Northern lawyers from not less than 40 branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), have rejected the formation of the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA) and declared support for a one united NBA.
Following the withdrawal of a letter of invitation to Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, as a guest speaker at the just-concluded Annual General Conference of the NBA, a group of aggrieved northern lawyers had last week announced the formation of NNBA as a splinter group. But lawyers from the northern zone yesterday dissociated themselves from NNBA, stating that NBA could not be polarised along ethno-religious divides. The northern lawyers at a meeting yesterday in Abuja distanced themselves from the splinter group.
They urged northern lawyers and all legal practitioners in the country to rally round the new NBA leadership led by Mr. Olumide Akpata, to ensure that the original aspirations of the body are realised. The stakeholders’ meeting was facilitated by two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) from the North, Mr. Yunus Ustaz and Mr. Elisha Kurah, as well as 40 branch chairmen of NBA.
However, the communiqué of the meeting was read by Kurah, who is also the Acting Chairman of Arewa Lawyers Forum. He said: “We the undersigned individuals, who are chairmen of the various branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that make up the northern geo-political zone as defined in the NBA Constitution 2015, and other senior members of the Bar have today, Wednesday, September 2, 2020, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, met with the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata and the national officers of NBA.
“We have unanimously agreed to support his leadership of NBA, and we hereby restate our true allegiance to NBA and disassociate ourselves from the ‘New NBA’ or any splitter group whatsoever making the waves in recent weeks as a new association/body of lawyers in Nigeria. We understand that NBA has historically and in recent times been fraught with several challenges, but we are indeed assured that NBA under the leadership of Mr. Olumide Akpata will surmount these challenges and birth an all-inclusive Bar that will work for all lawyers in Nigeria regardless of any part of the divide one may belong.”
The northern lawyers said they were gratified to hear Akpata during his inaugural address, restating that the bar that he wants to lead henceforth is one that “is united on all fronts and which recognises that our diversity is our greatest strength.”
The lawyers urged their northern colleagues, including those behind the establishment of NNBA and all legal practitioners in Nigeria to come together to support Akpata and the new national officers to ensure that they deliver on their core mandates. The lawyers commended the new leadership of NBA for the meeting, as one of their first official engagements after their inauguration, noting that it showed the value the new leadership placed on the need for an all-inclusive bar. Earlier, Akpata had said NBA was one and was not split along ethnic or religious lines. He assured lawyers that steps would be taken to heal wounds caused by NBA election and the conference.
“At NBA, we remain one, united and indivisible bar. We have not split along ethnic or religious lines. As lawyers, we disagree and agree…We will learn from past mistakes. Only those who refuse to learn from past mistakes are doomed. Due apology would be rendered to those offended,” he said.
He reiterated his commitment towards making NBA better and also building a stronger nation, adding that lawyers would not be in the vanguard to break up the country. “Where our country is going wrong, we as lawyers will give the light. We are here to build Nigeria and not to destroy it. All is well with us in NBA and we are doing well. If there is still any group aggrieved, we will reach out to the group. Our ability to surmount challenges make us leaders. We will remain focused because expectations are high. We in NBA will speak loud to support the teeming people of this country on issues affecting them,” he added.