By Okey Wali, SAN
All over the world,building institutions is not easy, and that is even more difficult in a country like Nigeria with weak institutions.
It was this drive for strengthening our institutions in Nigeria that made me contest for the presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association, being my immediate constituency as an active member of the Bar.
With the membership of over 80,000 lawyers, NBA has 100 branch network spread across the 36 states of the federation including the federal capital territory.
NBA has three specialized Sections, five Foras, two Institutes, and various Committees through which Bar activities are carried out.
I ran my campaign on a 10 cardinal point agenda, which I committed myself to in my inaugural speech at my swearing ceremony on August 31, 2012, this 10 point agenda are: 1. branch capacity building; 2. Professionalizing the secretariat; 3. Financial responsibility.
4. Human capacity building; 5. Institutional synergy with regional and international organizations, bar associations and law societies; 6. Human rights programme; 7. Anti-corruption crusade; 8. Uplifting professional standards; 9. Criminal justice system and access to justice; and 10. Robust legislative advocacy.
Since my inauguration, I hit the ground running towards the execution of the 10 point agenda, the 10 programme of action, were carefully developed.
Bearing in mind, the regulatory, representative and public interest roles, which a Bar Association should play in a country. Also, bearing in mind the enormity of this tripartite roles of the Bar association, I have set up a total of 24 committees, including Constitutional and Law reform Committee, Rule of Law Action Group, Anti-Corruption Commission, Capacity Building Committee, Welfare Trust Fund committee, among others.
The first task I performed in my capacity as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association was to organize a Bar leaders Summit on the future of NBA. The purpose of the summit, which was attended by eminent Bar leaders, was to discuss the issues and challenges affecting the growth of NBA and to develop a strategic development plan for the Nigerian Bar Association.
The need for the strategic plan was borne out of determination of my administration to restructure the operations of the NBA, and bringing it in line with International Best Standards. We believe the strategic plan will ensure continuity and consistency of programmes and policies, rather than every administration coming up with a two year programme plan that are already on ground. I am happy to say, that the first draft of the NBA Strategic Plan will be ready for consideration at the February National Executive Committee meeting of NBA.
Apart from the representative and public interest roles NBA had played so far since my assumption of office, we have also played a very strong role in regulatory issues, especially with regards to professional conduct. In this regards, my administration has set up zonal NBA disciplinary committees to investigate professional misconduct and recommend appropriate cases to the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee for prosecution. We have also appointed prosecutors to handle prima facie case before the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee, LPDC.
Another area which has received serious attention since I assumed office is the issue of capacity building. Apart from weak institutions in Nigeria, part of the challenges we face is the apparent lack of capacity to provide various services. This dearth of capacity is glaring in the legal profession and within the Bar.
To tackle the capacity challenges head long, the NBA under my watch has decided to adopt two pronged approach: capacity building for branches, and capacity building for lawyers, which are to be driven by NBA Capacity Building Committee and NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education respectively. They would design and implement training programs for branches and lawyers.
It is worthy of note that, the 10 point agenda can only be implemented with financial capacity. Therefore, in order to generate the much needed revenue, I have set up 2 Committees as follows: the NBA Building Development Fund Raising Committee with the specific mandate to raise funds for the building and furnishing of the NBA National Head Office in Abuja, and the NBA Finance Committee.
Although we hit the ground running since assuming office, we have only succeeded in laying the foundation for the herculean task ahead. It remains for us to commence the placing of building blocks of the swift execution. And the 1st building block in 2013 will be the organizing of the NBA Summit on Peace and Security in Nigeria. This summit which will hold on January the 30 and 31, 2013, will address the security challenges we are facing in Nigeria, and come up with recommendations for resolutions.
In addition to building blocks for development, the NBA under my leadership has a vision of commencing in 2013 and possibly completing in 2014 a building edifice in Abuja to be known as the NBA House. This building, when completed, shall house the national secretariat of NBA.
The year 2013, is a significant year for both Nigeria and the NBA. The NBA shall not only get involve in constitution review and electoral reform process in Nigeria, but also will engage the National Assembly, using the NBA legislative Advocacy mechanism to push for the enactment of the Justice Sector Bills pending at the National Assembly, especially those bills that are consolidating the legal profession.
The welfare of lawyers will be of paramount importance to the NBA in 2013, from the data base of lawyers and law firms, to issues concerning liberalization of legal services, and protecting our works from foreign lawyers.
It could be gleaned from the foregoing, that the NBA intend to fire on each regulatory, representative, and public interest cylinders in the fulfillment of its roles as a Bar Association.