On the 12th day of October 2019, there was a press release by the NBA announcing the executive members of the young lawyers’ forum who were appointed by Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, the president of the NBA, to occupy the offices of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer respectively.
This act of the President of the NBA has got most individuals thinking of the constitutionality of this action.
The Young Lawyers Forum is a body created by the NBA to give lawyers who are within the ages of 1- 7 years post call an opportunity to express themselves, while interacting with themselves to enhance their careers as lawyers.
While the Young Lawyers Forum has been used in the past as an avenue to bring together young lawyers to serve as political campaign agents, less important roles in the NBA.
Kudos must be given to Senior Lawyers, branches of the bar, and the various fora of the NBA that have sponsored members of the Young Lawyers Forum to conferences and have given members of the forum a soft landing in their career.
While most persons especially the young lawyers think the Young Lawyers Forum is a creation of the NBA president, a committee of the NBA or that it is just an informal gathering of individuals.
It is important to note that the Young Lawyers Forum is a creation of the NBA constitution 2015, whose amendment was adopted on the 29th day of August 2019.
Part II of the Third Schedule of the NBA Constitution 2015 which is headed the “ The Nigerian Bar Association Uniform Bye-Law for Sections, Institutes, and Fora” contains the provisions that guide the Young Lawyers Forum, as the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution defines fora to include NBA Young Lawyers Forum.
The management of the Young Lawyers Forum is hinged on two levels of leadership which is the Council members and the officers of the forum.
Article XII of the Bye Law Provides for the composition of Council members. And provides thus:
“(a) Composition: There shall be a Section’s, Institute’s or Forum’s (delete as appropriate) Council which shall consist of:
(i) The Officers of the Section, Institute or Forum (delete as appropriate);
(ii) The immediate past Chairman and Secretary of the Section, Institute or Forum (delete as appropriate);
(iii)Not more than Five (5) nominated members; and
(iv)Not more than Three (3) co-opted members. “
While Articles VIII of the bye law provides for the officers of the forum and states thus:
“Article VIII Officers
The Officers of each Section, Institute or Forum shall be the Chair, Vice- Chair, Secretary and Treasurer…..”
Article XIV of the Bye Law provides for the election of Officers of the forum
“Article XIV Election
- The election of Section, Institute and Forum Officers and elected members of the council shall take place in the manner herein set out at each Biennial General Meeting of the Section, Institute or Forum “
An understanding of the above stated provisions of the Bye Law of the NBA Young Lawyers Forum which is embedded in the NBA constitution of 2015 as amended. It is clear that, there is a difference between council members of the forum and officers of the forum as the officers of the forum which are the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary, should be elected and not appointed.
Flowing from the above provisions of the law, as stated above, the appointment of the officers of the Young Lawyers Forum by Mr. Paul Usoro, President of the NBA is a gross contravention of the constitution of the NBA, which he swore in his oath of office to protect.
The constitution of the NBA is bigger than any member of the bar and should be respected by every member of the bar, as the future of the bar is in danger in situations like this when those who should protect the Constitution openly flout it.
I stand to commend the chairmen of the various branches of the NBA who have respected the provisions of the law and allowed the Young Lawyers Forum in their branches to conduct elections, and we also urge the chairmen of branches who are not decided on the position to take with respect to the gross contravention of the law by the President of the NBA to brace up and abide by the provisions of the NBA constitution and not be scared of the growth of the younger ones.
We must all protect the sanctity of the bar.
Onome Jesse Nwose Esq.Writes from Asaba, Jnwose2@gmail.com