COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE MEETING OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (NEC) OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) HELD ON THURSDAY 12th NOVEMBER,2015 AT OBI WALI INTERNATIONAL COVENTION CENTRE, PORT HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE

INTRODUCTION

The Nigerian Bar Association at its National Executive Committee Meeting held at the Obi Wali International Convention Centre, Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Thursday 12th of November, 2015 considered several issues of urgent national importance including, but not limited to; the alarming rate of acts of professional misconduct by lawyers, the resumption of strike action by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria [JUSUN] in some States of the Federation. NEC also reviewed the state of the Nigerian economy in the as well as the state of Federal roads in the country.

NEC carefully considered the said issues and resolved as follows:

STATE OF NIGERIAN JUDICIARY

THE DISPARAGING OF JUDGES AND THE JUDICIARY BY LITIGANTS AND LAWYERS WHO LOSE CASES IN COURTS
NEC reviewed the actions of litigants and lawyers who disparage judges and or their judgments simply because they lost their cases and strongly condemned all such acts.

NEC noted that these persons praise the same Judges and Courts when they win but fail to see anything good in the Judges and/or their judgments when such judgments and Rulings are not in their favour. NEC further noted that where a person has a proper ground for complaint against a judicial officer, the proper thing to do is to forward such compliant to the National Judicial Council [NJC].

NEC advised aggrieved litigants and/or their lawyers to exercise their right to appeal against such decisions to enable the Appellate Courts to deal appropriately with any errors of the lower Courts/Tribunals.
NEC resolved that the NBA must continue to ensure that lawyers who are involved in such conduct are investigated and prosecuted for professional misconduct.

NEC maintained that lawyers must always treat the Courts with respect, dignity and honour.

THE ARGUING OF CASES IN THE MEDIA BY LAWYERS INVOLVED IN TRIAL

NEC observed that some lawyers especially those involved in Election matters now canvass facts and arguments before the Press on matters which are already pending before the Court.

NEC condemned this unwholesome practice of arguing matters which are sub judice in the media.

NEC resolved that henceforth any lawyer who engages in such practice will be made to face disciplinary proceedings before the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee [LPDC].

ALLEGATION OF WALK-OUT OF CODE OF CONDUCT TRIBUNAL BY SOME LAWYERS

NEC examined the allegation that two Senior Advocates of Nigeria walked out of the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday, November 5, 2015 after the Tribunal refused their application for adjournment of their client’s case pending the determination of an appeal filed at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

NEC observed that pursuant to NBA’s objective of the maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Bench in Nigeria, it requested both counsel to submit a written report to the NBA so as to ascertain what transpired at the Tribunal.

NEC noted that consequent upon the receipt of their reports as well as review of various independent accounts of what transpired before the Tribunal, the NBA discovered that the lawyers were not culpable and did not walk out of the Tribunal as widely reported by the Press.

NEC is satisfied that in line with the procedure of the Bar and professional etiquette, the two Senior Advocates of Nigeria sought and obtained leave of the Tribunal to withdraw their legal representation for their client in the matter.

NEC resolved that the Tribunal was not exposed to ridicule by the withdrawal of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria as the Prosecution Counsel was in Court with his retinue of Juniors and other lawyers and the Court did not have to bow to an empty Bar.

NEC further noted that the Supreme Court has stayed proceedings in respect of the matter before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

NEC resolved that the NBA will not hesitate to clear the air where an otherwise professionally and ethically justifiable action by a legal practitioner is misrepresented by the Press so as to portray him/her as well as the legal profession in a bad light.

GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN KOGI AND BAYELSA STATES

NEC reiterated the resolve of the NBA to take a very keen interest in the Elections to be held in any part of the country as the legitimacy of the ballot box determines the quality of Government and also determines if the governed would ever enjoy the true benefits of Democracy.

NEC resolved that the NBA will continue to use its network of Branches to engage in VOTER EDUCATION AND VOTER MOBILISATION in the gubernatorial elections scheduled in Kogi and Bayelsa States on a strictly non-partisan basis.

NEC restated the resolve of the NBA, as the voice of the oppressed, the defender of human rights and advocate of rule of Law to continue to educate and mobilise the electorate and monitor elections and report on the conduct of all such elections.

LEGAL EDUCATION

NEC noted with regret that the foundation of some legal practitioners are outdated and most of our lawyers are unable to understand emerging areas of practice to compete with international best practices, or even to address the challenges thrown up by new legislation and law reforms.

NEC emphasised the importance of continuing legal education to help Nigerian lawyers understand emerging areas of practice so as to be able to compete with international best practices and to address the challenges thrown up by new legislation and law reforms.

NEC resolved that the Council Legal Education should ensure that persons, who read law in institutions which are not recognised by the Council of Legal Education, should not be allowed to attend the Nigerian Law School.

NEC further resolved that in order to ensure that Law School students get a solid foundation, Branches shall review and update the list of Law Offices within their jurisdictions and send same to the NBA National Secretariat so that the Law School will be availed with a comprehensive list of viable law offices where Law School students could be sent for law office attachment.

STATE OF THE NATION

NEC noted the deteriorating condition of many inter-state roads which cause a lot of traffic grid-lock, lost man-hours, accidents, loss of lives and properties and thereby called on the Federal and State governments to take urgent steps to fix these roads.

NEC also called on the Federal Government to develop a clear-cut strategy for addressing the threat posed to our national security by unscrupulous elements and individuals who resort to violent means to clamour for sectional interests.

NEC urged the Federal Government to deploy sufficient human and material resources to quell the Boko Haram Insurgency in the North-Eastern States.

NEC also urged the Federal Government to initiate measures to curb the incessant devaluation of the Naira and to promote policies to boost the National economy.

APPOINTMENT OF MINISTERS

NEC congratulated His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari on the successful constitution of the Federal Executive Council by the appointment and swearing-in of Thirty Six [36] new Honourable Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

NEC commended His Excellency, The President on the appointment of ten [10] Members of the NBA into the Federal Executive Council as Honourable Ministers and restated NBA’s resolve to support and collaborate with the new Ministers in promoting the Rule of Law and advancing the cause of justice.

FINANCIAL AUTONOMY OF THE JUDICIARY

NEC observed that many State Governments are reneging from their commitment to abide by the court judgment which affirmed the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of the Judiciary.

NEC observed with dismay that the failure of the affected state governments to honour their commitment has led to the resumption of the strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).

NEC lamented the adverse affect of the resumption of the strike by JUSUN on the administration of justice, the livelihood of lawyers and court users as well as access to justice by people seeking relief from the courts.

NEC reiterated the resolve of the NBA to continue to mediate in the ongoing negotiations between JUSUN and the respective State Governments.

DATED THIS 13TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2015

Augustine Alegeh, SAN
President, Nigerian Bar Association

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