This is why I am seeking to serve the Bar by John Aikpokpo-Martins
I strongly believe that I am the best person to occupy the office that I am aspiring to in the present circumstances and season in Nigeria and the Association.
The NBA is the leader of all professional and civil societies in Nigeria, and is therefore better placed to dictate the course of national conversation and discourse at all times, therefore, we need leaders with the fecundity of mind, the passion to steer the course, the boldness to speak and the strength of character not to be compromised.
It is also very fundamental that we do not elect leaders with something to be afraid of, as that will leave them susceptible to subtle blackmail and the capitulation of the will to drive the course of the Association. In essence, we need passionate barmen, tenacious practitioners of the law, vibrant persons with the calmness to assess all issues, and leaders driven by vision. I have no doubt, that I fit the bill more than any person presently.
I believe that the Association it neglecting the needs of her members, and not just only that of the young lawyers. I think the sense of neglect and outright betrayal is more felt by the young lawyers because at that stage of practice, they have not been able to build cushions, or develop antidotes to the fault lines in the practice of law. It is usually a rude shock to most young lawyers upon getting call after years of dreaming of becoming lawyers, to be faced with a myriad of issues that test the will and heart of even the strongest.
The unfortunate reality is that a young lawyer struggles to get an office to practice with or without pay upon being called to the Bar. In fact, he practically begs to be given an opportunity to be employed for next to nothing salary. The Association has no mechanism to assist them get offices or get good remunerations or even humane and dignified treatment from senior members who become their principals. The principals are themselves struggling to make end meet.
Yet, the Association is very fast to collect her practising fees, local dues, dinner levies, welfare contributions, conference fees etc etc every year. If you juxtapose all these financial obligations and commitments, to what the lawyer gets in benefits from the Association, you will agree that it seem not adequate and commensurate. The lack of welfare benefits is mostly due to the lack of capacity of most branches to adequately respond to the needs of lawyers, and mostly the young lawyers. Alawyer is assaulted by the police in the course of professional duties, and you see most chairmen of branches trying to wish away the problem instead of solving same.
In some cases, the young lawyer is put under tremendous pressure to let sleeping dogs lie. The young lawyer goes away frustrated and traumatized.
In another circumstance, a very senior member of the same branch has a similar issue with the police, and suddenly, all the powers and influence of the branch is mobilized to seek redress. Why would the young lawyer not feel doubly neglected?
Again, what is the welfare benefit of most branches? It is mostly nil or of no moment. I have strongly advocated and will continue to do so that the remittances to branches from the practicing fees paid should not be less than 40%. The Association must ensure that the remittances are increased, and they must be used exclusively for the welfare of members only. I sincerely believe that if this is done, it will greatly put more monies in the control of branches to meet the needs of their members. The branches are the closest organs of the Association to the membership; we must therefore seek to make the branches more responsive to the need of members more than anything else. The national body is not made up of members, but of branches. It is only the branches that are made up of members; without the members, there will not be the Association, therefore, the welfare of members must agitate the leadership of the Association more than any other duty at all times.
I will particularly advocate that one of the Vice Presidents of the Association should be given the responsibility of overseeing the young Lawyers Forum and the issues of the brutalization of young lawyers by security men, particularly by the police. The national body cannot longer keep aloof and situate such issues as local issues for branches to handle. The brutalization of a lawyer anywhere in Nigeria, is an assault on the dignity of all lawyers in Nigeria. It is high time it is confronted head on or else, we will live to regret it in no distant time.
–J. O. Aikpokpo-Martins, Esq.