Law

Our agenda for new NBA President, by lawyers

Lawyers demand repositioning of NBA under Maikyau

 

FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU writes that lawyers have among other demands, tasked the new NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), to restore sanity to the legal profession by addressing the growing level of indiscipline at the Bar

 

Determined to see to a better Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), some senior lawyers have stressed the need for the new President of the Association, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), to ensure discipline and unity among legal practitioners in the country.

The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend demanded that the disciplinary committee of the NBA must be revived and that it must be decisive in dealing with complaints. Maikyau emerged as the 31st President of the NBA following an election of the legal body which was held virtually on July 17, 2022.

According to the Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Professor Ayodele Akintunde (SAN), Maikyau polled a total of 22, 342 votes to win the election, and was followed closely by Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) who polled 10, 842 votes. Mr Taidi Jonathan came third in the exercise with a total of 1,373 votes.

Other National Officers elected are; Mrs Linda Bala – 1st Vice President, Mr Clement Ugo – 2nd Vice President, and Mrs. Amanda Demechi- Asagba – 3rd Vice President. Others are; Mr. Adesina Adegbite – General Secretary, Mr Daniel Kip Ka-Ayli – Assistant General Secretary, Ms Chinyere Obasi – National Welfare Secretary, Mr Habeeb Lawal – National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olawole Ajiboye – Assistant Publicity Secretary, and Anze-Bishop Ladidi – Treasurer. Equally, elected as members of the NBA General Council to represent the western, eastern, and northern zones, were 20 lawyers.

In announcing the election results, Professor Akintunde revealed that the records of 59,388 out of a total of 59, 392 eligible voters on the NBA database were okayed to vote. Professor Akintunde maintained that while 1,346 emails that were sent out to some of the eligible voters bounced back, 34,809 lawyers, representing 58.61 per cent of the membership strength of the Association participated in the election that was conducted electronically.

The Chairman of the Electoral Committee explained further that some of the common complaints the Electoral Committee Secretariat received included the inability of some lawyers to correctly input their Supreme Court Number (SCN) as instructed, wrong/invalid contact information, no voting links, as well as multiple email reminders.

Meanwhile, while accepting the outcome of the election, Maikyau extended a hand of fellowship to all those who contested the election and lost to join his team to make the NBA better. He also admonished the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to come and understudy the technology-driven electoral system of the NBA to conduct free and fair elections in 2023. He promised that his administration would be transparent, promote the rule of law, and protect human rights in the country.

In his inaugural speech, Maikyau noted that the event coincided with the 11th anniversary of his swearingin as a SAN. While adding that his primary call is “service to the cause of justice,” the NBA President said, “The discharge of this duty will naturally lead to the socio-economic and political change we desire in Nigeria; engender the recovery, reformation and repositioning we need as a nation; improve the productivity, prosperity and empowerment within the polity and guarantee the well-being of the entire citizenry, lawyers inclusive”.

He further revealed that his parents, now deceased, had no formal education and were poor. “Had my father not joined the Army, my late sister, Amina Maikyau, and I may not have gone to school.

 

I can recall my father saying to me as he sent me off to the School of Basic Studies, Zaria, in 1984, ‘any day you go hungry, come home, whatever we have we will share. “My mother, among other trades, sold firewood to support my education and as an undergraduate, I helped to split the firewood for sale.

“My late sister on her part, after her National Certificate of Education (NCE) suspended further education and took up a teaching appointment to support the family and my education,” he added. Mikyau also revealed that he never planned to study law but somehow found his name on the list.

He said: “Never in my wildest thoughts or imaginations did I contemplate studying Law. I gained admission to study Veterinary Medicine at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. “I was informed by my friend, Hassan Danjuma, that he saw my name on the admissions list for the Faculty of Law. He literally dragged me to the old Senate Building and pointed out my name on the list.

I saw it and was completely taken aback and unsuccessfully tried so hard to convince Hassan that this was in fact news to me. I later confirmed that my name was not only on the master list but also in the list at the Faculty of Law”. Maikyau maintained that this is the time that Nigerians are “eagerly waiting for the discharge of the leadership responsibility and interventions of the members of the legal profession.”

The NBA President equally revealed that in the next few weeks, the association will set in motion, machinery that will interrogate “government’s investments in the security of this nation and the utilization of these investments if any, to ascertain the reason for what appears to be a failure of national security”.

“Our apparently ill-equipped security personnel are continually being sacrificed notwithstanding what is known to be their patriotism, uncommon courage, military expertise, tact, zeal, gallantry and determination to defend the Nigerian people, their property and the territorial integrity of this nation”, he noted.

However, in his bid to stand by the promise of his administration’s transparency and the promotion of the rule of law, Mikyau inaugurated a 15-member probe committee on September 5, 2022, to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the sad incident of Tuesday, August 23, 2022, when lawyers broke into the pavilion for the distribution of conference materials, destroyed the booths and carted away bags and other valuables.

The incident took place during the recently concluded 62nd Annual General Conference of the NBA in Lagos. At the inauguration ceremony, the President of the NBA directed the chairman of the investigation committee, who is also the Attorney General of Ekiti State, Wale Fapohunda (SAN), alongside other members, to make recommendations concerning the incident, taking into consideration the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association, 2015 (as amended in 2021), Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 and other relevant legislations, policies, and guidelines.

He, thereafter, gave an ultimatum of four weeks to the committee within which to submit its findings and recommendations. The statement of the NBA President at the inauguration of the Committee reads: “On Tuesday, the 23rd day of August 2022, on the sidelines of the just concluded 62nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association at Eko Atlantic City, Victoria Island, Lagos, an incident occurred at the venue for the distribution of conference materials. The sad incident resulted in the vandalisation of the said venue and destruction of valuables which allegedly include conference materials, laptops, phones, and other items.

“The conduct of our colleagues involved in that incident borders on possible violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners and other relevant laws applicable in Lagos State. It has been a source of embarrassment to the Association and raises cause for grave concern to the legal profession and the public; both within and outside Nigeria.

“Recall that in my inaugural address on 26th August 2022, I had committed to setting up a committee to investigate the incident and identify all those who participated in that disgraceful act. Consequently, the Committee has been set up with the following Terms of Reference: *Investigate the said incident; the immediate and remote cause(s) of the same and identify the persons involved therein.

*Make recommendations concerning the matters stated above, taking into consideration the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association, 2015 (as amended in 2021), Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 and other relevant legislations, policies, and guidelines.

The Committee as constituted is made up of the following persons:

  1. Olawale Fapohunda, SAN – Chairman

  2. CP Lough Simon Asamber, SAN – Alternate Chairman

  3. Oyinkan Badejo

  4. Ada Edozie

  5. Florence Marcus – Secretary

  6. Mujahid Muhammed

  7. Lucky Ekarume

  8. Chini Nwora

  9. Adama Mohammed

  10. Shehu Sani Idris

  11. Oyindamola Fashakin

  12. ThankGod-Mina Hope Obeten

  13. Folashade Owolabi

  14. Mrs. Toluwalope Aderiye

 

The Committee shall submit its Report (Findings and Recommendations) within 4 weeks from the date of its inauguration or within such extended time as may be allowed by the President. We thank the learned silks and our distinguished colleagues for accepting to serve on this Committee”.

Prior to the setting up of the committee, the immediate past President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, had equally condemned the ugly incident. He had during the conference also confirmed that some lawyers stole phones and other items. Some lawyers have staged a protest over what they termed the inadequate supply of conference materials as some of them could not get the conference bags.

Unleashing their anger, the lawyers who did not get their conference materials on time, stormed the collection centre and looted the booths. But the former NBA boss, while addressing delegates at the conference, said the lawyers’ action is regrettable.

He revealed that aside stealing phones and bags, the aggrieved lawyers also  beat some staff members of the NBA.

While stating that any lawyer found culpable for the theft of phones, and assault on officials will be punished, Akpata had declared: “Our colleagues stole bags, phones, beat up staff because we have video evidence. We are going to get the experts to look into those videos. “Anybody found culpable for embarrassing our Association and our nation like this will definitely be sanctioned”.

Lawyers’ agenda for Maikyau

As the new NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), settles down in office, some senior lawyers have been speaking on their expectations from him. The lawyers while urging the new NBA President to exhibit effective leadership, were particularly concerned about restoration of discipline at the Bar.

They said the ugly incident of vandalization of conference materials by lawyers at the recently concluded NBA National Conference is an indication that discipline has taken a flight from the legal profession.

Speaking on his expectations from the new NBA President, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Okunola Olorundare, maintained that Maikyau should address the issue of indiscipline at the bar. Olorundare said: “There is no discipline at the Bar. The indiscipline cuts across both the inner and the outer Bar. There must be discipline. The disciplinary committee must be revived and it must be decisive in dealing with complaints”.

Olorundare was echoed by Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) who also believed that discipline at the Bar is very paramount. “The Bar in Nigeria is too fragmented and nothing says this more than the previous election that ushered in Akpata. The new exco should strive to build bridges across the Bar and work assiduously to downplay the issues that drove the campaigns during the election, which divided the Bar along ethnic and class lines.

“The Bar should henceforth speak with one voice, devoid of all manner of dichotomies. It was shocking to me the angle that the last exco brought to the last conference in Lagos on the issue of big wigs of the bar, where an attempt was made to showcase senior lawyers considered to be less of courtroom advocates, but who have in their career achieved landmark milestones.

“I’m concerned with the pitiable    plight of young lawyers, especially in terms of remuneration, but given that law practice is mostly personalised, the new NBA exco should as a matter of priority consolidate on the Akpata’s initiative on the guidelines on the issue of remuneration. “As the African saying goes, if the hunter should reflect on the vicissitudes of hunting in the wild, he would most probably be unwilling to share his game. “It is a commendable and pragmatic move that must not be allowed to die.

However, this must correspond with established ethics of the profession, especially on the issue of due deference to and regard for senior lawyers. “We are presently in the election season, which means that those in the positions of authority are more likely to abdicate their responsibilities to the people that they were elected or appointed to govern, in pursuit of selfish electoral fortunes.

“The NBA should constantly interrogate the affairs of Nigeria against its stated aims and objectives, as the voices of lawyers must be heard on issues concerning the masses of our people, especially those of security and welfare.

“To this end, the NBA NEC should mandate every NBA branch to raise the stake of discourse on the state of the nation as part of the agenda of their monthly meetings. A gathering of lawyers cannot be complete if it does not discuss and take decisions on fundamental and topical issues affecting the nation.

“Lawyers should not just gather to discuss branch dues, practising fees, stamp and seal, NBA elections, etc; we must affect society for good. It does not matter what the government in power feels or says, the NBA must be guided by its own Constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The NBA as an organisation cannot be pro-government, it just cannot happen, because it won’t work. And it is gratifying that the NBA President has indicated this in some of his interviews after the election. “The exco can count on the support of all lawyers in this regard.

In my humble view, the responsibilities associated with the office of the President of the NBA may not permit him to be the official spokesperson of the Bar, but he must delegate that function to other officers so long as any intervention from the bar on national issues has his input”, Adegboruwa said.

Another silk and former Attorney- General of Abia State, Professor  Awa Kalu, called on the new NBA President to mend the little crack between the inner and outer Bar. Kalu said: “There was a little misunderstanding between the inner Bar and the outer Bar during the election that produced Akpata in 2020. The new president should mend that crack”.

Dr. Yemi Omodele want the NBA President and other executive members to take a look at the aspect of the quick dispensation of justice in both criminal and civil cases in court, adding that the Association should also focus on ensuring that judges’ appointment is merit-based.

“It will be of great advantage to the Bar and the Bench if the appointment of justices at different courts could be on merit and not on sentiment or favouritism.

“Competency is better than he or she is our son or daughter when an appointment to judicial offices is to be considered. The welfare of members of the Bar will do more good than harm to the NBA. “The Bar should not be polarised. Unity among members should be the order of the day. NBA should be more felt in Nigeria than other professional bodies”, he said.

On his part, Mr. Ige Asemudara is asking the NBA to promote the rule of law. He further noted that the legal profession is fast losing credibility in public space, and being bugged down by several issues, including discipline.

Asemudara said: “The NBA President should also be concerned about the issue of divisive tendencies of certain elements in the NBA. Already, as we have in Nigeria now, the country is solely divided along tribal and religious lines and this is beginning to manifest itself in the NBA, we should be a front-line pressure group that directs the thinking and reasoning of Nigerians.

“The 2023 election is upon us again, The NBA should be seen as playing a non-partisan role to ensure that the election is conducted within the permissible parameters established by law and international best practices and that the best candidate emerges for Nigeria”. Mr. Elvis Asia was also concerned about the promotion of the rule of law by the NBA.

“I hope the new administration will build on the solid foundation Akpata left. We want to see more focus on the welfare of members, particularly the younger members of the profession.

It’s time we formalised a minimum uniform billing/remuneration practices”, Asia said.

 

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