Speech by the NBA President at the National Executive Committee Meeting Held in Benin
Posted: 23/Jun/2016

SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, AUGUSTINE ALEGEH, SAN AT THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE NBA HELD IN BENIN, EDO STATE ON 15th JUNE, 2016.

PROTOCOL
Your Excellency, Comrade Adams, Executive Governor of Edo State; Your Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Edo State; My Lords, Justices of the Court of Appeal here present; My Lord, Hon. Justice Cromwell Idahosa, Chief Judge of Edo State; My Lords, Judges of the High Court of Edo State here present; The State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; National Officers of the Bar; Past Presidents and General Secretaries of the Bar here present; Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Honourable Benchers here present, Eminent Bar Leaders, Distinguished members of NBA-NEC, NEC observers, members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen.

PREFACE
May I on behalf of the National Officers and the good people of Benin-City, Edo State welcome you all to another NEC meeting in the beautiful and modern city of Benin, Edo State. The quarterly NEC Meetings of the NBA is an avenue for us to discuss matters which affect our common interests as Legal Practitioners and which are key to the continuous growth and development of legal practice in Nigeria. Most importantly, NEC Meetings of the NBA also provide us with a platform to discuss topical issues of national importance from which key resolutions and recommendations are made and forwarded to the appropriate national authority for the successful implementation of state policies and the resolution of challenges which may arise in the execution of such policies from time to time.

May I seize this opportunity to thank His Excellency, the Comrade Governor and the good people of Edo State for their warm reception and hospitality since the arrival of Members of NEC yesterday. We are very grateful to His Excellency for his support in hosting this NEC meeting which promises to be very successful and fruitful.

We thank My Lord, the Chief Judge of Edo State, the Honourable Justice Cromwell Idahosa for the sumptuous feast which the Edo State Judiciary prepared for us yesterday at the CJ’s cocktail last night. The Bar is very grateful to you My Lord and thank you for your continuous support and interest in the programmes and activities of the Bar. You are indeed a pride to us all and a shining example to the yoiunger generation.

Most importantly, I want to thank the NBA Benin Branch Executive and the Local Organising Committee led by my brother Kenneth Mozia, SAN for their dedication and diligence in organizing this NEC meeting.

I must equally express profound appreciation to NEC members and NEC observers whose presence here today is testimony to the fact that they remain ever committed to the development and success of our noble Association the NBA. As we approach the last lap of the activities and programmes of this administration, I want to assure you all that the hope you reposed in us to steer the affairs of this noble association of ours is not misplaced and that we will continue to deploy our best efforts to serve and advance our collective interest.

Finally, permit me to thank the almighty God who made it possible for us all to arrive in Benin safely and who guards and guides those whom we left behind at our various homes. It is to the almighty God we commit all our deliberations at this meeting and trust in our safe return to our various branches and homes.

NBA PROGRAMMES AND EVENTS

NBA Legal Trade Mission to the ICC, Hague Netherlands
The NBA, on Saturday, 20th February, 2016 undertook a Study visit to the International Criminal Court, ICC, the Hague and Legal Trade Mission to the Netherlands. The NBA Delegation led by the President of the Bar paid official visits to the High Court of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Bar Association, the Law Office of Russell Advocaten, Department of Justice etc.

The Legal Trade Mission provided a veritable platform for the NBA to exchange ideas with these agencies on diverse issues of common interest with a view to creating a healthy environment for future possible collaboration.

FCT Council Elections
The NBA Election Working Group played a critical role at the recent FCT Council elections which was held on 9th April, 2016. Our Election Observers were on ground to effectively monitor the conduct of the election after which a holistic report on the overall conduct of the elections was presented by the NBA EWG. We want to use this opportunity to commend the NBA EWG led by Seun Abimbola Esq. for their commitment and immense contributions to the Bar.

1st African Bar Leaders’ Conference
The NBA, on 10th – 13th April, 2016 convened the first ever Bar Leaders’ Conference in Lagos. This Conference had in attendance several Bar Leaders drawn from various parts of Africa.

At the Conference, a myriad of issues affecting the African continent was discussed and it was agreed that there was a need for the various Bar Associations in Africa to collaborate more effectively with one another and to unite under one umbrella in order to effectively and efficiently engage the International community. The Bar Leaders in attendance lauded the initiative of the NBA President for organizing the Conference and unanimously agreed that the leadership and Secretariat of the group be situated in Nigeria for the time being. It was further agreed that the next Conference of African Bar leaders would hold next year in Tunisia.

Inauguration of Branches
Following the Resolution of NEC at the meeting held in Jos, Plateau State on 18th February, 2016 increasing the number of NBA branches from 111 to 114, the new branches: Effurun, Bukuru and Otuocha branches have been inaugurated.

Whilst Effurun Branch was inaugurated on 28th April, 2016, Bukuru and Otuocha Branches were inaugurated on 20th May, 2016 and 11th June, 2016 respectively. We urge our members in these new branches to continue to uphold the ethos aand principles of the Bar in their activities.

Annual Justice Idigbe Memorial Lecture
The NBA President was the Keynote Speaker at the 2016 Annual Justice Idigbe Lecture Series organized by the Law Faculty of the University of Benin. This lecture was held on Friday, 29th April, 2016.

The topic of the lecture was “Law and National Development” and it was attended by a large section of the academic community of University of Benin led by the Vice-Chancellor.

Anti-Corruption Seminar
On 24th May, 2016, the NBA Anti-Corruption Commission organized a One Day seminar in Abuja on corruption tagged: “Restraining the Monster: Practical Ways of Fighting Corruption in Nigeria”. This Seminar which was a follow-up on the seminar organized 11 months ago had in attendance several Stakeholders in the anti-corruption sector.

At the end of the Conference, several interventions and key issues affecting the successful execution of the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government was identified and recommendations were made to the Government on ways to resolve these issues.

We thank the Chairman and Members of the NBA Anti-Corruption Commission for the wonderful conduct of this Seminar and urge them to not to relent in their service to the Bar.

NBA Police Lawyers’ Conference
The NBA Police Lawyers’ Conference organized by the NBA Police Forum was held on 25th May, 2016 at Abuja.

The Conference which was declared open by the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase Esq. had in attendance several stakeholders and distinguished personalities in the law enforcement sector as well as the justice sector. At the Conference, the NBA President formally inaugurated the leadership of the NBA Police Forum and charged them to uphold the Constitution of the NBA and to discharge their official duties in line with the principles and ethics of the Bar. The event culminated with a Dinner and Special Awards Night whereat several awards were given to deserving Police Officers who had dedicated their lives in selfless service to humanity.

State of the Nation Conference
On 31st May, 2016, the NBA organized a State of the Nation Conference at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Abuja whereat Stakeholders in various sectors of the Nigerian Economy as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps were invited to discuss and review the achievements of the present democratic administration over the past Oone year in respect of reforms in critical sectors of the economy such as Rule of Law, Economic Growth, Security, Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reforms.

The Conference had an array of distinguished Speakers drawn from various sectors and the papers presented were very enriching and thought provoking. The activities of Law Enforcement Agencies, Prisons Service and Anti-Corruption agencies were also examined and recommendations to improve their service delivery and efficiency were made. The event was organized and facilitated by the NBA Administration of Justice Committee and we commend them for deploying their efforts toward organizing the Conference.

2nd NBA Legal Trade Mission to South Africa
The NBA organized another Legal Trade Mission to South Africa from 5th – 9th June, 2016. Amongst the Places visited were the Office of the Chief Justice of South Africa; The High Court of Pretoria, the Constitutional Court; the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; the Law Office of Webber Wenzel etc. The NBA Delegation were also able to meet with the Nigerian Business Community in South Africa as well as the various Bar Associations in South Africa to discuss matters of mutually interest.

Issues such as the Nigeria and South Africa diplomatic and trade relations were also discussed at various fora and we intend to forward a Report on the outcome of this visit to the appropriate authority for action.

The Participants at this 2nd NBA Legal Trade Mission were drawn from branches all over the country and comprised of Chairmen, Past Chairmen and Leaders of the Bar.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND PROGRAMMES

10th NBA Section on Business Law Conference
The NBA Section on Business Law will on Wednesday, 22nd June, 2016 organize a Three (3) days Conference in Abuja. The theme of this year’s Conference is “Law Reform and Economic Development” and will feature an array of distinguished speakers who will comment on burning national issues such as the dwindling crude oil price, diversification of the economy, restriction on imports etc.

In the course of the deliberations of today’s meeting, I am sure the NBA SBL will present a Report and further enlighten us on the activities and expectation of the proposed Conference. I urge all of us to make out time to attend the Conference.


NBA Employment Fair
The NBA intends to organize an Employment Fair for prospective lawyers and new wigs in order to provide an opportunity for them to secure employment offers from leading Law Firms prior to their Call to Bar. We intend to organize this programme at all the campuses of the Nigerian Law School.

We have commenced discussions with the leadership of the Nigerian Law School and will commence this programme by next month, July, 2016. We solicit the cooperation of all members to ensure the successful organization of this programme.

Workshop on Review of the Performance of Election Petitions Tribunals
The NBA has finalized plans to organize a two day workshop to review the performance of Election Petition Tribunals at all levels; Trial Tribunals, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

The details of this Workshop which would be organized in collaboration with the Judiciary will soon be made public. We solicit the support of all and sundry and urge everyone to make out time to attend the Conference.


STATE OF THE NATION

 

 

Naira Devaluation
The economy of our country seems to be in dire straits. The exchange rate mechanism appears to have collapsed as the exchange rate of the Dollar to the Naira changes every minute. Just last week, the Dollar was being exchanged to the Naira at the rate of N370.

We implore the CBN to embark on a series of reforms aimed at improving the rate of the Naira. We must as a nation cut down on excessive waste and unnecessary spendings. We call on the Federal Government to act fast to address this problem.

Corruption
The war against corruption is raging on several fronts. The NBA restates its zero tolerance for Corruption policy as well as its commitment to work with FGN and all willing FGN Agencies to contribute its quota in the battle to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.

We must also stress that the war against corruption must be fought within the ambit of the law and rule of law must at all times be given primacy. The war against corruption can only be won within the ambit of the law. There is no need to resort to any other means other than legal means to win the war against corruption.

We will continue to collaborate with the Government as it is apparent that there is work to be done on all fronts in the fight against corruption.

Boko Haram Insurgency
The efforts of FGN and the Nigerian Security forces are beginning to yield positive results. The Boko Haram Insurgency is fast waning but the battle is not yet over. We commend the efforts so far and urge Government not to relent. We know that the case of insurgency in the North East will soon be a thing of the past.

Militancy in the Niger Delta
We note with dismay the resuscitated agitations by some Militants in the Niger Delta going by the name of the Niger Delta Avengers. We are aware that the demands and views of this group does not reflect the general perception and thinking of the Niger Delta region. We urge the Military and the Joint Task Force to ensure that this mindless group of disgruntled elements are subdued and that every form of insurrection in that region is quelled.

We commend the prompt intervention of the Chief of Army Staff and hope that this issue will soon be a thing of the past as this group has caused severe economic losses to the entire nation via their incessant bombing and vandalization of pipelines.

Appointment of New Justices to the Supreme Court
The NBA is in receipt of a letter from the Chief Justice of Nigeria for recommendation of persons for appointment into the Supreme Court. We commend the CJN for consulting with the Bar on major appointments into the Judiciary and wish to assure him that the NBA is a willing ally and will continue to collaborate with the Judiciary on its initiatives and policies.

STATE OF THE BAR

NBA House Project
Our new Secretariat has been completed and is presently being painted. We are proud to announce that we have been able to fulfill our solemn promise to this august gathering and indeed all our members that the sprawling edifice would be completed by this administration.

We will soon announce the date for the grand opening and commissioning of the Building. We urge you to make time out of your busy schedule to visit the site and observe the progress of the project prior to the commissioning. We have also sent out letters to eminent Bar Leaders, Senior Advocates and select lawyers for the inclusion of their names in the ‘Honour Roll’ of the project. Many persons have either paid or signified interest to pay the NEC approved sum of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira). We urge those who are yet to pay to take steps to make their payments before the commissioning of the Building.

The NBA National Secretariat Building Committee would present a Report to this NEC meeting. We are indeed grateful to them for their dedication and commend them for their industry.

Effects of the NBA Constitution
We wish to state that the provisions of the NBA Constitution and Uniform Byelaws for Branches are sacrosanct.

We are aware that the provisions relating to dates for elections, qualification for elections and tenure limitation have generated a lot of controversy especially within the branches. It was on the strength of the perceived fallout and expected disagreements on this issue that necessitated NEC’s approval to inaugurate the NBA Branch Election Monitoring Committee. Part of the Committee’s mandate was to supervise the modalities for the conduct of election into offices at the branch level and to formulate guidelines for the conduct of such elections.

We will therefore not recognize persons elected into office in contravention of the NBA Constitution unless and until such branches comply with Consitutional provisions.

Discipline at the Bar
The NBA restates its resolve to deal with all cases of professional infractions and misconduct with dispatch and without favour.

Lawyers are hereby warned to desist from making disparaging comments against the Court simply because the Judgments were not in their favour or because they do not like the Judge.

Lawyers must imbibe the practice of decorum and civility while commenting on a judicial pronouncement. It is quite disheartening to see very senior and respected lawyers who ordinarily should set examples for their juniors to be the ones who engage in this unprofessional conduct. We must look inwards and tackle issues of professional misconduct before we can make meaningful progress in tackling societal issues.

Conferment of New Senior Advocates of Nigeria
We are in receipt of the list from the LPPC of applicants for the conferment of the rank of SAN. We have forwarded the list to our General Practice Committee chaired by JB Daudu SAN and we are aware that the Committee has written to the Branches for their comments on the respective applicants.

As always, we will conduct a transparent process before making our recommendations to the LPPC. We wish the applicants the best and pray that they scale through the exercise.

2016 General Elections
We have taken giant strides in making good our promise to introduce electronic voting to the NBA elections. We are slowly approaching the date of election and are prepared to ensure a hitch-free and transparent voting process by electronic means.

Our Service Provider is present and will give us an in-depth presentation on how it intends to conduct the election.

We shall also receive a Report from our Electoral Committee on the steps so far taken in respect of the elections scheduled to hold in July, 2016. I commend them for their hard work as I am aware that the eyes of every lawyer and indeed all Nigerians are on them to observe how they will deliver on electronic voting.

Demise of Members
The NBA has, within the past few months, recorded huge losses occasioned by the unfortunate demise of some of its resourceful members. These include James Enojo Ocholi SAN, Former Minister of State for Labour & Employment; Bon Nwakamma SAN, Former Attorney General of Imo State; Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, late Human Rights Activist and Politician. We pray for the repose of their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed. Amen. (1 min silence)

 

Conclusion.
Distinguished NEC Members and Learned colleagues, we thank you once more for your immense support throughout the lifespan of this administration.. 
We assure you that we shall remain focused in our bid to protect and safeguard the provisions of the Constitution of our noble association by taking proactive steps to improve the welfare of lawyers and raise the standard of legal practice in Nigeria. We urge you not to relent but to further support and assist us at all times to enable us achieve our solemn mandate to reposition the Bar. 
I wish all of us fruitful deliberations and a successful NEC meeting.
Thank you for your audience and God bless you.

Augustine Alegeh SAN, FCIArb.[UK]
President, Nigerian Bar Association