President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, has described the formation of a parallel NBA as unfortunate, calling for a united body at a time when the country needs them the most.
Mr Akpata who was sworn in as NBA’s 30th President, while giving his inaugural speech on Friday, faulted the move to establish a regional bar.
“I am 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.”
Following the withdrawal of the invitation extended by the Bar to the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, some lawyers had alleged discrimination against the governor.
Two lawyers based in Kaduna, Nuhu Ibrahim and Abdulbasit Suleiman, describing themselves as Convener 1 and 2, on Thursday, announced that they and others of like minds had formed a ‘New Nigerian Bar Association’ NNBA.
In a statement released on social media, the lawyers said: “The New Nigerian Bar Association members feel that their interests are no longer taken into consideration in major decisions of the NBA hence the formation of this Association.
According to them, membership of the NBA is not mandatory, adding that Section 40 of the Constitution permits freedom of association.
The new NBA members said they were in consultations with “very Senior Lawyers of Northern Nigeria extraction and those practicing therein with a view to constituting the Trustees and for purposes of fixing a date for the formal inauguration of the Association.”
The NNBA also claimed that the NBA offices were lopsided against Northern lawyers.
“A cursory chronicle of the membership composition of major organs of the NBA would reveal lopsided representation despite having large numbers of Lawyers from all parts of the country and especially Northern Nigeria who have diligently paid their Bar practicing fees and have distinguished themselves in the legal profession.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association feels that Lawyers, as professionals like Doctors and Accountants should have more than one Association regulated by the General Council of the Bar.”