Richard Ginika Izuora
Crises seem to have rocked the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, as a splinter group threatens to pull out of the body.
The threat notwithstanding, Olumide Akpata, Head, Corporate and Commercial Practice Group, Templars law firm; was on Friday sworn in as the 30th President of the Association.
Akpata was sworn in by the outgone NBA President, Dr Paul Usoro (SAN); at the NBA’s Virtual Annual General Meeting.
Akpata was declared the winner of the NBA 2020 Presidential Election by the association’s Electoral Committee.
In his inaugural address, Akpata expressed gratitude to all his supporters. Further, he urged all NBA members to have faith in his administration which he promised would serve the interest of all.
“Anyone who keenly followed the process that culminated in today’s event will attest to the fact that my election victory was neither my making nor that of any mortal. It was divinely orchestrated by the Lord Almighty, the creator of the universe; who oversees the affairs of men, and in whom we live and move and have our being. I return all praises to Him.
“The NBA under my administration shall take seriously our mandate of promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of the generality of citizens.”
Akpata added that his administration would enter into partnerships with the judiciary. Also, he said partnerships would be explored with other stakeholders in the Nigerian criminal justice sector. This, he noted, is with a view to undertake a holistic reform of the system.
“I welcome and accept, on behalf of the NBA; the recent call for collaboration in this regard by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“Lastly, under my administration, the NBA Law Reform Committee will be adequately resourced to play its role as a liaison between the NBA and the National Assembly to represent the bar at National Assembly public hearings to make meaningful input into our laws for the betterment of the society and our profession.
“I accept the invitation of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives; to partner with the National Assembly to reform our laws through strategic amendments; in order to bring the laws up to global standards.
“Just yesterday, the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution announced the commencement of the process for the further alteration of the Constitution, and called on professional bodies and interest groups to submit memoranda for that purpose.
“This forms part of our first assignment… I assure you that we will not be found wanting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Akpata has condemned the move by a section of Northern lawyers to form a break-away faction.
The NBA president described the secession moves within the association as unfortunate.
He called on the aggrieved members to reconsider the decision; even as he called for unity.
Akpata made this call in his inaugural speech after being sworn in on Friday, August 28, 2020.
Akpata said, “I am not unaware of very recent events and agitations that have tended to divide our Bar along regional and religious lines. This is rather unfortunate for an egalitarian Association like ours.
“The Bar that I want to lead, henceforth, is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength. I plead with all Nigerian lawyers to bear this philosophy of unity in mind; as we commence a new journey together today.”
Lawyers of Northern extraction on Thursday, August 27, had pulled out of the NBA; in order to form another association with the aim of protecting their interests as encapsulated under Section 40 of the Constitution.
This was contained in a statement issued on Friday, August 27, by Nuhu Ibrahim and Abdulbasit Suleiman.
They noted that recent happenings within the NBA had exposed the inability of the national body to manage and contain the heterogeneity of its members as well as their various interests.
The statement averred that recent rumblings from the NBA leaves much to be desired; especially within the ranks of Concerned Lawyers especially from the Northern part of the country.
Excerpt from the statement reads; “What has been happening recently has exposed the inability of the NBA to manage and contain the heterogeneity of its members as well as their various interests.
”Its penal powers have been deployed discriminatively on the basis of ethnicity and regionalism.
“Therefore, the NBA cannot afford to be seen not to be upholding the rights; and freedom of its own members if at all, it should be seen to be practicing what it preaches.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association has been watching the activities of the NBA; an association we all looked forward to joining with high hopes before being called to the Nigerian Bar; forcing idiosyncrasies of few on the majority of its members, especially in recent times.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association members gleaned that their interests are no longer taken into consideration in major decisions of the NBA; hence the formation of this Association.
“A cursory chronicle of the membership composition of major organs of the NBA would reveal lopsided representation; despite having large numbers of Lawyers from all parts of the Country; and especially Northern Nigeria who have diligently paid their Bar practicing fees; and have distinguished themselves in the legal profession.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association feels that Lawyers; as professionals like Doctors and Accountants should have more than one Association; regulated by the General Council of the Bar.”
“On the basis of the foregoing, some Lawyers of like mind; and duly called to the Nigerian Bar have decided to form New Nigerian Bar Association with the aim of protecting their interests; as encapsulated under Section 40 of the Constitution.
“Members of this Association have commenced consultations with very Senior Lawyers of Northern Nigeria extraction; and those practicing therein with the view to constituting the Trustees; and for purposes of fixing a date for the formal inauguration of the Association.”