New dawn at NBA Abuja as Hauwa Shekarau takes over

The election of Barrister Hauwa Evelyn Shekarau as the first female chairperson of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Abuja, after 36 years of existence, marks a new dawn in the association CHIZOBA OGBECHE writes.

The quest for more women to occupy positions of authority thereby champion the cause for the protection of rights of women in Nigeria received a huge boast with the election of Barrister Hauwa Evelyn Shekarau as the first female chairperson of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Abuja, after 36 years of existence.

Shekarau, a lawyer, women’s rights activist,

Senior Youth and Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) specialist, human rights expert, was returned unopposed in an election conducted on June 11 by the NBA Electoral Committee chaired by Steve Emelieze.

The committee, which also had Afam Okeke as secretary in a press statement signed by the Emelieze and Okeke announced Shekarau as the winner of the elections said to have been seamless and rancour-free.

Other elected officers, announced by the committee, to pilot the affairs of the association for the next two years include: Chioma Onyenucheya-Uko who was also returned unopped as vice chairman; Adebiyi Adetosoye, who was elected as secretary was also returned unopposed.

Others include: “The Assistant Secretary, Chinelo Audrey Ofoegunam, (unopposed); the Treasurer, Adedeji Emmanuel Adewale, (unopposed); the Welfare Secretary, Ngozi Agubalu,  (unopposed); the Publicity Secretary, Ikemefuna Onyeka, who beat three others; the Legal Adviser, Jude Okey Ugwuanyi, (unopposed); as well as the NEC Representative,  Princess F. Chukwuani, (unopposed).

Blueprint Weekend gathered that most of the positions had consensus candidates, who emerged out of consultations with seniors and elders of the branch, however, the positions of the Social Secretary, the Financial Secretary, and the Provost were declared vacant by the committee.

History of service

The new NBA Abuja chairperson, who has over 25 years post-call experience in women and child rights and advocacy,  is a Chevening Alumnus, professional Mediator and Conciliator. She obtained her first Law Degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1991, and had her Law School professional training at the Nigeria Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos. She was thereafter called to the Nigerian Bar on 16th December 16, 1992.

She won the British Government Chevening Scholarship In 2006 and proceeded to London where she obtained a post-graduate Law Degree in Law and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London in 2007.

Ms Shekarau was National President of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Nigeria) between 2012 and 2015, and also served as a nominated delegate to the Nigeria National Conference 2014 where she represented FIDA as part of the 500 Nigerians who fashioned out recommendations that was expected to usher a new Nigeria if implemented.

She has served as a board member of several NGOs including ActionAid International Nigeria and Nigeria Women Trust Fund.

She currently serves on the Board of several other NGOs including the League for Human Rights, El-Shaddai Widows Outreach.

She was a pioneer participant of the British Council-funded InterAction Leadership Programme in 2005 and the US State Department/Fortune 500 companies funded International Women Leaders’ Mentoring Programme in 2006 and is a Vital Voices Fellow.

The new NBA chairperson is the immediate past Country Director of Ipas Nigeria an International Non-Governmental Organization that works to promote women’s health as well as advance their reproductive health and rights where she led the Country Team from December 1, 2015, until November 29, 2019, when resigned to run her law consulting firm, H. E. Shekarau & Co. in Abuja.

She is a regular commentator and public affairs analyst in Nigeria. She is a recipient of several awards from different organisations and institutions.

How she emerged

Our correspondent’s check indicated that the opponent of the Kaduna-state born lawyer, Barrister Moses Ebute, had two weeks ago withdrawn from the race.

Barrister Ebute had said: “In furtherance of these consultations and other considerations, topmost of which is interest of our Unity Bar, hereby respectfully withdraw from the race for the 2020 elections into office of Chairman of the Unity Bar.

“In doing so, I pledge my support for our sister, Ms Hauwa Shekarau and urge all our colleagues to see this as sacrifice to keep us together as one strong united branch,” Barrister Ebute.”

Reactions

Excited members of NBA Abuja have continued to congratulate Shekarau on the feat and pledging support for the new leadership.

Commenting on the outcome of the elections Mrs Ozioma Izuora wrote, “Congratulations to the Hauwa Shekerau-led exco of NBA, Abuja Branch! #MakeADifference.”

On her part, Ms. Uche Onyedum, who withdrew from the race for secretary of the branch said, “I heartily congratulate you and your executive as you sail in to serve the Branch. May God favour you and your team with the wisdom to soar on all through your tenure.”

Similary, Mr Onyeka Obiajulu wrote, “Congratulations my chairman, I wish you a fruitful and peaceful tenure. May God guide you as you direct the affairs of this Noble Bar. Congrats to all the elected members of the executive. Godspeed!!!”

Mr Ibrahim Eddy Mark in his congratulatory message said, “We have to congratulate all and say we have stood by each other to get this executive without rancour. We have to protect and help the executive to succeed. There is so much to do looking forward.

“Our brothers and sisters on the other divide are no less to be respected. We have to help bring majority together and pray that we remember that the enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy outside. We have shown that resilience that our unity is known for.

“We all cannot be in the executive we are all winners. Let the executive carry everybody along especially their co- contestants, whether they filed papers or withdrew or lost in the election. There is tomorrow. Two years is like two days. Together and united we will not only move mountains but go places.

“Our younger colleagues remember that tomorrow you will be an elder, so bid your time, do not be in a hurry. Tomorrow is always greater. I remember the name NKEIRUKA, our south easterners will interpret. Let us also imbibe the spirit of forgiveness. Celebrate with celebrants; mourn with the bereaved, together we will always succeed. I remain your obedient servant.”

FCT CJ backs new leadership

The Chief Justice of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello has stated that he will give the newly elected executive led by Ms. Shekarau his maximum support.

Speaking at the official inauguration of the Unity Bar’s executive on June 18, 2020, at the Ceremonial Court of the FCT High Court, Justice Bello who administered the oath of office to the executives stated that “…the Bar and Bench must work together to achieve success.”

Commitment to unity

Delivering her acceptance speech, the new NBA chair assured members of the Bar of her commitment to ensure unity in the association.

“I want to specially thank the entire members of The Unity Bar for the confidence reposed in us by voting us as the executive to lead and manage affairs of The Unity Bar from June 11, 2020, to June 11, 2022.

“We shall work and be guided by the oath of office we have just taken; which is to uphold the NBA Constitution, the rule of law and the overall interest of the Bar.

“We shall carry everyone along as we work to restore the glory of the Bar. I must also appreciate the out gone executive led by Abimbola Kayode for the great job they did in keeping the Unity Bar going in spite of the challenges. We will continue from where they stopped and will rely on their unflinching support.

“I also want to thank the Elders of the Bar, particularly the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, past chairmen and secretaries and other distinguished elders of the Unity Bar for their unwavering always.

“I also want to thank the electoral committee ably led by Steve Emelieze for a very smooth, wonderful and transparent electoral process worthy of emulation by any group. They have etched their names in gold.

“On behalf of my executives, we promise to work together in one accord to ensure we deliver on our promises to the Bar. We shall not let you down.”

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