*Top Charts In Promotion Of Welfare, Defense of Rule of Law, Pro Bono Services Etc
The management of TheNigeriaLawyer, has recently, conducted a survey on the branches of the Nigerian Bar Association across the country, of which, an NBA Branch Ranking has been made. The survey which was carried out in November and December, 2022 has shown that member branches of the NBA had not been compliant with what is expected of them. This survey was done to cut across four segmental areas and they include Welfare of branch members, Continuous Legal Education, Pro Bono Services, and Defense of Judiciary,
First, pro bono services remains a critical reason why the Nigerian Bar Association was established and it is unfortunate that our findings revealed that most branches of the Nigerian Bar Association seldom organize or take up pro bono cases. The protection of human rights and enforcement remains an expectation of the Nigerian Bar. It was gathered that the proliferation of awaiting trial in mates in the country has not been addressed by this NBA branches. The NBA branches does not pay visits to the state prisons neither do they even remind the magistrates of their supervisory role of this prisons as mandated by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015. Particularly, sections 29, 33 and 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 which tasked the magistrates to pay periodic visits to the prisons and provide oversight responsibility. Hence, branches should endeavor to activate its pro bono services and visits the prison for the enhancement of human rights in the society.
Also, the NBA branches do not follow the budgetary allocation of the judiciary in their states. This should be in a bid of defending the judiciary and ensuring that it does not suffer from neglect. The budget meant for the judiciary is left at the sole discretion of the executive of the states with these branches having a nonchalant attitude as to how it is used and where it is used. There is an oversight responsibility on the Nigerian bar to serve as a watchdog for the state; this responsibility imply that they watch, prudently, at how state resources are used and how, especially in the judiciary, they are administered.
Sadly, the welfare of branch members has been neglected by the leadership of branch chairmen. The NBA branch chairmen and executives, by virtue of their acts and conducts, is apparent that they do not know why they are elected or even why the NBA at the local level exists. In some branches, the office exists only for cosmetic purpose and decorative function with most of the activities being done on WhatsApp platforms, which is appalling for a body with so much responsibility. They do not do their job as branch executives and insist on just getting branch dues which they do not even account for. This dues does not reflect in the members of the branches as their welfare is not a priority.
Furthermore, there is also a responsibility of Continuous Legal Education which is required of the NBA branches for their members. It is disheartening to discover that the branch does not undertake such task and do not offer their members the benefit of continuous legal education.
During the 2023 elections, the NBA Branches had nothing to say during the period and were not involved in the monitoring of the state’s elections. The public were malnourished of the NBA silence during the period. This is unexpected of a body saddled with a responsibility of protecting democratic process and ensuring that the rule of law prevails. However, it was recorded that the NBA Aba branch had lend its voice in the electioneering process and review the results during the general elections.
The Welfare of members of the Nigerian Bar Association is one of the cardinal goals of the Association. Therefore, it serves as a functional and accurate metric for measuring performing and efficient NBA branches. Every branch leadership keen on fulfilling its mandate must prioritize the welfare of its members. The Oxford Dictionary defined welfare as “statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.”
We shall therefore meticulously review the reports of the selected branches to identify their strides in the aspect of members’ welfare as a key performance indicator.
- NBA Otta Branch: The report of the NBA Otta branch extensively details its welfare activities. The report stands out from that of the others and places the branch on top the ladder of performing NBA branches for a number of reasons including the enactment of a definite welfare policy that entitles its members to minimum of N500,000.00 [Five Hundred Thousand Naira] and maximum of N1,000,000,00 [One Million Naira] which policy affected members have been enjoying till date.
This policy which is in consonance with the policy direction of the National leadership of the Bar. The branch has also carried out numerous far-reaching and impactful interventions to promote the physical and material wellbeing its members such as provision of cash gifts supports to ill members and the families of deceased branch members towards ameliorating the financial burdens the ailment might have placed on them. The branch also produces customized diaries with names & addresses of members’ offices, inclusion of the evidence act and peculiar information about the court systems in Ogun State; engages security agencies within its jurisdiction to forestall rampant incidences of police brutality against lawyers often heard in other parts of the country.
2. NBA Bwari Branch: The report of the NBA Bwari branch also flaunts a litany of impressive welfare activities. The Association promotes the health wellbeing of its members, supports members during their special celebrations, life assurance support etc. Their welfare packages are well tailored to meet specific welfare needs of members and are equally commendable, and follows behind the NBA Otta branch.
3. NBA Ikeja Branch: The Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association is the only of the three branches with a specific welfare report detailing its activities. The progresses of branch are equally commendable and follows that of the NBA Bwari branch closely.
CONTINOUS LEGAL EDUCATION
NBA Otta Branch: The NBA Otta branch also takes the lead in the advancement of continuous legal education for its members. It has organized a series of webinar and seminar programs aimed at facilitating the acquisition of contemporary and evolving legal knowledge in our ever dynamic work space. It has also sponsored members for professional courses such as the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC). The branch also collaborates and augments the digitization efforts of the Ogun State judiciary by training its members on the newly launched e–filing system.
NBA Bwari Branch: The NBA Bwari branch has also made commendable leaps in promoting continuous legal education within its branch. With the constitution of its Continuous Legal
Education Committee, the branch has been able to organize professionally tailored webinars to disseminate advanced legal knowledge to its members.
The NBA Ikeja branch did not submit its report on continuous legal education
PRO BONO SERVICES
NBA Bwari Branch: The branch takes the forefront in the provision of pro bono services. Its report above and beyond that of other branches provides specifics on how the branch has committed immensely provides legal assistance to lowincome individuals and organizations.
The branch’s pro bono program has been successful in providing access to justice for underserved communities. The volunteer lawyers have provided legal assistance to a significant number of low-income individuals and non-profit organizations. The legal clinics and workshops have also helped to educate the community on their legal rights and have assisted them in navigating the legal system.
NBA Otta Branch: The Otta branch closely follows the NBA Bwari branch in its provision of pro bono services.
DEFENCE OF RULE OF LAW
NBA Otta Branch: In defense of the rule of law, the Otta branch of the NBA has shown great commitment in numerous
instances through several of its activities detailed in its report including beautifying the state judicial complex, demanding fairness in the appointment of justices to the Court of Appeal, facilitating the building of the massive Ogun State Multi Door Court House [OMDC] within the premises of the Ogun State High Court, Ota, premises, introducing cause lists dissemination via Whatsapp on state wide application, providing financial support for the Bar and Bench week amongst others.
NBA Bwari Branch: The NBA Bwari branch also deserves thumbs up for its engagement towards defending the rule of law within its jurisdiction and beyond. The branch’s The Court Monitoring / Maitenance Committee has helped carry out routine maintenance works on courts within jurisdiction and the leadership of the branch has paid working visits and sealed mutually beneficial partnerships with other stakeholder in the justice system.
The branches studied in this report within their respective jurisdictions have furthered the objectives of the Nigerian Bar Association via their value oriented activities, programs and projects. The NBA Otta branch takes the lead by performing excellently in three of the four metrics.
It is expected that other branches of the NBA nationwide take a cue from the leadership provided by this branch in order to ensure that the utilitarian value of the NBA is felt by its members at the grassroots to complement the efforts of the National body.