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NBA 2014 AGC – Reflects on Nigeria’s Future at 100


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Nigeria

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September.02.2014

Until Wednesday August 20, nobody was really sure that the 2014 NBA Conference would hold as earlier planned. There had been stringent calls on the leadership of the NBA to cancel or postpone the conference on account of the imminent danger of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Like other Nigerians, the fear of Ebola by lawyers was the beginning of wisdom and most had decided to stay away from the conference in Owerri.

The prognostication was that if one single lawyer with Ebola came into contact with other lawyers at the conference, he would be a vector and veritable agent of transmission to thousands of other lawyers.

It took the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Health to resolve the seeming crisis and it was after a meeting with the Okey Wali Administration of the NBA in Abuja on Thursday August 21. Many lawyers had before then made up their minds to stay away from Owerri and it was therefore expected that attendance would be poor.

Contrary to these expectations, the International Conference Centre, Owerri, Venue of the opening ceremony was filled to capacity, with many lawyers unable to find sitting space in the hall and the galleries.

Pre-Conference activities
With the theme ‘Nigeria, A 100 Years After’ Conference programme kicked off with Moslem lawyers observing a Jumat Service on Friday at the Owerri Central Mosque. This was followed by a special Thanksgiving Service for Christian lawyers at the Anglican Church.
The pre-conference National Executive Committee meeting at the Imo Concorde Hotel was essentially agenda setting. As Okey Wali’s last NEC meeting as president of the association, it afforded him the opportunity to give an account of his two-year stewardship as well as other key-officers of the administration.

Opening Ceremonies
It must be noted that the opening ceremony on Monday took off quite late, due basically to the large turnout of lawyers and the challenge of managing such a huge crowd, including screening for Ebola and security checks.

The opening ceremony was chaired by Nigeria’s former Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, General Yakubu Gown, with Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State as Chief Host. Other political heavy weights and government functionaries present included the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN (representing President Goodluck Jonathan), Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Senator Ita Enang, Senator Osita Izunaso and Justices John Fabiyi (representing the Chief Justice of Nigeria) and Cletus Nweze of the Supreme Court.
It was followed by the traditional Show-Case Session which is the hallmark of every NBA annual general conference.

Keynote Speaker
This year’s keynote lecture was delivered by renowned historian, Dr. George Amale Kwanashie.

Tambuwal’s Remarks
One of the major highlights of the opening ceremony was the goodwill message of the Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

Tambuwal who is also a seasoned legal practitioner commended the leadership of the NBA for not submitting cheaply to the prevailing scare of the Ebola pandemic

He further commended the NBA for its just concluded elections, noting that ‘the election had all the trappings of make or mar, it is therefore to the credit of the Association that the election was concluded rancour free. While I commend the sportsmanship of those who did not make it at these elections, I wish to admonish those who were elected that the burden of leadership now rests squarely on their shoulders and it is their lot to judiciously manage same.’

On the theme chosen for the conference " NIGERIA A 100 YEARS AFTER" he said ‘I believe that  a hundred years post Amalgamation is yet another critical period for stock taking as we look forward to commencing our journey into the second century of nationhood.

The present times are not the best for our dear country. We face grave insecurity of formidable proportions arising from the insurgency in the North Eastern States, spate of kidnappings and ritual killings as well as other forms of violence resulting in the wanton destructions of lives and property across the nation.

Life has been further cheapened by the outbreak of Lassa, and most recently, Ebola pandemics. I wish to highly commend the Federal and Lagos State governments for the proactive and efficient handling of this Ebola outbreak. Let me encourage us also that our armed forces, security agencies and medical experts are working assiduously and with God on our side, we shall overcome.
Our politics which is supposed to be a pleasant routine for the common good has become a source of sickening stress for the citizenry: commendable gains made today are either discarded or unwittingly lost tomorrow only to start all over again. Today instead of looking forth to 2015 with joy and pleasant expectations, the average citizen is overtaken by apprehension.

When the complexion of election conducted by a civilian regime assumes the semblance of that conducted by a military junta, it is obvious that the nation needs help. The nation craves for credible a election which means elections that are free, fair, transparent and peaceful. Elections which are merely peaceful through the instrumentality of force and intimidation are neither democratic nor credible.
We suffer gross infrastructural deficit, we are growing our socio - political and economic institutions with perplexing reluctance, and our overall economic growth indices speak contrastingly with our human development indices, yet true development is people centered. When we celebrate magnificent growth indices in the face of worsening abject poverty, the true implication must be that there is something fundamentally wrong. What the nation needs desperately now is to extricate itself from this circle of error and I dare to say that we possess the capacity to do so.

Lest we forget, let me remind us that I am part of government and when I speak out on these governance failings I neither suggest that it started today nor that I am excluded wholly from blame, perhaps in house we can apportion blame amongst us. I am however strongly persuaded that the greatest disservice that man can do to himself and society is to indulge in self-deceit. If I see magnificent economic growth indices and after traversing our rural communities what I see is worsening poverty I should have the courage to tell myself the truth no matter how bitter.

The members of the Nigerian legal profession and indeed the Nigerian Bar Association have always been at the vanguard in defense of our democracy, the preservation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights. We remember our fallen heroes both at the Bar and on the Bench who have employed legal and judicial activism to better the lot of society. I also acknowledge the few who are still keeping the flag flying today. Learned colleagues, their labour must not be in vain.

At the end of this conference, I am confident that the various contributions and ideas generated from this wonderful theme under consideration, would produce formidable material for use in good governance and nation building to the benefit of all Nigerians and to the credit of the NBA.’

Okey Wali’s Valedictory Conference
Being his last conference as NBA President, Mr. Okey Wali SAN spoke to Nigerian lawyers on a number of crucial national and professional issues.

He said ‘This is the second and final occasion of my welcoming you to an Annual Bar Conference as President of the NBA, as I shall, by His grace, be bowing out of office on the 29th of August, 2014, the last day of this conference, at the end of my two year tenure as President of the NBA. It has been a very rewarding experience and I am very humbled by the privilege of the opportunity given to me by you, my dear colleagues to serve as your President. I thank God for His Grace.

I began my year as President in August 2012, adopting a ten (10) point agenda, as my cardinal programme, inherent in this, are the tripartite role of the Bar Association, which are, representation, regulation, and advocacy in the public interest.

Every member of the NBA knows that there must be consequences for misconduct at the Bar. Within the two year life span of this administration, 12 members of the NBA were disbarred and five suspended for varying number of years for various acts of professional misconduct. This is more than the number of members of the Bar disciplined for professional misconduct in the last thirty years.  

We have implemented a stamp and seal policy of the NBA, as effective 1st of April, 2015, you can only practice law in Nigeria, if you have your seal and stamp, issued by the Nigerian Bar Association. So the issue of fake lawyers becomes a thing of the past.

The theme of this year’s conference was carefully chosen in view of the current state of affairs in Nigeria. We believe that one of the challenges facing Nigeria as a nation, is the absence of knowing the historical background of our dear country Nigeria, before attempting to solve the various problems our dear country is currently facing. There is an adage that says, once you know the genesis of your problems; your problems are half solved.

Several other eminent Nigerians, actually over 150, have been selected to speak on various topics at over 40 different sessions of this Conference. 
The problem that started with a small following of a radicalised Islamic preacher that was allowed to or rather, encouraged to take a life of its own.

As we have repeatedly stated, we have Religious Boko Haram, Political Boko Harm and Criminal Boko Haram, and so, allegedly, with quite some sympathisers, in unexpected quarters, we now have a monster in our hands, taking an international dimension. Some otherwise, lovely parts of our country, well suited for events of this nature, are suddenly, no go areas.

We have long passed the stage of blame games and finger pointing, we are now at the stage of drastic actions to deal with the situation and make every part of Nigeria safe and secured for all. By virtue of the Constitutional Provision, enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, which provides that, the security and protection of lives and property is the primary duty of government.

In all fairness, the problems preceded the present administrations, federal and states. Our concern however, is with the handling of the situation. Yes, we will need to deploy soldiers to liberate parts of the country, not only from Boko Haram, but from all sorts of criminality. Creating more divisions of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Police, DSS etc. is not and cannot be the solution for today and tomorrow, it might be for today, but definitely not for tomorrow. This is not to show disrespect for the marvelous job our soldiers are doing and I pray for the peaceful repose of their souls, whilst giving our deepest condolence to their families, as well as our best wishes to those injured or incapacitated. We salute their patriotism. The fact is that they may very well have been kept off harm's way, if the needful had been done in the past. 

Unless and until we ensure the independence of the Judiciary and fix our Criminal Justice System and justice delivery system, we would not have started the journey to making this country safe and secure.

Let me say this for the umpteenth time, no foreign investor will come to an unsafe country to do business. No matter the amount of travelling around the world, in the name of seeking foreign investors by government officials.
Fixing this economy is not going to be a tea party, coming from where we are coming from, but then, there is something called the burden of leadership.

The buck stops somewhere, Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its right on your table. The NBA wishes you well. 
Our elections took place  successfully between the 14th and 15th of July, 2014, and a new executive headed by Augustine Alegeh, SAN, was elected on the 15th of July, 2014 and will, as earlier stated, be inaugurated on the 29th of August, 2014 to lead the NBA for the next two years, till August, 2016, by His grace.

If I must comment on our elections this year, a lot of issues were thrown up and I believe the succeeding administration will pay more attention to the issue of electoral reforms. There were too many smear campaigns, zoning also had so much attention, actually much more than it should and sadly, all of this was in the media. One of my saddest days as the President of the NBA thus far, was the day we paid a courtesy visit to a revered traditional ruler in course of our NEC meeting and he said this to us by way of royal advice if you are who you say you are, and if you are who we think you are, then we should not be reading what we read about your elections in the media".

Maybe this is why a lot of our colleagues have always had deep concerns about the practice of zoning at the Bar. For many, a professional body like the NBA should have no business with such a policy, but the truth is that, unofficially, we do. It is not known to the NBA Constitution, but unofficially, zoning has always, quietly, existed along the lines of original three regions of east, west, and north. The down side of this practice in the last exercise was that some of our leaders, who should guide us, did not get it right on this occasion. If anything, some made things worse, as it became fashionable to read leaders, taking positions in newspapers and on the internet, about bar elections. This has never happened in the history of NBA elections and most unfortunately, in some cases, history, with respect, stood on its head.

Two lessons for Nigerians from our elections are; -
1.      Transparency of the process; and
2.      The attitude of the contestants who lost at the elections. It is important to point out that lesson number 2 is invariably linked to lesson number 1.
In spite of all the mud-slinging, easily classified as our worst experience ever, but due to the transparency of the process, the other contestants felt satisfied enough to accept the result and congratulated the winners. That was a big lesson for our Country. If our elections are transparent, fair and credible, those who loose fairly and squarely, would, we believe, have no justification in rejecting the outcome. Like they say, you cannot beat up a child and stop him or her from crying. That is the challenge for organisers of election in our country.
2015 elections shall be a watershed in our political history, get it right and we shall be on our way to entrenched and flourishing democracy. The converse must not be imagined, because we must get it right.

Our law reports provide ample evidence that what determines who is elected in Nigeria is not performance but perversion - of the electoral process. There is no incentive for sensitive governance; a government that listens to the people; allows the input and criticisms of the governed; and is capable of submitting itself to civilised legality. The Bar strongly believes that it is only through free, fair and credible elections that good governance can thrive.

There has been remarkable improvement in the conduct of elections as evidenced in Ekiti and Osun States but I shall say no more as there are ongoing litigations on the outcome of these elections, but there is no disputing the fact that quite some improvements have been made. But we need to do more on electoral reforms and voter education, and Very importantly the setting up of electoral offenses commission. 

Lawpavilion as Conference IT Partners
The Conference which had LawPavilion as its official ICT partners was considered to be the most IT driven annual conference the legal industry has ever had. This year’s witnessed new innovations with regards to Information Technology. LawPavilion as a result of its great commitment in promoting excellence in the legal industry and a demonstration of its investment in the success of the Nigeria lawyers became an official ICT partner with the NBA to bring advancement in technology and support to the growth of the legal profession at large.
During the conference LawPavilion provided free internet WiFI hotspot area where lawyers could go and surf through the web. LawPavilion as an electronic law reporting firm concentrates on providing IT services for the legal industry because of its passion and drive to bring speedy dispensation of justice.

Mr. Ope Olugasa, CEO Grace Info Tech, Publishers of LawPavilion delivered a paper on the topic “21st Century Lawyer: Key Strategic Technology to Advance Your Legal Practice” at the British Nigeria Law Forum of the NBA Conference amplified the advantages of technology to lawyers listing some available technologies for lawyers, which includes electronic legal research/e-library, websites and social media, case management software.

He emphasised the need for every law firm and lawyer to have a website and social media platforms which would help lawyers network better. He advised everyone to take a bold step, and re-invent their business model. The Chairman of the British Nigeria Law Forum admonished lawyers on the need for technology to aid a better legal practice. “Go ye and apply the requisite knowledge,” he said.

As part of its IT support for the NBA Annual General Conference, LawPavilion officially launched its “Tabletarisation campaign”, offering every lawyer in the country an opportunity to own a tablet at a much reduced cost, starting from N40, 000. It also unveiled a subscription version enabling young lawyer’s access its electronic law reports for just N3, 000 monthly subscriptions.

A major highlight and of great interest to lawyers was cheering news that LawPavilion is collaborating with Samsung to put a tablet in the hands of every lawyer in Nigeria. The tablets Mr. Olugasa said during his presentation will eliminate the issue of power outages, as they have long battery life that lasts for as long as 10 hours. The tablets he further said are also easy to use as everyone who can write with a pen can use them. 

He promised that LawPavilion in conjunction with Samsung will soon unveil a support facility for young lawyers to acquire technology tools with ease.  
He also called on all NBA branches to take advantage of forth coming nationwide training of NBA members in digital skills, being organized in partnership with Samsung and other institutions.

Still in view of providing ICT support for the NBA Annual General Conference, LawPavilion provided flash drives which contained the conference program, lecture papers, etc. for participants. The flash drives also contained a demo version of LawPavilion Case Management Software which is also contained in the Official NBA Annual General Conference 2014 Android App, available on Google Play Store.

It includes links to program of events, conference papers, NBA’s twitter handle, Facebook page, live streaming video, etc. Daily Newsletters were emailed to lawyer in order to provide a blow to blow account on activities at the conference for the benefit of lawyers who did not attend. 

Okey Wali SAN and Babalakin SAN Receive commendations for New NBA House
The completed second phase of the NBA House, in Lagos, funded by lawyer and businessman, Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN, topped the scorecard of the Okey Wali outgoing administration and this was contained in a short documentary film presented to conferees.
The documentary shown to guests and participants at opening ceremony of the conference, opened with the video of the inauguration of the six-floor edifice, done by Wali himself, and witnessed by his successor, Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN, Babalakin, among other dignitaries.

The building is located on a prime, but landlocked, plot in the highbrow Victoria Island, which had lain fallow for several years.
The documentary, which was seen by guests, including the former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Imo’s Governor Rochas Okorocha and Delta’s Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, among others, also featured a tribute to Wali by Babalakin.

In the video, Babalakin noted: “Wali dedicated himself thoroughly to the project. He came to Lagos specifically on a number of occasions, and I recollect with great appreciation, and sometimes nostalgia that we walked round the premises, not only once, not twice, when we were trying to identify the entry to the building.

“The building was landlocked. The only way we could go in was if we were able to create an access road. And with his determination; and the Director General of the Law School and the Chairman of Council of Legal Education; they made it happen.

“Whatever obstacles were thrown in our way, they were able to overcome them, because of focus and determination. We are proud to be associated with you, and we wish you a post NBA successful life. We also pray in the same vein that whatever obstacle is thrown in your way, God will turn them to stepping stones for the attainment of greater heights.”

While also highlighting some of his achievements, during his opening address, Wali disclosed that the new NBA House was built by Stabilini Visinoni Limited, one of the companies under the Bi-Courtney Group, owned by Babalakin, in collaboration with NBA under a Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement.
He added that his administration had also commenced the construction of the national headquarters of the association at the Central Business District, in Abuja.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 3 Years ago
 

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