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By Nuhu Ibrahim, Esq: and Abdulbasit Suleiman, Esq:
The recent rumblings from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is leaving much to be desired within the ranks of concerned Lawyers from Northern part of the Country.
What has been happening recently has exposed the inability of the NBA to manage and contain the heterogeneity of it’s members as well as their various interests. It’s penal powers has been deployed discriminatively on the basis of ethnicity and regionalism.
As a body of Lawyers who have undergone training towards ensuring the promotion and protection of Human rights and liberties, the NBA is supposed to live above sentiments, regionalism and discrimination on any basis and of any kind. Therefore, the NBA cannot afford to be seen not to be upholding the rights and freedom of its own members if at all, it should be seen to be practicing what it preaches. As the Hausa saying goes: idan Kura tana maganin zaho, ta yi ma kanta.
The New Nigerian Bar Association have been watching the activities of the NBA, an association we all looked forward to joining with high hopes before being called to the Nigerian Bar, forcing idiosyncrasies of few on the majority of its members especially in recent times.
No wonder, NBA NEC, which is the highest decision-making organ of the Association failed to uphold the fundamental principles of fair hearing which in itself, is the fundamental aspect of Rule of Law, on the allegations against the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai as were contained in a petition by Chidi Odinkalu Esq. a long time foe of His Excellency and a Lawyer of eastern extraction, but the NBA failed to extend the same treatment to Southern invitees who were also petitioned and are also alleged to have committed similar or more human rights abuses than those alleged against Mallam El-Rufai.
It is pertinent to state that the NBA membership as currently constituted can be termed ” Mandatory Membership Association ” which, for all intents and purposes, is against the provisions of the Constitution since the grundnorm recognises freedom of membership of every Association.
Section 40 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 provides as follows:
” Every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any Association for the protection of his interests. “
The New Nigerian Bar Association members, gleaning from the above Constitutional provision feel that their interests are no longer taken into consideration in major decisions of the NBA hence the creation of this Association. A cursory chronicle of the membership composition of major organs of the NBA would reveal lopsided representation despite having large numbers of Lawyers from Northern Nigeria who have diligently paid their Bar practicing fees and have distinguished themselves in the legal profession.
The New Nigerian Bar Association feel that, Lawyers, as professionals like Doctors and Accountants should have more than one Association regulated by the General Council of the Bar.
The Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) which regulates the legal profession in Nigeria did not establish the NBA. In fact, the NBA was established as an Incorporated Trustee by Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). It is no longer gainsaying that a group of Lawyers can freely join any lawful Association for the protection of their rights and interests as Lawyers and citizens of Nigeria pursuant to the above cited Section 40 of the Constitution.
Even Section 1of the Legal Practitioners Act, which seemingly conscripted all Lawyers in Nigeria to Mandatory Membership of NBA is, for all intents and purposes, at loggerheads with Section 40 of the Constitution which makes the former null and void and of no effect whatsoever. The Constitution remains the supreme Law of the land to which all other laws including the LPA are subject.
Section 1(3) of the Constitution states that:
” If any other Law is inconsistent with the provision of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other Law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void“
On the basis of the foregoing, some Lawyers of like mind and duly called to the Nigerian Bar formed New Nigerian Bar Association with the aim of protecting their interests as encapsulated under Section 40 of the Constitution.
The New Nigerian Bar Association has began consultations with all the Attorneys General of nineteen (19) Northern States to constitute the Trustees of the Association.
Similar consultations are ongoing with all Senior Lawyers in the 19 Northern States of Nigeria.
While the consultations continue in earnest, a date for formal inauguration of the Association would be communicated to all Lawyers in Nigeria.
Nuhu Ibrahim, Esq: 07034567559 ( Convener 1).
Abdulbasit Suleiman, Esq: 08065881998 (Convener 2)
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