Less than one month to the NBA Annual Bar Conference scheduled to be held in Lagos on 18 August 2017, uncertainty pervades arrangements for the conference as a result of controversial registration caps introduced by the conference planning committee.
The theme of the conference, which will be declared open by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is himself a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is “African Business Penetrating Through Institution Building.”
Three categories of registration were made operational and available for persons who intend attending the conference. The categories of registration which are known as the Early, Regular and Late fee registration types have their different cost types for different classes of lawyers. The announcement of the conference date got lightened with packages otherwise qualified as juicy, which include a tablet which cost N245, 000. 00 to be given as complimentary upon registration. The tablet is to be programmed for free with up to one year’s worth of both sim and access enablement to Law Pavilion, content providers on law and jurisprudence in Nigeria. Registered participants were also promised free lunch for all five days of the conference.
The Technical Committee for the conference (TCCP), headed by Dr. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN, a comfortable commercial lawyer practicing in Lagos, decided to cap the number of participants at 5,000. They also decided, secretly, that conference registration would be stopped once they reached 5,000 registered participants. None of this was communicated to the membership of the NBA. It is not known whether they informed the President of the NBA but informed sources at the NBA Secretariat disclosed that the NBA President, AB Mahmoud, SAN, whose campaign promised to deliver #ABraveNewBar, was kept in the dark about these secret decisions. There are reportedly over 120,000 registered in Nigeria.
The costs of registration ranged from N20,000 for young lawyers who registered early to N500,000 for a category known as “political office holders”. Lawyers especially the young wigs, whinged about the costs, stating that the younger lawyers aren’t really adequately considered in the NBA’s action plan.
However, registration commenced with the announced costs despite the complaints of the young wigs and others and immediately ran into serious challenges. Most lawyers complained that they could not access the registration portal on time. Barely one week after the opening of the portal and while the early-bed registration was still supposedly open, it stopped accepting registrations. Unknown to the NBA, the TCCP had set undisclosed caps on the numbers participants that could be registered and had programmed the portal to reject any registrations once these undisclosed caps were reached. After much complains to and confusion from the NBA, it was confirmed that spaces were “sold out”
Not only so, the supposed cheap earlybird registration was reported to have been shut down not long after it was opened for registration purposes. This caused panic as NBA received extensive criticisms from the legal community. In response to this controversy, the NBA President hurriedly met with the TCCP and, thereafter, announced that the cap on registration had increased from 5,000 to 7,000, an addition or 2,000 more participants or an increase of 40% on the original cap.
With frustration boiling over into anger over these arrangements, the leadership of the NBA has rushed to announce a series of palliative measures. It has directed the TCCP to open up a waiting list of participants and has also arranged a live-telecast of the conference on a dedicated channel on DSTV, a regional cable TV network for Africa to complement existing web-streaming arrangments.
As the Conference days draw nearer, however, dis-satisfaction with the perceived insincerity of the TCCP is growing. At press time, some young lawyers were reported to be meeting to consider launching a campaign of mass boycott of conference. Chairman of the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) of the NBA and former head of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, cited the shoddiness of the arrangements by the TCCP in announcing over the week-end that he would be boycotting the conference.
We cannot take our minds out from the fact that there are many yet to be voiced thoughts about the registration saga as well as the preparation so far with respect to the NBA oncoming Annual Conference.
It is on this note that TheNigerialawyer seeks to invite the views of legal practitioners about the oncoming NBA national conference and what they think about the whole registration process and the preparation so far. TheNigerialawyer will like to welcome well written comments on the subject matter as well as votes on the suggest-voting options provided below.