Transparency and Probity are Inviolate Values for Any Association- Chuma Ezeala

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Mr. Ezeala Chukwuma is the Senior Partner, Chancellor Chambers. He is contesting for the Chairmanship position  in the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch election. In this interview with DNL Legal & Style, he bares his mind on the motivation driving his ambition, his programmes for the branch and how he intends to achieve his programmes after the election. Excerpts.

You are vying for the chairmanship of the Premier Bar, Lagos Branch of the NBA. What will bring on board if voted in to chair Nigeria’s largest branch of the NBA? Why should members vote for you?

My “Contract with Premier Bar” is premised on a Three-point Agenda, namely: Sustainable institutional and organizational development; Professional development, and Structured stakeholders engagement.

Our “Sustainable institutional and organizational development” is geared towards an overhaul of our secretariat to ensure that it is not only keenly aware of its deliverables to our teeming members, but has the competence and capacity to deliver same. We shall embark on this all-important project through aggressive capacity building and retooling of the entire secretariat. We will place premium on feedback from members in delivering this project.

On Professional Development, we plan to deliver quality but affordable Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programmes to our members. A Mentorship Scheme will be developed for our younger colleagues. This is aimed at equipping them for 21st century practice and reversing the declining confidence in the profession.

A myriad of challenges confront the average legal practitioner on a daily basis. As the alter ego of my law practice, I have a hands-on experience in this regard. Whether in litigation practice, probate or the like, challenges abound. We will confront the challenges faced by our members in accessing their Stamp head-on. We shall confront these issues head-on through a deliberate, solution-focused and sustained engagement with all key stakeholders such as the Judiciary, Lands Registry, Attorney-General’s Office, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), to name a few. This is aimed to reduce the hardships faced by our members as well as deepen employment for lawyers.

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One complaint by most members of the branch is that they are being forced to pay exorbitant fees as ‘Building Fund’ to erect the branch secretariat. How would you deal with this thorny issue if voted in?

We must commend the out-going Chairman and his entire team for their foresight in purchasing a property for the Bar Centre. In a recessed economy, paucity of funds is a major challenge. It is noteworthy that some members have started paying for this all-important Bar Centre which will be a game-changer of sorts for us all when the facility is eventually built. I am committed to complete the Bar Centre project if elected. We will deliver the project through collaborative engagement with critical stakeholders including banks and other blue-chip companies. Many of our senior colleagues have long committed to this project. The branch already has their goodwill and support among others.

Issues of accountability and transparency have trailed many branches of the association in the past years, and Lagos Branch has had its fair share of this. How would you ensure this mistrust of branch leadership is settled permanently?

Transparency and probity are inviolate values for any association that must survive and prosper. I must say that we have been lucky in Lagos Branch in this regard. We have not really witnessed any major scandals. Proper accounts are usually rendered at the end of each project to members for scrutiny.

It was the inimitable Helen Keller who said that “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” In my experience as Vice Chairman during the 2007 National Conference in Lagos and as Secretary of the NBA Lagos Law Week Committee among others, proper books of account have been kept. Also, as President of the National Catholic Lawyers Association (NACL) in Lagos among others, I always placed premium on proper accounting practices and procedures. We must continue on this trajectory. It is a no brainer for a comity of lawyers.

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There presently appears to be a palpable discontent between the NBA National Executive and the Lagos branch over this election. What will be your strategy of resolving the differences between the Branch and its parent body?

As lawyers, we preach negotiation and amicable settlement to lay persons. It cannot be otherwise. The Premier Bar is the largest branch in the NBA system. I am confident that through dialogue and confidence building, we shall overcome this temporary setback.

How realistic is the Housing Scheme which you have made a major point in your campaign?

It is very realistic. A housing scheme is critical for many lawyers in light of the humongous housing deficit in Nigeria. The financials have been thoroughly worked out to ensure that it is deliverable. As we deepen employment and earnings for our members, it will also assist most lawyers to key into the scheme.

What would be your first steps and action within the first three months of being elected?

The first week will see us constituting committees headed by seasoned technocrats as well as strengthening the secretariat to be able to deliver our programmes to members. We will operate on a template of annual programmes. We shall also host a “Town Hall Meeting” to aggregate hands-on feedback from our members and more importantly, get their buy-in as well as afford them the opportunity to own the process. We will hit the ground running from day one.

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