It was more of a summit than a mere plenary.
Even more than that, according to NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine correspondent at the Eko Atlantic City, the opening plenary of Tuesday, August 23 at the ongoing Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was an occasion for soul-searching on the part of the Association, its leadership and rank-and-file, as well as a compass, going forward.
The session, which was moderated by Oyinkansola Badejo-Okusanya, FCIArb, Partner at the Africa Law Firm (ALP) brought together on one stage a quartet of leaders whose commitment to the ideals and objectives of the Nigerian Bar (a commitment they have communicated over the years with clarity of vision and compelling eloquence) brought them to the top of the Association’s leadership summit. They included Abubakar B. Mahmud, SAN (President, 2016-2018); Paul Usoro, SAN (2018-2020); Olumide Akpata (2020-2022) and Yakubu C. Maikyau, SAN (whose two-year tenure begins Friday after his formal inauguration).
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The session was also graced by past Bar leaders such as Emeritus President Chief Onommibo Okpoko, SAN; Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; and Chief OCJ Okocha, among others.
In his opening salvo, current NBA President Akpata emphasised a number of key points going forward: a) the NBA needs to manage its tangible and intangible assets in an intentional manner and run more like a business than as just a professional grouping; b) the Association’s NEC must be more fully involved in the day-to-day concerns of the Bar; c) a well-managed Secretariat is indispensable to any Association desirous of making a difference. He echoed the long-standing clamour for the establishment of a Secretariat Management Board, as a solution to the challenges militating against the optimum performance of the Secretariat; d) the need to leverage on technology. He announced plans by the Association to launch a new tech app at the close of the 62nd Conference, which will aid the effectiveness of the Secretariat, and also allow lawyers to carry out functions such as paying their Bar practice fees more seamlessly.
AB Mahmud, SAN, whose tenure saw a renewed focus on regulatory effectiveness and consistency in a bid to birth a Brave New Bar, made the point that any transition – bold or otherwise – must be undergirded by sustainability and consistency, always keeping in mind that the NBA is saddled with two key responsibilities: to its members (and especially early-stage lawyers); and to the society as a whole.
Also speaking, Paul Usoro, whose tenure placed great emphasis on accountability, also reiterated the need for transparency to remain the Association’s watchword.
On his part, YC Maikyau, who is currently Chairman of the NBA’s Welfare Committee, saluted the role of the Akpata administration in the institutionalisation of initiatives such as the Health Insurance Scheme, continuous legal education for young lawyers, among others, and pledged to take these innovations in lawyers’ welfare to new heights, as well as build on Mahmud’s legacy in regulation, and Usoro’s legacy in accountability. He also restated his commitment to explore avenues to reduce – if not eliminate – the scourge of unemployment among lawyers, namely, by synergising with key stakeholders in both the public and private sectors of the economy, including the government.
He also pledged to work in the spirit of the newfound boost in the NBA’s profile and fortunes – without sacrificing its principles for the sake of expediency. ‘We shall speak truth to both powers and principalities,’ he declared.
NEWSWIRE correspondent also reports that In an equally robust Q&A session, participants expressed concerns over a wide range of issues, notable among them the controversy over the appointment of judges and the NBA’s role (or lack thereof) in the process – an issue which the venerable Chief Okpoko, SAN, called a battle worth fighting.