I am strongly persuaded that we need to review the current mode of administering the Bar, so as to deepen participation by female lawyers, young lawyers, in-house counsel and lawyers in public service. The Demographics make up more than 65% (sixty five percent) of the membership of the Association, yet their involvement and participation in the affairs of the Bar are abysmally low. Presently, young lawyers cannot be appointed into the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NBA until they are ten (10) years post-call. Thus, until they legally qualify to apply for SAN or to be appointed a judge, they cannot be co-opted into the NBA NEC.
There is no doubt that we need the age and experience of our seniors, but we also need the energy, innovation and progressive ideas of our female and young colleagues, in-house counsel and lawyers in public service who are not presently involved and or integrated into the activities of the Association. We need to modify these legal strictures to ensure that all segments of the legal profession are well represented in the management and control of the finances and affairs of the Association.
In keeping with one of its aims and objectives of creating schemes for the encouragement of the newly qualified and providing assistance to its aged or incapacitated members, the NBA should:
- Ensure that young lawyers who not more than five years post-call do not pay more than N10,000 (ten thousand naira) to attend or participate in all aspects of its Annual General Conferences.
- Ensure that lawyers who have spent more than fifty (50) years at the Bar are exempted from paying to attend any NBA organized events including the Annual General Conferences.
- Ensure that young lawyers participate in all NBA sections and fora organized events at no fee.
- Ensure that for gender comprehensiveness not less than twenty female lawyers are Co-opted into the National Executive Committee of NBA.
- Ensure that every branch elects at least one lawyer of no more than ten (10) post call as representatives of young lawyers at the NBA NEC. This will, of course, require constitutional amendment.
- Ensure that at least twenty (20) young lawyers are co-opted into the National Executive Committee of NBA. To this end Section 7 of the NBA Constitution should be amended to allow lawyers who are not MORE THAN ten (10) years post-call to be co-opted into the NEC.
- Appoint at least two female lawyers and two young lawyers into every Committee set up by NBA.
- Amend Section 15(3)(b) of the Uniform Bylaws to reduce the post-enrolment qualification requirement to contest for certain offices at the branch level.
- Co-opt at least five (in-house) counsel and five lawyers in public service into NBA NEC.
- Allow young lawyers to participate in NBA-organized Continuing Professional Development (Continuing Legal Education) Programmes at no cost.
- Put in place free online Continuing Professional Development (Continuing Legal Education) Programmes for lawyers.
- Deepen the range of benefits enjoyed by lawyers for paying the Annual Practice Fee.
- Continue and actualize the proper placement of lawyers in police and other security agencies into the appropriate officer cadre.
- Reintroduce automatic life insurance cover of at least N1million to all lawyers who pay their Annual Practice Fee as well put in place a health insurance cover for lawyers less than ten (10) post call as well as aged and disabled lawyers.
We must respect and honour senior lawyers as well as cater for the wellbeing of juniors, females the aged and other lawyers, who on account of their gender age or nature of job are somewhat incapacitated. The NBA must therefore put in place and implement policies to encourage wider involvement and participation of all demographics of its membership/ lawyers in its activities.
We must have a Bar where each and every lawyer can realize and maximize their potentials – those who dare, win; A Bar in which no lawyer is despised or discriminated against; where the young and the old have a role and a voice in its administration; where those who are dedicated to the actualization of their dreams receive a befitting recompense for their efforts; where every lawyer can use the power which lies within them to be men/women of destiny.
Mazi Afam Osigwe LLM(Jos), LLM (Lazarsky) FCArb (UK)