NBA conference: Lawyers insist on slash in registration fees

As the Nigerian Bar Association prepares for its forthcoming 64th Annual General Conference, lawyers are calling for a reduction in the conference’s registration fees, while some have planned to boycott the conference if fees aren’t slashed, writes ONOZURE DANIA

On April 20, 2024, the Nigerian Bar Association’s National Executive Committee had an emergency meeting in Yola, Adamawa State capital, where it approved the budget and registration fees for the 2024 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.

The 2024 NBA Annual General Conference, themed, “Pressing Forward: A National Posture for Rebuilding Nigeria,” is scheduled to take place in Lagos from August 23 to 30, 2024. The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the event.

During the meeting, the Chairman of the 2024 NBA AGC, Mrs Oyinkansola Badejo-Okusanya, presented the proposed conference rates to the NEC, urging the committee to consider the three schedules presented at the previous NEC meeting in Jos.

The revised conference fees that were approved are as follows: Lawyers with not more than nine years of post-call experience are required to pay N50,000 for early bird registration, N75,000 to be paid as fee for regular registration, N200,000 for late registration and N250,000 for onsite registration.

Lawyers with between 10 and 19 years of post-call experience are expected to pay N75,000 for early bird registration, N100,000 for regular registration, N250,000 for late registration and N350,000 for onsite registration. For lawyers with a minimum of 20 years experience and above, they’ll pay N100,000 for early bird registration, N150,000 for regular registration, N300,000 for late registration and N400,000 for onsite registration.

Senior Advocates of Nigeria, attorney-generals and benchers are required to pay N250,000 for early bird registration, N350,000 for regular registration, N500,000 for late registration and N750,000 for onsite registration. Magistrates are to pay a flat registration rate of N75,000, while judges and Khadis are required to pay a flat registration rate of N100,000. Non-lawyers are to pay a flat registration rate of N150,000 and international delegates are to pay a $500 flat registration rate. Senior lawyers aged 70 years and above and 40 years post-call are required to pay a flat registration rate of N50,000. While virtual registration for young lawyers with not less than seven years post-call is free, virtual registration for other categories is N25,000.

Since the approval of the conference fees last Saturday many lawyers have kicked against it. Young lawyers under the aegis of “Decent Fees” launched an online petition against the fees approved by the NBA-NEC.

Titled, “Reduce NBA Conference Fees for Young Lawyers,” the petitioners noted that “as young professionals who are just starting our legal careers, many of us are already grappling with financial challenges.”

The early bird rate for young lawyers during the 2023 AGC was as low as N7,500 for those who met the Continuing Legal Education requirements but the early registration rate for this year’s conference has increased almost 600 per cent relative to the bird rate for young lawyers during the 2023 AGC. Okusanya-Badejo had argued that the increase was due to the current 30 per cent national inflation rate.

Lawyers between 10 and 19 years post-call have also witnessed over  100 per cent increase relative to the amount payable last year which was N36,000. Lawyers of 20 years post-call experience and above enjoy perhaps the most marginal increment of a mere N5,000, having paid N95,000  last year while SANs, attorneys-general and benchers are witnessing an increase of N60,000 in early bird rate, having paid N190,000 during the 2023 AGC. Magistrates also witnessed a marginal increment of about 25 per cent in their rates from N50,000 to N75,000, while judges/Khadis will pay N100,000 as against N75,000 paid last year. Virtual attendance was free for young lawyers in 2023 but will cost N5,000 this year.

Aside from the young lawyers, many lawyers have also taken to social media channels to protest over the hike in this year’s Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference fees.

Reacting to the registration fee hike, a lawyer, Dr Kolawole Mayomi, said it was an unfortunate reality that inflation had hit our nation hard last year.

Mayomi, however, advised young lawyers to be in attendance to learn the traditions and best practices of the Nigerian bar, adding that they should not be shut out by the inflation factor.

“Accordingly, it would be gratifying if the older, wealthy practitioners (who have benefitted from the profession) bear the burden of sponsorship, such that younger practitioners will only pay a token to register for the conference. Otherwise, it will take an extra rich young lawyer to register to attend this conference with the attendant travel and accommodation costs,” he said.

Emmanuel Ochai, another lawyer, said the current economic realities in the country should make the NBA reconsider the fees for the 2024 annual general conference.

He stated that the average lawyer coming from outside Lagos to attend the conference would spend about N500,000, or more when you consider the cost of flights, accommodation and feeding.

Culled from Punch News