President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON, SAN has highlighted the aim of the Environmental Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution training seminar noting that it is to equip participants with the knowledge and resources to provide pro bono legal services in the Niger Delta Region.
Mr. Mahmoud was speaking at the official formal opening of the Special Training Seminar on Environmental Laws and Alternative Dispute Resolution for 100 lawyers which was organized by the Nigerian Bar Association in conjunction with the Bar Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council of England and the Wales.
Mr. Mahmoud SAN noted;
“…This training Programme ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN THE NIGER DELTA REGION is a vital component of our effort to becoming a credible partner in peace-building in that region.
“The aim of the Programme is to equip the participants with knowledge and resources to provide pro bono legal services in areas of access to justice and effective legal representation for vulnerable indigenes and inhabitants of the region.”
He also welcomed Kirsty Brimelow, Q.C., the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council of England and the Wales and her colleagues
In his speech, Chief Albert Akpomudje, SAN, Chairman of the NBA Niger Delta Task Force gave a brief overview of the NBA’s intervention in the Niger Delta region. He preceded his presentation with an expression of appreciation to the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales for deeming it worthwhile to train our lawyers on environmental laws and alternate dispute resolution.
“People of Niger Delta are agitating for better living conditions as they bear the brunt of environmental degradation due to oil exploration in the region. We also know that the Niger Delta region is the mainstay of the economy of the country. 80 to 90 percent of the economy accruing to the nation come from the Niger Delta.
” In view of the above, the people of the region had been agitating that they need better living conditions, infrastructural development and these were not forthcoming, those in the Niger Delta, particularly the youths became militant, blowing up oil pipelines, kidnapping of oil workers and so many other vices.
“The government in order to address some of these problems, made several interventions, ranging from allocating 13 percent of the oil revenue to the region, they also brought in the Amnesty Programme for the youths who were ready to surrender their arms.
“NDDC is the interventionist commission brought in by the federal government to develop this region infrastructurally, amongst others. In all the crises in the region, the NBA, as a body, did not put in any strategy in place over the years to be part of the resolution.
“It was in 2016 during the NBA inauguration of President A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, that the President promised the lawyers and the nation, at large, that he was going to set up a Task Force for the Niger Delta region and also for the Northeast to address all the conflicts that have been plaguing the two regions.
“The NBA President matched his words with action by inaugurating the Niger Delta Task Force as well as the Northeast Task force on the 31st of October, 2016.
“And for the Niger Delta Task Force comprising of 13 members of which I am the Chairman, four Senior Advocates and other very committed members of the Bar, on the following terms of reference:
*Provide legal assistance and support for our members affected by the conflict,
*provide pro bono legal assistance to individuals and communities within the region affected by the conflict.
* provide pro bono legal assistance to all parties in the conflict working towards negotiated resolution and reconciliation
* To advise on the general challenges in the region with a view to enhancing environmental
protection and the quality of life in the region.
*Monitoring development in the region particularly human rights observance and flagging issues needing immediate attention and engagement by the NBA
*To monitor, review and evaluate at all levels the degree of implementation of the Niger Delta implementation plan
*Develop a legal framework for Public-Private partnership to foster development in the area.”
“We have continued to deepen our engagements in the Niger Delta, reaching out to stakeholders and actors in the region in order to promote a greater understanding of the dynamics of the conflict and issues affecting the region, in our quest for solution.”
“Last Tuesday, August 8, 2018, we were in Port Harcourt for a Town-Hall meeting which brought together our members and a wide range of stakeholders including traditional rulers, civil society groups, academics, Niger Delta Development Commission, representatives of international oil companies, Federal, States and Local Government Officials to deliberate on the theme: “Promoting Peace, Security and Sustainable Development around the Niger Delta region.”
“I am glad to report that the meeting was hugely successful because it opened a reliable channel of communication among all the stakeholders and afforded us an opportunity to build a veritable platform for independent and neutral mediation efforts in this seemingly intractable conflict.
“I hope in the course of the coming months, the NBA will sustain its efforts in establishing itself as a credible and neutral partner in the search for peace and sustainable development in the region.