By Innocent Anaba

THREE outstanding members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, namely: Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN and Jonathan Taidi, are squaring up to slug it out on who leads the Bar at the expiration of the tenure of the current President of the association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, in August.

NBA since its formation in 1933 as a non-profit and umbrella professional association of all lawyers admitted to the Bar in Nigeria,  has engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in the country.

The forthcoming NBA general election to elect the 36th President of the body, alongside 10 other national executives of the association, is slated for July 16, 2022.

Recall that the association had in 2016 adopted electronic voting in the election of its national officers, discarding the delegate system, which was considered expensive, though the e-voting has not escaped criticism.

Law and Human Rights in this edition, looks at the three candidates, their profiles, and plans to move the NBA forward.

Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN

Gadzama, with an impressive CV, is not new to the race. He was born November 28, 1961, in Mubi, Adamawa State and holds an LL.B from the University of Maiduguri, 1985. He was elevated to the rank of SAN in 1998.

He has chaired many committees of the association. He ran for the office of NBA president two times earlier, the last one in 2016, which ended in the controversy that culminated in a lawsuit, where he called for the cancellation of the result over alleged rigging. Sadly, the litigation was concluded after the two years tenure had elapsed.

But this time around, he is optimistic about victory, promising to improve lawyers’ access to finance, access to free legal research tools, and improve lawyers’ entitlements by paying practicing fees.  In the area of welfare, he plans the establishment of National Minimum Wage Monitoring Committee, the inclusion of the chairman of the Young Lawyers Forum as a NEC member and the harnessing of lawyers’ data.

Other programmes he wants to pursue include ensuring the security of lawyers, improving young lawyers’ remuneration, mentorship for young lawyers, stopping the infiltration of the legal profession by non-lawyers, free stamp and seal, improving the welfare of law teachers and law officers.

Improving young lawyers’ remuneration

“The welfare of young lawyers in the profession is of paramount importance to me. In as much as there are young lawyers that earn adequate salaries, the majority do not earn salaries that are commensurate with the work they put in, in their respective workplaces.

Though some young lawyers may not necessarily require a minimum wage or certain yardstick for remuneration due to their agreement with their law firms, it is essential to have a minimum yardstick for other young practitioners who may not be so lucky.

Welfare

“The problem that has seemed to rear its ugly head is the fact that different law firms in different parts of the country make largely different profits. Due to this, it has remained difficult for the NBA to fix a minimum wage for all young lawyers in the country. Adding to this conundrum is the fact that some young lawyers earn their take home from their law firms via different means.

For example, some may earn via appearance fees while others earn via percentages and bonuses. Due to the earning methods of some of these lawyers, they may even earn more than their colleagues receiving huge monthly salaries.

Improving the welfare of law officers

“I am a certified teacher and I still teach in my everyday life. Law teachers are responsible for molding the minds of prospective lawyers and as such, their welfare must not be overlooked. It is important to note that for any aspiration we have as lawyers to be met, we must take the welfare of our teachers seriously.

I began my practice as a law officer in 1986 when I was working in the Ministry of Justice, Kano State before delving into private practice. As a result of this, I understand the plight of law officers and currently keep in touch with my colleagues in various offices. At the moment, law officers are precluded from engaging in numerous types of legal work, and most are not adequately taken care of. We must salvage this situation and improve their welfare.

My administration will work with all relevant stakeholders such as the leadership of the Law Officers Association of Nigeria to ensure that the welfare of law officers is improved and they are permitted to engage in some legal work that does not conflict with their public duty.”

Promoting tech-savvy judiciary

I strongly believe that it is high time we had a tech-savvy judiciary. The administrative process of the court system is mainly analogue and has not been made digital. It is well recognised that the digitization of our legal system will tremendously assist in the dispensation of justice. In a similar vein, my administration will work on creating a mobile application for the NBA where our members will be able to interact with the Bar leadership and apply for all documents that would have been done physically.”

NBA as a Watchdog

“NBA under my leadership shall be the watchdog of the country and ensure that whenever the rule of law or its associated principles are threatened, action is taken to stop such an action and remedy the situation.

“The NBA which can be characterized as a Professional Pressure Group, will function as a watchdog with true activism under my watch. It is imperative to note that the motto of the NBA is: Promoting the Rule of Law. The Akpata-led administration has done a good job in reviving the sunken motto of our astute body. My target is to intensify the effort in this regard and make the NBA a body of repute and an agent of change for our national development.

Conclusion

“From the moment I became a lawyer, I have given my life to the service of our great Bar. For several decades, I have served the NBA in various capacities, too numerous to mention. I believe that I have a lot to offer the Bar and my colleagues.”

Yakubu Maikyau, SAN

Maikyau, SAN, was born on February 6, 1965. He obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State in 1989, then attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar on  December 12, 1990.

Welfare

“As the chairman of the NBA Welfare Committee, I have the honour and privilege of being placed in charge of developing policy and implementing the welfare agenda of the NBA. If I am elected President, members can expect enhancement of existing welfare schemes and development of new ones for the improvement of their health and wellbeing.

Medical/Health Insurance

“We shall build and consolidate on the gains of the NBA Medical & Health Insurance Scheme. In addition to renewing the subscription for the 1,000 members in the pilot scheme in the first year, we will pay for an additional 1, 000 members for each year of our administration. This will bring the total number of our members on the scheme to 3, 000 at no cost to them.

NBA Life Assurance Policy

“This administration has negotiated an increase in payable death benefits by 100 per cent. It is now N2 million in the event of death and N1million in the case of terminal sickness or accidents resulting in partial incapacitation. We will continue to negotiate with our insurers for increased insurance pay-outs with the aim of achieving an increase of 50 per cent in the pay-out if the incentive is increased.

Access to credit

“The current Finance Committee, to its credit, negotiated with various financial institutions including Access Bank Plc and First Bank Plc, and announced a finance scheme for lawyers in 2021. The scheme will provide credit to lawyers at single-digit interest rate far less than the market rate of 23 per cent, to enable lawyers set up their practice. The NBA backstops the facilities with funds of the association domiciled in selected financial institutions. My administration will continue and improve on this scheme.

Enhancement of Earning Capacity

The issue of poor remuneration of lawyers, especially young lawyers, and the corresponding challenge of the poor earning capacity of lawyers is an area to which our administration shall devote a lot of time. The NBA Remuneration Committee has done tremendous work in data collection and analysis relating to earnings and wages across the country. The resultant report was presented to and approved by NEC at its meeting on March 17, 2022.

My administration will make this a major plank of its administrative agenda and seek to achieve standardisation and enhanced standards of service delivery by members of the NBA to the legal profession in Nigeria.

Protection of lawyers’ business

“Whilst the above paragraph on remuneration and the report of the NBA Remuneration Committee deal with the structural issues that affect the earning capacity of our members, it is clear that competition from other professions like Estate Surveyors/Agents and Accountants and indeed, foreign law firms and local financial institutions constitute a clear and incessant existential danger to our profession.

My administration will apply the highest level of vigilance in monitoring all forms of invasions into our territory. Fundamentally, we will operate under a principle of protectionism that would aim to preserve exclusivity to the legal profession in Nigeria.

Professional conduct and discipline

“As an association, we must deal with growing cases of professional misconduct. It is the preponderance of professionalism exhibited by members of the association in our dealings with our clients, local or foreign, that will restore the association to its pride of place in the scheme of things in Nigeria and beyond. We must, therefore, get involved in regulating the conduct of our members and bringing erring members to book.

My administration will continue with the ongoing restructuring with a view to having a secretariat that is fit for purpose and deliver value to members. I believe in an efficient workforce that would act as catalyst for delivering on the objectives of the NBA. I am committed to following the NBA Constitution to the letter and ensuring that the Executive Director is given all the support required to run the secretariat. We will prioritise and complete the restructuring process within 100 days of assumption of office.

Justice sector reform

“The importance of the judiciary as the third arm of government in the country and the last hope of the common man cannot be overemphasized. The challenges faced by the system of administration of justice in Nigeria are well documented. There is consensus amongst practitioners and most Nigerians that the justice delivery system has progressively deteriorated over the past decades.

My administration shall ensure that the ongoing work to improve the justice delivery sector is consolidated and institutionalised. Importantly, my administration will ensure that the NBA has a clear justice sector policy and would use the membership of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council to advance its objectives of justice delivery and the promotion of the rule of law in Nigeria.

Young Lawyers

Young lawyers are the greatest asset of the NBA. These younger members of the profession who constitute about 65 per cent of our population are versatile and dynamic. This generally means that with the right guidance, focus, and environment, they add tremendous value to the profession and society. The NBA under my watch will encourage social mobility through investment in our younger colleagues. My administration will encourage more group mentorship sessions structured to provide career development training for young lawyers.

NBA and national security

“While we salute the resilience and determination of the Nigerian people, and commend the sacrifices and efforts of members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies in their fight against these security challenges, our administration will be in the vanguard of the call on the government to pay critical attention to the security of lives and property of Nigerians. We will make consistent calls on the government to show demonstrable commitment and increased investment in national security, in order to contain the menace of security challenges.

NBA and 2023 general election

As a nation, we are again set to go into the general election. The electoral processes have already commenced with the issuance of the timetable and schedule for the 2023 general election on  February 26, 2022. No doubt these activities would require the involvement of members of the Bar in the provision of legal services to political parties, candidates, and other stakeholders as they engage in the election activities.

Ultimately, therefore, the outcome of the 2023 general election has so much to do with the Bar and Bench. We, therefore, owe Nigerians honest, sincere and professional participation in the process in order to ensure a free, fair and credible election. We must do all that is legitimately within our abilities to ensure that the relevant laws and rules, properly interpreted and applied, become the guiding principles for our involvement. The rule of law must not only be respected but be seen to have been respected by all and sundry.

Jonathan Taidi

Jonathan Taidi, an activist and humanitarian, was born June 22, 1969, at Kakpi, Baro District of Agaie LGA, Niger State. He graduated in 1999 and thereafter, proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Bar on January 23, 2001. He has held top positions in the NBA and is the immediate past Secretary-General of the association.

According to him, he intends to focus on the maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the judiciary in Nigeria among other things.

Integrity of judiciary

“As a matter of urgency, we need to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, restore its integrity and revive the trust of the citizenry on its operations. However, an independent judiciary is a product of so many things; transparent operations, ethical legal practice and professionalism across board. None of these is attainable where there is poor access to justice, where court rulings are not sacrosanct and where there is wanton insecurity.

Our system of administration of justice cannot be effective and efficient unless there is a conscious effort to promote the rule of law, which is unattainable in an atmosphere where respect for legal practitioners while conducting their affairs, particularly by officers and men of the various security agencies, is non-existent.

The Bar must return to the glorious past and be the bulwark against all forms of injustice while the judiciary, which is touted as the last hope of the common man is restrained from becoming the lost hope.

Law reform

“The Bar under my administration will take the front seat in law reform initiatives and in particular, promote the early passage of bills that will enhance the administration of justice and good governance and seek the repeal of laws that impede ease of doing business and promote bad governance. Towards this end, there will be in place a tracking system for updates to the National Executive Council, NEC, of the NBA.

The Legal Practitioners Act and Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners must receive the urgent attention they deserve and be 21st Century-compliant.

Scheme for new wigs

“On average, there are additional 10,000 entrants into the legal profession annually thereby shrinking the practice space and increasing the strain on the already depleted income space of the average practitioner.

The Bar under my administration will propose a bill to the National Assembly to make it mandatory for each of the 774 Local Government Councils under the 1999 Constitution to establish full-fledged legal departments. In addition, all companies with a net profit of N20 million should be made to have in their employ, at least one lawyer. Furthermore, the NBA under my administration will revisit and implement a minimum wage for legal practitioners in private practice.

NBA Young Lawyers Forum

“Young lawyers are the mainstream of the legal profession today. Therefore, the legal profession must be fashioned after the adaptive reality of practice.

The current administration has expanded its involvement in the affairs of the Bar and the Bar under my administration will run an inclusive regime with young lawyers playing very key roles.

Furthermore, under my administration, the young lawyers will benefit from a Special Trust Fund to promote start-ups and provide scholarship opportunities and training in emerging areas of legal practice. 

In addition, deliberate employment opportunities will be created in the local government area councils, financial institutions, government agencies and security outfits such as the Army, Police, DSS and other similar agencies.

The young lawyers under my administration will enjoy hugely discounted fees to attend all NBA conferences including those organised by the sections and fora. The Bar under my administration will encourage those doing poorly to do well and those doing well to do even better.

General welfare of members

“The incomes of our members have diminished over the years largely due to under-charging by some of our colleagues. This trend is unacceptable. Great efforts will be galvanized to enhance adequate remuneration.

The interest of every member is paramount and will be accorded priority to enable all members practice without any impediments, harassment, or fear whatsoever and howsoever.

The Bar under my administration will enhance the income of members, implement the revised scale of charges or pursue its approval – whichever comes first – to enable our members undertake professional tasks with dignity and honour.

In addition, the work environment for our members, particularly the young and vulnerable currently enduring poverty, will receive eagle-eyed attention such that the privileged do not enjoy benefits to the detriment of others.

There will be zero-tolerance for all forms of discriminatory and or oppressive practice in the profession. The Bar under my administration will strive to make every member of the profession fulfilled professionally.

AGC

“Indubitably, the Annual General Conference of the Bar is the largest gathering of lawyers anywhere in Africa, and arguably the second largest in the world after Brazil.

The frequent re-occurring challenges of our conferences are caused by lack of early logistic planning. The Bar under my administration will improve on the current efforts and provide conferences that are world-class.

Conclusion

“The demands of the 21st Century- complaint Bar Association are attainable if only the appropriate mindset is brought to bear in the determination to achieve the set goals.

The Bar, in addition to its enormous responsibilities, can also champion various discourses with a view to addressing the myriad of issues facing our country. We must return to the days when the NBA leads the battle to safeguard the soul of this country.”

Candidates for other positions

Meanwhile, candidates for other positions in the election include the 1st Vice-President, the contestants are Bala Linda, Bawa Yakubu and Liman Salihu. Candidates for the post of 2nd Vice-President are Abonyi Gerald, Chukwuemeka Clement and Nosike Damian. The of 3rd Vice-President has Asagba Justina and Ogbah Isaac as contestants.

For the position of General Secretary, those to face the voters are Adegbite Adesina, Asenoguan Osamuede, Ogiegbaen Callistus and Yamah Desmond.

Aka Oluwaseun, Balogun Dhikrullah, Kip Daniel and Oseme Peremene are to fight it out for the post of Assistant-General Secretary.

The Treasurer has Adeogun Funmilola, Anze-Bishop Caroline and Balarabe Safiya as contestants.

Welfare Secretary will have Adaramola Gbemiga, Aniekwena Ben, Auta Nyada, Obasi Chinyere and Ugwuoke Ikechukwu slug it out for the post.

The Publicity Secretary position will see Emoghwanre Ogaga and Lawal Akorede battle each other at the poll; while the post of Assistant Publicity Secretary will be contested by Ajiboye Charles and Nwoye Akachukwu.

 For General Council of the Bar, 22 candidates were listed, namely: Abdullahi Faskari, Agada Mercy, Agbaga Dennis, Agi Anne, Aikpokpo-Martins John, Akintayo John, Anagor Raphael, Anizoba Obi, Bello Abdulganiyu, Edun Olukunle, Igba Theophilus, Lagbamue Israel, Maidoki Muhammad, Muhammad Asmau, Munguno Mohammed, Nduka Rapuluchukwu,  Nwaeze Nwaebuka, Okwun-Kalu Dave, Oladapo Olalekan, Onwere Victor, Oyeyiola Durodoluwa and Usman Joshua.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.