AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL
A MANIFESTO FOR THE OFFICE OF ASSISTANT PUBLICITY SECRETARY OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
WHO I AM
Dear colleague, my name is Akorede Habeeb Lawal. I am presenting myself as a candidate for the office of Assistant Publicity Secretary of our dear Bar, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). I was born in 1988 to both teacher parents. I graduated from the University of Ilorin in 2009 and I was called to the Nigerian Bar the following year, 2010. I have since my call been in active legal practice and I am the Principal Counsel of A.H. Lawal & Co (Habibi Chambers), Asaba, Delta State.
From my days as a young lawyer, I have been actively involved in NBA activities. I was the Assistant Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, Asaba Branch from 2014 to 2016. The branch was impressed with my performance in that office and elected me as the Publicity Secretary. I also serve the branch in other capacities — member of the Complaints and Reconciliation Committee; Secretary of the Continuing Legal Education Committee and the Ad-hoc Committee on production of Asaba Branch Membership Directory; Head, Publicity Sub Committee of the Law Week Committee, among other roles.
More than anything, our Bar needs the public to acknowledge it as the leading light in the vanguard for adherence to the rule of law and good governance in the country. To do this, the leadership of the Bar must first be responsive to the members of the Bar and then steadily change the perception of the public about lawyers. Public perception is rooted in individual experiences of members of the public in their interaction with our colleagues, the expectations of leadership placed on lawyers’ shoulders by the society, the perceived inadequacies of the judicial arm of government, which of course is dominated by lawyers, prison congestion and the ‘hustles’ of our young colleagues. The Bar must create a positive public perception and I strongly believe that with the aid of social media, a whole lot can be done in this regard.
Buoyed by encouragement from my branch, I feel eminently qualified to be a candidate for the office, because I have the requisite experience for the task ahead. My four-year experience in publicity roles in the Executive Committee of NBA Asaba branch is a dependable strength I come with. Prompt delivery of information to members of the branch, leveraging various social media channels and my network of (conventional and new) media contacts are the hallmark of my achievement in office. I am placing all these benefits at the disposal of our association, which now more than ever before needs to regain its voice on internal and national issues. Above all, I have the energy of untainted youth, the ability to work with others and the openness to learn as I drive delivery.
WHAT I WISH TO BRING TO THE TABLE
My idea of how to bring about positive public perception of lawyers rests on three main stands:
a. The NBA has to be seen to be creatively responsive to her members’ need.
b. The NBA has to be seen to protect and preserve the right, interest and welfare of her members, particularly young lawyers.
c. The NBA has to be seen to protect the independence of the judiciary and regain her public respect as the leading civil society in Nigeria.
On being creatively responsive to members, I propose the following, if elected:
I. NBA TOLL FREE LINES
I would propose and work with the secretariat on the provision of toll free lines on all major networks in Nigeria. This would enable members to make complaints and enquiries to the NBA secretariat while also ensuring prompt delivery of information to members of the Bar.
II. NBA ONLINE COMMUNITY
I would see to the creation of a whole encompassing online community strictly for members of the NBA. This online community would be an information system where members can post, comment and make enquiries on the activities of the NBA.
On this platform, I would propose that we have a dedicated EXCO WEEK every month where all members of the EXCO including the President of the NBA would be online to respond to the enquiries of our members. I would also propose a LEGAL EDUCATION WEEK in collaboration with the Institute of Continuing Legal Education where resource persons would be on hand to render legal education.
III. NBA MOBILE APPLICATION
I would propose and push for the development of a mobile software application that members could employ to pay their practice fees, stamp application fees, conference fees and other sundry fees to the NBA. This app which would be available on all app stores would be useful to check or update personal information by members of the Bar.
On being seen to protect and preserve the right, interest and welfare of her members, particularly the young lawyers.
IV. COLLABORATION WITH THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF JUSTICE ON THE RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG LAWYERS TO AID PRISON DE-CONGESTION
There is no gainsaying that one of the factors responsible for the awkward perception of the public about the justice sector and by extension to lawyers is the inhuman congestion of the Nigerian prisons. What is most worrisome is that most of the inmates in these prisons are awaiting trial and deemed innocent under our criminal laws.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as at February 2017, 72% of inmates in Nigerian prison formations are awaiting trial.
If elected, I would therefore propose that the NBA collaborates with the Federal Ministry of Justice on the massive decongestion of the prisons while also pushing that only young lawyers be recruited for such purpose.
V. NBA’S MENTORSHIP DAY AT THE NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL
All Law School students upon call to Bar mandatorily become NBA members by virtue of the statutes regulating the legal profession in Nigeria. For a long time, the NBA has taken this situation for granted and this has caused a wide gap between the Bar and the Bar aspirants.
If elected, I would propose an NBA MENTORSHIP DAY on all the campuses of the Nigerian Law School where lawyers and law school students would regularly interface and aspirants to the Bar would have ideas of the demands and benefits of being members of the NBA. I also believe this would go a long way in closing the gap and divide between senior and junior lawyers.
On being seen to protect the independence of the judiciary and regain her public respect as the leading civil society in Nigeria.
VI. ENGAGEMENT OF THE MEDIA (PARTICULARY BLOGGERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA)
I am coming forth to run the social media platforms of the Bar. As the social media handler of the NBA, I will ensure that the NBA commands a great social media presence, visibility and followership, by selectively courting influencers to our advantage.
I will introduce a robust news tracking system that will highlight false and negative news on the judiciary and the legal profession, then appropriately respond to them through rebuttals and proactively defuse such false stories. I will also ensure that the Bar’s perspective is unequivocal on trending national, judicial and legal issues. This way, we can steadily change some of the wrong perceptions the public has of lawyers.
VII. NBA CAR STICKERS WITH LAWYERS SUPREME COURT NUMBERS TO BE ISSUED ALONGSIDE THE NBA STAMP
It goes without saying that there is an embarrassing and indiscriminate use of the NBA car stickers by non-lawyers. This has actually taken away some of the respect that would ordinarily be accorded a lawyer behind the wheel.
If elected, I would propose in the event, that the stamp policy continues in its present form, that a couple of NBA car stickers be added to every stamp package at no or minimal cost. This sticker would include the lawyer’s name and Supreme Court numbers. The branches would consequently be encouraged to set up taskforce to push out the old realm.
VIII. ENGAGEMENT OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY ON THE PORTRAYAL OF LAWYERS IN THEIR WORKS
We have to insist that if practitioners in the entertainment industry must portray lawyers in their work, they must do same properly.
In this regard, I would push for an engagement with the Actors Guild of Nigeria and ensure that our profession, particularly the way we dress is properly represented.
IX. COURT CHECK
The court is part of our image. A court in a terrible structural state surely does not reflect well on the justice sector and the legal profession in general.
I will therefore propose and work in conjunction with the Publicity Secretary of the Branches to bring to the attention of the NBA any such court that is in a bad state and follow up with the national secretariat to reach out to the relevant head of court for some upgrade.
Thank you for sparing your time to read up my manifesto.