The NBA Welfare committee established and inaugurated in line with the NBA Constitution, had during the just concluded NEC meeting at Ilorin, presented some strategic policies for recommendation. These recommendations according to the committee are important to cater for the welfare of lawyers in the country.
According to the report presented by the committee, the issue of welfare of lawyers by the national body (NBA) has been a subject of constant discussion both in the mainstream and social media. Lawyers, especially the young lawyers are quick to interrogate what is in store for them after they might have paid all the dues and fees that are collected by both the branches and national. Thus, the president of the NBA Mr A.B Mahmoud SAN inaugurated a thirteen man committee drawn from various branches in the federation chaired by Mr. Monday O.Ubani to formulate a pragmatic framework and blue print on the issue of welfare that will cover all categories of lawyers. Their mandate includes drawing up an action plan for the implementation of the welfare blue print. The Committee comprising the under listed members met several times and came up with the under listed blue print/framework of welfare package for the NBA.
The issue of insurance policy was the first policy on the list. The Committee said that it reviewed the existing Insurance Policy of the Association and there were suggestions that the Insurance Policy as it presently stands would be more beneficial to members if the members will be entitled to some claims after a number of years. It was discovered that the amount of money we pay to the insurance company is not commensurate to the claims we make yearly over our bereaved colleagues, and this is not in our interest.
The report also stated that the insurance policy is one off claim and does not accumulate over the years thereby denying the Bar the benefit of getting anything after many years of contribution except there is death or accident. The committee therefore advised that an alternative policy be provided that will be highly beneficial to the membership and the NBA generally. The ENDOWMENT FUND SCHEME/POLICY was recommended. The policy is believed to make Bar men have so much money in the system in favor of the NBA after meeting the obligations of the beneficiaries.
The Committee also debated the proposition for the establishment of NBA Endowment Fund in line with the NBA Constitution which is an alternative or replacement to the existing Insurance Policy. Recommended means of funding for the fund are that members can voluntarily make donations. Also, deduction of the sum of N1, 000 from the Bar Practicing fees payable by every legal practitioner and remitted directly into the Welfare Endowment Fund as currently being practiced for the Insurance Policy’s subscription was recommended. The committee also noted that every legal practitioner called to the Bar in Nigeria and who have paid his/her Bar Practicing Fees as and when due, shall be entitled to benefit from the policy. Also, that the benefits in the event of death should be raised to N2, 000, 000 (Two Million Naira) for now subject to review from time to time, while the Endowment Fund Management Committee should recommend the appropriate amounts to be paid as benefits for other heads of claims. The Fund also included the special intervention for physically challenged persons. The accounts of the Endowment Fund shall be audited and presented at the annual general meeting of NBA, according to the report.
The Committee resolved and proposed that NBA should encourage Healthcare Management Scheme such as Health Insurance policies which should be made compulsory for all lawyers.
On the remuneration of lawyers, the committee recommended a minimum pay of N50, 000 salary for young lawyers while lawyers undergoing the compulsory National Youth Service scheme should not be paid any sum below N25, 000 by any employer be it private or public during the period of their service. The committee however noted the difficulty that it may encounter in the implementation of the policy. It stated thus:
“The committee is not ignorant of the difficulty that will be encountered in the process of enforcing this policy, but believes that it is a policy that will encourage senior lawyers to have a minimum in mind while employing any junior lawyer. Over time this policy will be adhered to by senior firms and organizations that employ lawyers. The best thing is to make a pronouncement on the policy and over time it will be adhered to faithfully by all and sundry. The worst is to allow it to remain the way it is presently on the grounds that it is unenforceable.”
On the issue of pupilage for young lawyers which was encouraged by the committee, it stated that young lawyers undergoing pupilage should be remunerated during the course of their pupilage. However, it also encouraged that law firms are to pay such amount as may be sufficient to take care of transportation and feeding of the young lawyers during the course of the pupillage. Closely connected to this is the policy of internship for law students and graduates. The Committee resolved and proposed that there should be an internship programme for undergraduates and young law graduates who are willing to attach themselves to a Law Firm for a certain period (not more than One Year). This programme according to the committee is to be instituted as a standing policy of the Association.
The Committee emphatically reported on the protection of Nigerian lawyers from foreign firms’ Influence. For better comprehension, we shall produce the report, fresh as it was given:
“The Committee observed with serious reservations the increasing influx of foreign law firms into the country who have now dominated the practice space for high value briefs. Most of these foreign firms secure briefs directly from multinational companies operating in Nigeria and other corporations to the exclusion of indigenous law firms. This unwholesome domination of legal practice in Nigeria by foreign law firms deserves immediate and urgent intervention of the NBA in terms of regulation. It is observed that in the Aviation sector for instance, airlines often engaged foreign law firms to negotiate aircraft acquisition transactions and documentations on their behalf to the detriment of Nigerian law firms with requisite competence and expertise. Such unfortunate and unacceptable practice also goes on in other sectors such as Energy & Power, Oil & Gas etc. It is therefore our proposal that the NBA should intervene by way of regulation of the process to ensure firms and multinationals engage indigenous law firms to prosecute transactions on their behalf as against the practice of wholesale importation of foreign legal services. The Committee also observed that most of the jobs lawyers should do are now being done by non-lawyers. He suggested that we as an association should insist and see to it that any legal document registered that is not franked by a lawyer should not be accepted for registration at Land registries. The Committee also noted that some lawyers ridicule the profession by giving out their stamps to non-lawyers to affix on documents prepared by non-lawyers. The Committee recommends that any lawyer found engaging in such act of misconduct should be made to face the LPDC for disciplinary action. The Committee further recommends that all Branches of the NBA are to be encouraged to set up a task force to monitor the activities of lawyers who act in a way that lowers the standard of the profession.”
On the issue of police brutality against lawyers, having stated several cases of such brutality, the committee stated that it seeks NEC’s condemnation and decisive resolution on this very disturbing trend.
“The National body is enjoined to hold a press conference with the igp and other heads of security agencies in Nigeria wherein understanding will be reached that on no account should lawyers be assaulted in the course of discharging their professional duties. Any misbehavior by a lawyer should be reported to the leadership of the bar rather than assaulting them as is often the case. This process should be carried out as quickly as possible by the NBA leadership.” it added
The committee also spoke about that the problem of specialization in legal practice. It stated that the issue should be taken seriously. The Committee also brought up the need to establish an umbrella Co-operative Society for the Nigerian Bar Association. On pension scheme, the committee suggested that the NBA should institute policies that will ensure compliance of Law firms with the existing Laws in Nigeria. Adherence to the Act dealing on pension in the country was encouraged. Effect of Non-Remittance as well as appropriate provision of infrastructure for physically challenge were all discussed. The establishment of a Welfare Monitoring Committee was also proposed as well as awards/commendations for three most welfare friendly law firms/ministries/ organizations/parastatal .