Eminent Lawyers from across the country under the aegis of the Nigerian Bar Association,NBA, assembled in the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on Friday, November 11, 2016 to strategize on ways of revamping their profession from the mirage of challenges confronting it as they jaw-jaw on the four cardinal programmes of 3RS&P of the Mahmoud administration. The Summit was convened by the NBA President to discuss the direction of the NBA for the 2016-2018 service year.
Giving his keynote address at the Bar Leaders’ Summit themed :”Mechanics of building A Brave New Bar For The Legal Profession In Nigeria,” Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud,SAN, enunciated the four thematic areas of Regulation, Representation, Re-engineeeing of the Bar and Public Interest – which his administration will drive in the next two years “We cannot wait for others to do the job for us,” he said. “we have to stand up now and do it ourselves. That is why we have come here today to rub minds on ways of actualizing the four thematic approach of my regime and fashion out ways to combat the menace of corruption at the Bar and in the Judiciary.
“I like to remind you that it will no longer be business as usual. It will now be business unusual.”
Mahmoud SAN lamented the loss of respect for lawyers and the legal profession.
“If you said you were a law student in those days you were held in high esteem,” he said. “But, this is no longer the case today.”
Speaking in his Capacity as the Stand in Chairman for Olisa Agbakoba SAN the 25th President of the Nigerian Bar Association Joseph Bodunrin Daudu, SAN gave hard knocks to those who hide under the cover of the Bar and the Bench to perpetrate the odious crime of corruption and called for concerted efforts to fish them out and make them face the full wrath of the law.
“Now is the time for change,” he said. “And unless we want to be swept aside by the wind of change we must act now. Otherwise they are going to take our profession away from us.”
He however condemned the manner in which the anti corruption war is progressing which tend to criminalise innocuos gift to friends , classmates and chilhood acquaintances on the bench as an act of bribery and perversion of Justice. He cautioned that if this trend is not checked by the Bar, husbands of female judges may soon get invitation from EFCC to explain the domestic allowance given to their family.
Another legal luminary, Boma Ozobia, SAN, who is the immediate past President of Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, gave a blow-by-blow account of how regulatory framework would redefine the legal profession in Nigeria. She went into details of how strict adherence to these regulations would rid law practice of such ,unwholesome practises that have brought it to this sordid pass.
Boma Ozobia also stood in for another past President of the Bar, Olisa Agbakoba SAN in delivering a paper on Re-engineering of the Bar titled:”Reforming the NBA and other Justice Sector Institutions, “I have specific instructions from the President Emeritus Agbakoba to deliver his presentation. And I will stay within the limits of my mandate.
“He told me to tell you that the current governance structure of NBA has become unwieldy and inefficient and called for a complete overhaul of the ineffective system. He noted that unitary system is unfit for the purpose of a 21st century Bar and called for introduction of Federation of State Bars as the way forward citing the examples of South Africa, Canada and United States.”
Mrs Funke Adekoya,SAN presensetation on representation was excellent. She took her time like a classroom teacher to explain the various components of representation and welfare of lawyers
Yet another legal lcon, Dr. Garba Tetengi,SAN lamented the manner of the arrest of Judges and Justices of the High and Supreme courts by the DSS as manifestation of the impunity that has bedevilled the Country and urged the Bar to be steadfast in its role of promoting the rule of law.
Mallam Yusuf Ali ,SAN, called on senior lawyers to do thorough introspection on their conduct in the discharge of their professional duties. “Most of the wrong perceptions about lawyers are caused by senior lawyers,” he said. “We need a change of attitude.”
He also decried underpayment of young lawyers. “If you have your own son as a lawyer, can you pay him N25,000 per month?” he asked rhetorically. “Let’s propose minimum wage based on area of location of chambers.”
Yunus Ustaz Usman,SAN opined that children of prominent Nigerians are lay -abouts because they were trained with ill-gotten wealth from the proceeds corruption.
Mr.Paul Usoro,SAN gave a vivid account of his ordeal in the hands of EFCC for allegedly bribing a judge of the NIC where he has never appeared in his career.He warned the Bar to be wary of trial by media and said he has submitted a copy of his statement to the anti-graft agency to the NBA and will be ready to face any panel set up by the Bar to investigate the allegation
The NBA President ABM confirmed that his office has received lettets from Mr Paul Usoro, SAN and Dr Muiz Banire, SAN submitting themselves for investigation by the Bar on the alleged bribery scandal .There were contributions from Chief T.J. O. Okpoko,SAN ,Arthur Obi -Okafor ,SAN ,Chief Ofodile Okafor ,SAN,Prof Earnest Odukwe,SAN.Past GS Afro- Fayokun,Niyi Walson Jack and Ibrahim Edddy Mark .Other contributions came from Young Lawyers Forum, Attorneys General of States ,Physically challenged lawyers and Distinguished Branch Chairmen
In another development, veteran lawyer Chief John Ochoga volunteered to lead the war against corruption in the Judiciary. “I want to fight corruption,” he said. “I am not a saint. But, I have the credentials to fight corruption. Please, Mr. President when you set up committee to fight corruption, appoint me a member. I will use everything I have to fight corruption in the Judiciary.”
The conference which had the full compli ments of National Officers in attendance was attended by over 300 participants from various branches of NBA .
The special Summit ended by 6pm with a vote of thanks from Isiaka Abiola Olagunju the NBA General Secretary.