In preparation for the 2018 NBA Election, the Nigerian Bar Association has unveiled the manifestoes of all presidential candidates cleared by the Electoral Committee of the NBA to contest for the forthcoming election.
The publication which was made in the NBA 2018 Electronic Election Magazine and published on the NBA website carries the Mission and Vision statement of each of the contestants and some persuasive reasons why each candidate should be voted for.
Introducing himself, Prof. Ojukwu Ernest SAN, also known as the Teacher, stated his vision statement as ‘Setting a New bar for a relevant NBA’ and his mission statement as, to recreate the NBA to serve its members, the legal profession, and the nation by welfare & services, ethics & discipline, governance and rule of law. Speaking on the welfare & services to members, he said that the principal reason for the existence of the Nigerian Bar Association as a Professional Association is the protection and projection of the interests and welfare of its members. According to him, every member of the Association has to be able to easily answer the question: What does the NBA do for me? He noted that the specific aims and objectives provided in Section 3 of the NBA Constitution on welfare are creation of schemes for the encouragement of newly qualified members and assistance to aged or incapacitated members of the Association and establishment of the schemes for the promotion of the welfare security and economic advancement of members of the legal profession. He therefore stated that the welfare of members should be the priority.
“The welfare of members has not been a priority in reality. It is not surprising that NBA has performed abysmally low on members’ welfare as welfare appears at No. 13 out of 14 objectives in our Constitution. A recent survey of members’ view on how NBA has performed with respect to members’ welfare, security and economic advancement shows that lawyers scored NBA“very poor”on“members welfare, security and economic advancement”; on“creation of schemes for the encouragement of newly qualified members; and on“Assistance to aged or incapacitated members of the Association,”he said.
He also noted that if he is elected, the NBA shall embark on an aggressive reform of Laws, rules, and regulations, stating what should be done to achieve that.
On young lawyers, the learned professor stated that young lawyers are the future of the Bar. According to him, how young Lawyers are treated reflects on the dignity of the legal profession, adding that minimum wage for young lawyers will go a long way in taking care of their welfare.
In addition to the economy of Young Lawyers, he stated that the administration among other things shall focus on capacity building and Job and work creation, activate massive, active and sustainable transition programmes such as career counseling, capstones, immersion and incubator programmes, provide capacity, technical and financial support for developing solo and peer partnership practices for young lawyers, etc. other areas of interest include: aged & incapacitated lawyers and members with disability, insurance, NBA Annual Conferences, stamp & seal, continuing legal education, legal education, digital law library, professional and educational publications, law officers association of Nigeria (loan), women’s forum, international relations, etc.
Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, on the other hand, considers it a privilege to present his ideas and thoughts on some of the issues the bar will focus on in uplifting the institution of the NBA and level of legal practice in Nigeria if he is elected as the NBA President.
Mr. Usoro carefully selected three thematic areas to drive the reform plan, knowing, as he does that two years would be inadequate to cover all the required reforms. The three focus areas according to him are institutional development and regulatory reforms, human capital development and welfare programme and promotion of the rule of law and good governance in Nigeria.
On institutional development and regulatory reforms, particularly speaking on institutional development, he noted that he believes that the NBA, at the national level, is in need of urgent and far-reaching reforms if it must retain its relevance not only in the larger society but even to its members, adding that these reforms will, at the minimum, achieve four significant and immediate goals, to wit: enhance efficiency in the operations of the association, engender confidence and trust amongst its members or, as some would say, win back the confidence and trust of members who are disengaged, transform the NBA into a sustainable institution and increase the moral equity of the NBA to enable it effectively influence required reforms in the justice subsector and remain a respected watchdog of the society.
He also stressed that there is a specific programme strand that shall enable him to deliver on his agenda, and they include, to professionalize and strengthen the NBA National Secretariat for effective and efficient service delivery so as to meet the needs of its members and the public, entrench corporate governance in financial management, upgrade and improve the operational capacity of NBA sections, institutes, and fora so that they would be able to fulfill their mandate, NBA national electoral system and succession plan, establishment of NBA liaison offices within the three NBA zones, revenue generation plans for the NBA, infrastructural development, etc.
On regulatory reforms, he affirmed that the regulatory framework underpinning the legal profession in Nigeria calls for review, with the aim of raising the standard of the profession. Stating the key components of his regulatory reform agenda, Mr. Usoro stressed that he will partner with some stakeholders and makes the relevant consultations to see that this is done.
“I will work in consultation and partnership with all relevant stakeholders, to facilitate the repeal and replacement of the extant Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) with a view to reflecting current trends and developments regarding admission to the legal profession, legal education, training, compulsory continuing legal education, professional ethics, discipline, and other aspects of the legal profession that are relevant to legal practice in the 21st century.
“My administration will consult with all relevant stakeholders and work towards the implementation of the adopted recommendations of the NBA Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee one of which is the repeal and replacement of the LPA. The report, which deals with issues affecting the regulation of the legal profession in Nigeria, is far reaching and comprehensive its scope and recommendations and requires a holistic and comprehensive review by all stakeholders with a view to upscaling the regulatory framework of the legal profession, as appropriate.
“I believe that the Nigerian Law School (NLS) Externship Programme should be designed to teach Law Students practical skills in legal practice. To attain that goal, Pupillage program could and should be incorporated into our NLS pre-qualification process and used to impart practical training to our trainee lawyers, both in advocacy and solicitor’s practice. If adopted as part of the qualifying process, the program should be regulated by the Council of Legal Education and the firms to which the trainee lawyers are attached must be firms with prescribed minimum standards,” he added.
Paul Usoro also emphasized his plans for human capital development and welfare programmes, and welfare programme for lawyers. In doing this, he noted some ideas he intend putting in place such as mentorship scheme and capacity building for young lawyers, employment or job creation for lawyers, aged persons and persons living with disability, business education and investment planning for lawyers, creation of NBA welfare foundation or charity funds, etc.
He also listed some key items he intends implementing in order to promote the rule of law and good governance in the legal profession.
Another NBA presidential candidate, Okafor Arthur Obi SAN who was though brief, headed his manifesto with the caption: THE #ALLINCLUSIVEBAR AGENDA: His mission statement is to advance the Legal Profession in Nigeria and enhance the welfare of lawyers through the running of an all-inclusive Bar with efficient services, unmatched collaborative opportunities and partnerships, as well as globalized practice and professional development, while his vision statement is a revitalized Bar Association with purposefully innovative leadership that accords with international best practices, anchored on professionalism, discipline and rule of law, and above all, always accessible to all members.
Mr. Okafor’s ALL INCLUSIVE, RESPONSIVE AND TRANSPARENT ADMINISTRATION seeks to create a new directorate at the NBA secretariat to be known as membership directorate for ease of access and wider reach, adding that whilst recognizing and preserving deserving respect for the seniors and leaders of the Bar, they shall enthrone a system where every lawyer, old, young, women and physically challenged would have a sense of ownership and participation at the Bar.
The following ways he highlighted to implement it include, inclusiveness of women and younger lawyers and at NEC/branch executive committees, inclusive bar conferences and events, membership of NEC, committees and statutory appointments, re-awakening the NBA corporate counsel forum, and re-awakening of NBA women lawyers’ forum.
He also promised an IT-Based Innovative Secretariat which will achieve the establishment of official NBA call centre, NBA mobile app and the total overhaul of the NBA portal.
In addition he also promised a public interest advocacy and robust human rights programme.
“It is in recognition of the cardinal role of the NBA in the society as the voice of the masses that the Association is expected to always speak and act in the overriding public interest. The #ALLINCLUSIVEBAR shall strive to raise this voice in the following ways and more, to wit; Re-awaken and strengthen the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), being the key platform for driving the NBA public interest advocacy agenda, restructure and re-strengthen the NBA Human Rights Institute (NBA-HRI) to become more responsive,” he said.
Other items on the agenda include, police brutality and hostility to lawyers, free issuance of NBA stamps on payment of BPF, improved branch capacity and governance discipline, professionalize the national secretariat, deepening the bar and bench symbiosis, promote globalization and specialization on emerging areas of practice, capacity building and improved welfare of lawyers, mentorship and employment creation for young lawyers, vigorous criminal justice reform agenda, raising the bar on professional discipline and transparency and financial prudence.