One of the immediate tasks before the new president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro (SAN) is the forthcoming 2019 general elections in the country.
If the NBA under his watch does not have integrity and foresight then NBA would lose its relevance nationwide.
Before any candidate can decide to run for election into the office of president of NBA, he must have his agenda for the association. Once the decision has been taken, and he emerges, the responsibility falls on him to discharge his duties.
Following the election, there has been serious division within the association to the extent that some lawyers and groups are already planning to form parallel NBA. To check the move, all aggrieved members must be brought back into the fold. Some members who are already in court to challenge the result of the election must be assured that they have nothing to lose.
The Paul Usoro-led NBA will do well to operate an open-door policy in which all stakeholders will continually be consulted on issues that affect them.
In recent years, the NBA has embarked on innovations, including the stamp and seal, insurance, universal suffrage, electronic voting and a host of other changes. Hence the new NBA president may need not embark upon innovations, but to consolidate the foundation laid by past leaders. Thus the association will be advancing the good legacies that it has. That is not to say that the new executive cannot replace the obsolete ideas and advance new frontiers for the Bar.
The new executive should focus on institutional development and regulatory reforms; human capital development and welfare programme and promotion of the Rule of Law and good governance in Nigeria. These goals and objectives can only be achieved through sustained and constant stakeholder engagement and consultations.
Under the new executive, every lawyer must have a voice in the affairs of the association and in particular in matters that affect them. There should be clear channels of communication that would make it easy for NBA members to reach and have access to the NBA president and Bar leaders generally.
The new president must lead by example in institutionalising transparency and accountability in the administration of the NBA. The programmes that Usoro has articulated in his manifesto, should constitute his pact with members of the NBA and he should be willing to be judged by and held accountable therefrom.
As a complete gentleman, the NBA president should use his network of relationships in the corporate world in achieving these goals and for the benefit of the association.
Particular attention must be paid to the welfare of young lawyers whose monthly salaries are nothing to write home about.
The NBA must be ready to advance the legal profession in Nigeria and enhance the welfare of lawyers through an all inclusive Bar with efficient services, unmatched collaborative opportunities and partnerships as well as globalized practice and professional development.
He should revitalize the association with purposefully innovative leadership that accords with international best practices and anchored on professionalism, discipline and the Rule of Law.
The Bar should at all cost be the voice of the voiceless, in recognition of the cardinal role of the NBA in the society as the voice of the masses that the association is expected to always speak and act in the overriding public interest.
Special attention should be paid to police brutality and hostility to lawyers. To preserve the nobility and dignity of the legal profession in Nigeria, this rising ugly development must be quickly nipped.
The new executive will do well to reactivate the Institute of Continuing Legal Education and Human Rights Institute; organise deep capacity building programmes for members; engage job creation schemes including focus on professional billing and charges; provide new rules of professional conduct, minimum wage and employment code as well as pursue legal amendment to set up many ad hoc disciplinary committees.
The NBA under Usoro should be ready to engage the judiciary on the problem of corrupt practices especially in the registries.
On the perception that the NBA under his predecessor was rather docile and failed to respond to the various cases of infringements on human rights in Nigeria, Usoro has already said it would be wrong to accuse the body of sleeping as leadership styles may differ.