A BRAVE NEW BAR …
A. B. MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK) FOR PRESIDENT NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) 2016 – 2018
CAMPAIGN MANIFESTO INCLUSION – COHESION – CONSOLIDATION …
… TRANSFORMING THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA): RESTORING THE MISSING FUNDAMENTALS – BUILDING A BRAVE NEW BAR
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TRANSFORMING THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION: - RESTORING THE MISSING FUNDAMENTALS – BUILDING A BRAVE NEW BAR A. B. Mahmoud, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK)
FOR PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION: 2016 – 2018
VISION: TO REINVENT THE NBA INTO A BRAVE NEW BAR DRIVEN BY THE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS OF ITS MEMBERS AS A VERITABLE AGENT FOR NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION, WHILST SAFEGUARDING THE INTERESTS OF ITS MEMBERS.
MISSION STATEMENT: (3Rs-P)
The vision of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should rank among the foremost Bar Associations in the world. To achieve this vision, the NBA requires visionary leadership and direction. To this end, I present myself as a candidate for the position of the President of the NBA from September 2016 to August 2018. Therefore I ask for your unalloyed support in this regard. In asking for your support, I have developed this leap-frogagenda for your consideration and to seek to enlist your support behind our ambition to create one of the best Bar Associations in the world.
THE ROLE OF A BAR ASSOCIATION
A Bar Association or a Law Society, like the NBA, plays a tripartite role in the society. These roles border on regulation, representation, and defense of the public interest. It is on these roles of a Bar Association that my agenda is anchored. My
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agenda, encapsulates these tripartite roles of a Bar Association, but implementing them effectively will require a fourth: “Re-engineering the NBA”. Therefore, my programme of action relates to re-engineering the NBA to enable it to deliver on regulation, representation, and defense of the public interest, (3Rs & P) .
One of the key roles of a Bar Association is the regulation of the affairs of its members. The key areas of regulation are in respect of legal education, (pre- & post-admission and continuing legal education), admission to the legal profession, professional and ethical conduct (setting and enforcing legal practice standards & rules, and discipline), professional indemnity schemes, etc. In Nigeria, the Bar Association is not sufficiently or exclusively playing that role. The current trend in Nigeria is that the regulatory role is played largely by the Federal Government, with NBA playing a minor role by sending representatives to the government agencies and bodies. This arrangement not only erodes the powers of the NBA to regulate its members, but also affects the independence of the legal profession. To this end, there is an urgent need to overhaul the entire legal architecture and framework consolidating the legal profession in Nigeria.
This representative role is not only to protect the interest of lawyers, but is also to serve our members by providing them with benefits, programmes and services which will add value to their professional development. I propose to lead a Bar that offers value to its members. This role also entails representing the legal profession to the government, the public and the global legal community, etc. So there is need for the NBA to add more value and confer more benefits in fulfilling its representative role by addressing issues of insurance, housing, co-operatives etc. The question is: What should the NBA be doing for its members if it wants to continue to be relevant?
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Nigeria is a developing country, whose citizens are not enjoying the dividends of democracy and good governance; where the institutions of democratic governance are weak and where the culture of accountability is still in its embryonic stage. It is a country where human rights are respected more in the breach, and adherence to the principles of rule of law is not commonplace. There is the need for the NBA to speak and act in the overriding public interest at all times. The NBA under my leadership will do this by contributing to legal, political, economic, social reforms and development. We shall also work in the areas of Administration of criminal Justice, Law reform, Rule of Law, Constitutional and Electoral reforms, human rights, public interest litigation, Legislative advocacy, etc.
At this juncture, I shall proceed to spell out the specifics of what needs to be done under each role.
REGULATION AND INDEPENDENCE :
One of the fundamental elements of a Bar Association is independence. Inextricably tied to its independence is the ability of the Bar to self-regulate. An independent Bar is key to the protection of the rule of law and human rights. Central to the Independence of the Bar is its ability to self-regulate and self-govern without undue interference. Self-regulation includes ensuring professional standards are maintained, through continuing legal education, dissemination of code of ethics, discipline of members, and enforcing entry requirements, etc.
To ensure self-regulation and independence of the legal profession I propose to do the following:
If elected, I shall ensure a quick and smooth passage of the pending Justice Sector Bills particularly the Legal Practitioners Bill with a view to its being enacted into law. The envisaged Bill, when enacted, would replace the current Legal Practitioners Act. The current LPA is anachronistic and does not provide for self-regulation, independence, and current trends in the legal profession.
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Review of the Rules of Professional Conduct: The current Rules of Professional Conduct are outdated. If elected, I shall ensure that the RPC is reviewed to meet current needs and emerging trends in the legal profession.
Legal Education & Admission: There is an alarming fall in standard of legal education - If elected, I shall work with the National Universities Commission, Council of Legal Education and Law faculties in our various universities with a view to introducing measures and making proposals that will ensure a higher standard of legal education and criteria for admission. The NBA under my leadership shall promote the highest quality of legal education.
One of the most fundamental roles of NBA is to fulfill its representative obligations to its members in various ways with a view to protecting the interest of members, caring for their welfare, and providing benefits, programmes, and services that facilitate professional development. This means that the NBA through its representative role has the primary responsibility for the management of relationships within the legal profession whether as individual lawyers, firms, or as part of a sectoral or demographic group.
If elected President, the NBA under my leadership shall aim to offer our membership a full range of products, programmes and services, which would ensure maximum engagement and membership satisfaction, and fulfill the needs of the several membership groups. These products, programmes and services would reflect their needs as lawyers working in a fast-changing legal services market.
The NBA representative role under my leadership shall be carried out under the following subjects:
Welfare of Lawyers -
Job Creation for lawyers – The field of legal services in respect of which lawyers have roles is shrinking. This is made worse by
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the low level of local and foreign investment in businesses in Nigeria. This situation has no doubt affected the earning capacities of lawyers. Other factors militating against our lawyers securing legal work in Nigerian include the encroachment of other professionals into the legal profession and the use of foreign lawyers to do legal work in Nigeria by both Nigerian and multinational companies and, in some cases, even by public institutions.
If elected, I shall take the lead to ensure that we protect legal services from the encroachment of other professionals and foreign lawyers with a view to ensuring that such legal services are executed by our members only. If we do not protect our work, no other person or authority will do it for us.
Employment Opportunities for Lawyers - The Nigerian Law School produces almost 5, 000 lawyers every year. In addition to that, there are still many junior and even senior lawyers who desire to work in the public service but are unable to do so.
If elected, I shall embark on strategic engagement of all the relevant government MDAs and ALGON to explore avenues of getting our lawyers employed in their legal departments. We shall also be creative and innovative by facilitating the establishment of departments like Compliance Units in various MDAs and LGAs with a view to creating job opportunities for our members.
Wealth Creation for Lawyers - Many of our colleagues still think of legal practice as just that noble profession that should be practiced without a high sense of business. That era is gone. I encourage our members to change their mentality and begin to see legal practice as both a vocation and a business. In some climes, law firms are now being opened up to investment, and even as listed enterprises to non-lawyers. I strongly believe that it is time we start seeing clients as customers whose demand for competitive, cost-effective and practical solutions must be met. This will entail deployment of technology, engaging experts in the fields of human capital, strategy, marketing, branding, Leadership and
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management, finance & administration etc, so as to have organs of sustainable legal practice and conducive environment for wealth creation.
To create the envisaged wealth, our colleagues need to be educated and trained to invest their fees not only in their practice but also in other businesses. I am aware that to set up a sustainable practice that will lead to such capital will be challenging. So if elected, I propose to engage and partner with Micro Finance banks, Bank of Industry, and Cooperative Societies with a view to negotiating with them to allow our members access to credit for the sole purpose of investing it in their practice and other viable business enterprises. It is time to train our members to have more than one stream of income by developing entrepreneurial skills.
Continuing Legal Education & Skill Acquisition – The legal profession is undergoing fundamental changes. Globalization and interdependence of nations have created a legal practice of high tech, core-skilled and complex transactions that can be located anywhere qualitative legal practice exists.
In addition to globalization, changes in regulation, technology, and population demographics are creating new demands for legal practice areas such as compliance, climate change, health care, energy, ADR, etc. Given the new realities of today`s legal world, lawyers need new types of training to compete in the changing professional environment. A number of trends and innovations have emerged in the landscape which has rendered the training received by Nigerian lawyers from their various law faculties and law school obsolete. These trends can provide opportunities for lawyers, but only if lawyers equip themselves properly to take advantage of the vast opportunities in these new areas of practice. Equipping lawyers can only be most productive and effective through continuing legal education.
The NBA under my leadership will continue to innovate and commit resources and energy into new curricular initiatives, problem-solving skills development and a renewed focus on continuing professional development of lawyers in Nigeria. If elected I shall restructure and strengthen the capacity of NBA-Institute of Continuing Legal Education,
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(ICLE) to equip our lawyers by training them in these relevant and thematic areas.
Relying on, and building on a strengthened ICLE, I shall provide resources to help our members become better lawyers. Within the 2-year tenure of my administration, I shall do the following:
Create about 1,000 hours of CLE programmes.
Host up to 500 in-person CLE events around the 36 States, Abuja and Geo-political zones of Nigeria.
Publish up to 50 books, magazines and journals to assist members broaden their perspectives.
Partner with ICLE service providers to provide webinars and online training programmes.
Young Lawyers: Career Development & Mentoring Programme – There is a disconnect between the legal knowledge of new and young lawyers in today`s world and the emerging and complex areas of legal practice. Because of this disconnect, the focus on mentoring, professional development and other types of career support are far more crucial now than ever, because the legal profession has long recognized that necessary lawyering skills develop over a lawyer`s career and as such there is need for Nigerian lawyers to update their skills with current trends and events in order to remain relevant in the global legal space.
If elected, I will create mentoring and career development programmes with a view to guiding and mentoring young lawyers, so as to choose the career path of their choice within the legal profession and focus on it.
Car loan and Mortgage Schemes for Lawyers – This programme will assist our members to secure car loans from banks and to have their mortgages using mortgage institutions.
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Branch Benefits- Branches of the NBA need to be strengthened and empowered not only to be more effective, but also to be financially independent. It has become a recurring campaign feature by candidates to promise branches payment of a higher percentage of practicing fees. I believe that it is time we work towards developing other streams of income for branches instead of depending on only a certain percentage of practicing fees.
If elected President, I shall work with branches to develop programmes that will be highly beneficial to branch members. I will organize capacity building and fund-raising programmes for branches, so that branches can raise funds for their projects and be independent. I will engage and partner with development partners to fund branch projects.
Development of Services & Products for members – Building on the vision of the NBA to rank among the best Bar Associations in the world, the NBA shall develop services for the benefit of the Association and its members. The objectives of the services shall be as follows:
To develop and deliver new and existing membership services. This could be commercial and not-for-profit
To manage the relationships with members and key stakeholders. This will involve individuals, firms and other interest groups
To maximize the NBA profitability by generating income and controlling costs.
The proposed services shall be in the following areas
Commercial services, which will be the primary source of NBA`s commercial products, services and revenues.
International Relations, which shall have the following strategic goal: to safeguard and enhance the NBA reputation and Nigeria`s legal practice internationally through our representative initiatives and activities; assist our members to develop their businesses and
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practice internationally by removing barriers to practice in other markets and jurisdictions and by offering them services through the International Relation services; promote the core values of the legal profession in Nigeria through our public interest projects.
Developing practice notes in various areas of legal services to assist lawyers in their practice. The NBA under my leadership will provide practice notes to lawyers as a guide to lucrative practice areas. I believe that this will make it easier for them in the course of their provision of professional services to their clients.
Publication of journals in different practice areas, books and Newsletters which shall be distributed to members who are in good standing with the NBA.
Library Services for the benefit of members to aid their access to research materials
Installation of help lines and desks for speedy answers to enquiries.
Consultancy services to the public and private sectors.
Insurance, Stamp & Seal, and Bar Card Projects – It is said that administration is a continuous process. I strongly believe in that philosophy. The NBA under my leadership shall continue these laudable initiatives of my illustrious predecessor in office.
Establishment of NBA Law Care Trust Fund - This Trust Fund will be established to address the needs of our vulnerable and challenged members who are elderly, sick or disabled in one form or the other.
Networking and Cooperation- One of the objectives of NBA is the promotion of co-operation between the Association and other National or international organisations and such other bodies that may be approved by NEC. In today`s world, networking, co-operation and collaboration (building synergies) are key to achieving results. The NBA under my leadership shall promote networking, collaboration of local and
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international stakeholders with a view to building synergies and sharing experiences. We shall promote good relations and social intercourse amongst members and other persons who are also interested in the justice sector and administration of justice. We shall encourage and maintain good relations with other professional bodies, and also participate in their local and international activities.
It has also become imperative to reach out to Nigerian lawyers in the Diaspora, who are called to the Bar in Nigeria, but are practicing abroad. At the moment, there are about 2, 500 Nigerian Lawyers (called to the Bar in Nigeria) in USA, over 3, 000 in the UK, about 700 in Canada and equally large numbers in other countries of the world.
If elected, I will ensure that NBA not only actively engages other bodies, including IBA, CLA, PALU, WABA, etc, but also encourage Nigerian lawyers in the diaspora to establish NBA outreach branches in their various localities. By so doing, we shall build a relationship with them and draw from their expertise.
Maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Judiciary - One of the aims and objectives of the NBA is the maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and Judiciary in Nigeria.
Judicial independence and integrity is vital and important to the idea of separation of powers and the rule of law. Judges have the ultimate responsibility for decisions regarding freedoms, rights and duties of natural and legal persons within their jurisdiction. The independence of each individual judge safeguards every person’s right to have their case decided solely on the basis of the law, the evidence and facts, without any improper influence. A well-functioning, efficient, incorruptible and independent judiciary is an essential requirement for a fair, consistent and neutral administration of justice. Consequently, judicial independence is an indispensable element of the right to due process, the rule of law and democracy.
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If elected, I will work to ensure the independence and integrity of the Judiciary as well as ensure that corruption in the judicial system is unapologetically eroded. I will also ensure the improvement of the administration of justice system, its procedures and the arrangement of court business. I and my team will work with the relevant Committees of the NBA and the IBA Judicial Integrity Initiative in the improvement of the level of integrity in and independence of the judiciary. We will encourage all efforts to fight corruption and encourage independence and impartiality in judicial decision making.
Further, our work will also aim to contribute to other independent and collective efforts geared towards raising awareness of the causes and consequences of legal and judicial corruption where they exist, promoting the highest standards of integrity among lawyers and judges, and considering how countries have worked effectively to eliminate judicial corruption. The main objective is for lawyers and judges to achieve a satisfactory level of knowledge of the various ways their interactions are vulnerable to corruption, and how to prevent and combat these forms of corruption. Improving the justice system will be our prime priority. By so doing, we shall ensure not only a very professional Bar and Bench, we will also be contributing to the solidification of democracy in Nigeria. This is because; an independent and incorruptible judiciary has long been recognised as the foundation upon which a true democracy rests.
PUBLIC INTEREST ROLE OF THE BAR.
Apart from the role NBA plays in regulating and representing its members, it also plays a key role in the overriding public interest. When national issues arise, the general public looks up to the Bar for defence, protection, direction and guidance. If elected, I will ensure that the NBA does not shirk its responsibility of playing this role. In driving our public interest role, the NBA under my leadership shall cover the following areas:
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To Promote the Rule of Law & Access to Justice-
The Bar has a crucial role to play in upholding the rule of law and ensuring that access to justice is not just a mere slogan but a realistic concept to be complied with by all. An independent, effective and competent legal profession is an essential component in the protection of the rule of law.
If elected President, the NBA under my leadership shall champion the enthronement of Rule of Law. I will set up a Rule of Law Working Group. In addition to setting up the working Group, I shall set aside a day to be known as Rule of Law Day. Such a day would be used to sensitize the public and create awareness on the need for the respect for the rule of law, the legal process, and the role of the legal profession.
To effectively promote the rule of law and ensure access to justice, the NBA shall do the following:
Advocacy - The NBA under my leadership shall speak out freely against abuse of power.
Rule of Law Monitoring – We shall undertake a monitoring work that has as its objective, the promotion of rule of law. This will include monitoring and reporting in different areas that impact on rule of law.
Conferences and workshops to promote rule of law - These activities will not only be informative and educational, we will also make recommendations that can be used in ways that will fundamentally enhance the operation of the rule of law.
Pro Bono and legal aid work- The NBA has developed a Pro bono and legal aid programme. If elected, I will strengthen and build on the programme for more impact.
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Commentary on Public Affairs & National Issues-
The general public looks up to the Bar in every country for defense, direction, guidance etc. The Bar has a responsibility to be the watch dog of the people.
The NBA under my leadership will always ensure that public interest is protected. If elected, the NBA under my leadership shall be monitoring and commenting on socio-political and economic development in Nigeria. I will hold the government accountable under the law, work for just laws, including human rights, and a fair legal process.
Protection of Human Rights –
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers extensively refer to the international human rights norms in their preamble and further provide that lawyers, in protecting the rights of their clients and promoting the cause of justice, shall seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law. Bar Associations therefore have an obligation to promote and protect human rights.
To effectively protect human rights of the people, if elected, the NBA shall do the following:
Advocacy - The NBA under my leadership shall speak out freely against the violation of fundamental rights.
I shall upgrade the Human Rights Committee to the NBA Human Rights Institute, so as to enhance delivery on its fundamental human rights mandate.
Human Rights Monitoring – We shall undertake a monitoring work that has as its objectives, to document the various human rights infractions covering various thematic areas. This will
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include monitoring and reporting in different areas that impact on human rights.
I shall institute an NBA Annual Human Rights Report that will be published annually in respect of human rights issues.
Conferences and workshops to promote Human rights - These activities will not only be informative and educational, we will also make recommendations that can be used in ways that will fundamentally impact the promotion of human rights and social justice.
Law Reform, Constitutional & Electoral Reform - One of the cardinal objectives of the NBA is the promotion and support of law reform. Over the years, the NBA has been playing an active role in this regard. I strongly believe that through participating in law, constitutional and electoral reforms, the NBA can have a real impact on ensuring that laws are consistent with rule of law principles as well as bringing about positive change in Nigeria.
If elected President, under my leadership the NBA will play a more active and pro-active role in the areas of law and constitutional reforms not only to contribute to positive change in Nigeria, but also to ensure that good governance is enthroned and that the institutions consolidating democracy are strengthened.
In driving the law reform agenda, the NBA will develop a strong legislative advocacy programme. To this end, I propose to set up an NBA Commission on the Legislature. This Commission will have the responsibility to do as follows:
To act as a Lobbyist Group in the Legislature – This means the Commission will lobby on issues, provide testimony at legislative hearing, send letters and proposals to members of the Legislature and their committees on various legislative and national issues.
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Design a legislative advocacy strategy for our legislative work.
Establish NBA/Lawyers in the legislature forum with a view to working with lawyers in the legislature for their support in getting our work in the legislature done.
Establish a State Legislative Clearing house which tracks State legislative developments that are of interest to the NBA. This is very important because State legislative houses participate in constitutional reform.
Publish a State Legislative Report, which provides a regular overview of development in the State legislatures.
Public Interest Litigation – Public interest litigation is a vehicle through which laws can be used to transform society, empower the vulnerable and act as a check on the State and its institutions. Essentially, it includes cases that are aimed at bringing about a change in society through benefitting more than just the individual but the public at large. It includes class or group actions, and test cases that are aimed at affecting policy, practice or procedure that impact on a group of people. Public interest litigation is an important way of enforcing human rights, encouraging public participation, improving economic conditions, encouraging grass root empowerment, reforming laws and legal systems and fostering government accountability.
If elected, I shall ensure that the NBA uses the instrumentality of public interest litigation as a tool for protecting and defending the public interest in diverse ways.
RE-ENGINEERING THE NBA.
This relates to reforming and restructuring of the essential organs, pillars and institutions of NBA for better results. What the NBA needs is strong institutions, processes, and organs; not strong persons. Leaders of great institutions have realized that one can only achieve results when there are
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strong institutions that are focused on execution, closing the gaps between the result they promise and the results they deliver.
The NBA has grown to be a very big association over the years: with a membership base of over 90, 000 lawyers, and over 109 branches, spread across 36 states and the FCT, Abuja. It has two institutes, three sections, two Commissions, six Fora, working groups, and Committees. These institutions are supported by the National Secretariat, which is also an organ of the NBA.
Because the NBA is growing in size with corresponding increase in its responsibilities, there is need to conduct an audit of its operations and processes to ensure it is more responsive to the needs of our members. Although the new NBA Constitution provides for the guidelines to govern these organs, their processes and operations still require being restructured and reformed. As presently structured, most NBA institutions lack the capacity to take the NBA to a higher level befitting a 21 st century Bar association.
For example, the NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education, Human Rights Institute, Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), the Programme Directorate of the National Secretariat should be self- sustaining and self-funding by now, going by the original concept. They were all conceptualized to develop programmes, write proposals to donor agencies, create and manage income-generating projects, etc. The IBA Human rights Institute alone has about 15 members of Staff under the strategic direction and supervision of a separate Director as distinct from the IBA Head Office personnel. The IBA HRI develops its own programmes, manages its own projects, raises its funds, and pays its own staff. Over the years, it has become self-sufficient. The NBA Section on Business Law (SBL) also develops its own programmes, manages its own projects, raises its own funds, and pays its own staff. From inception of the SBL, it has being self-sustaining. Another example is the NBA Programme Directorate. Programmes and Programming could easily be the highest source of revenue in NBA and could easily make contributions to the overhead if the Directorate was well-structured. In a well-structured system, programme staff ought to be earning their income from the funds they raise. Not from Practicing Fees as is presently the case. At the ABA, programme personnel
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earn high income from the funds they raise because of so many projects they are doing in the US and developing countries. Sadly that is not the case at the NBA. SPIDEL is supposed to be the richest and most vibrant Section of the NBA; but it is not. It has been comatose since 2010 and it was not conceptualized to be so.
In view of the foregoing, it is obvious that some basic fundamentals are missing in the whole organisational gamut of the NBA. To this end, there is an urgent need to re-engineer and to fill the missing fundamentals.
If elected President, I shall re-engineer the NBA organs and institutions for more productivity. I shall achieve this by restructuring their operations and employing competent personnel, building their capacity, supporting the institutions by funding them, creating conducive environment for them to thrive and function better, build their capacity, and ensure they have institutional support.
CONCLUSION: STRATEGIC PLAN
A strategic plan determines the direction an organization is going over a specified period of time, how it is going to get there, and how it will know if it has arrived there or not. A strategic plan is essential to the success of any organization.
Strategic Planning allows an organisation to identify goals and objectives it aims to achieve over a period of time, thus facilitating it to focus its time, attention and resources on specific priorities. Bar Associations in Europe, Africa and the US have found that a strategic plan can assist in articulating a realistic vision and provide a framework from which operational plans can be derived. A strategic plan is also essential in achieving a more focused, efficiently run and accountable organisation. This is particularly important in the case of Bar Associations because their objectives often include serving members and the public. The process can allow greater accountability to members, the public and other stakeholders, and ensure the Bar, is focused on specific goals and objectives, and knows exactly how, as well as the time frame within which, it is to achieve these.
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The NBA has never had a Strategic Plan or a development plan. Consequently, there is some level of policy inconsistency from one NBA leadership to the next. I strongly believe that developing a strategic plan for the NBA is long overdue.
If elected as the next NBA President, I will develop the first NBA Strategic Plan with a view to ensuring policy and program consistency and continuity. When in place the Strategic Plan will encourage financial planning as we must now consider how funds will be raised and allocated for planned activities.
A. B. MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK) APRIL 2016.
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