…distances themselves from Northern splinter group
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Forty leaders of the northern geopolitical zone of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Wednesday, distanced themselves from moves to divide the legal body.
The chairmen, in a communique they issued at the end of a meeting they held at the NBA Headquarters in Abuja, pledged their allegiance to the National President of the association, Mr. Olumide Akpata and his executives.
While disassociating themselves from plot by some young northern lawyers to form a splintered body to be known as “New NBA”, the Chairmen, urged the aggrieved members to sheath their sword and support the Akpata-led executives to build a united Bar for legal practitioners in the country.
The communique was signed by all the Chairmen of NBA branches in the northern geopolitical zone and read by the Acting Chairman, Arewa Lawyers Forum, Mr. Elisha Yakubu Kurah, SAN.
It read: “We the undersigned individuals, who are Chairmen of the various branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that make up the Northern Geopolitical Zone as defined in the NBA Constitution 2015, and other senior members of the Bar have today Wednesday 2nd September 2020 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, met with the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata and the National Officers of the NBA.
“We have unanimously agreed to support his leadership of the NBA, and we hereby restate our true allegiance to the NBA and disassociate ourselves from the “New NBA” or any splitter group whatsoever making the waves in recent weeks as a new association/body of lawyers in Nigeria.
“We understand that the NBA has historically and in recent times been fraught with several challenges but we are indeed assured that the NBA under the leadership of Mr. Olumide Akpata will surmount these challenges and birth an all-inclusive Bar that will work for all Lawyers in Nigeria regardless of any part of the divide one may belong.
“We were gratified to hear the NBA President during his inaugural address restate that the Bar that he wants to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and which recognises that our diversity is our greatest strength.
“At the meeting today, Mr. Akpata reassured us that his administration is very keen on ensuring that we not have only a united Bar but also an indivisible one, and we verily believe in him.
“We, therefore, urge all lawyers not only of the Northern Geopolitical Zone, including those behind the establishment of the NNBA but indeed all legal practitioners in Nigeria to please come together to support Mr. Olumide Akpata and the new national officers to ensure that they deliver on all their core mandates whilst indeed putting the rule of law, the welfare and capacity development of our members at the forefront.
“We thank the NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata and all the national officers of the NBA for having this meeting with us as one of their first official acts after their inauguration last Friday, which is only indicative of the value they place on the need for an all-inclusive Bar and we wish them a very successful tenure and also reassure Mr President of our total support for his administration and pledge our allegiance to the NBA at large”.
Earlier in his remarks, the NBA President, Akpata, said he would reach out to all aggrieved members of the association.
“At the NBA we remain one, united and indivisible. We have not split along ethnic or religious lines.We disagree and agree as lawyers. We will learn from past mistakes.
“Only those who refuse to learn from past mistakes are doomed. Due apology to those offended. We are committed to making NBA better and to also build our nation to be stronger.
“Lawyers will not be in the vanguard to break up our country. Where our country is going wrong, we as lawyers will give the light. We are here to build Nigeria and not to destroy it. All is well with us in the NBA and we are doing well. If there is still any group aggrieved, we will reach out to the group.
“Our ability to surmount challenges make us leaders. We will remain focused because expectations are high. We in the NBA will speak loud to support the teeming people of this country on issues affecting them. 40 Chairmen from the Northern zone are here and they have spoken in one voice that our association is not polarized.
“We are one association and by extension, we are one in one Nigeria”, Akpata added.
Report had emerged last Thursday that some lawyers of Northern extraction had formed a new ‘Nigerian Bar Association’ with the aim of protecting their interests as encapsulated under Section 40 of the Constitution.
In a statement reportedly signed by arrowheads of the group, Nuhu Ibrahim and Abdulbasit Suleiman, they claimed that recent happenings in the legal body, including the dis-invitation of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as a speaker in the just-concluded conference of the NBA, exposed the inability of the association to manage and contain the heterogeneity of its members.
The duo said the new group would consult other senior lawyers from the northern extraction so as to co-opt them into the new umbrella body of lawyers from the region, adding that over 5, 000 lawyers indicated interest to join the “New NBA”.