The Olumide Akpata NBA Presidency: Leisure of Promise-Making and the Difficulties of Promise-Fulfilment (Part1)

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By Sylvester Udemezue

Memory Verse:

“… hitting the ground running immediately will not be enough, we also need to hit it flying. Nothing short of that would match the expectations of our members and Nigerians”. (Per Olumide Akpata, in his Inaugural Speech on 28 August 2020)

Below are seventeen (17) major promises and covenants Mr. Olumide Akpata, while taking over in 2020 as the NBA President, made to/with the Nigerian Bar and its members:

1) On Observance Of Federal Character In NBA Leadership: “One of the cardinal pillars of my campaign and on the basis of which I made myself available to run for this high office, was the promise to run an all-inclusive Bar…This is a role I will approach will all seriousness.”

2) Achieving Unity Within the Bar: “The Bar that I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength…we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice…doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar”.

3) On Electoral Reforms in the NBA: “Nigeria’s foremost professional Association, our electoral process ought to be the standard for others to follow and should, to the extent humanly possible, be devoid of the glitches that we witnessed…The consensus is that there is need to urgently review the 2020 elections and to institute urgent reforms of our electoral systems…In the wake of the criticisms that trailed the Election, this is now a top priority issue for me… I am immediately constituting an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee, comprising distinguished practitioners of the highest standards to audit our 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for our electoral systems and processes…I pledge to implement whatever recommendations they come up with well ahead of time to ensure that the 2022 election is devoid of those glitches that we noticed in the 2020 election and that we truly set a standard that others will aspire to”.

4) On Improving the Welfare of Lawyers in Nigeria: “it is at the core of my mandate to expand and deepen the market for legal services in Nigeria and consequentially improve the financial standing of our members. In the coming weeks I shall constitute an NBA Task Force to determine the scope of legal work that is statutorily prescribed to be the exclusive preserve of Nigerian lawyers and to work out modalities for ensuring that only members of our Association get to do such work”.

5) On Halting External Encroachment On Lawyers’ Jobs: “In recent times we have witnessed the brazen encroachments into our turf by other professions and private organisations like banks, consulting firms, property firms, amongst others. I will personally engage the leadership of these organisations and prevail on them to refrain from the practice of encroaching into areas that are the exclusive preserve of lawyers. In cases where this is not heeded, we shall not hesitate to challenge such encroachments in court. It is no longer business as usual. One hallmark of my administration shall be the constructive engagement with the heads of the major regulatory agencies to ensure better synergy with the NBA in the interest of our members”

6) On Remedying Unfavourable Provision of The CAMA, 2020: “Criticisms from some quarters have also trailed the passage of Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020. We shall constructively engage with the CAC in this regard to allay the fears of our members and indeed the general populace. In this regard I must immediately commend the NBA Section on Business Law for their illuminating and timely Webinar on the CAMA 2020. More of such events will be promoted under my administration. Where however, there are provisions of the Act that cannot stand the test of time, the NBA shall not hesitate to advocate their urgent amendment so that they do not constitute a clog in the wheel of progress”.

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7) On Poor Remuneration Of Lawyers: “On the vexed issue of the poor remuneration which has made the legal profession in Nigeria a laughingstock, I said during the campaign that the NBA can no longer afford to fold its hands in the face of this most unfortunate state of affairs. One of my major tasks as President of the NBA will be to table before the Legal Practitioners Remuneration Committee a request for the review of the Legal Practitioners (Remuneration for Legal Documentation and Other Land Matters) Order to reflect current economic realities. It is my strong belief that the standardisation of the fees charged by legal practitioners holds the key to the resolution to the poor payment of legal practitioners”.

8) On NBA STAMP AND SEAL: “I pledged in my Manifesto that the NBA under my administration shall issue at no costs, one pack of 24 Stamps to legal practitioners between 1-5 years of call, upon payment of practising fees. After due consultations, we have decided to extend the gesture by issuing two packs of 48 Stamps for free to all verified legal practitioners who pay their Bar Practising Fees not later than 31 March 2021. Those who require fadditional copies of the NBA Stamp and Seal would then free to request additional pages at extra costs to them”.

9) On Harassment And Brutalization Of Lawyers: “The NBA that I now lead will strengthen the NBA Human Rights Institute and also engage the heads of the various security agencies proactively and constructively from the outset, to set the tone for a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship between their respective agencies and our Association. The engagements would secure assurances that any officer of the security agencies found to have abused a lawyer would be sanctioned and such sanction made public. Where these engagements fail, we shall not hesitate to bring our full weight as an Association to bear to challenge any instance of abuse and harassment of lawyers.”

10) . Capacity building for Lawyers: “It is also top of my agenda to initiate programmes that are designed to enhance the capacity of Nigerian lawyers and equip them with the tools required to improve on their ability to meet the expectations of a highly sophisticated clientele…In this regard I promise to reconstitute the Board of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) and charge the Board with the responsibility for the operation of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme of the NBA”.

11) On Mentorship Within the NBA: “We will also set up a Committee to deliver on our promised mentorship initiatives across all NBA branches. I also announce today the establishment of the NBA Career Development Centre with the main objective of providing career guidance to our members”.

12) On Slow Pace of Justice Dispensation In Nigeria: “tasked the NBA and the Nigerian judiciary to come up with urgent reforms that will improve the justice delivery system in the country and decried the slow pace of trial of cases in our courts… The answer lies in effective collaboration among the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial arms of Government, with the NBA as a key stakeholder…I am well aware that an important obstacle to achieving sustainable reforms in the sector is that we have done a lot of talking and limited implementation of the many reasonable proposals that have been agreed to by justice sector stakeholders over the years. I am determined to make progress on these issues during my tenure…”.

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13) On Promoting Rule of Law: “The NBA that I am honoured to lead will exhibit zero tolerance for disobedience of lawful orders of courts and will not hesitate to take all legal steps available to it to protect, defend and maintain the rule of law in Nigeria. The NBA under my administration shall take seriously our mandate of promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of the generality of citizens”.

14) On Law Reforms: “… under my administration the NBA Law Reform Committee will be adequately resourced to play its role as a liaison between the NBA and the National Assembly; to represent the Bar at National Assembly public hearings, to make meaningful input into our laws for the betterment of the society and our profession. For too long we have shied away from that responsibility. That stops today”

15) Dichotomy Within the Bar: “My emergence as President of the NBA is a victory for the corporate counsel, law officers, lawyers in other forms of salaried employment; the police and military lawyers, etc and for the different segments of the legal profession who have long been seemingly treated as outsiders instead of as equal members of the Bar. Having once been a victim myself of such discrimination, I promised, and hereby restate, that the NBA under my leadership shall ensure that the different constituencies in the profession are given a voice. My Presidency has today ushered in a truly all-inclusive Bar”.

16) Ethics and Discipline: “we shall champion an improvement in the disciplinary procedure in the legal profession…Another area that must not be overlooked is the need for the urgent review of our Rules of Professional Conduct and the amendment to the Legal Practitioners Act. These two fundamental documents must be reviewed to bring them into conformity with modern trends. They have held us back for too long. In this regard, my administration will table the extant Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee Report and the KPMG Diagnostic Report for consideration, before the NBA-NEC to enable us take appropriate next steps. We will need to partner with the relevant National Assembly Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Justice sector to ensure the quick passage of a new Legal Practitioners Act and work with the General Council of the Bar under the leadership of the Attorney General of the Federation, for the review of the Rules of Professional Conduct”. See: “Inaugural Address By Olumide Akpata, President Of The Nigerian Bar Association At The Inauguration Of The Nba 2020 – 2022 National Executive Officers”.

17) Olumide Akpata’s Promise to “Overhaul” an “Outdated” Nigerian Law School Curriculum: “OluAkpata has stated that what is taught in law school is entirely different from what we have in real practice. Why would you train with a different tool and be subjected to practice/work with a different one? Isn’t it what maths teachers do with huge difference between what they teach in class, their tests and assignments and their exam (where they’ll require you to find X that he didn’t teach you how to find in class)” (See: “Eight Reasons Why You should vote Mr. Olumkide Anthony Akpata as the 30th President of the Nigerian Bar Association” as published by on June 08, 2020). Earlier, on February 06, 2020, Mr Olime Akpata was reported (see Punch Newspapers) to have said, “When we get to interview these young lawyers who say they want to join us, the first thing that hits you, even with the one who has first class from law school, is that they don’t have the knowledge to deal with law today. But it’s not their fault. What are they being taught? They have book knowledge; they are following a curriculum that I followed 20 years ago when I entered the University of Benin, how can anybody still be teaching people with that kind of curriculum in today’s world? In 2020, you are not offering Technology Law, there is nothing about commercial awareness to make lawyers understand that they are operators in an economy; that we are the pivot in the economy because all the relationships in the economy are underpinned by legal documentation. That is what we are supposed to be doing”.

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Please, watch out for Part 2 wherein I begin a process of serial but dispassionate examination of these promises with a view to determining extent of effective fulfillment of each and all of them, by the Olumide Akpata-led NBA leadership of August 2020 to August 2022.

But, wait a minute! One may ask, why is it necessary to examine how far OLUMIDE AKPATA has gone towards fulfilling these promises? Why not forget the past and face the future? The answer is that it is absolutely necessary to x-ray the extent of fulfilment for the following reasons:

a) Those who forget the past are most likely to repeat the mistakes of the past (per George Santayana);

b) Such an objective examination is necessary for purposes of measuring actual performance and extent of success of the Akpata-led NBA administration of 2020-2022, and in the interest of history and posterity. The Akpata administration is scheduled to end on 26 August 2022. Leadership Performance is not measured by social media hypes, grandstanding or play-to-the-crowd, but by a disinterested, dispassionately evaluative process of placing performance side-by-side promises, to determine how successful a leadership is. As a leader, one’s principal job is to create an operating environment where others can do great things, an environment in which others are able to self-actualize.The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led. This is the ultimate test of his leadership effectiveness. As a leader, it is not only what you do, but also what you do not do, for which you are held accountable. Accountability is thus the measure of a leader’s height. Where there is no accountability, there is no responsibility. If you can’t stand the heat, you’d better get out of the kitchen!

c) Such an evaluation will to expose extent of effective delivery of good governance to serve as a lesson for/to incoming and future NBA leaderships, on promises-making and the need for promise-fulfillment. Anthony Hilt said, “Keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep”. This means, don’t ever promise more than you can deliver, Do not promise what you ought not, lest you be called upon to perform what you cannot. As Benjamin Franklin said, “promises may fit the friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies”. Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making at the time they make them. Unknown to them, a promise made is a debt unpaid. Indeed, promises are like crying babies in a theater; they should be carried out at once. There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept. Broken vows are like broken mirrors. It’s not what a person tells you that matters.Their character is revealed not by the promises they make, but by the promises they keep. All in all, it makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises. And then, we carry on as if all promises have been fulfilled.

Please, stay tuned! Thank you for reading. I heartily welcome comments and ripostes, as the discussion progresses.

Long live NBA!

Long live Nigeria!!

Yours faithfully,

Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)

08109024556. mrudems@yahoo.com.

(21 August 2022)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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