Nine (9) committees have been inaugurated to handle various areas of interest in the Nigerian Bar Association. Mr. ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association made this clear on the 17th of July, 2017, during the inauguration ceremony of the committees at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja. The speech which was made available to TheNigerialawyers, contained the essence of the inauguration and what the Nine committees are intended to achieve in no time.
According to him, “The establishment of Committees is fundamental to ensuring a more active Bar as it is not possible for the National Officers or the Secretariat to deal with all activities and functions of a Bar. In addition, the use of Committees allows lawyers who have interest and expertise in a particular area to focus on specific issues.”
The Nine committee that were inaugurated are the NBA Welfare Committee, Human Rights Institute Governing Council, NBA Anti-Corruption Commission, NBA Election Working Group, Criminal Justice And Law Reform Committee, NBA Editorial Board, NBA Legislative Advocacy Committee, Young Lawyers Forum, and the NBA Prosecution Team.
In listing their references, the president outlined the mandates of the various committees and how their formulation and implementation will achieve the desired objective of their inauguration. According to him the NBA WELFARE COMMITTEE is mandated to formulate a blue print/strategy on the welfare of lawyers, to draw up an action plan for the implementation of the NBA Welfare blue print, to implement the NBA welfare policy and blue print, to effectively look into matters which include designing a nationwide insurance policy to cover the risk to which legal practitioners are exposed to in the course of performance of their duties such as accidents, death, whether by natural causes or other means, to formulate a sound, pragmatic welfare package for young lawyers that will accommodate matters of pupilage, remuneration, work ethics, and integration into the legal profession and encourage specialization into the various areas of practice, etc., to effect where necessary, the establishment of the lawyers’ cooperative societies at the branch levels of the NBA to help members overcome some financial burdens, to Implement the pension scheme and insurance scheme policies as laid down by the Welfare Trust Foundation, to effect practical ways of acquiring funding particularly for mid level legal practitioners, to cover their everyday need such as car loans, soft loans for the acquisition of a law office and/or law office equipment, law books subsidy, etc, to sensitize and implement the NBA Healthcare Management Scheme, and other approved tasks and assignments that will assist the Committee in achieving their overall mandate.
The Human Rights Institute Governing Council according to the President is expected to promote protect and enforce human right using every means available in line with its stated mandate. This is needed at this time when the country is confronted with different human right challenges so he affirms.
The NBA ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION is also another committee mandated to deal with the problem of Corruption facing Nigeria. According to the president, many agencies have already been established to combat graft, but not many successes have been achieved so far. He emphasized the fact that corruption is also a problem facing the legal profession hence the need for the commission to address graft matters in that light. Thus he stated the duty or mandate of the commission which are: to work with the 125 branches of the NBA to set up an Anti-Corruption Committee in each Branch, set and maintain the highest standards of conduct aimed at avoiding corrupt practices at the Bar and the Bench, establish formal and transparent mechanisms for applying anti-bribery and corruption prevention measures, monitor and investigate allegations of corruption leveled against members of the Bar and Bench, identify practitioners who carry out corrupt activities in the legal profession and justice system and forward their names and evidence of corruption practices to the relevant agencies for prompt action and prosecution, identify corrupt practices and factors or circumstances that promote corruption in the Bar and Bench, organize roundtable/stakeholders meeting on the negative impact of corruption on the economy for the Anti-Corruption Day, the 9th of December 2017, develop and facilitate policy dialogue and anti-corruption training courses/workshop for stakeholders in the fight against corruption, develop feedback mechanism from anti corruption agencies and the general public and to do all things necessary to ensure a corruption free society.
Another area of interest is the YOUNG LAWYERS FORUM which is targeted at the welfare and interest of young lawyers. According to the president, this Forum is covered by the Bye-Laws enshrined in the NBA Constitution which govern the affairs of Sections/Institutes/Forums. He stated that the term of reference of this forum is to formulate policies that will further the interest of young lawyers of the NBA, to promote and protect the interest of young lawyers in Nigeria, to advocate for the welfare of young lawyers in Nigeria and to design and advocate for mentorship programme young lawyers.
The NBA PROSECUTION TEAM according to the president is to prosecute lawyers against whom prima facie case of professional misconduct has been established. To achieve this, the Team is expected to work with the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in achieving its objectives. Other committees include the NBA Election Working Group, NBA Editorial Board, NBA Legislative Advocacy Committee and the Criminal Justice and Law Reform Committee.
The Criminal Justice and Law Reform Committee, according to him, is mandated to ensure that law enforcement policies and practices employed to investigate, charge, and prosecute individuals are appropriate and accurate, to organize conferences, colloquium, workshops and roundtable that will ensure an effective system by making policy makers, evaluate and propose recommendation for a better criminal justice system in Nigeria, to study and come out with recommendations on the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill worked upon by the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform set up by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, to redefine the roles of Security and Anti Crime Agencies in the attainment of Criminal Justice, to unify, harmonize and modernize the criminal code and the penal code, and keep them relevant to the needs of our contemporary society, to identify obstacles in the apprehension and prompt prosecution of offenders, and to formulate practice direction for prosecutors, and a total revamp of criminal trials with a view to enhancing the speedy dispensation of justice. In his words he said:
“Although much work has been done in the area of Criminal Justice reform which has culminated in the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, much work still needs to be done. And that is why the Criminal Justice Reform Committee is very important. This Committee will also conduct audit of certain laws with a view to identifying those that need reform. So law reform is a key part of this Committee`s assignment. This Committee is expected to work in consultation with government institutions and Civil Society Organizations.”
The president concluded by reiterating the importance of committee work to the scheme of activities of the current administration. According to him:
“The reports you turn in will not be left gathering dust in the archives. They will be implemented, either at the level of your national officers or NEC or Conference or even relevant National Institutions. It is the desire of this administration to support its Committees to fulfill its mandate. The National Secretariat will be available to support the work of the various Committees. I thank you all for coming. Your assignment with the greatest respect begins now”.