The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, has highlighted the issues bothering the Association at the moment.

Akpata, in a new year message made available to TheNigeriaLawyer, enumerated the issues to include remuneration of lawyers and scale of charges for legal services, slow pace of justice and unemployment for lawyers. Akpata assured lawyers that the Association is working round the clock to address the situation.

Read details below:

My Dear Colleagues,

Let me first thank the Almighty God who saw us through the year 2021 and has given us the opportunity to witness the start of another year. We are especially thankful considering that the year was a challenging one for the legal community in many respects.

Despite the challenges posed by the lockdown of our courts during the JUSUN strike, resurgent Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant economic costs to the legal profession, we were resilient and trudged on. Each of you found reasons to celebrate different feats, and as an association, the NBA also made some significant strides – many of which I communicated to you directly or through our media team in the course of 2021.

That said, I am not oblivious of the losses that we suffered, our colleagues and friends (at the Bar and the Bench) who passed on, and the general challenges that we continue to face as a profession. While 2021 is now history, the much that my team and I can commit to is that we will keep doing our best to address these challenges and justify the confidence that you have in us.

As you know, this year signals the end of this administration as we are constitutionally mandated to handover to a new team by August 2022. This, therefore, will be my last New Year address to you, in my capacity as the NBA President.

Since I have had the privilege of leading the NBA, my team and I have continued to put in every ounce of our energy towards delivering on your mandate and as the administration enters what would be its last months, may I assure you that we will continue to do just that.

When I ran for the office of the President of the NBA, one of the commitments that I made to you was to revive the NBA and make it an institution that delivers real value to its members and the society at large. I believe that this objective is being achieved as we have, through the grace of God, held ourselves to this high standard by ensuring that our interventions are directed at improving the welfare of our members, restoring the place of the Bar in our nation building process and introducing initiatives that will raise the standard of lawyers, make the practice of law more exciting and overall, better our professional lives.

In addition to what we have done and continue to do, I should highlight three thorny issues that continue to bother us as a team and in respect of which we are not relenting. Although we have been working on these issues in varying degrees, we intend to double our efforts this year to ensure that these issues are resolved or, at least, we will lay the foundation for their resolution even beyond our term in office.

The first is the slow pace of administration of justice and the unpleasant experience of many of our members who use the courts. On this, our NBA Judiucary Committee led by my friend and brother, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN has been working relentlessly for possible solutions since we set up that Committee. I have the assurances of the Committee that, on account of their work, we will begin to see changes at our courts during the year through their court monitoring activities and other high-level engagements.

The second is remuneration of lawyers and scale of charges for legal services. I quite understand the apprehension of our members in this regard, and I can confirm that the Anthony Nwaochei-led NBA Remuneration Committee has done considerable work on this issue and are putting finishing touches on their proposals. Once this is concluded, and we have the approval of the NBA-NEC, we will make the recommendations and implementation strategies of the Remuneration Committee public and commence enforcement.

The third is under-employment and unemployment of lawyers. While this is a macroeconomic issue and cuts across all professions, we are cognisant of the fact that the NBA can galvanise and play a role in reducing the trend within the legal profession. Our current approach in dealing with this has been largely through our efforts at helping lawyers expand the scope of their practice and become more active in other areas of law outside of our current traditional practice areas. The NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education under the able leadership of Mr. Tobenna Erojikwe has been doing an excellent job in this respect on behalf of the NBA. This year, we will give more institutional attention to the issue of underemployment/unemployment within the profession and devise other practical means of dealing with the conundrum, to the extent that it is within the powers of the NBA to do so. Some of our approaches may not yield the desired results in the short term, but with sustained efforts, I am confident that we will achieve our objectives in the mid to long term.

As I conclude, let me remind us that we are now in the fourth phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation, with the Omicron variant of the virus ravaging nations and economies, and threatening a new wave of lockdowns in parts of Europe and America. I therefore urge us to continue to comply with, and adhere to, the clinical and non-pharmaceutical practices approved by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to protect ourselves, families, friends, and colleagues from the virus. Let us stay safe as we celebrate into the New Year.

Once again, I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.