Northern lawyers from about 40 branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday met with the new president of the association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, and other national officers in Abuja and declared support for a united NBA.
The lawyers who operate under the aegis of the Arewa Lawyers’ Forum dissociated themselves from the formation of a splinter group known as the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA).
The division within the association was escalated following the decision of its national executive committee to withdraw a letter of invitation to the governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Nasir el-Rufai, to speak at its recently concluded 60th Annual General Conference which culminated in Akpata’s inauguration as the new NBA president on August 29, 2020.
Consequently, a group of aggrieved northern lawyers announced the formation of NNBA as a splinter group.
But the northern lawyers who met with Akpata and his executive stated that NBA could not be polarised along ethno-religious divides.
They urged northern lawyers and all legal practitioners in the country to rally round the new NBA leadership led by Akpata to ensure that the original aspirations of the body are realised.
They said they were gratified to hear Akpata during his inaugural address declaring that the bar that he wants to lead henceforth “is one that is united on all fronts and which recognises that our diversity is our greatest strength.”
The lawyers urged their northern colleagues, including those behind the establishment of NNBA and all legal practitioners in Nigeria to come together to support the Akpata-led NBA to ensure he delivers on his core mandate.
The lawyers commended the new NBA leadership for the meeting as one of their first official engagements after their inauguration, noting that it showed the value the new leadership placed on the need for an all-inclusive bar.
The acting chairman of the forum, Mr. Elisha Kaura, who read a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting said: “We the undersigned individuals, who are Chairmen of the various branches of the Nigerian Bar Association that make up the Northern Geopolitical Zone as defined in the NBA Constitution 2015, and other senior members of the Bar have today Wednesday, September, 2, 2020 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, met with the NBA president, Mr. Olumide Akpata, and the national officers of the NBA.
“We have unanimously agreed to support his leadership of the NBA, and we hereby restate our true allegiance to the NBA and disassociate ourselves from the “New NBA” or any splitter group whatsoever making the waves in recent weeks as a new association/body of lawyers in Nigeria.
“We understand that the NBA has historically and in recent times been fraught with several challenges but we are indeed assured that the NBA under the leadership of Mr. Olumide Akpata will surmount these challenges and birth an all-inclusive Bar that will work for all Lawyers in Nigeria regardless of any part of the divide one may belong.”
Earlier, Akpata had said NBA was one and was not split along ethnic or religious lines.
He assured the lawyers that steps would be taken to heal wounds caused by NBA election and the conference.
“At NBA, we remain one, united and indivisible bar. We have not split along ethnic or religious lines. As lawyers, we disagree and agree…We will learn from past mistakes. Only those who refuse to learn from past mistakes are doomed. Due apology would be rendered to those offended,” he said.
He reiterated his commitment towards making NBA better and also building a stronger nation, adding that lawyers would not be in the vanguard to break up the country.
“Where our country is going wrong, we as lawyers will give the light. We are here to build Nigeria and not to destroy it.
“All is well with us in NBA and we are doing well. If there is still any group aggrieved, we will reach out to the group. Our ability to surmount challenges makes us leaders. We will remain focused because expectations are high.
“We in NBA will speak loud to support the teeming people of this country on issues affecting them,” he stated.