Memo to the NBA President: “Be Attentive to the Yearnings of lawyers” – by Inibehe Effiong


Dear Mr A. B. Mahmoud SAN,

I (Inibehe Effiong) wish to assure you that I have maximum respect for your person and office. It is not my intention to ridicule your office or deride your administration unduly.

All that we are saying is that the NBA should be attentive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerian lawyers, especially the young lawyers who have been stigmatized and abandoned in the scheme of things and policies.

We are only seeking your attention. We want you to listen to us. We want you to give us a sense of inclusion. We want issues of extremely poor remuneration and income of young lawyers to be addressed drastically.

We want to see policies for young lawyers on life and health insurance, continuous training, harassment by security agencies and inclusion in the affairs of the Bar.

When the issue of the portrait arose, I deliberately avoided expressing my views on it. But when our attention was drawn to comments credited to you at the recent NEC meeting where you promised to discipline the young lawyer, it became necessary for us to speak out.

We should not send the message that the NBA leadership is intolerant and oppressive. Lawyers by their training are expected to be bold and fearless irrespective of the circumstance.

It is particularly worrisome that this climate of intimidation is ensuing under your administration. You vowed and took an oath to give us a BRAVE New Bar. What is bravery if lawyers are being cowed and threatened for expressing themselves publicly?

Seniority and respect are essential parts of the legal profession in Nigeria. However, we cannot deny the gross abuse of seniority. I do not think it is right to isolate young lawyers in Nigeria for derision. Respect should be earned, not forced. Respect should be mutual.

Leadership comes with responsibilities. It is a truism that those who offer to lead must expect and accept criticism, whether mild or blunt. The NBA should be a democratic association. People should not be threatened or harassed for speaking their minds. The leadership of the Bar should not operate like a military dictatorship.

Kindly listen to us. As a father, you cannot beat us and expect us not to cry. I urge you to exercise restraint in using the instrumentality of the Bar to suppress dissent.

Kindly reconsider your threat against the lawyer, Mr. Oladele Olubakin. You may wish to address the substance of his accusations and explore amicable settlement. But if you are convinced that his accusations are false, you can sue him for libel. But using the arsenal of the LPDC to fight him will only stir more controversy and disaffection.

Thank you as I anticipate your kind consideration of this innocuous Memo.

I remain Inibehe Effiong.