THE Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, is a creation of statute and known to the Nigerian law. It is an umbrella body of all lawyers called to the Nigerian bar.
Whether or not one is in full legal practice, once you are called to the bar and enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria you became a member. The major obligation you owe the NBA as a member is to be paying your yearly practising fee and other fees chargeable within your local and the national bar.
Associations are formed primarily to protect the interest and welfare of members. In the case of NBA, it goes beyond just the protection of its member’s interest and welfare but also to protect the interest of the public. Lawyers by the nature of their profession are the voice of the voiceless in any society.
NBA has been very vocal and taken stands in almost all burning issues in Nigeria and thus so far, no government, including military juntas, has ever toyed with the view of the bar on any sensitive issue without regretting same. Even in the just concluded 2011 general election, NBA acted as an observer and had been observing elections in Nigeria. Its report is always taken serious by the electoral body and the nation.
In most occasions, when the situation in the country becomes charged or things go awry, the NBA is usually called upon to intervene and its intervention has always yielded positive results.
When Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju held sway as the Governor of Anambra State, even though he was a member of NBA, but when he and his political godfathers held the state to ransom, with strikes as we have it today, the NBA rose against him.
This was during the glory days of the bar in Onitsha under Barnabas Igwe (now a martyr); even though Igwe is dead his action and deeds will always stand tall with pride for him whenever freedom fighters stand to be counted. Obelle Chuka Obelle Esq. took over from the late Igwe after he was martyred and with the support of the bar gave Mbadinuju a fight he will not forget in a hurry anytime he goes down the memory lane of his political career.
Since March 1, 2011, the doors of all courts within Anambra State is locked against lawyers (NBA members) and their litigating clients due to judicial workers strike. The strike has lasted for over three months and still counting, yet the NBA, Anambra State, seems to be helpless in the prevailing circumstance.
From my own rough calculation last year alone, judicial workers in Anambra State went on strike for not less than four times. I stand to be corrected to say that no legal year has run its full course in Anambra State since this administration came into power. Ironically this is a government that came into power through the judicially process, yet this same government is not bothered that the institution that brought it to power is out of service in the state for over three months and still counting.
Most worrisome is that the bar which is the voice of the voiceless has become dumb now that the fight is at its doorstep. Presently in Anambra State we have Onitsha bar, Awka bar, Nnewi Bar, Aguata bar and Idemili bar all functioning with elected officers.
As members of the bar, we know that in a presidential system of government that the government is properly constituted when the executive, the judicial and the legislative arms of government are in place and functioning; if otherwise, it is an aberration and an affront to the constitution. The court, properly so-called, do not go on strike, and unlike the judicial staff cannot speak for itself, but looks upon the NBA always as its mouth-piece in perilous times like this.
Since this strike began, I have not seen any positive contribution of the NBA in Anambra State towards resolving it; holding meetings with whoever or whatever authority without speedy positive result is like beating a dead horse.
I am further amazed that this strike has lasted for so long notwithstanding that lawyers, members of the bar, are in the government of the state. One wonders what our learned friends in government had been doing since the prolonged judicial strike. Much as I am not privy to what they advise the powers that be pertaining to this strike, I encourage them to push until they achieve result. I beat my chest to say that this type of judicial strike cannot happen in any part of Western Nigeria.
In the circumstance of these reccurring strikes of the judicial staff, I strongly believe that those who know why it had been reoccurring and why this one (even though not yet the longest) has lasted for so long have not told us, the ordinary citizens, the whole truth. May I even ask: Is the strike justified in the first place or has it a political under-current?
Sincerely speaking, I pity our learned friends both in government and officers of NBA in the state at this ugly time. My feeling is premised on the fact that whether they like it or not history will record it for them that these strikes occurred during their time at the helm of the affairs. If it is in the developed world and civilized democracy, when one find himself in this type of web and mess, the usual part of honour one takes is to resign and keep one’s head high, but this is Africa nay Nigeria: one should not expect such or even mentioned it.
As far as I am concerned, there is no point occupying an office, the power therein one cannot use adequately to advance the cause of those who yielded the power to the occupant of the office. One occupies such office at one’s own peril and self-destruction. Some occupy office to brighten their CV.
Some to be referred to as this or that or former this or that. Such to me is not important, what is important to me and indeed the society is: while in that office, how did you use it to better the lot of those on whose behalf you occupy the office? In other words, what will history record for you at the end of the day?
Mr. UGO UGWUNNADI, a lawyer, wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State.