KEYNOTE WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SURULERE LAWYERS’ FORUM, PRINCE EDDY NJOKU

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The Chairman of the Dinner occasion, Dr. Oluwakemi Pinheiro SAN;

The Guest of Honour, Hon. Femi Gbajamiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria;

Guest Speaker, Prof. F. E. Nlerum;

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The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Y. C. Maikyau SAN;

The Patron, Surulere Lawyers’ Forum, Mr. Abiodun Ogundeji;

Royal Fathers, my lords temporal and spiritual;

Distinguished Senior Advocates of Nigeria;

Chairman, Dinner Committee, SLF, Mr. Olumuyiwa Owolabi

Distinguished Seniors and colleagues, and all invited guests.

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to today’s 2022 Annual Dinner of the Surulere Lawyers Forum as I use this occasion to showcase to you some of the landmarks recorded by the SLF since its creation some 17 years – precisely in 2005.

It is my further pleasure to address you as the 7th Chairman of the SLF, having succeeded six Chairmen Emeritus, namely, Chief Victor Iyanam; Otunba Martins Ogunleye; Chief Fred Okoye; Mrs. Chioma Ferguson; Mr. Yusuf Bamijoko Bello; and Mr. Celestine Okonkwo, all of whom are still alive.

Surulere Lawyers Forum was basically formed as a welfare-based forum to cater for the needs of ourselves. To this end, we introduced the Surulere Health Walk and aerobics that do so much to improve our health. The Forum started principally as a forum for lawyers who reside, or have their offices, in Surulere, Lagos.

But today, it is no longer so, because the Forum has expanded to accommodate other lawyers wherever they are in Lagos State. Most of our members belong to the Lagos and Ikeja NBA Branches. To this effect, on the 16th of March 2022, our Chairman Emeritus, Mr. Celestine Okonkwo signed into law a brand-new Constitution for the Forum which was modelled after the uniform bye-laws for branches, bearing in mind that a day shall come when the Forum shall become a Branch of the NBA, so that the implementation of the Constitution to the status of the NBA would not be difficult to implement.

The Forum, through its immediate past administration, indeed made spirited efforts, endured pains and challenges towards seeing the Forum become a Branch of the NBA. To this end, a Branch Actualization Committee was set up, headed by Chief Fred Okoye with the support of other eminent colleagues within and outside the Forum. The Committee worked very assiduously, murdered sleep, and endured pains to see that the SLF attains Branch status.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is sweet to announce to you that sometime in May or June 2022, the dream of SLF came true; the Branch status was given to the SLF based on its request and application to the National Body. It pleased God that Mr. Olumide Akpata now desired, considered, went through records, checked the population and checked the timely method we pay our practice and Branch dues. Therefore, he beat his chest and put his foot down that the Surulere Lawyers Forum deserved to be made a Branch of the NBA.

Today, the SLF has been named a Branch of the NBA, alongside two other Branches in Abuja.

The news of the Branch status of the SLF was in the news; it was widely published and circulated in the media. And that’s not the end. The great Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in one of his press interviews, interpreted ‘Surulere’ to mean ‘Patience has its reward’. We of the SLF have waited patiently for our Branch dream to manifest.

Now my special appeal goes to the Chief Judge of Lagos State to accelerate the process of baptizing the Surulere Lawyers Forum as a Branch of the NBA by issuing us our baptismal certificate on time, so that the efforts of our great Bar leaders at the National level will not be in vain. In addition, I wish to call on the incumbent President of the NBA, Mr. Y. C. Maikyau SAN to please step up and take our request to the CJ, Lagos State.

I trust that the moment the SLF gets its baptismal certificate from the CJ, the SLF will contribute immensely in assisting the courts in its jurisdiction, either the High Court or the Magistrate’s Court.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will not end this address without placing special thanks to the Dinner Committee for organizing this wonderful Dinner within a short space of time. The quality of this Dinner has really justified the Branch status of the SLF. I am confident that next year’s Dinner will be even better.

Finally, I thank all our sponsors who assisted us in no small measure towards attaining the level of this Dinner. I also thank the Chairman of this occasion, the Guest Speaker, the Guest of Honour, and everyone sitting in this Hall.

Now, let’s enjoy the Dinner. Thank you.

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