You are amongst the three candidates that the Election Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has cleared to run for the office of President of the NBA. For a professional body that prides itself as Africa’s largest, why do you think Nigerian Lawyers should entrust and place in your hands, the running of the NBA for the next two years? What sets you apart from the others?
There are a few things, that set me apart from the other candidates. The first and most important, is my integrity. I am a stickler for doing things properly, and I cherish and treasure my reputation for probity and accountability. The second, is the variety of my practice experience, both historical and current. I am an accomplished advocate. I was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2007, and was the first member of my Nigerian Law School set of 1989 to be so elevated.
I am an accomplished solicitor. I have been involved in a significant number of corporate, commercial and capital market transactions. I was the pioneer Secretary, then Vice-Chairman and subsequently Chairman of the Capital Market Solicitors Association. I am an accomplished Arbitrator and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK). The third, is the fact that I am running for the office of President of the NBA as an independent candidate. I am not sponsored or backed by any of the acknowledged power blocks or “Cabals” in the NBA, and will thus, be able to take independent decisions, and by so doing, bring much needed unity to the Association.
What is the focal point of your manifesto? Other candidates talk about the welfare of Lawyers and this has been the mantra of every Presidential candidate in at least the past eight election cycles, yet none seems to be specific about how to actualise this. How do you intend to achieve this?
Welfare is indeed, the focal point of my manifesto. As I state in the manifesto, there is no dignity in poverty, and I am of the view that it will be difficult for Lawyers to effectively perform the roles society expect of us, if our basic welfare is not attended to. I intend to achieve this, by taking practical and concrete steps. First, I propose that the NBA take steps to ensure the establishment of minimum scales of fees for as wide a variety of legal work as possible, so as to strengthen the earning capacity of the profession. I intend to engage with members of the profession to agree on voluntary compliance with such scales, failing which disciplinary action will follow.
I intend to get the NBA to conduct a detailed survey, aimed at determining reasonable minimum remuneration for Lawyers in employment in various parts of the country, taking the varied costs of living and income generating opportunities in the various geographies into consideration. We will propose to issue these findings as recommendations, and devise creative means of encouraging employers to meet the recommended minimum. I propose for the NBA to issue employment guidelines, setting out the minimum terms and conditions that should be contained in a Lawyer’s contract of employment. These are just some of the welfare initiatives, outlined in my manifesto.
There appears to be discontent amongst Lawyers, about the relevance of the NBA to them as professionals. Also, the public is fast losing confidence in Lawyers and the justice delivery process in Nigeria.
Many now resort to self-help, or simply rely on the Police and other law enforcement agencies to resolve their conflicts. How do you hope to resolve this, if voted into office?
After welfare, this is the second issue I deal with in my manifesto. If voted into office, I propose to address this issue, by getting the NBA to agitate for significant justice sector reform. This will include agitating for increased funding, for the justice sector; increase in the number and quality of judicial personnel; increase in the use of technology; and significant legislative changes, to eliminate as many as possible of the procedural and substantive bottlenecks that give rise to the inefficiencies in our justice delivery sector.
It is on the lips of every Nigerian Lawyer that the NBA has lost its glory, and its role as the voice of the masses. To what extent is this assertion true, and what, in your view, can be done to change this narrative?
We must situate this concern, in the context of where our society is today. The NBA is not immune, from the many ills that plague our society. Thus, in order for it to regain its lost glory, I am of the view that we need to engage in a significant amount of introspection and self-cleansing. The NBA cannot effectively act as the voice of the masses, if the masses see the NBA or some of its members at least, as part of their problem. To change this narrative, we must re-examine our self-regulatory and disciplinary processes. As the saying goes, “Physician heal thyself”. It is only when the NBA cleans up its own act, that it can regain its lost glory, and I would like to make that happen.
How prepared is the average Nigerian Lawyer for the future, with regard to international trends in the practice of the profession? What role can the NBA play, to ensure that Nigerian Lawyers catch up with their peers globally?
The NBA has a significant role to play, in preparing the Nigerian Lawyer for the future. This will be achieved through training, conferencing, secondment schemes, networking and interaction with colleagues from other jurisdictions. I hold two offices in the International Bar Association, and one in the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Commission. These international positions provide me with ready access to and connection with international trends in the practice of the profession, which I will bring to bear as President of the NBA.
How clean have you run your campaign, bearing in the mind the rules set out in the 2015 NBA Constitution and the 2020 ECNBA Guidelines?
I have run a clean campaign, doing my best to stay within the confines of the NBA Constitution and the 2020 ECNBA Guidelines.