The issue of welfare of lawyers by the national body (NBA) has been a subject of constant discussion both in the mainstream and social media. Lawyers, especially the young lawyers are quick to interrogate what is in store for them after they might have paid all the dues and fees that are collected by both the branches and national. The verdict is usually unanimous that NBA has not lived up to expectation in this regard and the present leadership is not unmindful of these agitations and the dire consequences if not addressed promptly. It is in this regard that the president of the NBA Mr A.B Mahmoud SAN inaugurated a thirteen man committee drawn from various branches in the federation chaired by Mr Monday O.Ubani to formulate a pragmatic framework and blue print on the issue of welfare that will cover all categories of lawyers. Their mandate includes drawing up an action plan for the implementation of the welfare blue print. The Committee comprising the under listed members met several times and came up with the under listed blue print/framework of welfare package for the NBA.
The members are:
1. MONDAY O. UBANI - CHAIRMAN
2. ADESINA ADEGBITE - SECRETARY
3. DR. IBRAHIM ABIKAN - MEMBER
4. OLADIPO AJAYI - “ “
5. CHIOMA WILLIAMS - “ “
6. SADIQ MOHAMMED KACHALLA - “ “
7. CHISOM FRANKLIN ONUOHA - “ “
8. BABA GANA KARUMI - “ “
9. CHISOR KEJEH - “ “
10. DAMILOLA ONABAJO
11. BEREPREBOFA AMAZUO
12. ANAS NAADETI
13. CHIAMAKA IJEOMA CHIKEKA
IT IS IMPORTANT WE POINT OUT here that the blue print as formulated by the Committee must be submitted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the body for approval. The Committee did prepare the followings that are found below and presented them at the last NEC meeting of the NBA just held in ILORIN between 28th of February and 2nd of March, 2018. The Committee Report awaits the approval of NEC to enable those that requires constitutional amendment to be taken to them (now that Constitutional Amendment Committee) is still sitting and amending the provisions of the NBA constitution. If wholly approved, those that require administrative implementation will be made operational immediately.
The Welfare Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association pursuant to its inauguration held its inaugural meeting on the 10th of November, 2017 while the Committee’s second meeting took place on the 25th of January, 2018. The Committee had prior to its official inaugural meeting held series of meetings and strategic engagements online via its WhatsApp platform. Subsequent to the two extensive meetings held in Abuja and the resolutions reached thereat, the Committee has in line with her mandate and the provisions of the NBA Constitution came up with the following standard policy recommendations and proposals aimed at enriching the practice of an average legal practitioner in Nigeria, develop the quality of the legal practice in Nigeria and enhance the welfare of Young Lawyers generally.
STRATEGIC POLICY PROPOSALS/RECOMMENDATIONS:
- INSURANCE POLICY
The Committee reviewed the existing Insurance Policy of the Association and there were suggestions that the Insurance Policy as it presently stands would be more beneficial to members if the members will be entitled to some claims after a number of years. It was discovered that the amount of money we pay to the insurance company is not commensurate to the claims we make yearly over our bereaved colleagues, and this is not in our interest. The insurance policy is one off claim and does not accumulate over the years thereby denying us the benefit of getting anything after many years of contribution except there is death or accident. The suggestion of the committee is to provide an alternative policy that will be highly beneficial to the membership and the NBA generally. We recommended ENDOWMENT FUND SCHEME/POLICY. This alternative policy will make us to have so much money in the system in favor of the NBA after meeting the obligations of the beneficiaries.
- ENDOWMENT FUND
The Committee debated the proposition for the establishment of NBA Endowment Fund. The Welfare Committee discussed and debated the proposition and unanimously resolved that the NBA should facilitate the establishment of the Endowment Fund as prescribed by the Constitution of our great Association.
- The creation of the Endowment Fund is meant to deal with welfare claims and needs of members of the Association.
- To act as an alternative or replacement to the existing Insurance Policy.
We propose that the Welfare Endowment Fund should be funded through the following sources:
- Voluntary donations by members of the Association
- Deduction of the sum of N1, 000 from the Bar Practicing Fes payable by every legal practitioner and remitted directly into the Welfare Endowment Fund as currently being practiced for the Insurance Policy’s subscription.
- Every legal practitioner called to the Bar in Nigeria and who have paid his/her Bar Practicing Fees as and when due, shall be entitled to benefit from the policy.
- The Committee proposed that the benefits in the event of death should be raised to N2, 000, 000 (Two Million Naira) for now subject to review from time to time, while the Endowment Fund Management Committee should recommend the appropriate amounts to be paid as benefits for other heads of claims.
2.4 Notification of Death
The committee resolved that it should be made part of the conditions for qualification for entitlement to Claims under the Endowment Policy that notification of death must be made to the National Secretariat not later than 3 months after the death occurs.
2.5 Endowment Fund Management Committee
In view of the need for an effective, efficient and prudent management of the Fund, it was RESOLVED that an Endowment Committee should be set up to oversee the management of the Welfare Endowment Fund and disbursements. As an addendum to the forgoing, the committee further resolved as follows:
a. That the Welfare Endowment Committee should be a Standing Committee
b. That the tenure of the Committee should be within the tenure of the appointing regime
c. That the Committee should be constituted/inaugurated at the Inauguration of the appointing regime
- That the Welfare Secretary shall be a member of the Welfare Endowment Committee.
The Welfare Endowment Scheme shall cover the following:
- Permanent Incapacitation
- Accident and Life Threatening Illness/Complex Surgery
THE ACCOUNTS OF THE ENDOWMENT FUND SHALL BE AUDITED AND PRESENTED AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF NBA.
2.7. Special Intervention for the Physically Challenged:
The Committee also proposed that the Welfare/Endowment Fund should be operated to cater for the special/peculiar needs of the indigent physically challenged lawyers who are financial members of the Association. Such special needs may include wheel chairs, reading/walking aides or other specialized tools for them.
- HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT SCHEME – HEALTH INSURANCE POLICIES
The Committee resolved and proposed that NBA should encourage Healthcare Management Scheme such as Health Insurance policies. The Branches of NBA are to be encouraged to undertake HMO policies and ensure their members subscribe to the policy. It was recommended that the policy should be made compulsory for all members of the Association in private legal practice and other employments. The Committee further resolved that the Policy should be Branches driven and that the NHIS should be consulted on the workability of the policy. Therefore, various Branches are to be enjoined to liaise with the National Secretariat on the implementation of this policy in their respective Branches. The reason for this compulsory policy is not far fetched: the rate of death of lawyers is alarming and we need a practical step like this compulsory health scheme to stem the tide. THIS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A PRIORITY.
- REMUNERATION OF LAWYERS
The Committee noted with serious reservations the present poor remuneration of lawyers across the country and this was extensively discussed. A number of recommendations were outlined to engender an improved welfare by way of better remuneration for the young lawyers in Nigeria.
- A minimum of N50, 000 salary for young lawyers
- Lawyers undergoing the compulsory National Youth Service scheme should not be paid any sum below N25, 000 by any employer be it private or public during the period of their service.
THE COMMITTEE IS NOT IGNORANT OF THE DIFFICULTY THAT WILL BE ENCOUNTERED IN THE PROCESS OF ENFORCING THIS POLICY, BUT BELIEVES THAT IT IS A POLICY THAT WILL ENCOURAGE SENIOR LAWYERS TO HAVE A MINIMUM IN MIND WHILE EMPLOYING ANY JUNIOR LAWYER. OVER TIME THIS POLICY WILL BE ADHERED TO BY SENIOR FIRMS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT EMPLOY LAWYERS. THE BEST THING IS TO MAKE A PRONOUNCEMENT ON THE POLICY AND OVER TIME IT WILL BE ADHERED TO FAITHFULLY BY ALL AND SUNDRY. THE WORST IS TO ALLOW IT TO REMAIN THE WAY IT IS PRESENTLY ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT IS UNENFORCEABLE.
- PUPILLAGE FOR YOUNG LAWYERS
The Committee while taking cognizance of the existing effort to review present NBA Constitution, deliberated on the need to encourage compulsory pupillage for all newly called lawyers. The Committee however recommended One Year compulsory pupillage for every lawyer newly called to the Bar. It was further recommended that the young lawyers undergoing pupillage should be remunerated during the course of their pupillage. Therefore, law firms are to be encouraged to pay such amount as may be sufficient to take care of transportation and feeding of the young lawyers during the course of the pupillage.
- SPECIALIZATION IN LEGAL PRACTICE
The committee is of the view that the issue of specialization in legal practice in Nigeria should be taken seriously and therefore recommends that the NBA should organise regular Continuing Legal Education seminars and workshops that will expose practitioners to specialized areas of legal practice. It was also suggested that the National secretariat should collaborate with NBA branches to organise training programmes in specialized practice areas for the benefit of members. The committee further proposed a minimum of two of such trainings in a year.
- INTERNSHIP FOR LAW STUDENTS AND GRADUATES
The Committee resolved and proposed that there should be an internship programme for undergraduates and young law graduates who are willing to attach themselves to a Law Firm for a certain period (not more than One Year). This programme is to be instituted as a standing policy of the Association. This programme is aimed at affording law students and fresh law graduates from the University the opportunity of being mentored and tutored by experienced legal practitioners as a form of extra-curricular activity. The programme also has the tendency of enhancing the practice skills of lawyers and improving the quality of legal practice in Nigeria generally.
- CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY
The Committee deliberated on the need to establish an umbrella Co-operative Society for the Nigerian Bar Association. This proposition had also been brought earlier to the attention of NEC during the Lokoja NEC meeting but yet to be discussed due to time constraint. The Committee therefore resolved to represent the recommendation for the establishment of a Nationwide Co-operative Society for members of the Association. WHILE NATION-WIDE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY IS RECOMMENDED TO BE ESTABLISHED, THE VARIOUS BRANCHES MUST COMPULSORILY HAVE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES. The committee noted that branches like NBA Ikeja, Makurdi and others have established co-operative societies that are functional and any branch that wants to operate the scheme but do not know about the modalities should reach out to those branches for operational guidelines.
- PENSION SCHEME
The Committee discussed the importance of promoting pension scheme policy amongst lawyers and Law Firms. It was suggested that the NBA should institute policies that will ensure compliance of Law firms with the existing Laws in Nigeria. Prominent among such Laws is the Pension Reform Act which provides for Contributory Pension and life insurance for employees including lawyers whether in Law Firms or in other employments. The Committee therefore recommend that the NBA should in compliance with the Pension Reform Act ensure all registered Law Firms to which the Act is applicable comply with the Pension Reform Act.
9.1 Effect of Non-Remittance
The Committee also noted that there often cases of non-remittance by employers. It was therefore suggested that lawyers should be encouraged to report non-remittance to the NBA and such firm should be warned by the National body to comply with the Act FAILING WHICH DISCIPLINARY MEASURES CAN BE APPLIED APPROPRIATELY.
- APPROPRIATE PROVISION OF INFRASTRUCTURE FOR PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED
The Committee resolved that The Nigerian Law School should be mandated to make arrangements for suitable infrastructure for physically challenged students – both in the hostels and in the lecture theatres. The Committee further calls appropriate infrastructure provision for the physically challenged at the Court premises, University structures and all public buildings. THIS POLICY IS TO BE COMMUNICATED TO ALL THE INSTITUTIONS CONCERNED BY NBA.
- ESTABLISHMENT OF WELFARE MONITORING COMMITTEE
The Committee proposed that a Welfare Monitoring Committee should be set up which will comprise of members of the Welfare Committee and Welfare Secretaries of Branches. This Committee which will be a Sub-Committee of the Welfare Committee shall perform the role of a Task force and will act as watch dogs for the implementation of the novel policies being proposed by the Welfare Committee. Any member of the Monitoring Committee shall have the power to receive complaints/petitions of infractions and or non-compliance and pass same to the Welfare Committee which shall report such infraction or non-compliance to the leadership of the NBA for appropriate action.
- PROTECTION OF NIGERIAN LAWYERS FROM FOREIGN FIRMS’ INFLUENCE
The Committee observed with serious reservations the increasing influx of foreign law firms into the country who have now dominated the practice space for high value briefs. Most of these foreign firms secure briefs directly from multinational companies operating in Nigeria and other corporations to the exclusion of indigenous law firms. This unwholesome domination of legal practice in Nigeria by foreign law firms deserves immediate and urgent intervention of the NBA in terms of regulation. It is observed that in the Aviation sector for instance, airlines often engaged foreign law firms to negotiate aircraft acquisition transactions and documentations on their behalf to the detriment of Nigerian law firms with requisite competence and expertise. Such unfortunate and unacceptable practice also goes on in other sectors such as Energy & Power, Oil & Gas etc. It is therefore our proposal that the NBA should intervene by way of regulation of the process to ensure firms and multinationals engage indigenous law firms to prosecute transactions on their behalf as against the practice of wholesale importation of foreign legal services.
The Committee also observed that most of the jobs lawyers should do are now being done by non-lawyers. He suggested that we as an association should insist and see to it that any legal document registered that is not franked by a lawyer should not be accepted for registration at Land registries.
The Committee also noted that some lawyers ridicule the profession by giving out their stamps to non-lawyers to affix on documents prepared by non-lawyers. The Committee recommends that any lawyer found engaging in such act of misconduct should be made to face the LPDC for disciplinary action.
The Committee further recommends that all Branches of the NBA are to be encouraged to set up a task force to monitor the activities of lawyers who act in a way that lowers the standard of the profession.
- POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST LAWYERS
The Committee note with dismay and serious concerns the unfortunate but consistent trend of cases of assault against lawyers by officers of the Nigerian police and Security Agencies. Lawyers are now being assaulted in the cause of discharging their professional responsibilities/duties. There are several reports across the country of assault of lawyers and unjust detention by the policemen:
- A young female lawyer was recently assaulted in the line of duty by a certain DPO in Onitsha, Anambra State.
- Another lawyer was also detained and whisked from Lagos away to Abuja purportedly on the order of Inspector General of Police for acting on behalf of his client.
- A lawyer was assaulted and battered at a police station in Agege, Lagos and later summarily charged on trump up charges of assaulting police officers.
- A lawyer was also brutally assaulted in Ikorodu, Lagos State over a land matter where he was acting as a defence counsel.
- Another young lawyer also suffered serious assault in the hands of police officers attached to the Lagos State Task Force for daring to intercede on behalf of a citizen who was being assaulted and tortured in the public glare at Oshodi, Lagos, by the same police officers.
The above are a few of the cases of police assault, harassment and brutality against lawyers reported in the last two months only! Our Committee seeks NEC’s condemnation and decisive resolution on this very disturbing trend. THE NATIONAL BODY IS ENJOINED TO HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE IGP AND OTHER HEADS OF SECURITY AGENCIES IN NIGERIA WHEREIN UNDERSTANDING WILL BE REACHED THAT ON NO ACCOUNT SHOULD LAWYERS BE ASSAULTED IN THE COURSE OF DISCHARGING THEIR PROFESSIONAL DUTIES. ANY MISBEHAVIOR BY A LAWYER SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE BAR RATHER THAN ASSAULTING THEM AS IS OFTEN THE CASE. THIS PROCESS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE BY THE NBA LEADERSHIP.
- AWARDS/COMMENDATIONS FOR THREE MOST WELFARE FRIENDLY LAW FIRMS/MINISTRIES/ORGANISATIONS/PARASTATALS
As an incentive to inspire compliance and conformity amongst the Law Firms and all organisations having lawyers in their employment, the Committee proposed that an award programme should be instituted as a form of recognition and commendation for the Law Firms, Ministries of Justice, Agencies, Corporations and both public and private institutions who prioritise the welfare of lawyers in their employment. This event should be hosted as an annual ceremony which will take place during the gala night/dinner of the Annual General Conference. THIS PROCESS WILL ENGENDER COMPETITION AND COMPLIANCE WITH THE ISSUE OF WELFARE BY INSTITUTIONS AND PERSONS IN NIGERIA.
Our Committee most humbly and passionately appeal to NEC to pass resolutions approving the recommendations as contained in this report, as they are all aimed at improving the quality of legal practice in Nigeria and promoting the welfare of the Nigerian lawyers. The approval of these far reaching propositions will hugely benefit our great Association and its members accordingly. THE APPROVAL OF THESE SCHEMES AND POLICIES, AND IMPLEMENTATIONS OF SAME WILL GO A LONG WAY IN ABATING THE PRESENT NEGATIVE PERCEPTION OF NBA BY LAWYERS ESPECIALLY YOUNG LAWYERS IN OUR MIDST. WE BEG TO MOVE.
M. O. UBANI ESQ ADESINA ADEGBITE ESQ