The effective implementation of service compact between any association and its members rests squarely within the purview of the office of the General Secretary. Consequently, the nexus between the office of the General Secretary and effective service delivery to the members is not only critical, but also non negotiable.
The office of the General Secretary defines the standard of service delivery accruable to members. Indeed, the realization of any unifying promise of professional growth or capacity building for members is dependent on the efficiency or effectiveness of the office of the General Secretary.
By the provision of Article 8(5)e of the Amended Constitution of NBA 2015, the General Secretary shall be in charge of the National Secretariat. And by its NEC Resolution of 25th November, 2010, the NBA described the Secretariat as its ‘engine house’ required to be responsive to the needs of its members and to establish its relevance in addressing the challenges of its members in all its branches across the nation, to be coordinated by the General Secretary as the elected officer of the NBA.
When Alao Aka-Bashorun, as the President of the NBA, conceived the idea, and established the NBA Secretariat in 1990, there were less than 20,000 lawyers in the country. At this time, interaction and communication between the bar and its members were purely personal and analogue. However, with the call to bar of the last set of law school students into the Nigerian Bar, the secretariat now has well over 160,000 members to cater for.
Not only has the population of lawyers expanded, the demography of bar activities and interactions have also evolved, requiring paradigm shift from analogue style of managing our ‘engine house’ to a 21st century technology compliant, professionalized suave and capacity assured style. Or how else can we explain a 21st century leading professional association like the Nigerian Bar Association with a website that is neither interactive nor electronic payment enabled?
What is the rationale behind lawyers still queuing up at banks across the country in the name of paying practicing fees at an age when people now engage their banks online in the comfort of their homes and offices? If committees organising our conferences and conducting our elections can engage members online and electronically, why can’t the ‘engine house’ of our dear foremost association? It is, therefore, time to unlearn the old way of service delivery to members and re-learn a more dynamic and result oriented style of managing a 21st century professional bar association. We cannot continue to engage with the old style in the scheme of things and begin to expect new results. It is time the bar secretariat is brought closer to its members in terms of service delivery to justify membership and involvement in the affairs of the bar. Bi-annual general election should not be the only activity that should ignite our consciousness as members of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Record had indicated that before the introduction of the stamp regime by the Augustine Alegeh-led administration, just about 20% of members of our noble association pay their ‘membership dues’, otherwise called professional fees. The number has merely increased in recent time due to the need for lawyers to be able to apply for the stamp. To some, the question has always been, and still is, ‘what has NBA offered me?’ The bar is not seen as offering a unifying value based proposition justifying affinity, loyalty and continued involvement in the activities of the association, and the reason for this is simple: the ‘engine house’ of the association is not appropriately positioned to cater for the evolving and dynamic needs of its teeming members.
In order to reposition our secretariat for a result oriented service delivery to the members of the bar, in order to guarantee professional growth and capacity building and required mentorship for upcoming generations of young lawyers, the next General Secretary of the NBA must be a tested 21st century compliant, technology driven, highly skilled, human and capital resources experienced manager. Accordingly, the 2018 NBA election of National Officers coming up in July this year should provide us the answer to the question, ‘what has NBA offered me’?
Dr. Mobolaji Ojibara is a past Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin branch, an Arbitrator and a Fellow of the Institute of Natural and Human Resources.