My Lord, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter S.N. Onnoghen, GCON, Your Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, CON, My Lord the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Idama Iyayi-Lamikanra, and other Judges here present, Hon. Attorney General of Rivers State, Honourable Benchers, Learned Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chairman of the NBA Section on Legal Practice, SLP, and SLP Council Members, Distinguished colleagues and participants at this conference, Gentlemen and ladies of the media, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I most heartily congratulate the leadership and members of the Governing Council of the Section on Legal Practice led by distinguished Chair, Miannaya A. Essien, SAN, for organizing this conference; more importantly for their leadership in reviving the SLP, a key Section of the NBA, after many years of inactivity. I will like to also thank our friend Mallam Yusuf Ali and his committee members who played an important role in setting the stage for the resolution of the issues that hampered the work of the Section in the last few years.
That this conference is holding today in Port Harcourt is a testimony of the excellent work the SLP leadership has done within a very short time since their reconstitution. It is surely a sign of better things to come. I am confident that very soon the SLP will record, like its sister Section, the Section on Business Law, the giant strides that will put it at par or even surpass the SBL.
Distinguished colleagues, Sections were introduced in the NBA as a vehicle for deepening professionalism in the Bar. Sections are expected to promote continuing professional development and professionalization of the legal profession in Nigeria. The Sections and their Committees are therefore the platforms that should offer the real value propositions for our members. We are currently looking at ways we can even strengthen these. For instance, we are considering proposing changes to the NBA Constitution that would make it mandatory for every member of the Association to belong to committees and Sections of the bar to aid professional development and continuing legal education for which the Sections should be the primary vehicles. That would mean that our members would earn their mandatory CPD points on the basis of their participation in various committee activities relevant to their areas of practice or interest. This we hope will aid our vision for the promotion of specialization in legal practice thereby enhancing the quality of legal practice in the country and consequently the economic fortunes of our members.
In view of this, it is imperative that the Sections work with the NBA National Secretariat to review their operations, establish rules, guidelines and protocols that will be necessary to facilitate the implementation of this new model. I therefore call on the leadership of NBA Sections to further strengthen their administration and governance structures to enable them deliver on this mandate. Branches of our association should also take cue from this and reorganize themselves accordingly.
Distinguished colleagues, the value proposition of the NBA for our members should no longer be to pursue career at the Bar by holding positions in offices of the association, but to see the Bar Association as an avenue or platform for improving their knowledge, legal skills and offering service to the community in furtherance of our motto: promoting the rule of law, ensuring access to justice, protecting human rights and entrenching good governance in our country.
The theme of this year’s SLP conference is: “Re-thinking and Re- tooling legal practice for the challenges of our time”. This theme could not be more apt given the current circumstances and challenges being faced by our profession. The legal profession is today facing all kinds of threats. We are facing stiff external competition in an increasingly globalised environment. We are confronted with new frontiers of knowledge and technology that are continually reshaping a new world. With our weak regulatory environment, poor curriculum in law faculties and weak entry requirements into the profession leading to an exponential growth in recent years, it means that we are unable to respond adequately to these challenges. We are thus failing to offer to Nigeria and Nigerians a capable and competent legal profession that can meet the demands of modern democratic society and economy. Distinguished colleagues what this means is that we must pay serious attention in reorganising ourselves and re-tooling our businesses to face these threats and challenges. I thank the leadership of SLP for reawakening us to these germane issues.
I am excited at the array of speakers lined up for the two-day conference. I thank each and every one of them for accepting to participate. I thank all our partners who have supported us in the organisation of this conference. I would also like to thank the Governor and government of Rivers State for their untiring efforts in supporting the activities of the Bar. We have come here again and again, but your Excellency, you have always been so welcoming. I thank you most sincerely for your great service to the legal profession.
I thank you all and wish us successful deliberations.
Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON, SAN,
FCIArb (UK), SFNLI President,
Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
April 12th, 2018.