By Bayo Akinlade
It is no news that there is violence and corruption within the Nigerian Bar Association. But the real question is Why?
In every association, there is bound to be disagreements and differences of opinions; however, should these differences lead to violent outbursts or violent behaviour amongst learned gentlemen? The violent behaviour rears its ugly head during elections, and makes you wonder why there is so much fuss from candidates and their followers who engage in name-calling and insults over positions within the NBA that come with sacrifice and no remuneration of any sort (or does it?). So why do lawyers fight for positions within the NBA? Why are they so violent and resort to all manner of theatrics to win elections within the NBA?
This article is going to explore the corruption within the Nigerian Bar Association that causes lawyers to lose themselves in violent behaviour and do anything to control the affairs of the NBA at both the local and national levels.
The National Executive Committee Members
NBA at the branch level is made up of at least 50 lawyers practising law within a given judicial division of a state within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The sum total of all the branches of the NBA make up the highest decision-making body of the NBA called the National Executive Committee, NEC, which is made up of chairmen of all NBA branches, the secretaries and NEC representatives. Other NEC members are co-opted by the President of NBA (please take note). National officers, past presidents and past general-secretaries are also members of NEC.
All NEC meetings are sponsored, thus the three members from each branch are accommodated and fed for this quarterly meetings, held four times in a year at different locations within the country at no personal cost to the attendees. (Some branches are not so financially buoyant as to sponsor their representatives but they need only raise transport money to attend a NEC meeting)
Corruption at NEC
The host branch/state for a NEC meeting usually will source for funds through their local organising committee. They need not go far because what most NBA presidents will do in conjunction with the hosting state is to simply approach the governor of that state and the whole expense MAY BE bankrolled.
The Judiciary and the Legislative arm of government in the hosting state also play a major role by footing the bill for some of the expenses and the feeding of the NEC Reps. The host branches on their own, may also raise money through selling out exhibition stands and other conference marketing strategies to get funds. Now the other branches usually just use their branch resources to travel to these NEC meetings either by road or by air and will allocate to themselves an “out of station” allowance from their branch purse if there is enough funds in their account to accommodate same. A review of the branches’ accounts for NEC meetings will reveal these truths, but members do not really scrutinise and ask the questions why so much is spent on a meeting that Nothing Is Achieved At The End Of The Day Except To Go And Say The Words “Approved.”
NEC is a powerful body to belong to if you know your way around. You are invited to join committees through NEC, you can easily be elected into the executives of the NBA sections through NEC and you get to meet a lot of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the Attorneys-General of various states and many influential lawyers at NEC. So at the branch level, being the chairman is very very lucrative and attractive. If you play your cards right at NEC, you can get more sponsorship for your branch and perhaps win bids to host a NEC meeting or even an Annual General Conference.