saraki, Olanipekun, Okocha, Others Hail Victory

* ‘Embark on Electoral Reforms Now’

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has scored a major victory with the ratification of his election by the NBA National Executive Committee meeting that held today in Abuja. Continue Reading