Mr. Olumide Akpata is a 1992 graduate of the College of Benin and known as to the Nigerian Bar in 1993. He’s the instant previous Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Affiliation (NBA) Part on Enterprise Regulation ( SBL). He is likely one of the aspirants to NBA Presidency within the July 29, 2020 elections of the NBA.On this interview, he shares his views on the state of the Bar and his imaginative and prescient for the affiliation. Authorized Editor, JOHN AUSTIN UNACHUKWU met him.
Are you able to give us an perception into your background, the college you attended and while you have been known as to the Nigerian Bar?
I graduated from the College of Benin in 1992 and received known as to the Nigerian Bar in 1993. I belong to an prolonged household with a lot of attorneys. However in my instant household, I’m the one lawyer.
My father is a medical physician. However my uncle, the late (Supreme Courtroom) Justice Ephraim Akpata, who was my father’s older brother was an influential determine in our household. I primarily grew up in his home, as a result of my household was very shut; we don’t have this Western idea of household like first cousins and so forth. In my household, we have been all brothers and sisters and father and mom.
Was he the person who impressed you to selected the authorized career as an alternative of your fathers medical line?
As a result of my dad is a physician, he naturally had the idea that I might be a physician like him. However he was not the overbearing kind of father. He tended to let me do my very own factor. However in the future, whereas trying via my leads to kind 5, he realised that I had dropped Chemistry. So he requested me, “How do you need to be a physician in case you don’t do Chemistry?” My instant response was, “Who mentioned I used to be going to be a physician?” On the time, I assumed I’d like to be a businessman, as a result of I used to be very near my mum, who was a enterprise individual. So I mentioned I used to be going to check Enterprise Administration. However my father, in his typical model, quietly made the argument. “Look, you’ll be able to all the time be a businessman with out learning Enterprise Administration. However it might be good so that you can examine knowledgeable course like Regulation, and taking a look at your outcomes now, I see you’re doing nicely in Historical past, you want Literature, English and all that, so why not examine Regulation after which do enterprise later if that’s actually what you need to do? I do not forget that dialog clearly and after all, all my father wanted to do was to level to my uncle and my cousins who have been attorneys.
Additionally, my boarding home grasp at King’s School had predicted that if for nothing else, my argumentative nature had already persuaded him that I used to be going to be a lawyer. These have been the 2 issues I keep in mind very clearly, that hinted to me that clearly this was the trail I used to be going to take and right here we’re a number of years later.
The NBA has developed over time with successive administrations making their very own peculiar contributions to the event of affiliation, what are you bringing to the desk this time round?
I’ve been practising regulation for nearly 30 years. I’ve been a part of the method of constructing a regulation agency that we expect is practising regulation the best way it must be practised on this jurisdiction. However within the course of, I’ve been very lively on the Bar. I’m your quintessential Bar man. From Warri, the place I began practising, till I moved to Lagos, I’ve all the time been a part of the Bar. I suppose I imbibed that spirit in Warri. We take the problems of the NBA very significantly there. So I’ve identified the organisation for some time. I’ve labored at department stage, I’ve headed committees and been a part of them. I’ve been a part of efforts to carry change in management in branches and so forth, as a result of I consider that the branches are the core of the NBA, so you have to impact change at that stage. I’m a basis member of the Part on Enterprise Regulation ( SBL), which was borne out of the necessity for industrial attorneys to seek out their voice and their very own house.
For a way lengthy have you ever been a part of the SBL?
Within the final 16 years, I’ve been a part of that course of, I went on to grow to be Chairman of the Part, and I stay a member of Council. I’m concerned on the Bar on the nationwide stage additionally; I’ve been a member of the Nationwide Govt Council since 2014, Secretary of Technical Committee on Convention Planning ( TCCP) in 2015 and 2016, co-chairman of TCCP in 2019. I’ve labored intently with at the least the final three Presidents of the NBA. I’ve noticed the Bar at very shut quarters, and I’ve seen many gaps. Of all of us operating for NBA President, I’m the one with the newest and related expertise. I’m nonetheless there now. And since the Presidency of the Bar is for a mere 24 months (I wish to sofa it in months to indicate how transient the tenure is) it is necessary that that type of familiarity must be one of many credentials that any candidate brings to the desk.
I feel it is usually necessary that any President who exhibits up as we speak ought to be capable of hit the bottom operating. Let me inform you the primary downside I’ve recognized in the middle of my shut interactions. Many attorneys have expectations of the Bar what we expect it ought to ship by way of welfare, capacity-building and positioning the authorized career for progress. What they don’t know is that the NBA, as presently constituted, isn’t match for objective and subsequently can’t ship on lots of these aspirations that its members have.
Why do you say that?
The secretariat, which is admittedly the engine-room of the Affiliation, which permits the President to ship on his mandate, is dysfunctional. The Bar can’t ship on its mandate with out a well-oiled machine known as the Secretariat. That’s the reason, yearly, for attorneys to get their Stamp and Seal for which they paid, is a problem. I need to admit it’s been higher these final two years as a result of the present President has improved issues in that regard. But when one thing so simple as Stamp and Seal, simply dispatching it to members is a problem, then start to suppose how troublesome will probably be to ship on the problems we’ve been discussing in the middle of this interview. Irrespective of how well-intentioned the President and his govt committee could also be, in case you go there and there’s no one to drive the adjustments you’re attempting to make occur, it’s not going to work. I belong to the Worldwide Bar Affiliation (IBA) and I exploit them as a gold commonplace. I am going to the IBA Convention yearly. As quickly as I current my membership quantity, my data is given to me. Something I want is sorted out; no one tells me to go and convey my affidavit or receipt, however I paid to you! Why am I being requested to carry the receipt? But when I am going to the IBA, I give them my quantity, the response is: ‘Sure, you’ve paid. What would you like?’ Or, ‘No, we haven’t obtained your cost.’ Easy. The issue right here is lack of data. No institutional reminiscence.
Whether or not or not it’s a not-for-profit organisation, the NBA should nonetheless run correctly as a result of it has goals and a mandate. You recognize the place the issue is? The Chief Working Officer of the affiliation is the Basic Secretary. Constitutionally, he runs the affiliation. Fifty or 60 years in the past, that may have been a good suggestion, however it’s not sensible or practicable as we speak. He’s a practising lawyer; he works someplace. He has to earn a dwelling. How can he then be the Chief Working Officer of an organisation that we take significantly and need to perform? So if he’s not round, nothing occurs. He has a tenure just like the President, he has two years. What this implies is that primarily, we’re firing our chief working officer each two years, beginning and stopping. That type of excessive turnover of management-level govt could have a serious damaging impact on how any organisation runs. For starters, anyone who goes there must repair that. IBA has an Govt Director. Presidents and Basic Secretaries come and go, however the Govt Director is there.
So, what do you imply?
I feel the Basic Secretary of the NBA ought to run the affiliation with assist from the secretariat, in order that his job is made lighter. However the day-to-day operating of the secretariat, implementation of programmes as recognized by the affiliation, must be the duty of a person who isn’t tenure-bound (by way of our two-year cycle). He will likely be contract-bound, employed for the job, answerable to whoever within the organisation, with their Key Efficiency Indicators ( KPI’s) well-established: That is what the NBA desires to attain within the subsequent 5 years, regardless of who’s President. Drive us, take us up to now. That’s how the IBA and different organisations that I belong to run.
Then there’s this downside, in case you discuss to 10 attorneys as we speak, seven out of the 10 would inform you ‘I don’t need to be a member of the NBA. I’m solely a member out of compulsion.
As a result of I should be in order that I can practise my career. If I had my means, I’d transfer on, as a result of it provides no worth to my career.
Why do they are saying so?
As a result of if 70 % of your membership doesn’t purchase into your imaginative and prescient, because it have been, you’re a strolling useless. It’s only a matter of time. We’re within the throes of demise so far as I’m involved, as a result of our folks don’t consider in us. The de-marketers of the affiliation are the attorneys themselves; go on the market, earlier than any outsider speaks evil of the affiliation, it’s the lawyer that may say, ‘Don’t thoughts them. They’re simply thieves. They do nothing. They solely take, they don’t give.’ So the very first thing any President should do is to get the buy-in of members.
Is that why you need to be president of the affiliation?
As a person, I like to enhance each house I occupy. My nation isn’t working, my affiliation isn’t working, the property I reside in isn’t working. Why? Is there one thing flawed with us? Now that I’m within the NBA house, I’m throwing my hat within the ring with the conviction that we’re not animals, we will run this factor, and we will do higher. That’s my motivation. I’m not on the lookout for accolades, neither am I seeking to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I don’t practise alongside these traces, anyway, so I’ll by no means be one. I’m going there to hitch a workforce of individuals, and be the change that I need to see.
What are you bringing to the desk?
Initially, as I mentioned, I’ve been a part of the method of constructing a regulation agency for the previous 25 years from 4 attorneys to nicely over 150 workers, 100 attorneys and about 50 assist workers. We’re working in three cities in Nigeria and in just about each sector of the financial system. We have now amongst our ranks, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who attained that rank from the work they’d carried out in our agency. So far as it issues the administration of males and sources, I feel I rank excessive up there, as a result of I can level to an organisation that I helped to construct and run for 25 years.
The following factor is my pedigree on the NBA. I’ve reeled out the positions I’ve occupied. I’m particularly happy with what we achieved on the Part on Enterprise Regulation. I labored with earlier Chairmen of the SBL similar to Mr. George Etomi, to Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, Mr. Asue Ighodalo who I succeeded as chairman. We confirmed to the remainder of the affiliation that there’s a means issues can and must be carried out. We introduced satisfaction and respect to the affiliation. We grew to become the convergence level of regulators, policy-makers, attorneys, and authorities folks. Points affecting Nigeria’s financial system have been usually deliberated upon at our seminars, conferences and workshops. It grew to become necessary that anyone who thought-about himself a participant in Nigeria’s financial system should attend an SBL occasion. That’s the extent we took the SBL to, aside from the truth that we impacted our members, giving them the data and alternative to hone their abilities in numerous areas of authorized apply, and elevating the bar of economic regulation apply in Nigeria.
One key affirmation of what we’ve carried out on the SBL was the truth that on the final NBA Convention in 2019, two of us, former Chairmen of the Part, Mr. Oyebode and I have been requested to run the Planning Committee of the Convention. Not solely did we run a profitable convention, we returned a revenue of near N200 million to the affiliation. I don’t suppose anyone can keep in mind when final that has been carried out if ever. And we have been pace-setters on the SBL. Different sections started to sample their actions and occasions after ours, which is what we wished; we wished all of the sections to function at their optimum stage. Even the nationwide physique started to additionally sample its programmes after ours. As a result of, as they are saying, imitation is the very best type of flattery, it was a sign of affirmation to us.
I spoke earlier of my can-do spirit. I don’t see obstacles, I see alternatives. I don’t consider in impossibilities; it may be carried out. The glass, for me, is all the time half-full. I’m keen about all the pieces I do. I’m from the South-South. Perhaps as a result of we’re minority, we all the time have some extent to show. I can’t go there and depart, they usually’ll say, “There was no distinction. Nothing modified.” It’s unimaginable. I need to add worth to no matter is there.
Final however not least, due to how monumental the issues of the NBA are, I’m going to be absolutely obtainable. Some previous leaders weren’t absolutely obtainable. I’ve requested my Companions at Templar’s they usually’ve agreed that ought to I grow to be profitable in my bid to be President of the Bar, I’d take a sabbatical from the agency, and run the NBA for 2 years. Not that I feel each President of the NBA must be full-time. However there’s a State of Emergency on the Nigerian Bar Affiliation so far as I’m involved. Anyone who’s coming to run the Affiliation have to be hands-on, 24-7. I’m hopeful that my agency has made this sacrifice, no future President must make this similar sacrifice once more. As a result of I recognise that in case you go in there in a tentative method, you’d simply be papering over the cracks or making use of Band-Assist over a deep wound. I’ll roll up my sleeves, work with a workforce of individuals and we’re going to show that place round.
The Presidency of the NBA is zoned to the West which contains of the six core Yoruba talking state of the South West specifically: Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos, Ogun states and the 2 States of the Midwest Edo and Delta. The final time it was zoned to the West in 2014, Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN) from the Mid-west took it, you’re stepping ahead from the identical Midwest to take it, does this tally with the inclusion and rotation rules contained within the NBA structure? What’s your response to this?
Sure, it does. As a matter of reality, my candidacy greater than different candidates operating for a similar workplace, tallies with the inclusion and rotational rules enshrined within the NBA Structure of 2015 (as amended).
By a mixed studying of Part 9 of the NBA Structure and paragraph 2 of the second schedule thereto, the NBA for the aim of elections of nationwide officers is split into three geographical zones specifically – Northern zone, Jap zone and Western zone, and the workplaces of President and Basic Secretary of the Affiliation are to rotate among the many three zones. The Structure additionally offers that the place a place is zoned to any explicit geographical zone, the place shall be rotated and held in flip by the totally different teams and/or sections within the geographical zone.
What we discover within the Western Zone like in most different zones is a break up of comfort within the Western Zone for functions of illustration – into the Southwest discussion board and Midwest Discussion board, each of that are to take turns in presenting candidates for the place of President.
If you’re aware of NBA historical past you’ll see that for the reason that yr 2000 – 20 years in the past, the NBA Presidency has come to the Western Zone thrice. First was in 2002, second was in 2008 and third was extra lately in 2014. In 2000 it was stuffed by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) from Ekiti State (South West Discussion board), in 2008, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, (SAN) from Ondo State (South West Discussion board) after which Augustine Alegeh (SAN) in 2014 from Delta State on the facet of the Mid-Western Discussion board of the Western Zone.
One should nevertheless be aware that, Mr. Alegeh’s victory in 2014 was not on account of the South West Discussion board agreeing to not take part within the elections for the advantage of the Mid-Western Discussion board’s victory, no. It was an electoral victory achieved regardless of the presentation and lively participation of South West Discussion board members – Mrs Funke Adekoya (SAN), Deacon Dele Adesina (SAN) and chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) however that the Discussion board had produced the final two Presidents when it was zoned to the Western Zone. Clearly, of the final three alternatives served to the West, the South West has taken up two, and the Mid-West only one. Besides anyone is suggesting that the Mid-West doesn’t deserve one other alternative, taking a cue from the South West, or that there’s a 3:1 rotational ratio inside the Western Zone in favour of the South West, then I feel that the difficulty is a distraction and the confusion round it, if any, is unfounded.
That mentioned, we have to be cautious to not allow the manipulation of historical past by the emergency geographical equality advocates. The broader Nigerian socio-political atmosphere is dealing with critical existential issues particularly within the space of lack of respect for the elemental rights of residents and the rule of regulation. There’s a basic consensus that as considered one of Nigeria’s outstanding skilled organisations with a burden for the bigger society, the Nigerian Bar Affiliation has not actually lived as much as its potentials on this regard. It will be counterproductive for us as attorneys to start to raise tribal sentimentsat this time above competence and extra substantial points which might be begging for the NBA’s consideration. There’s a tide within the affairs of males, which when taken on the flood, leads on to fortune. On such a full sea are we now afloat and we should take the present when it serves, or lose our ventures. Let’s maintain our eyes on the ball, which is electing probably the most certified candidate to repair the NBA.
The common lawyer, particularly these within the rural branches are alienated from the NBA nationwide physique which they see as being solely occupied with amassing Bar Working towards Charges from them and nothing extra. How do intend to bridge this hole, what are your welfare programmes for Nigerian attorneys if elected President.
It’s undoubtedly tougher to construct a sustainable apply outdoors of main financial hubs in Nigeria. Nonetheless, tougher can’t and mustn’t imply unimaginable. The NBA working with the State Chairmen can empower members outdoors main financial hubs with the related abilities and instruments to thrive in such locations. First of which will likely be enlightenment. Attorneys should start to grasp the enterprise facet of the service we offer and tips on how to optimize alternatives from representing members of the Onitsha Market in Anambra, to Barge/Vessel house owners in Port-Harcourt, to Mass Transit service suppliers in Yaba, Ore and Benin, to textile producers in Kaduna. The alternatives are limitless. However can solely be seen if they’re understood.
So it’s undoubtedly one thing I will likely be trying into to see that attorneys are outfitted by their Branches to grasp, see and maximize native alternatives round them. To additionally assist extra attorneys perceive dynamic enterprise fashions the place they’ll signify massive regulation companies in finishing up companies inside their area of affect.
What’s plan for Nigerian financial system?
Attorneys play a pivotal and a important position in build up the financial system of any space, the areas the attorneys are working in now aren’t main financial hubs now doesn’t imply they can’t be sooner or later. So we should change the narrative of 100 attorneys doing the identical factor to 100 attorneys doing 100 issues.
With respect to welfare for attorneys, anybody who has adopted my actions particularly on the Bar will attest to the truth that the welfare of Attorneys has been a major focus of curiosity for me. My emergence as NBA President will afford me a chance to carry institutional focus to points affecting each our older and youthful colleagues.
On this regard it bears repeating that my thought of welfare for the younger lawyer doesn’t lie in offering hand-outs to them. Somewhat it’s about equipping them with fashionable abilities and instruments to offer for themselves.
In line with that perception, along with the varied initiatives that I’ve mentioned above that are aimed toward bettering attorneys’ remuneration and welfare, I recognise that if we don’t practice our younger attorneys and aspiring attorneys in modern authorized topics and in a sensible method, they won’t be match for the longer term. If our younger attorneys aren’t match for the longer term, it would create room for attorneys from overseas jurisdictions to surreptitiously refill that house and this may not be good for the way forward for the career. My administration will make dispensations to younger attorneys to allow them fulfill the necessities of the Persevering with Skilled Improvement (CPD) Programme yearly.
What’s your welfare package deal for Nigerian attorneys?
Welfare right here has so many points to it – remuneration, incomes capability (for each the person lawyer and the regulation agency), defending our turf (Sure, we have now duties in direction of the bigger society, however I’ll face our career and the problems affecting our members squarely). The People say you’ll be able to stroll and chew gum on the similar time. So I’ll regulate what the bigger society wants from us as attorneys. However, as I instructed you, our members don’t consider in us anymore.
President Alegeh launched the difficulty of life insurance coverage for attorneys; I used to be a part of that workforce. We negotiated with Leadway Assurance. At present, it stands at N1m for lack of life, and N500okay for incapacity. I’ll enhance it to N2m for lack of life and N1m for incapacity – with out anyone paying further. It comes out of the bar working towards charges. Additionally, im going to work onerous to be sure that each single lawyer in Nigeria is subscribed to at least one type of medical health insurance or the opposite. I’m a most cancers survivor; I’ve been in poor health so many instances in my life. For the final 17 years I’ve been on medical health insurance. I should have racked up hospital payments in a number of million–, however I’ve not paid one kobo. I’ve solely paid my premium; my regulation agency pays my insurance coverage. And that’s not as a result of I’m Oga; we pay insurance coverage for everyone on the agency. Some may be native insurance coverage, others worldwide. However entry to primary healthcare have to be assured for everyone. My plan is to take a seat down with the Well being Administration Organizations, work out an agreeable premium, based mostly on the truth that we have now the numbers, and get them to absorb as lots of our attorneys as doable, department by department. For individuals who can’t pay the premium, we’re going to arrange a Medicare Fund (we begin up with N100m, a part of which can come from the Affiliation, half from donor collaborators and half from senior members of the Bar). As a result of if they aren’t wholesome, they aren’t going to have the ability to work. That’s welfare. It’s not handouts.
You recognize, after all, that the difficulty closest challenge to my coronary heart is capacity-building. That’s nonetheless welfare – simply placing instruments within the arms of attorneys, establishing platforms the place they’ll acquire data. We will even have interaction with authorities in regards to the authorized training system itself for these coming into the career. For these already within the career, we’ll set up the mandatory platforms. Earlier than I left the SBL chair, we have been within the technique of organising a Centre for Industrial Regulation Research. Osaro Eghobamien (SAN) is main that mission at current, however as NBA President I’ll take it over as a mission of your entire Affiliation. It’s a diploma-awarding establishment the place you’ll be able to take up programs in areas which might be necessary to your apply. And it’ll have a roving college – so that you mustn’t come to Lagos or Abuja. It’s simply to open the eyes of our attorneys to the truth that there’s a lot extra they’ll do. On persevering with authorized training, we have already got an Institute; we are going to go there and tweak our legal guidelines in order that we will play a extra forceful position within the administration of CLE in order that that Institute is run correctly. How can we be coaching attorneys in 2020, and expertise isn’t part of their coaching? We’re going to be sure that expertise is a part of the curriculum. There are two sides of expertise; tech regulation, and regulation tech. What we are going to make obligatory is utilizing expertise to allow the apply of regulation.
Is that every one?
Lastly, over 80% of our practitioners function within the dispute house, so what’s necessary to them is necessary to the Affiliation. In our courts as we speak, tales of woe abound – from infrastructure points, to the appointment of Judges and Justices, to remuneration points, case administration, case scheduling and so forth. In 2020, you’ll be able to drive from Ilorin to attend a courtroom case in Lagos, and it is just while you get there that they are going to inform you the Choose went for a Judges’ Convention a Convention that was scheduled the yr earlier than! Why are Judges nonetheless writing in longhand? We’ve been speaking about these items since I used to be in Regulation College. You go to the Federal Excessive Courtroom, you see attorneys standing, sweating, as a result of the courtroom is full, and there’s no gentle. I’ll personally look into the state of our Courts the place our attorneys ply their commerce.
It has already been said that the NBA underneath my administration will introduce a nationwide NBA mentorship programme for younger attorneys to be administered by the Membership Committee of the NBA. We’ll lengthen this to college students. This can contain pairing chosen Nigerian regulation college students with some younger attorneys to offer them steering and assist as they transition from being college students to changing into authorized practitioners.
My administration shall additionally introduce an NBA all-expense paid scholarship for 30 regulation college students throughout universities within the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria to attend the NBA Annual Basic Convention as scholar delegates for the 2 years of our administration. The essence of that is to increase the horizon of regulation college students and allow them, at a foundational stage, to enlarge community, develop acceptable curiosity in modern areas of regulation apply, study the artwork of enterprise growth and enhance their industrial consciousness.
On this period of globalisation, no organisation can afford to insulate itself and chorus from actively partaking with others. As an example, the NBA-SBL underneath my management organised, in partnership with the IBA, a free coaching for 100 younger attorneys on the basics of Worldwide Authorized Enterprise Follow.
The NBA underneath my management will guarantee lively partnerships and collaborations with worldwide organisations and companies particularly the IBA to offer our members with capability constructing alternatives.
Attorneys are harassed all around the nation in the middle of doing their work, what are you going to do about this?
First, we’re going to have interaction the authorities, and discover out whether or not we’re doing one thing flawed, and why they’re taking pictures the messenger? Why are we the enemy? On this explicit one, I’ll lead the cost. As a result of it’s an issue particularly for the common lawyer who’s prone to being locked up within the police station as a result of they went there to defend a shopper. After which we’re going to run programmes with the safety companies, in order that we will set up protocols for engagement. The place they fail to pay attention, then we’ll rise up and ensure they perceive in very clear phrases that what they’re doing is unacceptable behaviour. NBA will arrange a Attorneys Defence Fund, funded from our personal earnings. In each department, we’ll appoint NBA-retained counsel. Take into consideration what the sufferer who’s detained, would really feel to know that his Affiliation despatched a lawyer to defend him. That adjustments the mindset. However extra importantly, we are going to rise up in defence of our members when they’re harassed in the middle of doing their job.