The National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association last week took bold decisions, and expressed its position on major national issues and other profession-related issues.
State of the Nation
The NBA decried the worsening insecurity in the nation, and particularly condemned the incessant kidnaping of school children in various parts of the country. It urged the Federal Government to take urgent and further steps, to provide adequate protection for schools in kidnap prone areas.
On the Twitter ban by the Government, NBA condemned in totality the action of the Government which potentially threatens the freedom of speech of a majority of Nigerians and the attendant consequences, calling on the authorities to rescind its decision immediately.
One of such major issues discussed was the just ended 10-week long industrial action, by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN). Expressing the position of the NBA, President, Olumide Akpata said ‘It’s not yet Uhuru, until we see the implementation of total judicial autonomy in all the 36 States of the Federation’. He urged members of the Monitoring Committee, to monitor and report to the Association progress on the implementation.
The NBA further expressed displeasure at many of its members who have lost their lives to criminals, and the inability of the security agencies to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to book. A case in point is the gruesome murder of Frank Onyeabor of Oweri Branch, who was recently assassinated in his office.
It was also reported that the NBA has taken steps to file an action against the Police authorities, that dismissed a pregnant Police Officer in Ekiti State.
Face-off between Magistrates and Cross River State Governor
Mr. Akpata reported that since the intervention of the NBA, Governor Ayade has commenced payment of the salaries of the estranged Magistrates. Although only one month out of the 28 months has been paid, there are indications that the ongoing mediation is yielding positive results, and that the Magistrates will soon be back to their courts. It was further reported that, the attempt to take over some of the Magistrates’ courtrooms has been aborted, and that the courts are now actually being renovated for their use.
On the Gombe State Judiciary, NBA expressed displeasure at the refusal of the State Governor to forward the name of Hon. Justice Nyako to the NJC for appointment as the Chief Judge of the State, and urged the Governor to do so promptly.
As for the proposal by some that the retirement age of Justices of the Supreme Court be extended from 70 to 75, the NBA took the stance that status quo be maintained on the issue for now.
On the move by the Corporate Affairs Commission to levy new humongous registration fees on Lawyers in the guise of ‘revalidation’, the NBA pointed out that although the CAC proposed it as a one-off fee, Lawyers are reluctant to pay this new fee, especially as the CAC has continued to operate inefficiently on its service delivery. The NBA therefore, proposed to the CAC to set up an NBA Help Desk at the CAC manned by five Lawyers who would attend to all challenges from Lawyers at the Commission.
Kebbi State Crisis
For a while, it has been impossible for Lawyers to ply their trade in Kebbi State, due to the activities of the State’s vigilante operatives who have continued to terrorise and harass Lawyers, preventing them from going to court. The NBA Committee headed by Y.C. Maikyau, SAN reported that some progress is being made, as the Lawyers are reaching a settlement with the vigilante group, with the intervention of the State Government.
One of the pressing issues that engaged the attention of the NBA-NEC, is that of many Lawyers whose names curiously can’t be found on the Supreme Court Roll. This has created hardship on the affected Lawyers who cannot verify their status in the profession, and even obtain Stamp and Seal which is crucial for their practice. On this, the NBA has engaged the Supreme Court, to urgently facilitate a seamless procedure to effect change of name at the Supreme Court Registry.
Other issues include a proposal by the NBA, to amend the Rules of Professional Practice (RPC) and the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA). Also the issue of late or non- remittance of the percentage of Bar Practicing Fees to Branched was addressed.
The court action filed by the NBA on the issue of elongation of the tenure of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, was frontally addressed. The NBA President stated that contrary to the impression given that the NBA has withdrawn its suit on the eventual retirement of the former IGP, Akpata pointed out that the issue is far from being over. That the NBA is actually now seeking for an order to compel the former IGP to refund all salaries and allowances he illegally collected while in office, after his constitutionally mandated age of retirement.
NEC noted that the practice of non-Lawyers invading the profession has continued unabated, and with the tacit connivance of Lawyers.
The President warned that any Lawyer found in breach of this, will be prosecuted by the NBA. He also reported that the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area which had breached this law had tendered an apology, and promised never to do so again.
The President commended the NBA Sections, SPIDEL and SLP for successfully holding their annual conferences.
Akpata informed NEC that the 2021 Annual General Conference of the Association, will hold in Port Harcourt under strict Covid protocols.
A Committee was set up to critically examine the crisis in the following Branched, Abeokuta, Mbaise, Uyo, Uromi, Ikeja, Auchi, Orji River and Abuja.
The NBA constitution Review Committee has continued its work.
A proposal was made for the creation of Law Officers Forum, Military Forum and a Forum for Lawyers with Disabilities.
The NBA President restated his commitment, to ensure that young Lawyers are coopted into NBA-NEC as soon as possible.