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NBA ELECTIONS: Who leads the bar?

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By Innocent Anaba

Who leads the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, of the three eminently qualified candidates seeking election as lawyers in the country go to the poll on July 30 and 31, 2018 to elect national officers for the association?This is coming amid concerns that the tech company handing the online election, Chams Plc, may have had issue of integrity in conducting the election even though NBA had at the last resort, limited its duties to only registering lawyers for the election.It will be recalled that the issue of Chams Plc had threatened the election until several meetings at the end of which it was resolved that the candidates’ agents and technical experts will have real-time view of the number of votes cast for each candidate.

Other resolutions are: “Fresh verification of eligible voters to be done by a new ICT company;  technical agents of candidates to approve and agree on process prior to commencement of verification;  technical agents of candidates shall be allowed to review the tools and systems of the ICT company; ECNBA shall publish final list of verified voters in a branch by branch model for branch complaints and confirmation; technical agents of candidates shall review the source code of the voting platform; technical agents of candidates shall serve as collation agents of the presidential candidates and be allowed pre-commencement access to check security of voting platform; technical agents of presidential candidates shall have remote and local monitoring access to the back-end of the voting platform as deployed by the ICT provider throughout the voting process until the declaration of final results.Real-time view of number of active voters on voting platform shall be provided to the agents and technical agents of candidates;  real-time view of number of active administrators on voting platform shall be provided to  agents and technical agents of candidates;  real-time view of audit trail of voting platform shall be provided to  technical agents of candidates and  real-time view of number of votes cast per candidate shall be provided to agents and technical agents of candidates.”

With the issue of Chams Plc sorted out, candidates for the presidency and other positions have reeled out their programmes as they intensified campaigns, while some have also secured endorsement of their respective regional bodies.Vanguard Law and Human Rights in this edition presents the candidates, their profiles and manifestoes.The candidates for the NBA top job are Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN and Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN.Chief Obi Okafor, SAN, a core litigation lawyer, was born on July 18, 1965 in Abatete in Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State. He attended Premier Primary School, now All Saints Primary School, Onitsha, Anambra State, proceeded to Ogbaru Boys Secondary School for his post primary education but  completed it at St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Awka-Etiti in Anambra State.  He obtained an Ordinary National Certificate in Business Administration at School of Accountancy and Business Studies, Uyo, Cross River State (an affiliate of Calabar Polytechnic at that time) now Uyo City Polytechnic in Akwa Ibom State. He’s an alumnus of University of Calabar, where he obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1990 and was called to bar  in 1991. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria  in April,  2010.

Paul Usoro,SAN, was born on September 7,1958. He is Senior Partner and Founder, Paul Usoro & Co , a top commercial law firm headquartered in Lagos with offices in Abuja and Uyo. He was elevated  to the Inner Bar as  a Senior Advocate of Nigeria  in 2003. He hails  from  Ukana Ikot Ntuen town in Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State. He obtained his LL.B (Hons) in 1981 at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), Osun State, Nigeria.

Professor Ojukwu, SAN, was born on September 23, 1960 and was  the immediate past Deputy Director-General and Head of Campus of the Nigerian Law School, Augustine Nnamani Campus, Agbani Enugu. Before this appointment, he was Associate Professor and Dean, Faculty of Law, Abia State University, Uturu between 1995 and 2001. He is also the President of the Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI Nigeria), the platform on  which he has continued to achieve his dreams of promoting clinical legal and  justice education and reform of legal education in Nigeria. On September 22, 2014, he was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.He is a partner at the  law firm of OFY lawyers and Professor of Law at Madonna University.

Manifestoes of the candidates:

Chief Obi Okafor, SAN

Chief Okafor promises to advance the legal profession in Nigeria and enhance the welfare of lawyers through  an all inclusive Bar with efficient services, unmatched collaborative opportunities and partnerships as well as globalized practice and professional development. He also aims to revitalize  the Nigeria  Bar Association with purposefully innovative leadership that accords with international best practices and  anchored on professionalism, discipline, Rule of  Law and above all, always accessible to all members.In furtherance of the functions and duties of the President of NBA according to  Section 8 (5)(a) of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution (as amended, 2015), the #AllinclusiveBar team shall faithfully seek to achieve the following for the NBA:

*An all inclusive, responsive and transparent administration by creating a new directorate at the NBA Secretariat to be known as membership directorate for ease of access and wider reach;  whilst recognising and preserving deserving respect for the seniors and leaders of the Bar, we shall enthrone a system where every lawyer, old, young, women and physically challenged would have a sense of ownership and participation at the Bar. This we pledge to demonstrate in the following ways, including but not limited to inclusiveness of women and younger lawyers and at NEC/Branch executive committees;  inclusive Bar conferences and events;  membership of NEC, committees and statutory appointments;  re-awakening the NBA Corporate Counsel Forum;  Re-awakening of NBA Women Lawyers’ Forum.

*IT-based innovative secretariat: Establishment of an Official NBA call centre.

* Interest advocacy and robust human rights programme.

The Bar as the voice of the voiceless:

* It is in recognition of the cardinal role of the NBA in the society as the voice of the masses that the association is expected to always speak and act in the overriding public interest. The #ALLINCLUSIVEBAR shall strive to raise this voice in the following ways and more, to wit; click here

* Re-awaken and strengthen the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), being the key platform for driving the NBA public interest advocacy agenda.

* Restructure and re-strengthen the NBA Human Rights Institute (NBA-HRI) to become more responsive.

*Police brutality and hostility to lawyers: To preserve the nobility and dignity of legal profession in Nigeria, this rising ugly development must be quickly nipped in the #ALLINCLUSIVEBAR.

*Free issuance of NBA stamps on payment of BPF; improved branch capacity and governance discipline;  professionalized national secretariat;  deepening the Bar and Bench symbiosis; promote globalisation and specialisation on emerging areas of practice; capacity building and improved welfare of lawyers;  mentorship and employment creation for young lawyers; vigorous Criminal Justice Reform Agenda; raising the Bar on professional discipline,transparency and financial prudence.

Respected colleagues, past administrations of the Bar, including the outgoing administration, have all done well in their various capacities, laudable reforms and efforts at charting a positive path for our dear NBA and the legal profession in Nigeria. I commend in a special way, the initiators of the NBA House project. Together with my #ALLINCLUSIVEBAR team, we pledge to do all it will take to maintain that edifice as the pride of this noble association.

Paul Usoro, SAN

My agenda is not only to embark upon innovations, but also to consolidate  the foundation laid by our past leaders. In essence, we will be advancing the good legacies that we have, replacing the obsolete ones and advancing new frontiers for the Bar.I have selected three thematic areas to drive the reform plan knowing as I do that two years would be inadequate to cover all the required reforms. The three areas of  focus are:  Institutional development and regulatory reforms; human capital development and welfare programme and promotion of the Rule of Law and good governance in Nigeria.These goals and objectives can only be achieved through sustained and constant stakeholder engagement and consultations. I will operate an open-door policy and all stakeholders will continually be consulted on issues that affect and/or relate to them.

It is my belief that every lawyer must have a voice in the affairs of the association and in particular in matters that affect them. There will therefore be clear channels of communication that would make it easy for NBA members to reach and have access to me and Bar leaders generally.I also intend to lead by example in institutionalising transparency and accountability in the administration of the NBA. The programmes that I have articulated in this manifesto, I must mention, are auditable and constitute my pact with members of the NBA and I am willing to be judged by and held accountable therefore. I also commit to use my network of relationships in the corporate world in achieving these goals and for the benefit of the association. It is my hope that at the end of my tenure as the NBA president, the association would be the better for it and be the envy of other professional associations in and outside Africa.

Prof Ojukwu, SAN

His programme for the bar includes focus on welfare/services; ethics/discipline; NBA governance that is open, transparent, accountable and  Rule of  Law.  Some of the strategic action plan shall be:  Written welfare policy for members; reactivation life insurance scheme and procurement of  a health insurance scheme.

  • Make NBA stamp digital, free on payment of practice fee and branch dues and not expirable; conduct high standard annual conferences at low fees; activate NBA standing committees; reactivate NBA forums; write and implement NBA blue print on legal education; provide engagement rules for lawyers at the Police stations and other detention centres of  law enforcement agencies; engage Police and other law enforcement agencies on treatment of lawyers;
  • Reactivate the Institute of Continuing Legal Education and Human Rights Institute; organise deep capacity building programmes for members; engage job creation schemes including focus on professional billing and charges; provide new rules of professional conduct, minimum wage and employment code; pursue legal amendment to set up many adhoc disciplinary committees as against one standing committee for the whole nation;   provide an ethics curriculum for LLB;
  • Engage the Judiciary on the problem of corrupt practices especially in the registries; set up transitional professional career programmes for young lawyers e.g career counseling, incubators, canopies and immersions; provide action plan for assisting lawyers with disabilities; engage government and their agencies on respect for Rule of Law/human rights and on the disobedience of court orders/judgements;  pursue the amendment of the Constitution to eliminate delayed dispute resolution in courts and make disobedience of court orders/judgements and abuse of human rights a high crime;  activate every state Bar-Bench forum;
  • Continue the NBA Advocacy on Administration of Criminal Justice Act; set up court monitoring projects; provide transparent accounting rules and guidelines for NBA governance; make our website dynamic and professional and publish proactively; digitalise NBA activities including payment of dues;  settle all lingering NBA branch crisis;get elected national officers to participate in branch activities.
  • Partner with LOAN, FIDA etc and speak out boldly, courageously and honestly for the Bar and in the public interest.

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