Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called its members to confront issues that have assailed the profession and nation such as, bad governance, insecurity, impunity and corruption.
The call was made by the NBA President, Mr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, at the inauguration of 2022-2024 national executive committee.
He urged the lawyers to boldly confront issues that have plagued the profession, tear down the walls of division, raise up the fallen standards and jointly disavow every unethical, unprofessional and sectional thought and action that has kept them from moving forward and achieving their true potential.
He stated that the ultimate outcome of the 2023 election would largely depend on the interface between the Bench, Bar and political gladiators.
“As members of the legal profession, serving either on the Bench or at the Bar, we owe Nigerians sincere and honest participation in the process. We must do all that is legitimately within our abilities, motivated by the desire to serve the course of justice, to ensure that the relevant laws and rules, properly interpreted and applied, remain the guiding principles for our involvement in the process.
“While we shall stand with the Courts and do everything legal to protect the integrity of the Bench against any form of intimidation by the political class, any person or group of persons, we will not hesitate to call out and pursue disciplinary action(s) against erring judicial officials.
“Similarly, members of the Bar, who misconduct themselves while participating in the resolution of electoral disputes will face disciplinary action at the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), where Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) are involved,” he stated.
Maikyau urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the various State Independent Electoral Commissions to emulate the NBA; to leverage on technology in the conduct of future general elections with minimal or no exposure of the electorate to insecurity, risks and other associated costs/expenses in the process, in addition to reducing likelihood of electoral malpractice.
He noted that the new NBA executive council would continue to promote the rule of law, advocate the protection of human rights; champion law reforms and protect the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
“The Nigerian Bar must be known for its transparency, integrity and care for the Nigerian people, by speaking up boldly for the freedom of the people of Nigeria,” he said.
To achieve a sustainable electoral process in the association, he appointed Mr. E. Y. Kura as chairman of Electoral Reforms Committee, which when approved by National Executive Council (NEC), would review existing electoral guidelines.
According to him, the current curriculum of legal education in Nigeria is out of touch with modern realities. “To fully exploit and unleash the potentials of lawyers as catalysts for change, particularly the socio-economic and political transformation of the nation, we need to look differently and more creatively into the training of Nigerian legal workforce for the future,” he said.
He explained that they would use 2007 and 2008 Funke Adekoya Report on the Reform of Legal Education in Nigeria, with other valuable resources to develop an NBA legal education framework that will act as regulatory document for all discussions by the NBA on the subject.
“The legal education framework policy will act as the guide document for all NBA representatives on the Council of Legal Education (CLE). Our administration will work with CLE, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Faculties of Law in Universities in fulfilling the provisions of the NBA Constitution with respect to the Association’s role in the advancement of legal education in Nigeria.
“We will work to develop and ensure the implementation of a legal education curriculum that will cause the required transformation in the minds of the new breed of lawyers, leading to the inevitable prosperity of the members of the profession and the entire nation,” he said.
On independence of the judiciary, he said: “The fact that the salaries and allowances of judges and justices in Nigeria was last reviewed in 2008, notwithstanding our concrete economic realities is the best proof that there is, either a lack of understanding of the critical nature of the role of judiciary in the development and stability of any nation (and the need for this arm of government to be incorruptible) or there simply had been a deliberate effort to pauperise the judiciary to perpetuate impunity and corruption in the land.
“Little wonder none of the presidential candidates who attended the opening ceremony of the just concluded AGC on August 21, 2022, spared any thoughts on rule of law and the Judiciary. If this is indicative of their scale of priorities; the importance they accord to the rule of law and justice delivery, we do have cause for serious concern. It would seem to me in their assessment, the rule of law does not qualify as a top item on their agenda for good governance. This, in my view, gives us cause for serious concern.”
In line with protecting the dignity of the judiciary, he stated that his administration would seek engagement with government and other stakeholders in ensuring that immediate measures are taken to guarantee proper remuneration for judges and justices in service and for their comfort upon retirement.