The Nigerian Bar Association Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee (the Committee) was constituted on 28th December 2016 and inaugurated on 24th January 2017 by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, A.B. Mahmoud SAN. The core mandate of the Committee was to review the current regulatory objectives and the regulatory architecture of the legal profession and advise on its suitability to meet the current requirements for a robust responsive and independent modern legal profession in Nigeria amongst others. The growing concerns over the past decade or so about the falling standards in the legal profession have shown that there is a need for a robust and responsive modern legal profession in Nigeria. These concerns have been expressed among the Bench, Bar, and the public. Areas of concern have included, low admission requirements, a sharp decline in the quality of legal education, and deteriorating standards of professional ethics. Also, the high rates of unauthorized practice of law, weak and inadequate statutes, weak legal, institutional and regulatory regimes for the legal profession in Nigeria, low level of compliance with the rules of professional conduct, poor and incompetent delivery of legal services to client, lack of client care, corruption, and threats occasioned by globalization of legal services; necessitate the need for a revamp of the legal system. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON SAN in consonance with one of the four thematic areas of focus of the current leadership of NBA constituted the Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Anthony Idigbe SAN and Dr. Aminu Gamawa as Secretary.
The Nigerian Bar Association has repeatedly expressed concerns in the falling standard of legal education and legal practice. This is a disturbing phenomenon that the Committee is set up to investigate and come up with proposals as to how it can be addressed urgently and adequately. It is in addressing this issue that this Committee was constituted.
In his inaugural speech, the President of the NBA stated that “…the Nigerian Bar Association is worried about the deteriorating professional standards in the legal profession. We are concerned that for too long the relevant and appropriate authority failed or neglected to address the issues of regulatory gaps and challenges that are daily militating against the regulation of the legal profession in Nigeria. It is one thing to identify what the challenges are; it is another to tackle the challenges headlong with a view to providing solutions. The NBA has decided to tackle these challenges. The NBA is now more determined to play a major role in ensuring a better regulated legal profession in Nigeria. We believe that the first step is to provide a platform to discuss and interrogate the current regulatory regime and come up with recommendations on the way forward.”
The Chairman of the Committee, Chief Anthony Idigbe SAN, in taking the giant stride to lead the Committee, stated in his inaugural speech that “It is our hope that the outcome of our work if implemented, will create an institutional framework for consistent regulation of the legal profession which ensures those allocated privileges of practice bear the burden of responsibility whilst those who are unable to obtain the privilege are also adequately engaged in areas of work that bear less assertion of responsibility. It is also hoped that the future state of the legal profession would be such that Nigerian firms would be able, in the short term, to compete regionally and expand regionally on the back of Nigerian businesses that are going regional. In the long term, it is hoped that the future state of the legal profession would sufficiently protect the local industry without inhibiting globalization whilst preparing Nigerian law firms to be able to compete globally.”
B. MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
The members of the Committee comprise the following:
1. Chief Anthony Idigbe SAN -Chairman
2. Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN -Member
3. Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN -Member
4. Mr. Paul Usoro SAN -Member
5. Prof Taiwo Osipitan SAN -Member
6. Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN -Member
7. Mrs. Bisi Soyebo SAN -Member
8. Prof. M. L. Ahmadu -Member
9. Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi SAN -Member
10. Prof Ernest Ojukwu SAN -Member
11. Prof. A. H. Yadudu -Member
12. Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko SAN -Member
13. Prof. U.U Chukwumaeze -Member
14. Dr. Mike Adeleke -Member
15. Prof Ikpeze Ogugua -Member
16. Dr. Aminu Gamawa -Secretary
17. Prof Dakas C.J Dakas SAN -Member
18. Prof Augustine Agom -Member
19. Prof Osita Ogbu -Member
20. Patricia Igwebuike -Member
21. Mrs. Sade Aladeniyi -Member
22. Mr. Ibrahim Muktar -Member
23. Mr. Eric Otojahi -Assistant Secretary
24. Olive S. Akem – Vingir -Member
25. Jideofor Onuoha -Member
26. Temitope Ige -Member
27. Mr. Rotimi Odusola -Member
28. Zubaida Mahmoud -Member
29. Mohammed Adelodun -Member
30. Sa’adatu Hamu-Aliyu -Member
Agency /Forum Representatives
34. Jonathan Akinsanya - British Lawyers Forum
35. Dr. Tony Clinton Jaja -Legislative Institute
36. Mrs. Stella Anukam -Office of the Attorney General of the Federation
Partnership with RoleUk
Nigeria is a large and complex country with a myriad of human rights challenges. The Boko Haram crisis in North-Eastern Nigeria has resulted in the internal displacement of over 2 million people within Nigeria, who have very little access to justice or resources. Internal displacement can have a devastating impact of people’s lives, leading to family separation, food insecurity, loss of documentation and subsequently the loss of freedom of movement, loss of property, and increased risk of onward displacement.
“Internal displacement is the great tragedy of our time. The internally displaced people are among the most vulnerable of the human family,” Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General
Simultaneously, in the Niger Delta region, oil pollution and environmental degradation have had a damaging effect on communities for decades. This has contributed to political and economic conflict, violent militant and criminal groups and very high levels of insecurity. Nigerian laws are not currently adequate to ensure a just outcome in environmental legal cases and the Nigerian legal community lacks knowledge about the regional and international mechanisms that can help to protect these communities.
Facilitated by A4ID’s ROLE UK programme, the Nigerian Bar Association and Bar Human Rights Committee have partnered to use the law to empower and protect internally displaced people in North-Eastern Nigeria, as well as support access to justice for communities in the Niger Delta impacted by environmental degradation.
Building Nigerian lawyers’ capacity to support vulnerable citizens
There are significant weaknesses in Nigeria’s domestic legal frameworks in relation to both human rights and environmental issues, which make it difficult to hold the government and other powerful actors to account. Expertise in international human rights law is limited in Nigeria, as the subject area is not covered in most standard law degree courses. The partnership between the Bar Human Rights Committee and the Nigerian Bar Association is therefore designed to increase Nigerian lawyers’ awareness of how to use international and regional legal mechanisms to address human rights problems, specifically the difficulties faced by internally displaced peoples in North-Eastern Nigeria and the communities in the Niger Delta.
To enhance their knowledge and understanding of international human rights and the legal implications of environmental degradation, more than 100 Nigerian Bar Association members have received a series of training, led by the Bar Human Rights Committee and facilitated by the ROLE UK programme since February 2018. These training aim to build the professional capacity of Nigerian lawyers to advise on how to utilize mechanisms of redress for people displaced in North-Eastern Nigeria by internal conflict, as well as on how to use international and regional law in pursuit of economic claims in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Bar Human Rights Committee trainers have also produced training materials and a training programme to promote best practices for investigation and legal redress for human rights and environmental violations.
Through its support for the Bar Human Rights Committee and the Nigerian Bar Association to convene training and deploy highly qualified experts in the international human rights field, with relevant knowledge and experience, the ROLE UK programme aims to ensure adequate redress for human rights abuses in Nigeria.
Continuing the fight for justice
A key element of the training delivered by the Bar Human Rights Committee is to develop the skills of Nigerian lawyers to deliver further training to their colleagues on international human rights mechanisms of redress. Since the training began, the Nigerian Bar Association reports an increased understanding of the rights of internally displaced peoples. As a result, the perception has also changed around the role that Nigerian Bar Association lawyers can play in assisting internally displaced peoples. Trained lawyers have begun taking up cases on behalf of internally displaced peoples and developing rights-awareness training in internally displaced people camps, as well as setting up mobile court systems allowing magistrates to sit remotely to hear the cases of internally displaced peoples.
With encouragement from the ROLE UK programme to formalize their partnership, the Nigerian Bar Association and Bar Human Rights Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the close of the first training workshop, which committed both parties to continued collaboration to enhance the skills of lawyers in the application of human rights law. According to a Bar Human Rights Committee representative, the MoU has put the two partners on a more equal footing, with the Nigerian Bar Association becoming more assertive about its priorities following the signing of the MoU. This is important in creating a genuine peer-to-peer relationship and reducing the risk that an actual or perceived power imbalance between in-country and international lawyers affects the nature of the partnership going forward.