By Onozure Dania
The Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, election held last month, may have been won and lost, but the crisis evoked by lack of transparency during the poll has remained a major threat to the unity of the association.
There are apprehensions that the association may break up as some lawyers who were not satisfied with the outcome of the election, have threatened to form a new association.
Law and Human Rights in this edition sought the views of lawyers on the crisis and the way out. Those who spoke include, Seyi Sowemimo, SAN; Chief Solomon Akuma, SAN; John Odubela, SAN; Babatunde Awe and Elvis Asia
Way forward is hazy — Sowemimi, SAN
“The NBA has been losing credibility in recent years because of the flawed elections it has been conducting and this recent election has compounded the problem. The new executive is now saddled with the task of trying to restore the credibility of the Association and the way forward, therefore, appears quite hazy.”
Election system must be changed — Akuma SAN
“The last three NBA elections have been trailed by controversy. This is because the system was in one way or the other is compromised. The way out is to change the system. I would suggest we vote in our respective branches, collate the results at the branch level and transmit collated results electronically to the headquarter for final collation and declaration.
New exco must address challenges — Odubela SAN
“Personally I think the NBA needs to do a lot about her election mechanisms. Past elections have been tainted with one problem or the other and it appears nothing is being done to correct and build members’ confidence in the system. That’s the reason that after each election at least in the past three elections, there have been one protest or the other and some ended up in court and with little or no efforts on the part of the winning team in addressing such challenges subsequently.
“So what happens then is that the same challenges will surface at the next election because nothing has been done to address such challenges. Moving forward, I think the new executive must be ready to address the problem deeply and rebuild member’s confidence in their electoral system, begin preparations early enough so that most of the challenges can at least be brought to a minimum acceptance.”
Implosion is imminent if the problem persists — Awe
“In my view, the way forward is to build a more transparent and lawyer-centric association. The NBA has become so hugely bureaucratic that it has failed in its primary role as an association for the protection and promotion of lawyer’s interest and upholding and defending the entrenchment of the rule of law.
It has instead become a tool for aspiring to heights of political self-aggrandizement and financial self-enrichment for the officers of this noble body.
“The challenge for the new body is simple. Unify the Bar. There is a clear polarization of the association and a deep-rooted feeling of isolation and disenchantment amongst members.
The NBA needs to retrace its steps and begin to be seen fulfilling its traditional roles and closing the widening gulf between the association as an institution and the lawyers who constitute members. Otherwise, soon, and I fear, very soon, there will be an implosion and the bar will fracture into several even worse managed and poorly structured organizations.”
NBA needs a surgical operation — Asia
“The NBA election may not have been perfect but it produced the most professional candidate. If you conduct the election 20 times, Mr. Olumide Akpata will win with higher margins. In the interest of the association, I think we all should accept it and move forward. The new leadership needs to embark on bridge building and reaching out to aggrieved members. Anyone who has the interest of the association at heart should cooperate with the new leadership to deliver on its mandate.
“The NBA needs a surgical operation. From the welfare of members, particularly young lawyers, and the protection of the rule of law, continuous professional development, discipline, etc., there is great work ahead.
The association must also work with the judiciary to solve the problem of delay in justice administration. The rule of law has no meaning in a country where people cannot easily get the court to determine their rights. We all must support the new leadership to find answers to these and many more challenges facing the association and most importantly, hold them accountable.”