MANIFESTO OF PAUL USORO, SAN
FOR THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN
BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA): 2018 – 2020
My dear Colleagues,
I am Paul Usoro, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the Senior Partner and Founder of Paul Usoro & Co (PUC), a full-service law firm headquartered in Lagos with branches in Abuja and Uyo. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982 and was subsequently elevated to the Inner Bar in 2003. I have been engaged in legal practice since my Call to the Bar and have garnered over 30 years’ experience in all aspects of legal practice, including complex litigations and high profile commercial transactions. I sit on the Boards of several blue-chip companies and I am very well versed in corporate governance and administration. I am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the International Bar Association.
Appreciating the significance of an efficient and vibrant Bar for Nigerian lawyers and citizens and the imperative for building an enduring and sustainable institution out of the NBA, I present myself, with humility and a high sense of responsibility, as a candidate for the position of the NBA President, for the period September 2018 to August 2020. I perhaps need to mention that I am from Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and therefore fit into the NBA’s geographical East to which the office of the NBA President has been zoned for the 2018 Elections.
I consider it a privilege to present my ideas and thoughts on some of the issues we will focus on in uplifting the institution of the NBA and level of legal practice in Nigeria if I am elected as the NBA President. This is a non-exhaustive blueprint of my modernization and reform plans for the Bar. My agenda is not only to embark upon innovations, but also to consolidate on the foundation laid by our past leaders. In essence, we will be advancing the good legacies that we have, replacing the obsolete ones and advancing new frontiers for the Bar.
I have selected three thematic areas to drive the reform plan knowing as I do that two years would be inadequate to cover all the required reforms. The three focus areas are:
1. Institutional Development and Regulatory Reforms.
2. Human Capital Development and Welfare Programme.
3. Promotion of the Rule of Law and Good Governance in Nigeria.
The following paragraphs present a brief overview of each of the three themes and provide programme objectives to be achieved under each thematic area.
1. INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATORY REFORMS
a. Institutional Development
I believe that the NBA, at the national level, is in need of urgent and far-reaching reforms if it must retain its relevance not only in the larger society but even to its members. These reforms will, at the minimum, achieve four significant and immediate goals, to wit, (a) enhance efficiency in the operations of the Association; (b) engender confidence and trust amongst its members (or, as some would say, win back the confidence and trust of members who are disengaged); (c) transform the NBA into a sustainable institution; and (d) increase the moral equity of the NBA to enable it effectively influence required reforms in the justice subsector and remain a respected watchdog of the society.
As my set-out point, it is my position that no institution or organization can be deemed or classified as successful if it fails to adhere to corporate governance principles, the cornerstones of which are transparency and emplacement of established and well-defined processes and procedures coupled with strict adherence thereto. The NBA, as currently constituted and operated, lacks these basic ingredients and characteristics of an institution – and this has been confirmed by the recent KPMG Diagnostic Report on the NBA. In driving the goal of building an institution out of the NBA, we need to entrench these governance principles and thereby not only guaranty efficiency in the administration of the Association but also boost the confidence of our Members and external stakeholders. Entrenching these principles will also clothe us with the moral toga to challenge and speak truth to power, particularly in instances of financial and/or administrative malfeasance, misappropriations and misconducts.
The specific programme strands that shall enable me deliver on this agenda, if elected as President of the NBA, shall include the following:
I. Professionalize and strengthen the NBA National Secretariat for effective and efficient service delivery so as to meet the needs of our members and the public. The required reforms in the NBA must logically start from its apex, to wit, the governance structure at the national level. The operational complexities of the Association in 2018 justify the delegation of day-to-day operations and management of the NBA by the elected part-time National Officers to an executive management team made up of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced full-time personnel.
II. Entrench Corporate Governance in Financial Management: Without financial planning and accountability, a Bar Association will fail to function. We will therefore ensure a complete overhaul of the account and finance unit at the NBA National Secretariat with proper definition of the unit’s role and the engagement/retention of qualified, experienced, well-motivated and skilled accountants to man the unit. We would also institutionalize internal control systems and processes. The essence of internal control systems and processes is to prevent leakages and fraud and to bullet-proof the organization against identified risks. To enhance the Association’s corporate governance in financial management we would constitute a Standing Audit Committee of the Association that would, amongst others, assist in reviewing and monitoring the efficacy of and compliance with our internal control systems and processes. Budgeting and budget reviews will also be made standard practice and quarterly financial statements would be routinely published to members to inform on the Association’s financial health. Transparency would be the watchword in the management of the Association’s resources including its finances and assets.
III. Upgrade and improve the operational capacity of NBA Sections, Institutes, and Fora so that they would be able to fulfil their mandate. Generally speaking, the NBA organs operate at sub-optimal levels. Well organised and run, these organs should serve, amongst others, as the engine-room for planning the contents of and for the Annual General Conferences (AGC) of the NBA. These organs offer opportunities for members to deliberate on topical issues and raise the bar in advancing the course of specialisation within the NBA. They therefore constitute a veritable NBA resource for planning our AGCs, content-wise in particular. In addition, the various committees of our Sections ought to be hosting, on regular basis and annually, workshops and seminars in their respective specialized fields. Best practice also recommends that some of the committees collaborate to host such workshops where the topics are common to and touch on the specialised fields of such committees. In summary, the NBA organs as currently constituted would be deepened and made to achieve much more in terms of structure, activities, inclusion, outreach, communication, and evaluation.
IV. NBA Strategic Plan. We would review, update and ensure the implementation of the NBA Strategic Plan to ensure continuity and sustainability of programmes, policies and projects. There was a Strategic Plan that was approved by the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) at its meeting at Aba in March 2017 but I am not aware that there has been a monitoring of its implementation. Well-run institutions routinely monitor the implementation of their Strategic Plans during the quarterly meetings of their directing organs – i.e. the Board of Directors or its equivalent. NEC is the NBA equivalent of a Board of Directors and it does not appear that the monitoring of the Strategic Plan is a staple on its quarterly agenda. That would be corrected in my tenure as the President and the Strategic Plan itself would be reviewed, widely circulated and published and made to incorporate long, medium and short term plans, complete with measurable milestone activities and timelines.
V. NBA National Electoral System and Succession Plan. No institution succeeds on a long-term basis without proper succession planning that ensures, amongst others, continuity of programmes and activities. The NBA has no such succession plan. Our current model changes the entire leadership every two years without any form of succession planning and it is no wonder that programmes, no matter how laudable, remain at the mercy of succeeding administrations and are indeed prone to being jettisoned by such new administrations. Indeed, even our national electoral system requires review and quite some tweaking. Currently, our national elections bring out different lawyers with their respective and disparate manifestoes and agenda for the various offices. Usually, there is no alignment of plans between the various contestants for the different offices. Thus, it is not uncommon for the Presidential candidate’s agenda for financial management to be fundamentally different, illustratively, from the respective agenda of the General Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer for the same financial management. Upon election, these disparate persons, with their differing and uncoordinated agenda and plans are expected to miraculously coalesce and work together as a team. Such forced coalition does not always work, and I believe that we need to review the electoral system in a manner that would not only ensure some level of succession planning that guarantees continuity of programs but also be far more harmonious and coordinated than our present riotous experience. Very early in my tenure, I would encourage a roundtable dialogue of all stakeholders in that regard aimed at reforming the national electoral processes. I would also establish Standing Committees for the review of our Constitution and for the conduct of our National Election that would build on all our previous experiences and have sufficient time to deliberate upon and implement required reforms in our electoral system as well as our Constitution.
VI. Branch Administration. It is my expectation that the enthronement of governance principles at the NBA National level, with transparency and efficiency as the cornerstones, will gradually percolate and become the staple for NBA branches as well thereby strengthening the capacity of the Branches to function effectively and professionally thus earning the respect and trust of its members. In my respectful opinion, that will be a significant antidote to or panacea for the current spate of strife, brawl and infighting that is tearing our Branches apart in the bid for elective offices. As soon as we make transparency and governance principles the standard practice in the management of the Association’s finances and affairs, both at the national and branch levels, the quality of our leaderships across board would greatly improve and we would experience far less strife than we currently face. If elected President of the NBA, I would ensure these practices in the branches as well as capacity-building and the empowerment of the branches in a manner that would enable them to confidently develop programmes, manage projects, raise funds, and interface with justice sector institutions and State actors at States and local government levels.
VII. Establishment of NBA Liaison Offices within the three NBA Zones. There seem to exist a gulf between the National Secretariat of the NBA and the lawyers at the NBA branches, notably those branches outside the Federal Capital Territory. That gulf will be bridged with the establishment of NBA Liaison Offices within the three NBA Zones – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano. These offices will take the national leadership and the national secretariat of the NBA closer to the lawyers at the branch level and would foster a more accessible and effective working relationship between the parties. Well managed and coupled with the accrued benefits from across-board improved and entrenched transparency and governance practices, these Liaison Offices would boost membership activism, confidence and trust and also increase NBA income-generation capabilities.
VIII. Revenue Generation Plans for the NBA. To alleviate the burden of members in financing the Association and its activities and administration, I would work on innovative revenue generation strategies for the Association. In particular, I would look at the possibility of generating income from the management of the Association’s assets, including its brand and real estate, and optimizing other NBA income streams and NBA revenue potentials such as sponsorships.
IX. Infrastructural Development. The NBA National Secretariat building (NBA House) is yet to be fully completed. When completed, the auditorium in the building, apart from saving the Association huge costs on venue rentals for major events, would also be a source of additional income for the NBA. If I am elected to the office of the NBA President, I would raise funds for speedy completion of the NBA Building Project.
b. Regulatory Reforms
The regulatory framework underpinning the legal profession in Nigeria calls for review, with the aim of raising the standard of the profession. I will, if elected the NBA President, embark upon regulatory reforms with a view to achieving the said goal. The envisaged reforms will cover the areas of professional ethics and discipline, legal education and criteria for admission into the profession, continuing legal education, and legal practice generally. The key components of my Regulatory reform agenda will include the following.
I. I will work in consultation and partnership with all relevant stakeholders, to facilitate the repeal and replacement of the extant Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) with a view to reflecting current trends and developments regarding admission to the legal profession, legal education, training, compulsory continuing legal education, professional ethics, discipline, and other aspects of the legal profession that are relevant to legal practice in the 21st century.
II. My administration will consult with all relevant stakeholders and work towards the implementation of the adopted recommendations of the NBA Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee one of which is the repeal and replacement of the LPA. The report, which deals with issues affecting the regulation of the legal profession in Nigeria, is far reaching and comprehensive its scope and recommendations and requires a holistic and comprehensive review by all stakeholders with a view to upscaling the regulatory framework of the legal profession, as appropriate.
III. As part of the afore-mentioned regulatory reforms, I will ensure that the Association facilitates the review of the Rules of Professional Conduct with a view to bringing them up-to-date with current and emerging global trends in the delivery of legal services. This will go a long way in enhancing the standards of professional ethics in the legal profession in Nigeria.
IV. I believe that the Nigerian Law School (NLS) Externship Programme should be designed to teach Law Students practical skills in legal practice. To attain that goal, Pupillage program could and should be incorporated into our NLS pre-qualification process and used to impart practical training to our trainee lawyers, both in advocacy and solicitor’s practice. If adopted as part of the qualifying process, the program should be regulated by the Council of Legal Education and the firms to which the trainee lawyers are attached must be firms with prescribed minimum standards.
V. I will partner with relevant stakeholders including the Nigerian Universities Commission and the Council of Legal Education to review the LL.B degree curriculum in order to enhance the quality of legal education and introduce new areas of practice into the Universities’ curricula in line with emerging trends and technological disruptions in Nigeria. I will also work with these stakeholders to review the admissions policies into Law Faculties of Nigerian Universities.
VI. The planned reforms would also inculcate and institutionalize structured mentorship programmes – a program which, I believe, the NBA should encourage and entrench. Such structured mentorship program could involve, amongst others, periodic visits by young lawyers who are practising in the provincial NBA branches to structured Law Firms in cosmopolitan cities to learn, first-hand, law office management and the practice of law.
VII. I will work to reform and revamp the management and mechanisms of the NBA complaints and disciplinary processes with the aim of making the processes more efficient and timeous. It is not uncommon to hear complaints from members of the public who get frustrated by the delays in having their complaints to the NBA against lawyers processed and treated. There is also a perception that the disciplinary process may not be vested with full autonomy and independence. Our comprehensive review and reform of the disciplinary system and processes would ensure its independence, effectiveness and efficiency and this will in turn engender public confidence.
2. HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE PROGRAMMES
The pride of a lawyer, in-house or in private practice, is in the application of his skills, knowledge and workmanship for the promotion of the rule of law, attainment of justice and protection of his client, followed by the attendant economic reward and benefits. This underscores the importance of knowledge, skills and human capital development. My plan therefore is to foster that pride by lawyers in the legal profession, irrespective of their mode of practice, livelihood and legal career, using the instrumentality of the NBA.
A. An All-Inclusive Bar
Nigeria boasts of a sizeable number of lawyers even as more lawyers are passing out of the Nigerian Law School every year. However, not many lawyers participate in NBA activities partly because emphasis seems to be placed by the NBA more on the lawyers who are in active private legal practice. Hence, corporate/in-house counsel, lawyers living with disabilities, public sector lawyers (mostly in civil service and government parastatals) and female lawyers, are generally not given the opportunity to participate in nor encouraged to attend NBA activities and as a result, they do not derive or even see any membership benefits from these activities. It is my candid view that every lawyer and member of the NBA should identify with the Association and derive some benefit therefrom.
One of the ways to sustain the interests of our members in these different lawyer-groupings is to address issues directly affecting them. If I get elected President, the NBA would offer a clear value proposition for the inculcation of an inclusive bar to our members, be they in private legal practice or not. I am indeed for and will champion the entrenchment of such an inclusive bar. There is no reason why corporate counsel, for example, cannot take up appointments or membership in NBA Committees (at both National and Branch levels) provided they are available and committed to the course for which such NBA Committees or offices are set up. Some groupings of lawyers have historically been short-changed in these appointments even though they have eminently qualified persons amongst them who can occupy these positions and acquit themselves very well. If I am elected as President of the NBA, I will address that imbalance.
B. Human Capital Development
The legal profession has been undergoing fundamental changes across the globe which have precipitated new kinds of challenges driven in part by emerging areas of legal practice. These changes come with increased costs, pressures and competition which demand innovation in the practice of law by lawyers. Meantime, Nigerian lawyers are in competition with their counterparts in other climes who are trained in and exposed to innovative technologies and complex business structures that support these emerging practice areas and business trends. While the practice of law evolves and advances around the world, the average Nigerian lawyer is unable to match that pace of development and indeed, may not even understand the dynamics of these developments sufficient to compete in the international legal marketplace consequent upon the dearth in human capital development and lack of proper training and exposure.
The NBA has a primary role to play in remediating this situation considering that one of the Association’s principal aims is the “Promotion and advancement of Legal Education, Continuing Legal Education, Advocacy and Jurisprudence”. In particular, the NBA has a significant role to play in human capital development of Nigerian lawyers and the development of competences in emerging areas of law. If I am elected to the office of the NBA President, I will tackle these challenges by doing the following, amongst others:
I. Overhaul the training of lawyers in Nigeria right from the University to the Nigerian Law School level to ensure international standards of learning and training. The results will show in greater skills and expertise, especially by the younger lawyers, in the delivery of legal services in Nigeria.
II. Restructure and upgrade the capacity of the NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education (“ICLE”) to provide, regulate, and co-ordinate Continuing Legal Education training programme for lawyers across Nigeria. Ensure that the NBA ICLE delivers intensive CLE courses to members. I will continue to innovate and commit resources to new curricular initiatives and skills development with a renewed focus on the professional development of lawyers.
III. Introduce “Finance for Lawyers” as a compulsory module in the NBA ICLE law office management program. Lawyers are generally very wanting in keeping their financial records and also managing their finances and this reflects in the poor economic circumstances of some lawyers and their inability to meet their obligations including payment of remuneration to their younger colleagues. Some training in finance and its management as well as in investment opportunities will assist lawyers in better managing their law firms and finances.
IV. Independent of the NBA ICLE program, organize periodic workshops, seminars and training programmes on law office management generally.
V. Advocate for inclusion of mandatory Continuing Legal Education mandatory for all lawyers in the proposed Legal Practitioners Act Amendment Bill. The provisions thereon will also stipulate for the appointment of reputable certifying authorities therefor and the criteria for such appointments.
VI. Establish a model contemporary law office within the National NBA secretariat. This model office will be fully functional and operational with a library manned by a professional librarian and fully equipped with books, law reports and state of the art e-learning and resource materials. Lawyers generally will have access to the library based on prescribed eligibility criteria, but young lawyers will have priority.
C. Welfare Programme for Lawyers
One of the topical issues in our profession today, is the poor welfare package for young lawyers and this is for understandable reasons. The demographics of lawyers shows a distantly outnumbered senior lawyers as against the growing multitude of young lawyers. Indeed, the Nigerian Law School on a yearly basis, turns out a great number of young lawyers such that, it is beginning to seem that there are more young lawyers scrambling and rushing after increasingly fewer job opportunities and spaces. With this development comes consistent complaint around poor remuneration packages translating to lower living conditions for lawyers. It is therefore imperative, urgent and critical, beyond election pitches and rhetorics, that amelioration of living conditions for young lawyers be taken seriously, by the NBA at the national level.
Another category of lawyers whose welfare I will work towards ameliorating, from a professional standpoint, is that of the aged and disabled lawyers. If I am elected as the NBA President, I will work towards achieving better welfare programmes for these categories of lawyers and generally for all lawyers through the underlisted channels, amongst others:
I. Mentorship Scheme and Capacity Building for Young Lawyers. Mentorship requires the mentee to identify a role model in the profession, preferably, a successful practitioner who will guide the mentee on the path to successful legal practice and also the ethics and traditions of the Bar and practice generally. NBA under my watch will encourage and actively facilitate such mentorship programs. A modified version of such program, as earlier mentioned, would involve periodic visits by young lawyers who are practicing in the provincial branches to structured Law Firms in the cosmopolitan cities and branches to see and learn, first-hand, law office management and the practice of law in those Law Firms. This programme will be implemented in partnership with local and international law firms, Bar Associations and Law Societies of other countries, and training consultants.
II. Employment or Job creation for lawyers. Many lawyers are finding it difficult to eke out a living and this is a worrisome trend. If I get elected President of the NBA, I would spearhead NBA’s engagement with relevant stakeholders, to identify within Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and from extant laws, those roles for which lawyers are best suited, given our training, and ensure that the legal market is protected for lawyers. I would also explore new vistas of opportunity for legal work that would result in enhanced income for lawyers and thereby improve the ability of senior lawyers and law firms to properly remunerate the young lawyers working with them.
III. As a corollary to the preceding proposition, my administration as the NBA President will check the incursion of non-lawyers, foreign lawyers and foreign law firms into the Nigerian legal practice. I do not believe that there is any aspect of legal services, including transaction and arbitral matters that we cannot find capable Nigerian lawyers to handle. There could be a limited access principle whereby foreign lawyers may be led in transactions and arbitral proceedings by Nigerian lawyers, the Nigerian lawyers being the ones to nominate, agree with and assign portions of the assignment to the foreign lawyers and firms. This could be made part of negotiations in the process of regulating access into the Nigerian legal market by foreign lawyers and firms.
IV. Aged Persons and Persons Living with Disability. Persons living with disability and the aged have special needs which unfortunately are not generally catered for in our Nigerian environment. These needs include access facilities into buildings, toilet facilities, specialized reading and legal practice materials and aids, customized technology aids and facilities. My administration as the NBA President will work at installing these facilities at the NBA Secretariat where the model law office would be located. The model law office at the National Secretariat would also be made friendly to and usable by agreed persons and persons living with disability. These facilities would gradually be expanded and provided at the NBA Zonal Offices in the 3 Zones of the NBA. We would also open dialogue with the Chief Justice of the Federation and the heads of various courts in the Federation and the States on the required modifications for making the courts and the court facilities accessible to and usable by the aged and persons living with disability. More importantly, we shall dialogue constantly with these categories of lawyers to continually understand their needs and how best we can assist in meeting them.
V. As a corollary to the preceding proposition, we would advocate and push for diversity in the workplace, notably in law firms, in a manner that would advantage persons living with disability as well as the aged who may still be intellectually fit and can contribute to the society and the profession. My administration, with me as the NBA President, shall actively advocate against discrimination at the workplace on grounds, amongst others, of gender, age and/or physical disability.
VI. With NBA under my watch, we shall actively develop, maintain and constantly update at the National Secretariat, a verifiable database of Nigerian lawyers who have specialized knowledge and skills in various areas of law, either through practice or by education. Such a database would come in handy not only to blunt the constant put-down by Nigerian governments and their officials against Nigerian lawyers but also to positively assist such Government Agencies and private-sector companies and individuals in identifying skilled lawyers that could assist them in handling so-called complex and “novel” transactions and matters.
VII. Business Education and Investment Planning for Lawyers. As earlier mentioned, we shall include basic business management and strategic planning, financial accounting, investment planning and opportunities modules in NBA’s Continuing Legal Education programs, all structured as part of Law Office Management courses. This will enlighten and educate lawyers on the imperative of strategic planning for sustainable law office management.
VIII. Creation of NBA Welfare Foundation or Charity Funds. Bar Associations worldwide maintain Charity or Welfare Funds that help to cushion their members and/or their families and dependents against hardship. Examples of such hardships include death in the course of NBA work, accidents and/or medical conditions that occasion disability, natural disasters, and displacements occasioned by insurgency. We shall create and maintain such NBA Welfare Foundation or Charity Funds during our administration and the funds therefor shall be sourced from extant NBA income streams, donations and through special launching events.
3. PROMOTION OF RULE OF LAW AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Over the years, the NBA has been in the vanguard of promoting the rule of law and the entrenchment of good governance in Nigeria. This commitment stems not only from the public interest role and motto of the NBA, but also from the constitutive Act of our great Association, the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 which stipulates promotion of the rule of law as one of NBA’s core objectives. Again, traditionally, one of the notable roles of the Bar in a relatively young but bourgeoning democracy as ours is the protection, promotion and maintenance of the Rule of Law at all times. As major stakeholders in the justice delivery sector, we are continually looked up to by the society to be its voice in critical situations. The stories of our heroes past (all of whom I salute very respectfully and may their souls rest well) will bear testimony to the NBA’s very commendable record in discharging these social duties by rising to the occasion when necessary.
There must always be a watchdog that should bark when things go against order and bite when necessary. Our experience as a country and more particularly in recent times shows that governments across board have a tendency to insist on having their way not minding the effects on our social fabrics. Judicial decisions are being disobeyed with impunity sometimes because the government believes the decisions are incorrect and they, the government, would have favoured a different outcome. This is contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers; more often than not, the judiciary ends up at the receiving end of this violation of this all-important doctrine. Executive organs and law enforcement agencies have in recent times been on a free-for-all attack on and violation of human rights including the rights of judicial officers and indeed the judiciary.
Worst of all is that lawyers who embark on protecting their clients have become victims of human rights abuses and have suffered serious infractions of their rights to dignity of the human person and dignity of labour. Again, in recent times, judicial officers have been arrested, harassed, intimidated and prosecuted only for the Courts to resolve the cases against the government. The situation is now so bad that we have a situation where the voice of the society itself, to wit, the legal profession, is being attacked with the intent of shutting its voice and shutting it down. Even the Judges are now facing occupational hazards of a new kind whereby their courtrooms are invaded by thugs and no protection is afforded the judicial officers. One can only imagine the mind-set of a Judge who has been harassed and attacked, whether by thugs or agents of and from the executive branch of the government, when called upon to determine a case involving his attackers and/or their principals.
Bearing in mind these identified problems , it becomes necessary for the NBA considering its critical role in the society, to take quick remedial steps which, under my watch shall include the following steps to safeguard the Rule of Law and Good Governance.
As it relates to Good Governance, the NBA under my leadership shall:
I. Recognize the need to build a credible and effective electoral system. To this end, the NBA will work hard and advocate for the reform of all the institutions that consolidate democracy, with a view to ensuring compliance with the principles of rule of law by all the actors.
II. Develop and execute voter education programme with a view to educating and enlightening legible voters on their role in the 2019 elections. The NBA shall in doing this not lend itself to becoming an appendage of any political party.
III. Develop and execute election monitoring programme. This programme would be used by the NBA to monitor the 2019 elections using NBA Election Working Group.
IV. To monitor election Tribunals as part of a project to be developed and called NBA Electoral Justice Project. This is a project that would be designed to monitor and observe the activities of various elections petitions tribunals, identify the challenges they are facing and advocate for solutions to such challenges as may be identified.
V. Monitor the 2019 general elections with a view to ensuring that the conduct of the elections and participation thereat comply with the principles of rule of law and due process.
VI. Develop programmes and projects relating to Child Justice Administration especially as it relates to adoption and implementation of Child Rights Act at the State level.
VII. Advocate for the strengthening of the legal and institutional framework for Anti-Corruption Crusade and also the entrenchment of international best practices in the detection and investigation of corrupt practices and financial crimes.
In regard to the promotion and protection of the Rule of Law, the NBA under my leadership shall -
I. Advocate for and promote the culture of obedience to Court Orders and compliance with the principles of Rule of Law.
II. Monitor, identify and condemn cases of impunity and executive lawlessness in Nigeria and take active steps to ensure the remediation of such impunity.
III. Advocate for access to justice by facilitating pro bono and quality legal defence and representation for certifiably poor and vulnerable persons. As a corollary thereto, re-activate and upgrade the NBA Pro Bono Scheme so as to achieve the objectives for setting up the scheme.
IV. Advocate for the respect and protection of human rights of citizens and tackle gender inequalities wherever they exist or are being perpetrated.
V. Develop and advocate for programmes and projects relating to prison decongestion in Nigeria.
VI. Launch an NBA Annual Human Rights Report. This would be achieved by monitoring and documenting cases of human rights complaints and violations through NBA human rights committees at NBA branches, the media, and other human rights stakeholders. This would help us determine the frequency (increase or decrease) of human rights abuses in Nigeria.
VII. Advocate for the approval of the National Action Plan for Human Rights in Nigeria by the Federal Executive Council.
VIII. Develop and enforce procedures for swift responses to national issues and in this regard, hold monthly press briefings on national issues.
IX. Institutionalize conflict resolution, gender and peace advocacy.
X. Propose comprehensive constitutional reforms with regard to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, especially as it relates to the Judicature. The proposed constitutional amendments would seek to:
a. Ensure the independence of the Judiciary
b. Strengthen judicial accountability and performance
c. Reform procedure of judicial recruitment and discipline
d. Enhance access to justice and the protection of the rule of law.
e. Strengthen financial autonomy of the judiciary.
XI. Advocate for the domestication and implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 at State levels in Nigeria.
XII. Develop a much improved and comprehensive Legislative Advocacy Programme for the NBA.
XIII. Champion the reform of Justice and Accountability Institutions for better service delivery.
These goals and objectives can only be achieved through sustained and constant stakeholder engagement and consultations. I will operate an open-door policy and all stakeholders will continually be consulted on issues that affect and/or relate to them. It is my belief that every lawyer must have a voice in the affairs of the Association and, in particular, in matters that affect them. There will therefore be clear channels of communication that would make it easy for NBA members to reach and have access to me and Bar leaders generally.
I also intend to lead by example in institutionalising transparency and accountability in the administration of the NBA. The programmes that I have articulated in this Manifesto, I must mention, are auditable constitute my pact with members of the NBA and I am willing to be judged by and held accountable therefor. I also commit to use my network of relationships in the corporate world in achieving these goals and for the benefit of the Association. It is my hope that at the end of my tenure as the NBA President, the Association would be the better for it and be the envy of other professional associations in and outside Africa.
PAUL USORO, SAN, FCIArb
29 June 2018