WELCOME ADDRESS BY LEDAK DAZUK DAFER, ESQ., CHAIRMAN, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION,JOS BRANCH, ON THE OCCASION OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE NBA HOLDING FROM THE 17TH – 19TH FEBRUARY, 2016 AT CREST HOTEL, JOS
It is with great joy and gratitude to the Lord that I welcome the President of the largest Bar in Africa, Augustine Alegeh, SAN, the National officers and all Bar leaders here present to this auspicious meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association, holding here in Jos, Plateau State, Home of Peace and Tourism. The appellation, “Home of Peace and Tourism” was neither given to nor adopted by the State but earned. Time and space may not permit me to give details of the reasons to prove this. As we all know, it was in this city that the Peace Summit of the Committee of Chairmen and Secretaries, led by Chief A. S. Awomolo, SAN, met in 1997 and resolved the impasse that led to the temporary dissolution of the Bar in the Country in 1992. Since then the Bar has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. By the year 2017, this peace accord would have been twenty years. For this and other reasons, Jos stands the best city to mark that event by hosting the Annual General Conference/Meeting.
The last time the Jos Branch played host to NEC was in 2003 which was held at the Leadership Centre, Jos. Today, that hall can no longer accommodate even a monthly meeting of the Young Lawyers’ Forum of the Branch. In the year, 2005 this very hall (where you are seated) played host to the Annual General Conference of the Bar. This hall, as you may attest to, can no longer seat half of the participants at our Annual General Conference. This growth is a clear manifestation of the contributions of our great leaders in raising awareness of members into participating in Bar activities.
Let me boldly say that the Jos Bar is as old as the legal profession in the Country. Activities of the Bar in Jos date back to the colonial days when West African Court of Appeal (WACA) used to sit only in Lagos and Jos. Unfortunately, the secretariat of this very old Branch is still located in rented premises. However, with the contributions of some of our generous members of the Branch and from other Branches, we have secured a property. Right now, construction work is just a little beyond foundation level. It is my sincere hope that the present State Government, led by one of our own, will soon recover from the serious economic mess it inherited and come to our aid to complete the Jos Bar Centre so that, by next year, God’s willing, we will confidently apply for the hosting of the 2017 Annual General Conference there.
The Jos Branch has, over the years, enjoyed the cooperation of some of its past leaders and members of the Branch. Most of the members are now more actively involved in the activities of the Branch. The Branch has also been enjoying the cooperation and understanding of the judiciary, both at the State and the Federal levels. The judiciary on the Plateau was one of the first (if not the first) to record total enforcement of the implementation of the use of Practice Stamps introduced by the Augustine Alegeh, SAN led administration. Most visiting counsel who appeared to be unaware of the use of the stamps could not file their processes.
Towards the 2015 General Elections and in compliance with the directive from the National office of the NBA, the Jos Branch embarked on a Voter Education and Mobilization in the city of Jos and its environs to raise the level of awareness of the voting population in the State which went a long way in sensitizing the voters in voting the right persons into the right positions. The result was that six of our colleagues (including His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong) were elected. His Excellency, the Governor or Bauchi State, is a beneficiary of that exercise that was embarked upon by the Bauchi Branch. This could not have been possible if the general public was not sensitized to participate in the electoral processes of the day.
Within one week of his oath taking, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Barr. Simon Bako Lalong was able to dialogue with Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), with the Branch as the arbiter, and immediately had the six months strike he inherited form his predecessor, called off. The fact that we are holding this meeting here is also as a result of the active encouragement and support of His Excellency, one time EXCO member of the Branch. This, I believe is a clear demonstration of his love for the Bar.
His Excellency’s working relationship with other governors cannot be over emphasized. This can be seen in the encouragement and support the Branch is enjoying from other States like Bauchi State. The Jos Bar appreciates His Excellency, the Governor of Bauchi State, Barr. M. A. Abubakar.
I must commend Mr. President for all the innovations he and his team (with the support of the Bar) has been able to introduce to raise the standard of the Bar to this enviable position. Time and space may not permit me to chronicle all the innovations and achievements made so far. However worthy of mention is the introduction of Practice Stamps for all Legal Practitioners. Through this, many fake lawyers have been identified. Unfortunately, some of these have devised ways out by preparing processes in the name of innocent Nigerians they call their clients and in way, they have been able to evade the requirement of using the Stamps. With the cooperation of the Courts and the general public, such bad eggs can still be caught and prosecuted. However, as good as this innovation is, the validity period written on the Stamps is capable of grave misinterpretation. Last year, a client rush back to my office with a document I had notarized with the complaint that the practice Stamp affixed had “Valid till March, 2016”, written on it. To him, the document had an expiration date and that he would have to validate the document yearly. It is my humble suggestion that only the date of production should appear on the Stamp.
Let me use this forum to call on all Nigerians (particularly, members of this respectable profession) to actively and sincerely support the current Anti-Corruption crusade of the present Government led by His Excellency, General Muhamadu Buhari (Rtd). The gains of this crusade far outweigh the odds that may be associated with it. This crusade has not only resulted in the recovery of looted treasures of the Nation but has also succeeded in instilling discipline among our leaders and the entire citizenry of the country. This has also helped gain respect and confidence among the citizenry and from the international community. However, in response to the rumors making the rounds that the Federal Government is planning to go for loan to salvage the current economic challenges being faced, I caution that, rather than going for any loan, the government should ensure proper application of the recovered loots. I believe that, in no distant time, we shall surely come out of the woods. To go for loan as is being rumored is like jumping from frying pan into the fire, considering the conditionalities usually attached to such international loans.
The Bar has also enjoyed a good working relationship with all the security outfits in the State who, with concerted efforts of the prayers of some of our members, are currently on ground to provide security.
Arrangements have been put in place for all NEC members to have a glimpse of some of our scenic features of significant tourist attractions like the Shere Hills, Kura and Assop Falls, Wase Rock, Riyom Rocks, the Kerang Volcanic Mountain (where SWAN Water is produced), Pandang Game Reserve, Jos Wildlife park, Jos Zoo/National Museum and several others. In the course of the day you will all have the opportunity to visit some of these places.
Distinguished NEC members, on behalf of the Jos Branch, I welcome you to Jos (the Tin City), Plateau State, Home of Peace and Tourism.