Days after he was sworn in as the 29th president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), lawyers including Senior Advocates of Nigeria, at the weekend set agenda for the newly elected president, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN).
A titled chief and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, Kafohro O’tega, Destiny Takon, Malachy Ugwummadu, Mohammed Fawehinmi, Ige Asemudara and Ituah Imhanze, all gave reasons while Usoro must lead the Bar to greater heights.
They told New Telegraph Law in separate telephone interviews.
The new NBA should be speaking up in defence of the people’s rights, liberties, preservation of good governance and protection of the rule of law. We have not had any Bar association for about two years. It has been sleeping and snoring loud and government has been very happy about that. It has failed itself, failed Nigerian lawyers and failed the Nigerian people.
I’ll charge him to look into the issue of yearly payment of money for stamp and seal and the trouble associated with getting the stamp and seal and reissuance of new ones. I think it is one payment too many after paying practicing fees and NBA branch dues. A data base of all legal practitioners in Nigeria, evincing their year of call and call roll number should be available on the internet and accessible to everyone.
The call roll number should replace the stamp and seal in legal documents. I also want to see an NBA that is more involved in national issues, issuing official statements whenever necessary and taking up the government of the day on any bad policy or unlawful or unconstitutional matters from the stand point of the NBA as against the existing trend of lawyers speaking up personally against such laws or policies. The NBA should be the first to rush to court on major legal or constitutional issues affecting the nation.
Like having an insurance policy, the NBA should synergize with appropriate financial establishments to make loans or facilities available to set up a law office with minimal collateral and very low interest regime.
History has now beckoned at him and he sits atop the leadership of one of the most professional bodies in the country; one that ideally ought to play a critical role in nation building and shape the future of this country beyond law practice. That clearly imposes on him very serious professional and political responsibility. He must be able to galvanize the potentials of lawyers across the country under the platform of the NBA to respond to national issues.
He must be able to mobilize lawyers to speak against injustice, including disobedience of court orders as is presently happening. He must rise and leave his comfort room with his team to challenge impunity. He must also leverage on the intellects and potentials of lawyers to proffer alternative solution to the crises of this country. He also owed the NBA some responsibilities considering the complaints that trailed the exercise that produced him. Many lawyers who wanted to be part of the election did not participate because of the procedure and process of e-voting. Moving forward, there must be an improvement on that.
Every single courtroom in all states across the country must be up to standard of the judiciary globally. There must be more protection for lawyers. There must be speedy dispensation of justice. He should work in concert with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to ensure that all cases that have been lagging behind are speedily dispensed with.
Yes. There are a lot of challenges. First, NBA electoral processes have come under incessant criticisms in the past few years. This is because the processes are not devoid of irregularities and malpractices. Even this last election that brought Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) is a shameful process; from verification to accreditation to voting, it was bad. Virtually all of us lost faith in the process and it shouldn’t be so. So, he needs to start with radical electoral reforms. We are beginning to lose our moral rights to criticize INEC and other electoral bodies for not living above board because we are unable to conduct free and fair election.
Secondly, the NBA must urgently move to regain its position as the conscience of the nation. We must have a progressive position on all national issues and be able to help check the excesses of government. We cannot afford to be an appendage of irresponsible governments here and there.
Thirdly, he must properly take up the reform process of its regulatory architecture. Our profession is losing it. We must rise to reform it; we must fish out the bad eggs. We must assist the judiciary to achieve proper delivery of justice.
The president-elect should upon inauguration embark on a reconciliation exercise. The whole electoral process has divided all and sundry. The president-elect should ensure that the NBA under his watch serves as a watch-dog to the society. Perceived wrongs and injustices should be publicly condemned as and when due. The interest and welfare of its members should be sacrosanct and uppermost and these rights should be protected.
I want to start by congratulating Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) on his victory. It was not like he was the best among all the candidates. Three of them were all of ‘presidential material’ but it is unfortunate that there must only be one president of the NBA.
It is a normal phenomenon that in an election, only one candidate must emerge the winner. The majority of members have decided and Mr. Usoro is the man. I know him to have the capacity and charisma to up the mantle of leadership of the highly esteemed NBA for the next two years, but whether he has the ‘will’ to confront and address some of the daunting challenges that has befallen the NBA over time, is essentially what only time would tell.
These are issues which if not completely dealt with would to a large extent dent the reputation of the once dreaded Association. For instance, being not unmindful of the motto of the NBA which is “promoting the rule of law,” we are in a time where valid orders made by courts of competent jurisdiction are being honoured in the breach, a time where the clear wordings of the Constitution and several other laws of the country are being flaunted, a time where government machineries are being employed to perpetuate illegality, a time where government institutions and agencies are operating like they were not established by law defining, restricting and limiting their powers.
These are fundamental issues that borders on the rule of law which the NBA ought to promote. It’s an issue that awaits the president-elect, because Nigerians look up to the NBA as a voice. Another task that awaits Mr. Usoro is that globally, legal practice is evolving; the president- elect must come out with new ideas and strategies to see how our law firms in Nigeria can compete with several other international law firms. It will be a plus if some of our law firms are listed among top 50 law firms in the world. Also back home, I hope the administration of the president-elect would also restore a synergy between the various branches of NBA and the national body, there has always been this disconnect and this is actually affecting the activities of the body both at the branch and national levels. Finally, another issue I believe calls for the attention of the president-elect, is that of the welfare of young lawyers in the country, I know it will not be impossible for the NBA to intervene to see that there’s actually a minimum wage for young lawyers practicing in various law firms in the country. Any senior who wants to employ a new wig should be able to pay something reasonable and not peanut.