What we have in our hands is a nation sitting on the keg of gun powder, a fleeting away of a hitherto struggling or non-existing true democracy. Year after year, we are deceived into voting for wrong candidates whose outrageous selfish interests are overwhelming. Currently, we are all languishing in the sorrow of the failed promises of the incumbent Federal Government and virtually all State Governments. Preparatory to their obviously unprepared victories were their deceitful eloquence loudly on our ears, their sugar coated tongues sang sweet songs of gold platted sorrows with which we were all beguiled. These were their love songs; songs that climaxed our expectations, and once again we are in crisis of rising expectations which we cannot wait to end so that we can receive a new “messiah”.
The clock ticks and the NBA politicians have taken over the legal streets with vigour and promises of taking the largest African Bar steps beyond the point it is placed by the incumbent “brave new bar”. It is another election of the Bar, and your guesses are right, these promises have been made repeatedly from the foundation of the association. But alas young Lawyers are still being remunerated with pittance and paltry sums unmatched with the responsibilities that come with their status.
I wake to the sound of my phone, of text messages and calls with promises of mouth-watering delicacies i am sure i was served with in the last NBA election, where the last two years have not seen much of the changes in lawyers’ welfare at least not as promised, envisaged and deserving.
The NBA should be a watch dog not just to protect its members as a trade union, but to engage in the promotion and protection of Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and good governance in Nigeria with an observer status in the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and a working partnership with many National and International non-governmental organisations concerned with Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and good Governance in Nigeria and in Africa as clearly stated in her official website. But can we boast of achieving these feet? How did we sell it off?
The Bar has adopted the leadership style of the same politicians they should protect us against, and making promises that are rarely met. Injustice is the order of the day in the country and the Bar must step up to its responsibility and take positive actions to stop perceived and obvious maladministration, rather than merely making comments or remaining silent on salient issues of National unity, growth and development.
As we switch gear toward the next NBA election, this is a clarion call on the contestants to make promises that are feasible because as a people we are already full of distrust for one another. They have all been accessible from the last conference, organised different seminars, workshops, and meetings to pave way for success at the polls, we hope that this Aluta spirit is not thrown away and the values and dividends promised are not abandoned after the victory. We will be available to remind them of all their juicy promises which are clearly before us, we admire them, and we will not hesitate to take them up on them.
Lawyers should be visionary and must brace up to seek that which is right no matter whose ox is gored. Let’s be ready to ask questions, the NBA is the largest bar in Africa, fast growing and her members should be able to compete with other lawyers in the global legal market. There is a need for us to vote people who can change the fortunes of our beloved association. The Bar should improve very well on the Continuing Legal Education by making the program an all-inclusive one, where members benefit from a whole range of opportunities and equipped with the requisite networking and ICT compliance to match the global train. In handling the welfare of the members’ especially young members, principals should be cautioned to employ a number they can conveniently pay and sponsor for various programs to improve their skills and should encourage their employees to be active in the NBA activities. There should be adequate application of the labour laws; it is a case of being a custodian of the law and not obeying it for lawyers to work without leave or any retirement plan with the meagre sum they earn. There should be a cooperative within the Bar to help meet the needs of members (especially the young ones) and the current insurance system should be well checked and functional, monies should not just be paid without accountability, it does not encourage active participation.
It is worrisome that an association like NBA does not provide a means of identity for her members, our identity system is not good enough, I will suggest this is catered for from the point of the Call to Bar with data collected from the Law School and updated and requires early assignment of Call numbers. It’s not enough to say that I am a lawyer; I should be able to show evidence, and this will help against all the harassments greeting members. The current identity system is taking forever; I have applied for nearly two years and yet to get mine.
Much ink has been spilled on the issue of stamp and seal; the innovations promised by the contestants are wonderful and should be well thought out to improve the system and the processing time.
On the relationship between lawyers and the court staff the NBA will need to come in and ensure smooth relationship of mutual respect. These ones who should assist the courts have taken it as a point of duty to exploit lawyers. While it is kind to motivate them to work, some of them have seen this act of kindness as a norm, and ready to frustrate the efforts of lawyers who cannot offer anything or who can not offer up to what other more senior and rich lawyers offer. The NBA should work to ensure the court staff accord the respect that is due to lawyers being ministers in the temple of justice, while the lawyers also reciprocate same. The issue of unduly prolonging matters or conniving with accused especially in criminal matters must be checked, because what goes around comes around.
The society is a product of who and what we are. If we do not work tenaciously to cleanse the Bar of all the ills that clog its reputation, nobility and sanctity, then beauty and purity which is synonymous to the Bar is defiled and without hope for a better society. Long live the Nigerian Bar Association.
Francis Ojima Akoji Esq.