Acceptance Speech: NBA President Paul Usoro SAN Assures The Bar Of Promising Days Ahead, Pledges To Heal Wounds Of The House Of Lawyers


The 29th President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN, has assured bar men of promising days ahead.
Mr. Usoro made gave this assurance while delivering his acceptance speech at the inauguration ceremony of the NBA 2018 Elected Members’ Executive.
The newly inaugurated president while observing all protocols showed his humility by appreciating all those who have contributed in one way or the other to his success at the poll. According to him, it has been God all along, for has been a covenant child.
Appreciating his wife, and other elders of the bar, such as Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Chief Bayo Ojo, CON SAN and Austin Alegeh, SAN, George Etomi, Prof Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN and others too numerous to mention, he extended his words of praise to the Prof Auwalu Yadudu led Electoral Committee for the hard work in conducting the just concluded election. He also gave special tribute to his co-contestants, Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN. According to him, any one of them could have ended up, fittingly, as the President of the NBA.
“I must also thank the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) as well as the outgone Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN’s executive and administration for their conduct of the Elections in a free and fair manner.  We truly couldn’t have asked for a better set of men and woman with integrity than the Yadudu-led ECNBA.  Yes, the Elections had their fair share of hitches and glitches, but no one can fault the good intentions and character of the ECNBA members.
“In truth, the Elections met the standard of substantial compliance and I must particularly commend the ECNBA for being constantly available at all times to aid and support all the candidates and to address our respective concerns and issues.  I must not fail to pay special tribute to my co-contestants for the office of the NBA President, Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN.  The participation of the three of us in the race greatly enriched the contest and brought out the best in us.  This was a very keenly contested race and any one of us could have ended up, fittingly, as the President of the NBA.”
Canvassing on the task ahead, he said that he came into office as the 29th President of the NBA at a time that the Association is driven with and by acrimonious divisions of all sorts, not to mention serious skepticism and distrust of the NBA leadership by its members.  According to him, those divisions and rifts did not start with the last Elections; they were simply exacerbated and made worse by these Elections. He therefore promised to heal wounds and restore unity in the House of Lawyers.
“It is critical and urgent that we bind, heal wounds and restore unity in our House of Lawyers…My immediate task would therefore be to heal these wounds, seal the cracks and unite our family of lawyers. I have already started the process of such integration and healing by extending my hands of fellowship and brotherhood to my co-contestants, Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN.  But I will go beyond them in the days ahead. 
“I’ll seek to heal the wounds of the 2016 NBA Elections by reaching out to my very good friend and brother, Chief J K Gadzama, SAN and bring him back into the NBA family.  I know that he has plenty to offer to our Association.  There are also several of our Bar Elders who have stayed outside the NBA fold for several years now for one reason or the other, mostly out of disenchantment; we’ll actively work to bring them back into the fold and in the process harvest from their rich repertoire of intellectual resources, experiences and wisdom,” he added.
Speaking further, he added that the bar under his watch will embark on reforms that will review the NBA Electoral Systems, adding that, in furtherance of same, he will constitute a committee to handle the review process.
“Turning to the 2018 NBA National Elections, it is common ground amongst everyone that a review of our electoral systems and values is urgently required. In the coming weeks, I’ll constitute a Committee to review and recommend required reforms for and of our electoral processes. Still on our electoral processes, one significant lacuna that came out from the last elections is our lack of electronic data in respect of our members.
“The most difficult and tortuous of the processes during the elections was the electronic capturing of our members’ data and the verification of same.  It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that Africa’s pre-eminent Bar Association underwent such pains and pangs as we suffered in the processes of capturing and verifying our membership data,” he said.
Among others, he emphasized the need to improve the quality of our skills, knowledge and practice through the continuing legal education, and also focus on the mentorship of young lawyers.  He also said that the judges and the judiciary have been blackmailed in recent time. Affirming the fact that there are bad eggs in the system, he however said that that does not call for the treatment given to the judiciary especially, as it affects the measures melted out to judges and lawyers by security operatives. He therefore stressed that those bad eggs will be fished out and disciplined accordingly.
“It pains us when they are vilified and demonized in a manner that would tend to cow and intimidate them.  Yes, like any grouping of people, there may be bad eggs amongst our Judges, but that does not call for class demonization of our Judges and Courts.  What needs to be done is to fish out those bad eggs amongst them and remove them from the pack – and there are sleuth methods and laid down procedures in this regard.  We truly damage our justice administration system when we, public officials and lawyers alike, openly vilify and condemn our entire judiciary and judges – more often than not, without any proven case of infraction.  We degrade the rule of law thereby and blackmail our judges and the judiciary.
“To this end, it is important that lawyers be not class-defamed and treated by our law enforcement agencies as criminals or accomplices to the crimes for which their clients may be charged.  It is perhaps this misperception that has resulted in the increasing incidents of assault and battery of our lawyers throughout the length and breadth of our country in the course of their discharge of their professional duties and functions.  This is not to say that we do not have bad eggs in our midst.  We however have disciplinary machinery for purging ourselves of such bad eggs,” he added.
He further appealed to the bar to understand, that the areas he touched on in the Address constitute but a capsule of the activities the administration would be focused on during their stint as the managers of their common heritage, the NBA. According to him, they would be building on the solid foundations that their predecessors in office have left in place for them.
He also appreciated Mr. A.B. Mahmoud SAN, the immediate past NBA President for being passionate about his required reforms. According to him, consultations will be at the fore to achieve results, as he prepares to work in transparency and accountability as his watch words to achieve the desired results.
“A.B. Mahmoud SAN has not only been passionate about the required reforms for our Association but also worked assiduously at internationalizing our NBA.  I have been privy to his efforts at reforms and these constitute the much-needed resource materials for some of the reform programs that we would effect.  We would continue to lean on him and his relationships with our international partners and will count at all times on his support and assistance in the course of our navigation of our Association’s journey towards enhanced greatness.
“In like manner we will continue to lean on and count on the wisdom of all our Past Presidents, Bar Elders and Leaders and indeed, all of you our dear colleagues.  We are nothing without you. We can only succeed with your support and assistance.  More importantly, we come as your servants; you are our masters and we would at all times listen to and heed your advice.  Where or when we think differently, we would patiently explain our viewpoints to you knowing as we do that communication between us clears doubts and pre-empts quarrels and misunderstandings.  Transparency and accountability, we assure you, would be our watchwords at all times,” he added.