The statutory timeline within which lawyers are expected to pay their Annual practicing fee cum branch dues is between 1st of January and 31st of March of every year. Branches and members of the profession especially the Bar men do appropriate the task of reminding members due to the fact that members can and do forget the prescribed time due to their hectic schedules.
Why the reminder is very important to the membership is because of the fact that any of these fees paid outside the timeline is usually not acceptable for some of the privileges a lawyer will enjoy in the profession having paid on time. For instance you cannot use any receipt obtained outside this time mentioned above to apply to be a Notary Public of the Supreme Court or for the privileged position of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
I have always consider it a self-imposed responsibility to remind some of my dear colleagues every year that they should try and pay on time especially to those that have the money but due to tight schedule do forget this task of honoring that obligation.
THE REAL ISSUE
I have often and from several colleagues received commendations and gratitude from many of our colleagues over the years from this godly disposition of mine.
This year’s reminder from my humble self marks it 5 (five) unbroken years I have carried out this responsibility with positive results. However this year’s reminder was met with varied reactions. While some were grateful for the reminder, majority were not that grateful. Their attitude ranged from outright condemnation for the reminder terming it ” insensitive” to those seeking extension of time due to the present global health issue of coronavirus that have plunged the entire world in a lockdown and to those who asked to be exempted from paying the fees due to the fact that NBA is of no relevance to them as lawyers.
To be sincere I got private messages from junior and senior colleagues who asked me to request from the appropriate authorities in NBA the abolition of practicing fee this year in the light of the present global health challenge that have effected the economic well being of citizens generally, lawyers inclusive. I promised to reach out to the President of NBA, Mr Paul Usoro SAN.
I did reach out to him through a phone call and when I broached the topic, he confided in me that some senior and junior lawyers have reached out to him on the same issue. I then intimated him the not too palatable reactions of colleagues on the 31st of March deadline in the light of the present lockdown in virtually all the States of the federation.
His response is that lawyers who have the capacity and willing to pay should be encouraged to do that but promised to reach out to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to see the need to either exempt colleagues from this year’s payment or extend the deadline of 31st of March for the payment, as NBA alone does not have the vires to do what lawyers were demanding from him. He was surely sympathetic to the present realities and promised to do all he can to have the ears of the Chief Justice of Nigeria on this issue. Also sympathetic to the same cause was the Secretary General of NBA, Mr Jonathan Taidi
Mr Usoro SAN also pointed out that the lawyers demanding for this extension should have done this during the last NEC meeting which held sometime in March this year so that a resolution would have been appropriately made on the issue for onward transmission to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and to the Privileges Committee. Nevertheless he promised to seek for the extension after the expiration of the deadline today being the 31st of March, 2020 with the belief and hope that the Chief Justice of Nigeria who is a Nigerian and aware of the happenings in the country and the entire world will give a fatherly ears to the said request.
I therefore seek the understanding of our colleagues who saw my harmless and innocent reminder as “insensitive” . There was no intention to so appear; it was done with the best of intention and with understanding that somehow, somewhere a colleague will be jolted out of forgetfulness to perform that basic responsibility. No evil or harm intended.
One basic fact became very obvious from the angry reactions of colleagues to the reminder: that NBA has lost its relevance as it has not addressed their multifaceted problems that they are facing in the practice of the profession. My candid view on this is that It is high time a Turn Around Conference is convoked by Bar Leaders to address this sobering and volcanic complaints from both senior and junior colleagues especially our junior colleagues about NBA generally. Their murmurs and kickings against the NBA is accumulating to a toxic level and if not addressed will erupt very soon to the destruction of the ideals of the body. Every profession in Nigeria has a living body that attends to the needs and aspirations of their membership. Ours cannot be an exception. A stitch in time saves nine.
Before concluding I will advise that the Executive Members of the various Branches should also take a cue from what has being said above and extend the timeline too in the payment of the annual branch dues. The times we are in, is one of the most trying times in the history of mankind, clearly unprecedented and whatever measures can be taken to show amity to humanity by kind, just and equitable measures that mitigate harshness of the times to membership will be highly appreciated.
My candid belief is that this present hard time will expire very soon. Tough times don’t
last, it is actually tough people that last. This season shall certainly pass. Let us have faith in God and handle this harsh times with maturity and wisdom. We will not be a victim to this deadly virus in God’s name. Let us continue to STAY SAFE.
Monday Onyekachi Ubani(MOU) Esq.
Former 2nd VP of NBA.