Resolutions Reached at the NBA National Officers Retreat Held 10-12 Feb.

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RESOLUTIONS REACHED AT THE NBA NATIONAL OFFICERS RETREAT HELD ON THE 10-12TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2017 AT THE BON HOTEL, ASOKORO, ABUJA

The Nigerian Bar Association National Officers Retreat held at the Bon Hotel, Asokoro, Abuja FCT from the 10th to the 12th day of February, 2017.

The National Retreat with the theme ‘The NBA Strategic Plan-From Planning to Delivery’ was organized for National officers, Senior staff of the NBA Secretariat and stakeholders to meet to discuss and share ideas on how best to achieve, midwife and implement the deliverables of the National Strategic Plan. There was special emphasis on how best to run the affairs of the Bar and her Secretariat for efficient service delivery for her members, staff and the public at large.

After extensive deliberations at the retreat, the following resolutions were made:

  1. That the formulation of a strategic plan for the Nigerian Bar Association is a very welcome development and the draft strategic plan as presented is a robust and well crafted document which when fully implemented will transform the Nigerian Bar Association into a #brave new bar.
  2. That the main thrust of the strategic plan should be the implementation of a vision and mission statement for the Bar reflective of the ideals, aspiration, needs and challenges faced by her members in the practice of their profession vis-à-vis the needs of the society.
  1. That in furtherance of the restructuring of the NBA, it is imperative that the NBA comes to the full knowledge of the history of the Association. It is therefore of importance that the NBA commission a book on the history of the Association while the old Bar men are still alive to tell it.
  1. That to achieve its mantra of a brave new Bar the NBA must strive to be guided by her core values, beliefs, vision, mission, goals and corporate culture in all her dealings and in decision making.
  1. There is need to review the organizational structure of the NBA Secretariat to increase accountability and assist in the achievement of its strategic aim of transparency and efficiency. The office of the Executive Director needs to be strengthened and empowered to lead the Secretariat with a strong body of board of directors who will run the affairs of the Secretariat while the National Officers conduct oversight functions.
  1. That the Nigerian Bar Association as part of her restructuring must adopt proudly at the forefront of the Association’s mission statement, the development of business opportunities and income for her members. The Bar must remember that the NBA’s fundamental role is to her members who should be considered as the CEOs. Thus there is the need for the Bar to seek innovative ways to support her members through the creation of capacity development, networking opportunities, revenue generation opportunities and provision of a structured unified social insurance. (The NBA should provide dedicated telephone helpline services offering guidance on ethical standards, remuneration etc and a match making portal for applicant pupils and chambers).
  1. That along with upholding and articulating the values of Fairness, Respect, Integrity and Excellence, the NBA should uphold value for money. It is crucial that the NBA should have a scale of fees for various services provided by various cadres of her members as value for money is very critical. Members of the Bar should be able to seek the NBA’s guidance on what should be charged for services.
  1. That there is a need for the Association to seek innovative ways to create Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the Association outside of members’ dues and grants from donors. One such way could be through the production and sale of her branded souvenirs. This will be a great branding strategy. A shop at the secretariat and an e-commerce page/platform on her website could give effect to this. Members of the Bar could easily access the page to purchase whatever souvenir items and products they need.
  1. That the Bar in the achievement of her missions and visions need persons/ individuals to help the Association achieve her set goals. These persons need to work well together as a team in order for the mission and vision to be achieved. That there is therefore the need to restructure the National Secretariat transforming it into a well run, strong and efficient engine room of the Association managed by a team of sound professionals who can provide guidance and direction and on a continuous basis carry out all the services that need to be carried out seamlessly, without depending on the 2 year term of her National Officers. That it is imperative that consultants be brought in undertake the restructuring process as is done in other jurisdictions.
  1. That the Association recognizes the fact that in order to have a successful team of professionals at the National Secretariat to give life to the strategic plan:
  • The staff of the NBA Secretariat must be carefully chosen persons of requisite and relevant qualifications/core competencies and people of excellence, courage, passion, professionalism and integrity.
  • The goals of the Association must be established and accepted by the staff. Members of staff must own the process so that they may give their all. A situation where they are not carried along engineers nonchalance.
  • The roles of every member of staff must be clarified and spelt out: There is a need for clarity in terms of job description for staff of the NBA Secretariat and provision of key performance indicators for staff to work with.
  • The staff must improve their methods of carrying out their job description and sharpen their efficiency as they may be no moving forward of the NBA without an efficient workforce.
  • Extreme discipline of the NBA workforce is key to the achievement of her vision, mission and goals.
  • There is the need to have an evaluation mechanism put in place for evaluation of staff and management performance which will come with each staff having a job description. Each staff will then know what his/her job description is, what her deliverables are so can be evaluated based on the job description/assigned ways.
  • There is need for a training and needs analysis/assessment for all the staffs of the Secretariat in order to ascertain their capabilities and to know what skills are required of staff for the Nigerian Bar Association to move forward. The Association must engage in capacity building for the staff. Training and re-training of staff at the Secretariat is key to the success of the organization.
  • Noting that the absence of a personnel policy at the National Secretariat for staff is unprofessional and has inculcated fear and uncertainty among the staff, there is a need for the National Secretariat to have a personnel/Human Resource policy and manual that regulates the system (salary review, appraisal etc.) so that every member of staff has job security.
  • That opening up proper communication channels at the secretariat between staff and management is the key to moulding a successful working group, building positive spirits and showing consideration and respect. Lack of communication encourages a thriving rumour mill which throws up controversy and lowers the morale of staff.
  • That having a reward system in place for staff is vital as it drives members of staff to be effective in the execution of their duties. Rewards based on the whole team’s effort help underscore the importance of team responsibility.
  1. That the lack of continuity of NBA policies from one national executive to another is a structural problem which has prevented the NBA from achieving her core mandate and needs to be fixed. Structures therefore need to be put in place to ensure/aid continuity of policy from one administration to another. As a solution to the problem:
  • An effective succession plan must be put in place wherein the 1st Vice President automatically takes over as the President when the tenure of the President expires. This will solve the problem of policy dis-continuation. The retreat unanimously agreed that a constitutional review on the issue should be presented to NEC.
  • A post inauguration retreat/induction/orientation course should be organized at the National Secretariat where the outgoing national executives will meet with the incoming executives to discuss the existing policies and urge them to continue it. Newly elected national officer should also be trained on corporate governance as it will help them understand their roles.
  • Continuing renewal imperative and replacement imperative: Leaders must groom and invest in people to replace themselves as leaders. Mentoring of staff and officers by her senior members is key as it will aid continuity of policy and build an efficient work force that translate the abstract vision and mission of the Bar into reality.
  • Proper reports of the Association’s activities and records should be kept by the Association’s rapporteurs who should be trained for peak performance and excellence. This will fix the problem of institutional memory lapse which leads to policy discontinuance and will also eliminate the problem of repetition of the Association’s programmes at her symposia.
  1. That for the strategic plan to achieve its purpose, the NBA must have a scorecard to check how far she is advancing year in year out. This is imperative because without frequent periodic self-appraisal, the Association will not forge ahead as what is not appraised cannot be measured and what is not measured cannot be improved.
  1. That the setting up of ICT network infrastructure at the NBA Secretariat is very critical to the next phase of the Bar’s transformation process.Advantages include:
  • Increased efficiency of back office operations at the NBA secretariat
  • Proper archiving and indexing of existing office files and documents physically and converting them digitally.
  • Creation of easily administrable membership database.
  • Online billing & confirmation of payments, deployment of member billing/e-invoicing system.
  • Creation of e- payment & collection management system
  • Deployment of employee payroll / salary payment system
  • Easy compliance with the International
  1. That a NEEDS assessment and risk factor on the budget outline and infrastructure needs for the ICT infrastructure setup is required. Consequently, a steering Committee made up of officers of the NBA and representatives of Consulting firms with experience in setting up automated systems for law societies be set up to discuss and advise on the setting up of such systems.
  1. That it is observed that there is presently no internal audit or control at the NBA Secretariat to audit her finances and activities. It is therefore imperative that the office of an internal auditor be created within the National Secretariat.
  1. That it is observed that the NBA financial reporting/recording process is not in compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) which operates worldwide. There is therefore the need to immediately upgrade her financial reporting system to internationally accepted standards if the Association hopes to secure its place as a respectable institution, get the support of international donor agencies, investors and other stakeholders, speak on compliance issues with confidence and generally raise her profile within the public space.
    To this end, the executive is to invite some key audit firms to advise her on the transition process.
  1. That it is further observed that the Association is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pension Act as no Pension contribution is being made for staff of the Secretariat. Therefore, the Executive Director of the NBA Secretariat is to submit a proposal to the President for the implementation of the provisions of the Pension Act within the shortest possible time.
  1. That having observed that the NBA is in default in complying with several laws and regulations, there is the need to appoint a Compliance officer for the NBA Secretariat whose function will be to monitor statutes and regulations and ensure that the Association complies with them.
  1. That the current structure of the NBA with 120 branches is not workable as it throws up several logistical challenges faced by the Secretariat which include the financial burden on the organization and a lack of structured monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the activities of these branches. There is therefore the need to transform these mini branches into strong state branches, the synergy at the state level will give the association a stronger voice as too many branches weakens the voice of the association at the state level. However, it is acknowledged that the concerns expressed by members and stakeholders on the proposed restructuring and merging of these existing branches into state Bars are very real and must be addressed to make a seamless transition possible.
  1. That to effectively achieve its objectives, National Officers of the Association ought to:
  • Work within the framework of their constitutional duties and recognize the headship of the President as the alter ego of the Association.
  • Be united and speak in one voice and not in discordant tunes as that will whittle down the influence of the Association.
  • Submit their thoughts to the President about national issues which require attention and the President must be open to hear and adopt their sensible thoughts.
  • Thoroughly acquaint themselves with the aims and objects of the Association as their role will always be situated around the aims and objects of the NBA.
  • Acquaint themselves with the vision of the President and the President’s mantra, (in this administration, ‘A Brave New Bar’) and with the campaign documents in which the mantra was encapsulated.
  • Take the initiative to initiate and make proposals centered around the vision and mission of the Association. Proposals are goals and if the executives do not have daily goals – their objectives will be difficult to achieve.
  1. That it is observed that the extensive powers wielded by the President of the NBA could potentially create workplace conflict and disharmony between the General Secretary, the Chief of Staff and the Executive Director if not professionally handled. This is due to the fact that despite the fact that by S.8(5)(e)(i) of the NBA Constitution, the General Secretary works under the overall direction of the President and is in charge of the National Secretariat and other offices of the Association and by S.8(5)(e)(iii) he is empowered to write and dispatch letters and correspondence on behalf of the Association, in practice, his powers are often usurped by the office of the Chief of Staff who operates under the powers of the President and the Executive Director who is an employee and who is as useful/powerful as the President deems fit.
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That to eliminate this workplace conflict, friction and disharmony, and create administrative synergy in the National Secretariat, there must be:

Respect for Constitution. If the officers work with the NBA constitution, they will be reduced friction.

 Organogram/Office Manual: This should be prepared for all so that every officer is acquainted with his roles, duties and powers and their boundaries.

  • A dilution of some powers of the General Secretary and limiting these powers only to issues as it concerns members of the Association while clothing the Executive Director of the Secretariat with extensive administrative powers to effectively administer the Secretariat and implement her policies.
  • The Executive Director (ED) should report directly to the General Secretary and not take orders from the President to sideline the General Secretary.
  • The Chief Of Staff is to exercise delegated powers of the President, save for administration of the Secretariat. His role should be optional and limited to policy making.
  1. That there is a need for more constant communication with the branch chairmen of the NBA so that information is passed across to the branches immediately. In furtherance of this, a dedicated NBA line for seamless communication with the branches and for effective monitoring of what happens in all the branches is key as this will aid a more robust relationship with the branches. On this note, the National Secretariat is advised to communicate information on the strategic plan to branches through the branch chairmen and impress on them the importance of passing same to their members for widespread acceptability.
  1. That the NBA complaint process as presently set up is fraught with avenues for abuse and is not working as they are presently no common standards in disciplinary process and the Bar cannot discipline anyone related to the system. The NBA must therefore create one common standard of discipline that does not depend on where people live or where the complaint is referred to. This process needs to be simplified, practical, efficient, speedy, harmonized with timelines and made more effective and transparent such that once a complaint is received, a secretariat staff records it and processes it independent of any national officer or staff of the Secretariat.
  1. That to ensure a fair and justiciable disciplinary process devoid of the instrument of familiarity, the entire disciplinary process should be removed from the office of the General Secretary to a new office of the Registrar for disciplinary matters created for that purpose and configured in a way to ensure transparency. The said Registrar for disciplinary matter should be given a definite term by the constitution so that he will not serve at the whims and caprices of any particular administration.
  1. That as part of its transparency initiative to build public confidence in the Bar:
  • the procedure for making complaints against lawyers must be made public and reflected on the NBA’s website.
  • The NBA must set up a communication strategy on how she communicates with the public.
  1. Recognizing that one of the roles of the NBA is to work in the public interest, (to provide adequate support to the Nigerian public through its key objectives of the maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Nigerian Bar and judiciary, the promotion of timely and affordable access to justice, the promotion and support of law reform initiatives and the promotion and protection of the principles of the rule of law and respect of human rights), there is a need to develop a structured public interest programme comprising projects which have and may be executed by the organization on  a long term basis. The role of the strategic plan is therefore to create awareness and enlighten the public and partners about this role.
  1. To effectively execute/deliver on her public interest agenda:
  • The NBA must create a separate, semi-autonomous organ or body to drive her public interest programmes.
  • Create an internal governance structure or vehicle which the Nigeria Bar Association Human Rights Institute (NBA-HRI) & Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) enjoy. (This will ensure that the NBA Programming structure functions properly and secure the funds and collaboration of development partners). The envisaged structure should have a Governing Board with a tenure that will exceed the two-year tenure of elected National Officers by one year.  This is the only way to make NBA Public Interest Programmes competitive and profitable.  Otherwise, the NBA will continue to lose revenue/income and collaborative support of donors and development partners.
  • The programmes structure of NBA ought to operate fairly independent of the Association’s general administration and national political advocacy. This is an important leverage to enable the programmes’ long-term capacity emerge without interference from short-tenured national officers, and also for attracting and retaining quality staff, and gaining increased donor confidence.
  • Skilled and competent persons should be hired to run the Centre.
  • Engaging a Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Expert. The availability of M&E capacity within the programme team of a civil society organization is usually a key requirement for donor support and partnership. It is one unspoken way of demonstrating commitment to delivery of value-for-money to potential donors and development partners.
  • Align NBA Public Interest Programmes with Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Goals which states: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  • Set up the NBA Human Rights Trust Fund.
  • Set up the NBA Justice Sector Trust Fund.
  • Full leadership and institutional support of the NBA. The centre would need initial financial support from the NBA to enable it stand.
  • Upgrading of the NBA library in the National Secretariat to serve as a veritable resource and reference library.
  1. That the PUBLIC INTEREST EXECUTION PLATFORMS will be: (a.)  Institutes (b.) Sections (c.) Fora (d.)Committees (e.) Task Forces (d.) Commissions (e.) State Public Interest Programme Centre.
  1. To create NBA State Public Interest Programme Centres in the 36 States of Nigeria and Abuja. The NBA needs to consider a possible consolidation of the 120 branches to 36 States structure and Abuja being all the States in Nigeria just for purposes of NBA Public Interest Programme work where she can engage state structures like the legislature and the judiciary. All the branches in each State are expected to come together to set up the proposed State structure.
  1. That the cluster of programme areas within the National Secretariat (current Directorate of Programmes) has no governance structure or vehicle of its own that meets Donor requirements.  This leaves the Programmes Directorate open to the challenges of lack of structure to access donor funds, perception of lack of continuity of programmes and policies, perception of poor budgeting skills, absence of a Governing Board or predictable governance – creating a perception of arbitrariness, lack of programming capacities, non-adherence to development partners’ and donors’ fiscal responsibility guidelines among other challenges.

    The solution is to create a programming structure that meets development partners’ and donor requirements. NBA should create a Programming structure modelled after a Civil Society Organisation with a name, Governing Council, Bye-laws, and a Strategic Plan. This needs to be urgently addressed as a legacy of the present NBA leadership.

  1. That the strategic plan should be the document of the NBA and should be owned by the NBA and its continuity guaranteed such that whoever comes in as the President must adhere to the plan, utilize his own methods of achieving them and candidates for elective offices will structure their campaign promises in adherence to the plan.
  1. That the great ideas, plans and policies in the strategic plan document be speedily executed as execution is the true measure of success.

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