By Sylvester Udemezue
NBA MEMBERSHIP & QUOD APPROBO NON REPROBO: A LAWYER FILES HIS PROCESS IN COURT WITH NBA SEALS & THEN TURNS AROUND TO CLAIM TO NOT BELONG TO THE NBA.
Let’s look at the the Bar & the NBA
When you get called to the Nigerian Bar, you become a member of the NBA, the Bar Association. The NBA President is the overall leader of the Bar to which you are called. It is from the Bar (to which you’re called) that you can join the Bench to interprete laws, or the school to teach law or go to court to espouse laws (advocacy) or to prepare agreements as a solicitor, etc. The NBA is the Association of all members of the Bar , including members of the new pressure group (NNBA) set up primarily (as it had indicated) to protest NBA’s disinvitation of El Rufai to the NBA-AGC. So, as I see it, the NNBA is an El-Rufai-defenders-and-fans pressure group within the NBA. The NBA remains the Umbrella Association for all Nigerian Lawyers, including NNBA members.
The Bar is the body. We all are members of the Bar by virtue of which we all are members of the NBA, just as all Christians are members and partakers in the body of Christ, the Lord and Savior. Ditto with all Muslims, in Mohammed (peace be unto him).
- I repeat, membership of the NBA is wholly voluntary, not in any way compulsory:
You’re not compelled to get called to the bar, having from inception known pretty well that as soon as you get called, you become a member of the NBA, the Bar Association and a key REGULATOR of the Bar and legal practice.
- You’re wholly entitled to choose to stay away from participation in the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association. No one would harass you for failure to participate— this is why the analogy with case of Agbai v Okogbue (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt 204) 391 is completely irrelevant because in that case the affected Age Group had tried to enforce/compel the member’s participation, unlike is done in the NBA. NBA does not force any lawyer to pay Practicing Fees, Branch Dues, Stamp and seal, etc. That is where your freedom lies.
- My dear, the Bar and by extension the NBA, has rules and regulations guiding it. If you choose to participate, you’re bound by those rules. There are also rights and privileges accorded to NBA/BAR members, and supported/sanctioned by extant law. To enjoy these rights and privileges, there’re conditions you must meet. You can’t enjoy rights and privileges without reciprocal duties and obligations. Rights are not absolute! Sigmund Freud said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
- While you’re free under your right to freedom of association, to REFUSE TO pay Practicing fees, Branch dues, Stamp and seal and other NBA levies, you can’t turn around to want to enjoy the privileges and rights available to only those who meet those conditions. For example, if you don’t pay for stanp and seal, you cannot have them. And if you don’t have them, you can’t file valid processes in court. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have severally confirmed all these. See for example the case of Bello Sarkin Yaki v. Senator Atiku Bagudu (2015) LPELR 2571 (SC), (2015) 18 N.W.L.R (Pt. 1491)288 where the Nigerian apex Court held that affixing of the seal and stamp prescribed/approved by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on any legal document prepared by a lawyer is MANDATORY. And our colleagues have carefully avoided mentioning all the relevant cases, and they’re telling you “NBA is not a regulator.” What an argument! Lol. Are they now saying it’s the National Basketball Association that prescribed and issues Stamp and Seal? That one is not regulation? Anyway, I SHALL DEAL WITH THIS SHORTLY!
- Mark my words, like Siamese twins, every lawyer in Nigeria is bound together with the NBA. No escape route until the extant law is changed. The only option available for us all is , let’s stay together and deal with our various challenges which I agree are numerous and are real. Form as many other lawyers’ organizations as you want, you remain a member of the NBA, bound by its rules and regulations, and you’d enjoy the privileges and rights open to members of the Bar/NBA only if you observe these rules and regulations. Compliance is not mandatory, but non-compliance carries with it some consequences. You can’t approbate and reprobate; if you won’t participate in NBA and would not obey its rules, you can’t turn around and want to enjoy privileges available to only those who participate actively. You’re free, but you’re liable to accept the lawful results of your exercise of your right to freedom of choice. Jon D Harrison once said, “Intentions do not insulate us from the consequences of our actions.”
- So, you can see that no one is violating anyone’s rights. The arguments alleging right’s violation are misplaced. THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE FORMATIONOF A PARALLEL BAR ASSOCIATION IN NIGERIA IS TO GET THE SUPREME COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEAL TO SET ASIDE OR OVERRULE THEIR EXTANT PRONOUNCEMENTS AND JUDGMENTS. Or, to get the Legislature to repeal the extant court judgments and laws. Until then, any purported parallel Bar Association is merely a pressure group within the NBA, and all of whose members remain members of the NBA.
- Let anyone of them or their promoters attempt to file any court process without affixing the official Seal issued by the NBA. If the court accepts such process without the NBA seal, that is when you can begin to say that you’ve left the NBA. In the meantime, stop this barefaced hypocrisy; you go to court in the morning and file court processes bearing the NBA SEAL. Then you return to your chambers to start shouting NNBA or whatever other “parallel” association. It is a clear case of quod approbo non reprobo (Approbating and REPROBATING at the same time), which is like one going into the bush to strike, and immediately thereafter coming back onto the main road near the same bush to ask, “who goes there!” I tire! There’s Godu ooo!
- Please, colleagues, let’s tackle our problems from within. Escapism is not any solution; we’d only have ourselves to blame at the end. As Joseph Fort Newton observed, “A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last.”
- Conclusion: Everything about the NBA is a matter of choice. The choice is ours. In his book, “Life, the Truth, and Being Free,” Steve Maraboli wrote, “the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.” When we don’t open our minds to logic to know exactly what we are doing, we end up doing lots of things which shouldn’t be done. Doing the right things gets results while doing wrong gets us consequences. We can’t blame anyone else, no one but ourselves. We are free to make our own choices but we can’t escape the consequences of those choices. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot have your cake and eat it! Our lives are an expression of the chooses we makes. Cathlin Shahriary once said, “all great choices are made with great risks. we must decide for ourselves whether the consequences are worth the action we are willing or [un]willing to take.” Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
But Winston Churchill said, “truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is, [impregnable].” Like Ayn Rand, let’s decide that, “if the truth shall kill us, then let us all die,” because it is better to disappoint people with the truth than to appease them with a lie. I have said my own.
Long live the NBA!