In preparation for the 2022 Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) general elections, the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) headed by Ayodele Akintunde, SAN, had released the NBA electoral guidelines and schedule on May 16, 2022. Ceteris paribus (all other things being equal), the general elections shall hold on July 16, 2022 as published in the electoral timetable.
As the election holds next month, virtually every legal practitioner is perturbed whether the electoral body of the NBA would either retain or rewrite the electoral history of the association which is characterized by various high scale of malpractices. At the recently held NBA Bwari Branch (Cradle Bar) Law Week 2022, a renowned law professor and former Deputy Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, gave credence to the irregularities with his revelation on how senior lawyers used to mobilise law students for voting and rigging in the successive NBA elections.
Besides the anticipated free, fair and credible elections, the legal profession is under serious threat. The extent lawyers particularly the new wigs suffer unspeakable harassment, unwarranted assaults and ill-treatment while discharging their professional duty in the hands of security personnel is alarming. Gone are the days lawyers were highly respected by all and sundry. The incoming exco must set the administrative machinery of the NBA in motion to effectively tackle this affront.
Moreover, the successive leadership of the NBA have played little or no role in enlightening the public on the right to legal representation of all persons facing criminal charges. The misinterpretation of legal representation often makes the accused persons’ legal counsel vulnerable to public vilification and attack in matters related to terrorism, murder, rape and other sensational cases. The sanctity and inviolability of legal representation is universally acceptable. This stipulated legal procedure is not justice denial. Rather, It is instrumental to achieve justice.
In India, legal aid was provided to Amir Kasab who participated in the 2008 attacks that claimed the lives of 166 people. In the USA, legal representation was made available to Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to murder almost 300 people. Access to legal representation didn’t pervert justice on these accused persons. Legal representation is merely a medium to guarantee fair hearing. In Nigeria as well, many influential and affluent Nigerians who are currently serving various jail terms in Nigeria’s Correctional Centres would have escaped the full wrath of the law if legal representation serves as judicial sabotage.
The renumeration of young lawyers in the country is nothing to write home about. Many new wigs are living from hand to mouth. It is imperative the incoming NBA leadership once and for all sets a benchmark for lawyers’ emoluments to meet up with Nigeria’s socio-economic realities and international standards of living conditions for legal practitioners. The Nigerian judges’ welfare as well must not be left out in this agitation to avoid handling over the temple of justice to highest bidders.
In conclusion, the incoming executive members as a matter of urgency are implored to liaise with the Council of Legal Education and other critical stakeholders to review the current anachronistic syllabus and curriculum of legal education in the country in a bid to adequately reflect the modern law practice and emerging areas of Law such as Construction law, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, Cyber Security Law, Fintech Law, among others.
Newworth LLP (Legal Practitioners),