*Buhari’s Refusal To Honour NASS, Morally Blameworthy
*NBA Committed To Reforming Electoral System
*NBA To Leverage On AfCFTA
*SAN Rank: Production Of Evidence Of BPF & Branch Dues Meant To Checkmate Fraud
*#EndSARS Protest Increased Political Consciousness Of People

Owing to the bane of insecurity that continues to ravage several parts of Nigeria, the northeast and others, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata has decried the worsening situation and called on the service chiefs to do needful.

“I think that it has to be said, howsoever unsavoury, that the security architecture of the country has broken down so much so that, Nigerians are now at the mercy of criminal elements who now strike whenever it pleases them. This is totally unacceptable. I don’t think that we have ever had it this bad, in the odd history of our existence as a nation.

“But, unfortunately, it is our reality today. As an Association, we reckon that there is little we can practically do in this area, since security is totally under the control of the Commander-in-Chief and those whom he has appointed to assist him in that regard.

“The much that we can do is to constantly engage the government through the right channels to demand for improved security of lives and properties of Nigerians, and to lend our voice to these issues. We are also calling on the service chiefs to live up to their responsibilities, or resign their appointments. If the government is really determined to fight this insecurity, the President should also fire the top brass of our current security architecture, and bring in those who will be willing to deliver results expeditiously”, he said.

Besides, Akpata has said the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to honour the invitation of the National Assembly, which he had earlier decided to honour is blameworthy.

He said “there is no reason in the world why the President should renege on his earlier commitment to honour the call, on moral grounds. Irrespective of how convoluted the issue has been made to appear by the presidency, it still beggars reason and logic that a President elected by the people, and from whose authority, he derives legitimacy to govern, refuses to honour the call of the representatives of the people on a matter of national importance.”

In another development, the NBA President has stated that his administration is committed to overhauling and spearheading the reform of the electoral processes of the Association which is usually trailed by controversies at the end of elections of National Officers of the NBA.

He said “my administration is dedicated to making a difference in this respect, and that was why, as one of my first official assignments after being sworn in, I empaneled an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee with a mandate to audit the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections of the Association, and to make recommendations on how we can conduct credible and transparent elections that would be acceptable to all sides ahead of the 2022 elections.”

“That committee led by Ayodele Akintunde, SAN has since commenced work, and delivered an interim report at our last NEC meeting held on the 15th December, 2020. I have confidence in the Committee and believe that at the end of the exercise, there will be tremendous improvements in the way we conduct our elections at the NBA”, he added.

In addition, the NBA President has stated that his administration is committed to ensuring that Legal Practitioners benefit from Nigeria’s signed protocol on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

He however said “only law firms with capacity in the areas of international trade, international finance, international dispute resolution and allied areas, that can look to benefit from the opportunities to be afforded by this trade agreement.”

Meanwhile, he said with the approval of the NBA-NEC to make the Association’s Institute of Continuing Legal Education function maximally well, when the institute “comes on board, we’ll design courses and seminars tailored to how Lawyers and law firms can position to take the benefit of the opportunities to be afforded by the trade area. So, I think it comes down to three things: capacity building, intelligence gathering, and strategic networking/ partnerships. We’ll continue to provide members with privileged information coming to us as an Association in that regard, and we expect that they’ll sure make the best of it.”

Similarly, the NBA President has reiterated the desire of his administration to ensure that the welfare of members are his utmost priority and thus, “at the last meeting of the NBA NEC, I sought approval to launch the eight priority projects of my administration. About five of those projects are welfare focused.”

He added that “we are working to see how our members can access institutional funding that is available to micro, small and medium enterprises, during this pandemic and beyond. We are convinced that the structure of law firms, fit into the delineation of businesses as MSMEs. This is because, the 21st century law practice is essentially a business, and in advanced economies, law firms benefit from such government interventionist policies.”

Furthermore, the NBA President has stated that the problem with the nation’s Judiciary goes beyond funding but the candidates being recommended to the bench as well.

He said, “The problem of the Judiciary, is beyond funding. There’s an equally fundamental problem of the make-up of the people we send to our Benches. Therefore, we must attempt a handshake between funding and character of Judicial personnel. The dangers of a corrupt Judge to the jurisdiction where he sits, is better imagined. The legendary Justice Oputa, graphically equated it with a blind man running with a dagger into a crowd.” He however added that funding is equally part of the challenges because without the necessary funding, the judiciary may be susceptible to vulnerability.

In another development, the NBA President has noted that one of the conditions for the conferment of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as prescribed by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), which is the production of certified copies of Bank statements evidencing payment of practicing fees and Branch dues is targeted at checkmating fraud.

He said “In recent years, the process has been fraught with all manner of criminalities ranging from forgery of court processes, warts and all”, adding that “It therefore, begs the question; if applicants could forge Court processes, what would they not do with receipts of branch dues and duplicates of bank tellers evidencing timely payment of Bar practicing fees!”

In addition, Mr. Akpata has stated that the recent #EndSARS protests increased the political consciousness of the citizens.

He said “the protests achieved a lot in terms of the awareness created on the political consciousness of Nigerians who were before the protests, perceived by the political class as docile” and also added that the NBA assisted through his different interventions throughout the protest.

He noted that those saying the intervention of the Association wasn’t enough did not get it right and that “we didn’t just issue statements in condemnation of the ugly turn of the protests, we were also on ground through our branches to assist in the release of unlawfully arrested protesters; providing pro bono legal services where needed; partnering with the National Assembly in the draft of a legislation in response to some of the issues that led to the protests; and threatening legal action against the military both in local and international fora, if indicted by the panels of inquiry set up by the Federal Government and the State governments.”

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