SPEECH BY ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AT THE INAUGURATION OF COMMITTEES AT REIZ CONTINENTAL HOTEL, ABUJA ON MONDAY, 17TH JULY 2017
National Officers of the NBA, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chairmen and Members of the various Committees being inaugurated, Gentlemen and Ladies of our noble profession, Gentlemen of the Media, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
The establishment of Committees is fundamental to ensuring a more active Bar as it is not possible for the National Officers or the Secretariat to deal with all activities and functions of a Bar. In addition, the use of Committees allows lawyers who have interest and expertise in a particular area to focus on specific issues.
In view of the foregoing, this administration has constituted some Committees with a view to achieving our set objectives. The names of the Committees, their Terms of Reference and their members are as follows:
NBA WELFARE COMMITTEE
The welfare of lawyers is encapsulated within representation agenda of this administration.
Their mandate will be to:
To formulate a blue print/strategy on the welfare of lawyers.
To draw up an action plan for the implementation of the NBA Welfare blue print.
To implement the NBA welfare policy and blue print.
To effectively look into matters which include designing a nationwide insurance policy to cover the risk to which legal practitioners are exposed to in the course of performance of their duties such as accidents, death, whether by natural causes or other means.
To formulate a sound, pragmatic welfare package for young lawyers that will accommodate matters of pupilage, remuneration, work ethics, and integration into the legal profession and encourage specialization into the various areas of practice, etc.
Effect where necessary, the establishment of the lawyers’ cooperative societies at the branch levels of the NBA to help members overcome some financial burdens.
Implement the pension scheme and insurance scheme policies as laid down by the Welfare Trust Foundation.
Effect practical ways of acquiring funding particularly for mid level legal practitioners, to cover their everyday need such as car loans, soft loans for the acquisition of a law office and/or law office equipment, law books subsidy, etc.
Sensitization and implementation of the NBA Healthcare Management Scheme.
And other approved tasks and assignments that will assist the Committee in achieving their over all mandate.
I look forward to the great mileage that would be achieved by this Committee on the much talked about welfare issues of lawyers.
HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE GOVERNING COUNCIL
Our country is confronted with many Human rights challenges ranging from prison congestion, pre-trail detention, extra- judicial killings, the issue of Boko Haram and the attendant killings associated with their activities, re-occurring ethnic crisis as evident in Jos and other northern states etc. This and many more calls for concerted effort on our part to lead the way towards entrenching the culture of respect for Human rights in our community and the country at large.
The National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, in its bid to harmonise the Human rights activities of the Association, created the Human Rights Institute by passing its bye-laws at Warri, Delta State on May 29, 2008. The objects of the institute include, among others to set up a national action plan on human rights, coordinate human rights policies and programmes at the national and branch levels, to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule. The bye-laws further provide for a Governing Council to run the affairs of the Institute.
Having in mind the onerous task ahead, the Nigerian Bar Association under my watch has decided to reconstitute the Human Rights Governing Council.
Their Terms of Reference are;
To advocate for the Implementation of National action plan on Human Rights.
To coordinate human rights policies and programmes at the national and branch levels.
To promote, protect and enforce Human Rights under a just rule of law.
To promote and protect the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession in Nigeria.
To establish and maintain relations with the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute.
To adopt and implement standards, practices and instruments regarding Human Rights accepted and enacted by the community.
To establish and maintain relations with the National Human rights commission.
To strengthen advocacy for the respect of Human Rights of Nigerians.
To promote regional mechanisms for the enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights.
To advocate for the Domestication and Implementation of Treaties relating to Human Rights.
To acquire and disseminate information concerning issues relating to Human Rights.
It is our firm belief that this Committee will deliver on its assigned task, we wish you well.
NBA ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION
Today, the issue of corruption has led to loss of confidence in Nigeria by its citizens both home and abroad due to the activities of fraudsters, corrupt public officials and mis-governance by our leaders. On the international scene, Nigeria has been blacklisted as a state in which integrity and transparency are alien and where no transactions occur without greasing of palms.
The EFCC, ICPC and other anti- graft bodies were established to combat corruption at various levels. Sadly, in spite of these strategies in place, not much success has been achieved in that direction as these institutions fall short of the standards and requirements of an effective anti-corruption regime as demanded by the anti-corruption conventions. There is no clear cut definition of role amongst these agencies nor is there constructive collaboration between them and which has not helped the war against corruption. Institutional inadequacies and defective legal framework have also damaged the perception of Nigerians regarding the genuineness of the anti-corruption effort.
Even the legal profession is not left out. We know that a few bad eggs are destroying the image of the profession. The promotion of rule of law, which the NBA is committed to, and the economic development of Nigeria can only survive in an environment devoid of corruption. Three key things which are central to a successful anti-corruption crusade are concise and coherent anti-corruption policies, independent and effective anti-graft institutions and an enabling legal framework.
The NBA supports a full scale war on corruption and received the approval of NEC at the NEC Meeting held in Akure on Thursday, February 23, 2012 to set up an Anti-Corruption Commission charged with the responsibility to (i) identify all those involved in the unwholesome and indeed criminal practice of judicial corruption, (ii) investigate same and refer the outcome to the various anti-corruption law enforcement agencies for prosecution and any other action they may deem fit to take. In view of this, my administration has constituted a high powered Anti-Corruption Commission. The Commission comprises men and women of proven integrity who have over the years been tested and tried in numerous endeavors relating to the Bar.
They are to
Work with the 125 branches of the NBA to set up an Anti-Corruption Committee in each Branch.
Set and maintain the highest standards of conduct aimed at avoiding corrupt practices at the Bar and the Bench.
Establish formal and transparent mechanisms for applying anti-bribery and corruption prevention measures.
Monitor and investigate allegations of corruption leveled against members of the Bar and Bench.
Identify practitioners who carry out corrupt activities in the legal profession and justice system and forward their names and evidence of corruption practices to the relevant agencies for prompt action and prosecution.
Identify corrupt practices and factors or circumstances that promote corruption in the Bar and Bench.
Organize roundtable/stakeholders meeting on the negative impact of corruption on the economy for the Anti-Corruption Day, the 9th of December 2017.
Develop and facilitate policy dialogue and anti-corruption training courses/workshop for stakeholders in the fight against corruption.
Develop feedback mechanism from anti corruption agencies and the general public.
Do all things necessary to ensure a corruption free society.
NBA ELECTION WORKING GROUP
Democracy is founded upon certain fundamental precepts among which is the ability to hold periodic free and fair elections, effective judicial oversight and independent electoral gatekeepers. Elections are important in any democracy as they afford the citizens the opportunity and power to either express their satisfaction with any incumbent leader or political party or display their displeasure with an incumbent leader or political party. Election is a process and not an event. Any attempt to perpetuate irregularities in the electoral process destroys the whole essence of democracy and erodes legitimacy that may be conferred on the elected by the governed. Sadly, Nigeria continues to grapple with challenges caused by an underlying failure to establish and sustain a credible electoral system.
Over the years, Nigerian elections have been fraught with lack of transparency associated with the use of violence, thuggery, hijacking and illegal seizures of ballot boxes, inflation of election results at collation centers, voting by unregistered persons, refusal to conduct elections at certified polling stations and the creation of illegal polling stations at unrecognized venues.
In view of the importance the NBA attaches to elections and democracy, this administration has constituted the NBA Election Working Group.
Your task will be to
Work with the 125 branches of the NBA to set up Voters Registration Complaint Centers to provide detailed reports on the exercise.
To observe and collate reports on the progress of voters registration exercise from the 125 branches of the Nigerian Bar Association.
To monitor elections and submit reports of the exercise to the President of the NBA.
To organize training programs for key officers in the various branches who will in turn replicate same in their branches for the purpose of election monitoring.
To open a link on the NBA website where laws, rules, guidelines and regulations guiding the general elections can be accessed and also create a website where activities of the Working Group can be assessed.
To initiate discussions with security agencies to ensure a secured environment for the elections, as well as to set up meetings with traditional and religious leaders and other leaders of thought.
To partner with Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders in respect of electoral reforms and activities.
To develop programmes in areas of elections, electoral reforms and voter education.
To carry out tasks and assignments that will assist this administration to achieve its public interest objectives.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND LAW REFORM COMMITTEE
Although much work has been done in the area of Criminal Justice reform which has culminated in the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, much work still needs to be done. And that is why the Criminal Justice Reform Committee is very important. This Committee will also conduct audit of certain laws with a view to identifying those that need reform. So law reform is a key part of this Committee`s assignment. This Committee is expected to work in consultation with government institutions and Civil Society Organizations.
Your terms of reference are
To ensure that law enforcement policies and practices employed to investigate, charge, and prosecute individuals are appropriate and accurate.
To organise conferences, colloquium, workshops and roundtable that will ensure an effective system by making policy makers, evaluate and propose recommendation for a better criminal justice system in Nigeria.
To study and come out with recommendations on the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill worked upon by the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform set up by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation.
To redefine the roles of Security and Anti Crime Agencies in the attainment of Criminal Justice.
To unify, harmonize and modernize the criminal code and the penal code, and keep them relevant to the needs of our contemporary society.
To identify obstacles in the apprehension and prompt prosecution of offenders.
To formulate practice direction for prosecutors, and a total revamp of criminal trials with a view to enhancing the speedy dispensation of justice.
NBA EDITORIAL BOARD
The Editorial Board Committee is one of the bodies which has a pride of place in the NBA Constitution. They are to ensure the prompt, orderly publication of NBA Journals.
Your responsibility includes
To collate, edit and publish the NBA Bar Journal.
To perform other assignments that will assist this administration achieve its set objectives.
NBA LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY COMMITTEE
The Legislative Advocacy Committee is very key to the success of NBA legislative advocacy agenda.
The Terms of Reference of this Committee are as follows:
To design a legislative advocacy strategy that will facilitate speedy passage of Bills into law.
To advocate for the passage of justice sector related Bills into law.
To advocate for the repealing and replacement of the Legal Practitioners Act.
To review and support the passage of Bills supported by the NBA into Law.
To engage and partner with the National Assembly in ensuring passage of Bills into law.
YOUNG LAWYERS FORUM.
This administration is highly interested in the welfare of young lawyers. The welfare of young lawyers is part of the representation agenda of this administration. Therefore this Forum is exclusively charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the interest of young lawyers.
Please note that this Forum is covered by the Bye-Laws enshrined in the NBA Constitution which govern the affairs of Sections/Institutes/Forums.
The Terms of Reference of this Forum are as follows:
To formulate policies that will further the interest of young lawyers of the NBA.
To promote and protect the interest of young lawyers in Nigeria.
To advocacy for the welfare of young lawyers in Nigeria.
To design and advocate for mentorship programme young lawyers.
NBA PROSECUTION TEAM
This administration has placed high premium on professional ethics of lawyers. We are worried about the high volume of petitions against lawyers. We strongly believe that effective and result-oriented prosecution will serve as deterrent factor.
In view of the above, this administration has set up a Prosecution Team.
Their Terms of References are as follows:
To prosecute lawyers against whom prima facie case of professional misconduct has been established.
To work with the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in achieving its objectives.
I conclude by reiterating the importance of committee work to the scheme of activities of this administration. The reports you turn in will not be left gathering dust in the archives. They will be implemented, either at the level of your national officers or NEC or Conference or even relevant National Institutions.
It is the desire of this administration to support its Committees to fulfill its mandate. The National Secretariat will be available to support the work of the various Committees. I thank you all for coming. Your assignment with the greatest respect begins now.
Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK).
President, Nigerian Bar Association
17th July, 2017.
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