Mr. Olumide Akpata was sworn in as the 30th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Friday, 28th August 2020. The swearing in which marked the end of the tenure of Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was held at the NBA National Secretariat, Abuja.
During his inaugural speech, Mr. Akpata reiterated his resolve to ensure that his leadership impact members positively.
We teased out the following points from his 51 pages inaugural speech:
Unity of the Bar
On the seeds of discord that were sown during the election campaigns and the issues pertaining to the election process itself.
He stated that One of the cardinal pillars of his campaign and on the basis of which he made himself available to run for the high office, was the promise to run an all-inclusive Bar.
He said that The Bar that he wants to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognizes that the diversity of the bar perhaps, its greatest strength.
After recognizing the need for electoral reforms, although acknowledging that the election that brought him to power was free and fair, he promised to address the issues affecting the electoral process of the NBA.
He identified lack of database for lawyers and the resultant difficulties of coming up with voters register as one of those challenges and is to be solved by improving on the membership portal introduced by the previous administration of Paul Usoro SAN.
Additionally, he immediately constituted an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee, comprising of distinguished practitioners of the highest standards to audit the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for the electoral systems and processes. The committee is to be headed by Ayo Akintude SAN. Of Lagos beach and Nena Uko of Enugu branch, as secretary.
Welfare of lawyers
He restated his commitment to improving the welfare of lawyers and expand deepen the market of legal services. He also promised to constitute an NBA task force to determine the scope of legal work, statutorily preserved for legal practitioners. To deter other professionals and statutory institutions like banks, corporate affairs commission Etc from encroaching on the jobs of legal practitioners by engaging them to refrain from such and where peaceful engagements fail, to challenge such encroachment in court as it is no longer business as usual.
Poor remuneration of lawyers
He promised to Establish NBA remuneration committee to recommend feasible remuneration for legal practitioners.
While recognizing his earlier campaign promises of issuing free NBA stamp and seal for some category of lawyers, he again promised to issue two packs of 48 Stamps for free to all verified legal practitioners who pay their Bar Practising Fees not later than 31 March 2021. However, those who require additional copies of the NBA Stamp and Seal would then be free to request additional pages at extra costs to them.
This is coming on the heels of a promise to improve the stamp and seal application and collection process.
Equally, he assured that the NBA LIFE ASSURANCES scheme will also be continued. While also promising to institute a comprehensive health insurance scheme and establish a medical health fund to help deserving members subscribe to the scheme.
Protecting the fundamental rights of lawyers
He cited the recent harassment of Mr Paul Igwe and Emperor Ogbonna who has been in detention despite court orders granting him bail, he promised to engaged security agencies and relevant institutions to forestall future occurrences.
He reconstituted the Board of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) and charged the Board with the responsibility for the operation of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme of the NBA.
While also promising to constitute a body to submit a proposal for the upgrade of the content and structure of the courses taught at the Nigerian law school and faculties of law in Nigeria.
While assuring the institution of a mentorship program, he established the NBA Career Development Centre to provide career guidance for members.
Welfare of lawyers with disabilities and representation of young lawyers
He promised to lead the charge for the creation of an NBA Lawyers with Disabilities Forum and other important fora to ensure that all segments of the profession are carried along. And representation of young lawyers in all the appointments to be made by his administration.
Ethics and discipline of members.
He promised to collaborate with the body of Benchers to instate a process that makes members of the bar accountable so as to restore the eroding dignity of the bar. He also promised to ensure that the Rules of professional conduct is reviewed and the Legal Practitioners Act amended.