Law News
I’m an agent of change for NBA, says Alegeh

THE recent amendments to the NBA Constitution were ratified at the Annual General Meeting [AGM] of the NBA yesterday 28th of August, 2014. The said amendments addressed issues that were topical at the time and have essentially served their purpose.

However, there is a further need to amend our Constitution to meet present realities and take advantage of modern technological developments.

The cost of NBA National elections to the Association is increasing at an unsustainable rate. The risk, dangers and inconveniences encountered by NBA members during these elections is becoming unbearable. The elections are becoming too expensive for NBA members and voter tampering appears to be encouraged when Delegates at National Elections are not provided with accommodation and other logistic requirements by the Association. The resultant effect is that candidates are compelled to provide accommodation and logistic needs for the Delegates in a manner that may compromise the decision-making process of the candidates.

E-Voting

I believe strongly, that the delegate election system of the NBA needs to be reviewed and that E-VOTING through the NBA Website should be introduced and this would require a constitutional Amendment.

Other amendments

The wording of the electoral provisions of Our Constitution and several other provisions would need to be reviewed and fine-tuned.

The amendments to our Constitution to introduce e-voting and other changes would be given priority and dealt with speedily with the hope that the system would be operational and members made conversant with its working long before the 2016 National Elections. In the light of the approval of Uniform Bye Laws for NBA Branches, it would be advisable for the provision of e-voting to be contained in the Uniform Bye Laws to afford Branches the opportunity to implement e-voting and be conversant with its operations before the National elections.

I have therefore set up a Constitution Review Committee with the following Terms of Reference:

1]To review the provisions of Our Constitution on elections with a view to introducing e-voting at all NBA National Elections.

2] To review the provisions of Our Constitution on elections and propose such amendments as may be required to make the provision more definitive and NBA National Elections more rancour free.

3] To review the NBA Branches Unified Bye Laws to bring it in conformity with the Amended NBA Constitution.

4] To review and propose all other such amendments as it requires necessary to the provisions of Our Constitution.

The Committee shall submit its report on or before the 30th of November, 2014.

The members of the Committee are:

1. Garba Tetengi,SANChairman 2. Chidozie OgunjiSecretary

Alternate Chair and Other Members to be announced

I shall upon completion of the work of this Committee take necessary steps to convoke an Emergency General Meeting [EGM], if considered necessary to debate and ratify the proposed amendments.

2. NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEEMEETINGS[NEC MEETINGS] Our NEC meetings should be made more effective and dedicated totally and entirely for discussion of NBA matters. NEC must also take advantage of modern day technological developments in its operations.

Matters for debate at NEC must be by Written Proposals/Counter Proposals submitted and circulated to all NEC members. The Branch Reports shall be presented at NEC meetings NEC to operate with an Order Paper

Pre-registered Observers to be allowed at NEC Meetings. Pre-Registration would be available to verified Lawyers who have paid their Bar Practicing fees and Branch dues as at when due and is subject to availability.

3.WELFARE OF NBA MEMBERS

I have always made it clear that the welfare of NBA members would be given high priority in this administration. I have since my election engaged myself in seeking ways of enhancing our collective welfare and I have received offers in principle in respect of the following:

NBA IDENTIFICATION CARD

All lawyers who have been verified in the NBA Data Base shall be issued with NBA Identification Cards which would be a chip and pin card that would contain the following:

Name of the Lawyer  Passport Photograph  Supreme Court Enrolment Number

The card would also function as a payment card for ATM, Pos and Online Transactions.

Presentation of the Card would entitle the Lawyer to a variety of discount and other packages negotiated by NBA.

This card would be issued FREE OF CHARGE.

NBA INSURANCE POLICY

We have received offers from various insurance Companies in respect of the NBA INSURANCE SCHEME which would provide insurance cover for all lawyers who have paid their Bar practicing fees as at when due.

The latest offer we are considering offers Lawyers the following choices:

OPTION A: N700,000.00 – Death or Permanent Disability OPTION B:N500,000 – Death or Permanent Disability

N500,000 – Death by Accident OPTION C:N350,000 – Death or Permanent Disability

N350,000 – Death by Accident N350,000 – Critical Illness

OPTION D:N280,000 – Death or Permanent Disability N280,000 – Death by Accident

N280,000 – Critical Illness N30,000 – Medical Expenses

It is to be noted that all Lawyers who have paid their Bar Practising Fees as at when due are automatically entitled to this insurance cover and a Policy would be issued in the Lawyer’s name.

BAR PRACTISING FEES

I shall propose to NEC a 10% reduction across board in respect of Bar Practising fees for all Lawyers excluding Senior Advocates. Upon ratification by NEC I will take appropriate steps to give effect to the reduction.

I shall also propose to NEC, that the share of Branches from BPFs be increased from 10% t0 20%. The Additional 10% to Branches would be applied to set up a Lawyers Welfare Trust Fund at all NBA Branches.

The payment of the Branches’ share of BPF shall be by Direct Debit utilizing currently available e-banking means.

ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE FEES

The fees for the 2015 Annual General Conference shall be a forty [40%] percent reduction of the Fees for the 2014 Annual General Conference. The Fees shall be as follows:

1 – 5 Years:N5,000

6 – 10 Years: 11 – 14 Years: 15 -20 Years: Above 20 Years: SANs/AGs/Benchers: Judges:

N15,000 N25,000 N35,000 N50,000 N100,000 N75,000 N50,000

Magistrates: Governors/Legislators & Political Appointees:

N250,000

NBA PARTNER DISCOUNTS

The Association shall conclude arrangements to have Corporate Partners who shall offer NBA members discounts upon presentation of the NBA Card.

HOTELS: We have received offers in Principle from leading Hotels in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Benin offering from 25% – 50% discount to NBA members who use their hotels. We plan to finalise on these offers immediately hereafter while we continue to contact hotels in other cities to sign up partner deals with them.

AIRLINES: We have engaged a leading airline in Nigeria and have received a discount offer which shall be finalised in the next few days.

LOANS

We are currently in discussions with several leading financial institutions to provide specialized financial products to Lawyers in the form of Consumer loans for Cars, Generators etc as well as for Commercial and Residential Mortgage loans at reasonable interest rates and with repayment moratorium.

There are several other discount and value added services that we are negotiating for the benefit of NBA members.

I will now deal with some matters that need urgent attention in the NBA

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee

The decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in SC/111/2006 Akintokun v. LPDC has adversely affected the work of the LPDC with the resultant effect that the Committee has stopped sitting since that decision was given by the Supreme Court.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of discipline in our profession and we are all witnesses to the appalling level of indiscipline bedeviling the Profession. The work of LPDC which has started to restore sanity to the profession must therefore not be truncated.

I have reviewed the matter closely and I would engage the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice to find a quick solution to the present logjam.

NBA ABUJA BUILDING

The building of the NBA House in Abuja is ongoing as we speak. However, the term of the Committee charged with supervising and overseeing the Project has lapsed with the end of tenure of the last Executive.

I consider this project to be of monumental importance to the NBA and it would be unwise to leave the project unsupervised. I commend members of the last Committee that worked on the Project and assure them of their

place of pride in the history of NBA. However, I consider it advisable to set up a new Committee to oversee the completion of the project.

The Chairman of the Committee shall be Okey Wali, SAN. The Alternate Chair, Secretary and other Members to be announced Okey Wali, SAN is well versed with this project and has shown a passion for actualizing this project. I know he deserves some rest but I trust that he will accept this new challenge and deal with it in his characteristic result oriented manner. Okey Wali, SAN I thank you again.

NBA REPRESENTATION IN BOARDS AND PARASTATALS

I note with total dismay that the Boards, Commissions and Parastatals in which NBA is or ought to be represented remains shrouded in secrecy by a few who have turned NBA positions to their personal estates to the detriment of the entire Association.

I have decided to set up an Adhoc Committee to look into the matter and present a report on or before the end of October, 2014. The terms of reference of the Committee are as follows:

 Toinvestigate,identifyanddetermineallBoards, Commissions, Agencies and Parastatals in which NBA is entitled to representation.

 To identify any person[s] who are or have represented NBA on any such body and the period of such representation.

The Members of the Committee shall be:

1.Lawal Rabana, SAN 2. IbrahimEddyMark 3. MondayUbani

Secretary and Other members to be announced

Chairman AlternateChairman Member

APPOINTMENTS INTO NBA POSITIONS

The way and manner in which appointments into positions in NBA have been handled needs to be improved upon to ensure equity, fairness and balance.

To address this matter I hereby set up the NBA Select Committee with the following terms of reference:

The recommend to the NBA President persons for appointment into the various positions in NBA

 To ensure merit, fairness as well as branch and gender balance in all such recommendations.

The Committee is not an appointing but a recommending body restricted to making recommendations to the NBA President.

The Members of the Committee are:

1.. Chief Ferdinand Orbih 2..Okechukwu Okeke 3. AdamuTuraki

The Alternate Chair and other Members to be announced

CHAIRMAN SECRETARY Member

I hereby respectfully request ALL BRANCH CHAIRMEN to discuss with their Branches and submit to me on or before the 21st of September, 2014 a list of members recommended by the Branch for appointment into Committees and other bodies. The area of practice of each lawyer should be indicated against his name.

I shall also take steps to contact various and selected Bar leaders to make similar recommendations for appointment.

The work of the Select Committee shall be limited to making recommendations from names recommended.

BRANCH AND SECTION ELECTIONS

The disputes arising from Branch elections are increasing daily. Currently, Branch elections are generating controversies in Ogwashi-Uku, Isiala Ngwa, Obollo-Afor, Bwari and Gwagwalada Branches amongst others. This does not bode well for the Bar.

Chairmen have developed the habit of refusing to arrange for elections when their tenure expires. In some instances, Chairmen install and crown successors without holding elections. No matter how noble the intention all such elections fall foul of Our Constitution and cannot be allowed to stand.

I advise all our colleagues involved in any such election disputes to put the interest of the Bar above self-interest and to resolve all such disputes speedily.

In the case of the Section of Legal Practice [SLP], the tenure of the Executive expired but without conducting any elections on Tuesday, 26th August, 2014 as required, another Chairman was purportedly installed. This situation cannot be allowed. Consequently, I have appointed Mr. Jide Koku, SAN as the Interim Chairman of the Section of Legal Practice with a mandate to run the Section until proper elections are held within six [6] months from today.

NEWLY APPOINTED SENIOR ADVOCATES OF NIGERIA

In July, 2014, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee [LPPC] announced the appointment of Fifteen [15] New Senior Advocates of Nigeria. We congratulate the new Senior Advocates and advise them to use their new positions as Leaders of the Bar to be leading light in their respective Branches and to always work in the best interests and traditions of the Bar.

NBA will hold a Dinner Party at 7pm on 22nd September, 2014 in honour of all our new Senior Advocates. We trust that Our New Senior Advocates will all endeavour to attend the Dinner Party.

ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE AND NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE [NEC] MEETINGS

We shall decide the venues for Our next AGC and our NEC meeting shortly to aid proper planning for these crucial NBA activities. Consequently, interested Branches are advised to indicate interest and submit bids for the hosting of any of these meetings.

The bids will be evaluated and presented to NEC for approval.

It is of great importance that we seize this opportunity to draw attention to issues of National interest.

JUDICIAL REFORMS

The judiciary is taking positive developmental steps and NBA must continue to collaborate with the Judiciary as there remains so much room for improvement.

EMPLOYMENT OF RESEARCH ASSISTANTS FOR JUDGES

The provision of Research Assistants for Our judges must not be delayed a day longer. The benefits of Research Assistant employed, not by Judges, but by the Judiciary would be a monumental step forward in our quest for speedy dispensation of high quality justice. Consequently, I will shortly engage the various Government agencies involved in the process to sensitize them of the enormous benefit to the Nation.

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

The current secret shrouded appointment of Judges system must yield to a more transparent system where merit rather than cronyism is the basis for appointments and promotion of judicial officers.

The fight to rid the judiciary of corruption would remain a mirage unless and until the appointment and promotion system is reviewed. We cannot expect judicial officers appointed through the back door to be incorruptible especially at this time when those who arranged the appointments have retired but rather than stay quietly at home to enjoy their retirement, now masquerade themselves as Consultants in cases where they have never seen the Court processes. Their main claim to fame and Consultancy fees remains the fact that the Judge is “MY BOY”. This is utterly disgraceful. It should be discouraged. It should be condemned. I say no more for now.

DIGITALISATION OF OUR COURTS

We need digitalization of Our Courts urgently to enable us take advantage of modern technology in our quest for speedy and effective dispensation of justice.

I watched the recent Oscar Pistorius trial in awe when hour long trial transcripts were available for use by Lawyers in Court immediately thereafter. I don’t know the cost of this equipment but we cannot claim to be the Giant of Africa if we cannot afford to equip our Courts with technological tools designed to ensure the speedy dispensation of justice we all crave.

QUACKS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION

The judiciary should collaborate with the NBA in its efforts to rid the legal Profession of quacks.

The NBA has just introduced its stamp and seal policy and this policy can only have effect when the judiciary ensures that only documents bearing the stamp and seal are allowed for filing in Our Court or admitted in evidence at trials.

I must commend the progressive thinking of Honourable Justice Njemanze, the Honourable Chief Judge of Imo State for his practice direction to the effect that all affidavits in Imo must be prepared or endorsed by Lawyers.

This is a step in the right direction and I urge other Chief Judges to issue the same practice Direction.

The NBA would shortly formulate Practice Directions as Well as Guidelines in selected areas and topics which we hope the respective Chief Judges would not hesitate to deal with expeditiously.

I must also at this point advise all persons who use tax payers funds to pay foreign lawyers under any guise that such foreign lawyers who are not enrolled to practice in Nigeria are definitely quacks under Nigerian Law. We shall in the next few weeks issue Freedom of Information Requests to certain Government bodies who have developed the habit of briefing foreign lawyers with a view to bringing them to face the law. Nigerian work is for Nigerian Lawyers and I will leave no stone unturned in dealing with any person who threatens our constitutionally guaranteed source of income.

FINANCIAL AUTONOMY FOR THE JUDICIARY

The reluctance of the Executive Arm of Government to comply with the provisions of the Constitution, despite the oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office sworn by the persons holding Executive Office leaves much to be desired. How they expect the citizens to comply with the provisions of the Constitution which they so flagrantly violate beats my imagination.

For relish, the judgments obtained by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria [JUSUN] and Olisa Agbakoba, SAN on section 162[9] of The Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 are not obeyed and executed by the Executive.

The respect for Constitutional provisions and obedience of Court Orders are integral parts of rule of law which is the hallmark of democratic Government.

The recent JUSUN strike was merely suspended for Forty Five days and may be resumed in the middle of May if there is no traction from the

Government. The NBA would take an active role in ensuring that this does not happen.

CLOSURE OF COURTS IN RIVERS STATE

The continued closure of Courts in Rivers State is sad and shameful. Our members in Rivers State are essentially out of work apart from those engaged in corporate practice.

At a time when other Countries are striving to ensure that trials start and end within six [6] months, we have Courts closed for almost four [4] months and litigants and lawyers bear the brunt. Even if the Strike persists for two [2] years the Judicial Staff would get paid but nobody would assuage the losses suffered by the Lawyers and litigants. This cannot be allowed to continue.

We urge all those involved in the Rivers imbroglio, whether as named or unnamed parties or as Counsel for either of the Parties, to apply their best endeavours to resolving this matter promptly.

I will as NBA President personally intervene in the issues leading to closure of Courts in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a speedy resolution.

LEGAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

The state of Legal Education in Nigeria must remain a critical concern for the NBA.

Consequently, this administration would organize a summit on the State of Legal Education in Nigeria to enable the NBA develop a policy position of all tiers of legal education in Nigeria.

Prof. Epiphany Azinge, the Immediate Past Director General of The Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies has graciously agreed to act as the summit facilitator. The date and venue of the Legal Education Summit would be announced shortly.

PENDING BILLS AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

There are several bills which are backed up at the National Assembly. There are several justice Sector Bills which if passed would have enhanced justice delivery system in Nigeria.

Our Petroleum Industry Bill [PIB] is old enough in the National Assembly to qualify as an “ELDER”, “BABA” or “ODIONWERE” in any place other than the National Assembly yet it has not been passed till date.

A child conceived at the same time as our PIB would have finished school, started work and be married with children by this time. Countries that came to Nigeria to get a peek at our PIB when it was conceived has since passed and amended their PIBs several times.

We are a Country dependent essentially on Petroleum and yet Our National Assembly is playing poker with our collective fortunes and future. I believe we still have men of integrity, courage and valour at the National Assembly and I call on them to take up the challenge of ensuring that the PIB is passed without further delay.

The NBA under my watch will not standby and watch when those entrusted with the Constitutional duty of passing laws drop the ball on the entire Country and get interested more in matters of scant legislative relevance.

THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS

NBA will take a very keen interest in the 2015 General Elections. The legitimacy of the ballot box determines the quality of Government and also determines if the governed would ever enjoy the true benefits of Democracy.

It is a relief to note that the elections in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun were better conducted than previous elections. It would seem that INEC is improving but it must be noted that these were single state elections and

we cannot truly determine if INEC has improved until the 2015 General Elections.

We hope that the internal democratic structures in the different parties have been improved and that pre-election cases would be a rare occurrence this time around.

The Election Working Group [EWG] of the NBA under the leadership of Dafe Akpedeyi, SAN has done an excellent job at monitoring elections and has acquired experience and expertise in execution of its mandate.

The NBA as the leader of Civil Societies and Professional bodies in Nigeria, as the voice of the oppressed, the defender of human rights and proponent of rule of Law must not continue to limit itself to monitoring elections and reporting what transpired during the election. Our position requires the NBA to do more. Nigerians demand that we do more and certainly we can do more.

Consequently, the NBA using its network of 109 Branches and over 2000 Bar leaders would engage in VOTER EDUCATION AND VOTER MOBILISATION for the 2015 General elections on a strictly non-partisan basis. Simply put, this means that only Lawyers who do not belong to any Political Party and who are totally committed to the noble ideals of our great Association would be allowed to participate in this exercise.

All Lawyers participating would be required to make statutory declarations of non-political affiliation which would if found to be false lead to disciplinary measures against such a lawyer.

To help the NBA drive this new area of its engagement in the electioneering process I have established a Committee with the following terms of reference:

 To organize Voter Education and Mobilization Seminars and workshops.

 To Organise Youth Workshops to discourage thuggery and Youth Violence during Elections.

 To take all other such steps as may be required to give effect to the above objectives.

The Members of the Committee are as follows:

1. JBDaudu,SAN 2. AliyuNassarawa 3. OgbonnayaIgwenyi 4. SeunAjoba 5. PatIgwebuike

Chairman Member Member Member Secretary.

Alternate Chair and other Members to be announced

We urge all Politicians involved in the 2015 Elections to play by the rules as NBA is willing to partner with INEC to prosecute electoral offenders.

HUMAN RIGHTS, ECONOMIC RIGHT AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

The NBA shall strengthen its Human Rights institute and its work on human rights. At the same time we must pay heed to economic rights of citizens which are being constantly violated by Electricity Distribution Companies and Telecommunication Companies.

In the face of the abysmal failure of the regulatory agencies to deal with these issues NBA shall offer pro bono services in institution of class action suits against these Companies who have negotiated away persons charged with ensuring that they don’t rip us all off.

INSURGENCY IN NORTH EASTERN NIGERIA

The inability of the Nigerian Armed Forces to deal effectively with the threat of Boko Haram is a cause for serious concern. When the Airforce Barracks, Mobile

Police Training School and Military installations fall prey to BH shows a total failure of Our Military.

I have my doubts about the effect that this $1bn now sought for the Military would have on the War. It is surprising that the Military only realized in the middle of the insurgency that they had no weaponry. Strange indeed!

The Military should at least help locate and free the Chibok girls to redeem our collective pride. That is the least we expect from our Military.

EBOLA VIRUS

I must not fail to state that the holding of this conference successfully without any incidence of Ebola speaks volumes of the efforts of the Okey Wali, SAN administration and the precautionary steps they took to handle the situation.

We must also thank God from keeping Ebola away from this conference.

CONCLUSION

I want to assure you all that our Association is alive, well and in capable hands with the 2014-2016 National officers. We would dedicate ourselves to service of the Association and do all within our powers to make the Association better, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of its members and the Nation.

I want to express my special thanks and appreciation to my family who endured long periods of loneliness during our campaigns. I also, on behalf of all National officers, express thanks and appreciation to their families and loved ones who must certainly have had a similar experience.

Our God who made it possible for us to ascend office would give us the wisdom we require to succeed.

This was the speech delivered by Austin Alegeh (SAN) as soon as he was inaugurated as the president of the NBA at the just concluded conference in Owerri, Imo State capital on Friday August 29, 2014

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