COMMUNIQUE: NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION – SECTION ON LEGAL PRACTICE CONFERENCE

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HELD AT IBOM ICON HOTEL AND GOLF
RESORT, UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE
13TH – 16TH JUNE 2021

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION’S SECTION ON LEGAL
PRACTICE (SLP) AT THE END OF ITS 2021 CONFERENCE HELD AT THE IBOM ICON
HOTEL AND GOLF RESORT, UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE FROM 13TH TILL 16TH JUNE 2021
WITH THE THEME, “LAW, LAWYERS AND THE NEXT GENERATION.”

PREAMBLE

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Legal Practice (SLP) is the first Section established by the Nigerian Bar Association.

The Section was set up to promote the exchange of information and views among members of the Section and other like-minded bodies on the laws, practices and other procedures affecting legal practitioners locally and internationally.

The SLP Conference is therefore a platform to assist members develop and improve their legal services to the public by promoting and providing continuing Legal Education.

It is also a forum where topical issues, which affect legal practice, are brought to the front burner for deliberation.

To this end, the 2021 Section on Legal Practice Annual Conference with the theme, “LAW, LAWYERS AND THE NEXT GENERATION” held at the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, from the 13th to 16th of June 2021.

The Conference commenced on Sunday the 13th day of June 2021 with a welcome cocktail hosted by the Section on Legal Practice Council and sponsored by Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, immediate past president of the NBA.

The Conference featured about 8 technical sessions with over 37 speakers and discussants who spoke on various subthemes to wit:
I. Making Nigeria works for us
II. Judicial autonomy: To whom much is given, what is expected?
III. Covid-19, Vaccination Mandates, and the Law
IV. The end of Litigators? Awakening the next generation
V. Financing the Law Firm: What models?
VI. Data Protection and Cyber-security: Are law firms prepared? The Conference was a huge success, and the discussions were robust, invigorating, and thought-provoking.

Several speakers presented well-articulated papers and discussions on these papers were presented by teams of carefully selected panelists, all specialists in the areas discussed.

At the end, a communiqué reflecting the resolutions reached at the Conference as well as the steps to be taken to achieve them were formulated.

RESOLUTIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS

1. The Conference unanimously agrees that Nigeria as currently structured, is dysfunctional; and the most obvious indication of this dysfunction is her 3 regression from previous levels of performance and good governance especially with respect to the quality of life of its people. It is therefore imperative to urgently implement fundamental and drastic reforms to redirect the nation on development paths to work for all.

2. The Conference agrees that poverty, mass unemployment and growing insecurity confronting Nigeria are the result of the inability or unwillingness of the leadership to make the effort and sacrifices required to build a nation out of our diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. The N B A Section on Legal Practice (NBA-SLP) therefore stresses that it is imperative to subsume all regional identities under one Nigerian identity if democratic governance and nation-building are to succeed. The current security challenges currently bedeviling the Nation are as a result of pent-up and long-suppressed frustrations.

3. The C o n f e r e n c e observes that the Nigerian crisis, at its core, b r e e d s eruptions of long-suppressed frustrations of the poor against the political class and the high-income class of citizens in the society. Poverty is the most dangerous threat to the rule of law and the practice of democracy and therefore must be addressed head-on even if it means challenging the complacency of the rich on behalf of the poor. The Conference urges the Government to deploy policies which will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and promote equality. It also canvasses that lives and property are sacrosanct and must be secured.

4. The Conference condemns the lack of an equal platform for diverse voices in the national discourse. It therefore calls for inclusive participation and equality in governance. Gender equality and increased participation of women and all ethnic groups in governance is one of the ways of making Nigeria work for all. This is a shared vision which must be sold to the people and practiced intentionally by Government.

5. The present Constitution of the N i g e r i a n nation is a key impediment to progress. It is therefore necessary for the National Assembly to address the following as a matter of urgency: the reform of the Exclusive List toward decongesting same; restructuring and devolution of powers away from the centre; fiscal federalism; a more equitable revenue-sharing formula; electoral reforms; judicial independence and financial autonomy; gender parity and women’s participation in governance; a robust security architecture characterised by multi-level policing; and constitutional guarantees of social, economic and human rights.

  1. The Conference sadly observes that the voices of division and secession in Nigeria are louder today than those of national unity and cohesion. The urgent task of the moment is to temper divisive voices by undertaking actions and promoting attitudes that narrow the widening national fault-lines, ensuring justice, and creating a sense of belonging for all constituent people. In this regard, it is imperative that the Government convenes a national conference to address the concerns of constituent entities and ethnic nationalities agitating for secession.
  2. The Conference calls for a fully automated judicial system from the filing of court processes to the delivery of judgment. A system should be technically evolved to the point where certain applications or court documents can be processed and obtained online without being physically present at the court premises.
  3. The Conference notes that the judiciary is grossly underfunded, and that arm of government still does not enjoy autonomy. Consequently, the Conference calls for adequate funding of the justice and full implementation of the constitutionally guaranteed financial autonomy of the Judiciary, as well as total independence of the Judiciary. The Judiciary is equally urged to adopt protocols and empower its constitutionally provided structures and processes, to assure their independence and insulation from external interference.
  4. Disobedience of court orders by the Executive is an issue of grave concern made worse by the fact that the enforcement of court orders is carried out by the Executive using the Police. As a remedy, a specialized force should be created under the direction and supervision of the heads of courts and this force/body will be charged with the sole responsibility of enforcing court orders and judgments rather than relying on the Police which is an arm of the Executive. This assures true independence of the Judiciary.
  5. The Conference also supports that the appointment of judges must be open and transparent such that meritocracy is enthroned on the Bench.
  6. Members of the Bar are reminded that their relevance will not be measured by the impeccability of the lawyer’s advocacy or drafting skills, but by their ability to give practical solutions to emerging, technology-driven challenges. To this end, the Conference urges members of the Bar to integrate the global, automated digital world with traditional legal structures in order to provide a framework within which these new technologies can be harnessed to enable members to compete in a global economy. Young lawyers must acquire ICTrelated skills to be technologically savvy and relevant in this emerging technological economy.

    12. The Conference recognizes the need for lawyers to start a new conversation as rebuilders of our institutions and urges the older generation of lawyers to mentor, impart positive values of integrity, credibility, and professionalism of the profession to the next generation.

    13. With the emergence of arbitration and conciliation as a force in dispute resolution, the Section recommends a repositioning, and encouragement of such solutions for effective dispute resolution and development of law firms in Nigeria for greater impact and efficiency.

    14. The Conference frowns at the excesses of members of the Bar who have to been provided with the opportunity of occupying public offices and recommends that such members be made to face the Disciplinary Committee wherever their actions have been found to be less than desirable as professional misconduct.

    15. The Conference advises employers to enforce Covid-19 protocols at the workplace and encourages employees to take the vaccine to guaranty the safety of all workers. However, for employees who refuse to do so, it is recommended that work-from-home policies be put in place by employers of labour for such employees. Furthermore, while employees may refuse to get vaccinated, such employees should be subjected to regular Covid-19 tests at their own cost.

    16. The Conference resolves that, as a way of improving the practice of law, the Bar and Bench should refocus on excellent justice delivery for clients rather than delaying or stalemating cases with unnecessary interlocutory applications based on procedural/technical issues.

    17. The Conference urges law firms and organizations to build the capacity of young lawyers by sponsoring them to workshops and Conferences which provides them with professional development and networking opportunities.

    18. There is the need to enhance the financial status of young lawyers by the recommendation of a minimum wage and stipulation of better working conditions for young lawyers in view of present economic realities.

    19. It is important for legal practitioners to adopt a mechanism to ensure that clients are billed in a way that is commensurate with the value of legal services. Lawyers must be conscious of demonstrating value to clients on all instructions.

    20. The Conference realizes that female lawyers within the profession are not able to effectively compete with their male counterparts in legal service delivery as a result of subtle gender biases and systemic challenges which consider them to be primary caregivers of families and may not be able to handle the rigorous work ethics demanded by legal practice. The Section therefore recommends that law firms consciously create a level playing field for all genders and make provisions and accommodation within the legal structure to make the work-life more balanced for female lawyers.

    21. The Conference recommends the appointment of more judges and the construction of more courtrooms to promote the speedy dispensation of justice and restore public confidence in the justice system, especially for speedy completion of litigation.

    22. To access financing for law firm development, the Conference urges the NBA leadership to approach banks and other financial institutions to partner with them and work out a template to address the challenges of high-interest rates for loans and other credit facilities to be granted to lawyers and law firms.

    23. The Conference recognizes the urgent need for the National Assembly to expedite action in passing the bill on Data and Digital protection in Nigeria which is still pending before the legislative house.

    24. Lawyers should take data protection and cybersecurity seriously so that they will not inadvertently breach their duty of Confidentiality of clients’ information.

    25. The Conference resolves that there is an urgent need for more legal practitioners to be employed as Data Compliance Protection Officers (DCPO) and urged lawyers to develop knowledge and skill in that field.

    26. The Conference identified the recurrent development of police excesses and breach of existing laws in their quest for enforcing the law and urged law enforcement agencies in the country to always keep within the ambit of law 7 in their enforcement efforts.

    DATED THIS 16TH DAY OF JUNE 2021.

  7. OLUSEUN ABIMBOLA, SAN, F.CArb TONYE KRUKRUBO MCIArb
  8. CHAIRMAN, NBA SLP SECRETARY NBA-SLP

  9. CHIEF FERDINAND ORBIH, SAN
  10. CHAIRMAN, NBA-SLP CONFERENCE
  11. PLANNING COMMITTEE 2021


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