The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sworn in its 30th President, Mr Olumide Akpata.
He was sworn-in at a short ceremony held at the NBA National Secretariat in Abuja.
The ceremony which was streamed live online marked the end of the tenure of the Paul Usoro administration.
Mr. Akpata immediately thanked the past executive for ensuring that the Association was held together after which he swore in members of his executives.
In his inaugural address after his swearing-in, Mr Akpata called on lawyers to unite as the work ahead of the Association is enormous
Akpata, said he considers it a great honour and privilege on the epochal 60th anniversary of the NBA, “to be sworn in as the 30th President of the foremost professional membership association in Nigeria and the most influential network of legal practitioners in Africa.”
Akpata who was declared the winner of the keenly contested poll by NBA Electoral Committee on July 31, will lead the Affairs of the bar for the next two years.
The inaugural speech reads in part:
“It is apposite to begin the formal part of the address by tackling two major issues arising from the 2020 NBA election – the seeds of discord that were sown during the election campaigns and the issues pertaining to the election process itself.
The Need for Unity at the Bar
“I am not oblivious of the cleavages that emerged during the campaign and the attempt to pitch senior members of the bar against their younger counterparts. We were all witnesses to the widespread agitations against the holders of the enviable rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria to the extent that some people were eagerly anticipating a revolution. In some ways, this was understandable, having regard to the issues that characterised the election and the uniqueness of my candidacy, being the first non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria to win an election as NBA President in thirty years. However, the elections are now over, and we must, of necessity, retrace our steps.
“One of the cardinal pillars of my campaign and on the basis of which I made myself available to run for this high office, was the promise to run an all-inclusive Bar. There is no gainsaying the fact that this necessarily includes giving due recognition and deference to the senior members of the Bar who are the builders of, and significant contributors to, our noble Association. Even as a candidate, I never saw myself as a harbinger of division between senior and young members of the Bar, but as bridge candidate to build better rapport between young and senior lawyers. This is a role I will approach will all seriousness.
“One of the first things I did after the result declaration was to call on my supporters to desist from joining issues or otherwise attacking other lawyers, especially senior members of the Bar, but instead to be magnanimous in victory. Permit me to repeat what I said in that publication. Ours is a noble profession that prides itself on a high sense of discipline, learning, respect for seniority and character for which its members are reputed. Let us therefore join hands to move the NBA forward. The mandate that I have from Nigerian lawyers is to work for all members of the Bar irrespective of who they voted for. There is so much work to be done to revitalise our Bar and make it work for everyone without discrimination.
“I am also not unaware of very recent events and agitations that have tended to divide our Bar along regional and religious lines. This is rather unfortunate for an egalitarian Association like ours. The Bar that I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength. I plead with all Nigerian lawyers to bear this philosophy of unity in mind as we commence a new journey together today.
“This enormous task cannot be achieved if we continue to fan the embers of division at a time when we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice. We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful, and sensitive in our words and actions, as doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.
“It is pertinent to state categorically that, in my view, the 2020 Election – the voting and result of which were monitored live by a significant proportion of Nigerian lawyers and non-lawyers alike – was ultimately free and fair, and the result was, by all estimation, truly reflective of the will of Nigerian lawyers. The above notwithstanding, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there were several glitches in the build up to the Election. As Nigeria’s foremost professional Association, our electoral process ought to be the standard for others to follow and should, to the extent humanly possible, be devoid of the glitches that we witnessed. It was with this in mind that I personally wrote two separate letters to the ECNBA Chairman on 20th July 2020 and 29th July 2020 to highlight the issues that threatened the conduct of a credible election and to recommend measures to immediately address those concerns.
“The consensus is that there is need to urgently review the 2020 elections and to institute urgent reforms of our electoral systems. Indeed, the Board of Trustees of the NBA in their letter of 19 August 2020 to Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN called for a major transformation of our electoral process and framework. Let me repeat what I said to the Board of Trustees in my letter to them in response to the petition of Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN; “as an Association that prides itself as Nigeria’s foremost and oldest professional membership organisation, we need to manage our electoral processes better. I pledged during the electioneering period to introduce an efficient data management system for the NBA and to follow that up with other institutional and structural reforms that would enable NBA to serve the benefit of its members and the Society. In the wake of the criticisms that trailed the Election, this is now a top priority issue for me.”
“One major complaint about the last election was the issue of the database of lawyers and resultant difficulties in coming up with a credible voters’ register. To address this, my administration will improve upon the membership portal introduced by the President Paul Usoro administration. Additionally, I am immediately constituting an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee, comprising distinguished practitioners of the highest standards to audit our 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for our electoral systems and processes.