Lawyers should take pride in NBA, says Okey Wali (SAN)
In view of the attempt on the life of the Emir of Kano, what is your assessment of the security situation in the country?
The security situation in the country is still very disturbing. And what happened recently speaks volumes of how bad things are. How would anybody want to kill an old man like the Emir of Kano, a revered religious and traditional ruler? This shows that nobody is safe. If this can happen to the Emir of Kano, what is the fate of the common man on the streets?
So we continue to call on government to do its best. In a while we have not had serious cases of suicide bombings and others in the country and we thought they have been getting it right. But this shows the situation is getting as bad as it can be.
Aside, the NBA has fixed the 30 and 31 of January for NBA peace and security summit. For us, we believe that the NBA is a credible platform for all sides to feel free to discuss so that we can resolve this problem. National leaders, security chiefs and the judiciary are coming and at the end of the day, a position paper will be presented to the government.
What is your assessment of the security agencies in the country?
We cannot say they are not working. It is the results that determine how well you have worked. So it is incumbent on them to ensure that every effort they are making is properly thought through to ensure that insecurity is stopped. If police barracks are not safe; army barracks are not safe; and the Emir of Kano can be shot at something really has to be done.
In the advertised practicing fees recently, there is a marked increase in the amounts. How do you explain this increment in practicing fees for lawyers?
Firstly, the advertised practicing fee is a reduction from what was announced last year. The attorney general is the chairman of the General Council of the Bar. What we are paying now was what was decided in 2002, some 11 years ago. Sometime last year, the attorney general and General Council of the Bar came up with practicing fees but the NBA rejected it because we thought it was too high. But at our NEC meeting in May last year in Lokoja, NEC decided that the fee should be reduced by 50 per cent. So we took it to the annual general conference, then president, J.B. Daudu (SAN), reported that to the conference. And I also, when I took over, reported that to NEC. Now, fortunately for us, we have been able to pull that through the attorney general and the General Council of the Bar and they have accepted that we should pay 50 per cent of what was agreed by the Bar, so it is that 50 per cent that was advertised. If we had advertised what was agreed last year, it would have been hundred per cent.
What are the benefits to the young lawyers?
We believe they are the future of the profession so we must invest in their future. Beyond that, the NBA is there for the promotion of the rule of law. You might not get the impact of the NBA in a tangible form like this gift and that. But where we can, on seminars and workshops for young lawyers and certain welfare programmes for the younger members of the Bar, we will.
Above that is the responsibility of the NBA to the entire people of this nation. Our motto is promotion of the rule of law. And we believe that every lawyer should be proud of what we are doing at the national secretariat. This is part of what you get from your profession. The practicing fee is the main source of revenue for the NBA. If the practicing fee is not there, the NBA ceases to exist. Because there is no way we can fund the activities of the NBA. That’s why I said the benefits you get from the NBA might not be tangible all the time. But the fact is we are an association that exists to carry out certain functions and responsibilities; organise lawyers; keep information and records for you; supply data and run your organisation. So that alone is the main reason why members of the Bar should support the NBA. We have always been there for the people of this country. We have always articulated positions when we feel that government is not getting it right; that the ship of state is adrift. Lawyers should take pride in the existence of the NBA that we speak for the masses of this country.
During your administration, will you legislate a minimum wage for young lawyers?
We have tried that in the past and to tell you how seriously we take the welfare of junior lawyers, we have introduced something new, the ‘Welfare Foundation Trust’. It goes beyond the welfare committee. The members of the fund are very senior members of the Bar. And it is their position to articulate policies that will impact on the welfare of lawyers, more particularly, junior lawyers. They are yet to submit their report and I know they will touch on that.
But I must tell you that you know it is an open market. While also trying to fix a minimum wage, will you also provide employment? If you peg a minimum wage that a senior lawyer cannot pay, then nobody is hired which is worse? Which is better? So what we do is to continue to prevail on our senior colleagues to pay our younger colleagues decent remunerations. We are lawyers first and foremost and many of them can be very supportive of your practice. Don’t eat alone.