In a recent interview with Daily Trust Newspaper online, Mr. Isiaka Olagunju, current General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) spoke on diverse issues bugging the Nigerian Bar, including the challenges facing the issuance of the Stamp and Seal to lawyers.
Well he has said production time after receipt of application is 24 hours. Who agrees with him?
What is the position on the Abuja Unity Bar and the Ikeja branch of the NBA?
At the last NBA National Executive Committee meeting in Aba the issues raised were resolved. With respect to Abuja, the two fractional chairmen were barred and that a technical committee should be inaugurated. For the Abuja branch, the committee will conduct a new election into the office of the chairman and the secretary, but both the fractional chairmen and secretaries were barred from those elections. Same thing applies to Ikeja branch except that the two chairmen were not barred. They are allowed to contest. The committees have been meeting. The reason why we barred them from contesting is because of their unruly behaviour.
What has the NBA been doing on members’ welfare?
Before we came in, there was insurance policy for members, now we are having arrangement on mortgage for our members in Abuja and Lagos to enable them to own properties.
What about the young lawyers and lawyers in the North East?
Public interest is one of the policy thrusts of this administration. We have inaugurated the North East task force to assist the victims of insurgency in terms of compensation and the Niger Delta Task Force. Some of our colleagues have their offices burnt down and they cannot even practice as a result of the insurgency. How do we assist our colleagues who are victims and the insurgency has affected so much? As a result of this we have had meetings with NHRC to provide lawyers for the victims of insurgency in Yobe, Bauchi and the entire North East.
What is the outcome of NBA’s visit to Southern Kaduna?
Our report on our visit to Southern Kaduna is ready and will be presented to the governor of Kaduna State any time from now. Our approach is to present the report to the governor first before end of the month before releasing it to the public.
Lawyers complain that they do not get their stamp and seal on time, what is the NBA doing about this?
Before we came in there were several complains from our members about the production and delivery of the stamps. One of the first committees the NBA President set up on assumption of office was to review the Stamp and Seal Policy headed by Mrs. Boma Ozobia at that time. The committee within one month sent in its report. From then on there has been improvement and since I became the General Secretary of the NBA we now produced the stamps and seal within 24 hours after receiving the applications. One of the challenges is from our branches. Instead of sending these applications which come in piecemeal as soon as they get them, they wait until they get a sizeable number. someone who sent in an application in the first week of the month will be expecting it within one or two weeks but we don’t receive it on time. So members instead of waiting for the hard copy of their application to be sent, they can send them online and immediately I receive it I can forward it to the appropriate department for action and probably within 24 hours the stamps will be produced. Of course there would always be human error; it is not 100 per cent perfect, but I can assure you that there is improvement.
How many fake lawyers have been nabbed so far as a result of the stamp and seal policy?
I may not be able to give the exact figure but a number of fake lawyers have been nabbed as a result of the policy. We apprehend fake lawyers every day. A week ago, one was apprehended in Ibadan, then two weeks ago somebody was apprehended in Abuja as a result of the stamp and seal policy. Sometimes we discover that a fake lawyer may borrow stamp and affix it to documents.
The branches that are engulfed in crisis, how do their members get their stamps and seal?
In Abuja branch we ask them to come to the NBA National Secretariat to collect their stamps and that has been working. In Ikeja branch, it is only with the office of the chairman that we have issues, the office of the secretary of the branch is still intact, we still send the stamps to that office in Ikeja so we don’t have challenges.
Recently some lawyers were arrested for writing examination at the Nigerian Law School for law school students, what is the NBA doing about this?
We received petition from the Nigerian Law School and we have taken appropriate steps to commence disciplinary measures against the affected lawyers. There are two issues involved here, first the issue of professional misconduct and secondly the issue of criminality. In terms of professional misconduct we started the process of discipline of our members and the consequences depend on the findings of the committee. The issue of criminality would be handled by the police.
Since the last election, how many lawsuits have been filed against the NBA?
Arising from the last NBA election, less than 10 lawsuits have been filed against the NBA. Sometimes the same person may file two to three cases on the same issue, we are coping.
Are you satisfied with the disciplinary mechanism within the NBA?
The only thing that is constant is change, there must be dynamism and improvement in anything that we do. When we came in we set up a planning review committee that looked into the issue and the committee has submitted its reports and made recommendations to us on the ways to improve. The improvement is ongoing. Before we leave office there will be in place a process that everyone will be proud of. Our challenge is the time lag from receiving the process till the end of the process. Now we have been able to reduce the time of concluding the process to between one month and three months, this is something that involves the livelihood of a lawyer and we must be able to give them appropriate time for fair hearing before the decision.
What steps is NBA taking towards human rights and prison decongestion?
On 10 December 2016 Human Rights Day held in Lagos, the NBA President inaugurated the pro bono scheme of the association because we realized that we cannot do it all. We discovered that there are many prison inmates who need legal representation hence the pro bono scheme in which every branch of the NBA nationwide will submit names of 10 pro bono lawyers who visit not only prisons but police stations to see the inmates and suspects who need legal representation. We have already informed the NHRC on this project and we are collaborating with them.
What is your take on the current problem in the NBA?
I appeal to our members to consider the interest of the profession above their individual interests. If we decide to destroy the profession, the future posterity will not forgive us. We are not carpenters, we are lawyers.
Source: Daily Trust
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