Paul Usoro was a guest at the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of Law officers association of Nigeria(LOAN) where he had a dialogue with them and responded to questions bordering on the spate of police harassment especially against Lawyers , exclusion of Law officers from acting as officers in the Nigerian Bar Association, the Seal Project and Accounting in the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA)
In answering some of the numerous questions posed to him by members of the association, he said
ON LAW OFFICERS EXCLUSION
I firmly believe in an inclusive Bar and I see no reason why Law officers should be excluded from National offices and committees. I most definitely will support such an inclusive move and would indeed champion it particularly given the wide-ranging institutional reforms which I believe are necessary and required to be effected in the NBA. The only way to succeed in carrying out such reforms is to ensure that all interests groups are fully involved and consulted and LOAN is one such critical stakeholder group.
ON POLICE AND LAWYERS
On this issue of the Police, we must get back to the days when lawyers were respected and, if sequel to some unfortunate incident, a lawyer is arraigned, he is released on bail on self-recognizance. Even with the recent spate of arraignment of Lawyers, I am not aware of any incident when a lawyer has jumped bail and I fail to understand why the lawyers in the Dino Melaye matter weren’t released on bail on self-recognizance. It would be necessary for the NBA to have a serious off-site dialogue on this with the top hierarchy of our Judiciary.
I need to add that harassment of lawyers by security agencies is totally unacceptable and intolerable to me. I believe National NBA should engage the top hierarchies of the security agencies in this regard and work out acceptable protocol where the security agencies, for any reason, need to question lawyers. Such protocol must preserve the dignity of the profession and must ensure that lawyers are not prevented howsoever from defending and/or representing their clients within the limits of the law and the profession. The Attorney General off the federation(AGF) also needs to be engaged in this regard, as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. I repeat: the voice of the NBA needs to be heard stridently and always in condemnation of the executive erosion of the Rule of Law and denigration of the Legal profession.
ON THE SEAL
Actually, the yearly seal helps in checking quacks in the profession and also flushing out those who have been disbarred or suspended for a period. Without the yearly stamp, such persons would continue to use their permanent stamps without let or hindrance and, knowing how ineffective our law enforcement is, they might even escape detection. The annual verification process for issuance of the stamp helps to weed out these scums and pretenders. The late issuance of the stamp I believe is an administrative glitch that ought to be and can be eliminated.
ON STRUCTURAL REFORMS
“When I talk about structural reforms in NBA I am actually thinking of refocusing the Association away from current emphasis on appointments and perks and focusing us more on professional growth, deepening our practice and creating wealth for lawyers. Of course, there would still be appointments particularly for the expanded Sections and the Committees under those sections whose primary focus would be on professional growth and development for lawyers. There would also be those other statutory appointments (NJC, FJSC etc) which are the responsibility of the NBA President. Some have historically been short changed in these appointments and they have eminently qualified persons who can occupy these positions and acquit themselves very well. The imbalance can be addressed by sourcing qualified and dedicated persons from every geo-political zones of Nigeria.”
ON PROPER ACCOUNTING:
I believe if we institute good accounting policies and practices in d NBA, we’ll manage ourselves much better and provide affordable services to members including but not limited to AGCs & the fees therefor.
Currently, I believe there is plenty of inefficiency in the system which results in much higher cost to members. If I am the President of the NBA today, I would champion the engagement of a qualified and experienced Chartered Accountant as the NBA Chief Financial Officers & properly organize and staff the NBA Finance Section. I’ll also ensure transparency in our financial reporting systems and budgeting. With these steps, am certain we’ll be able to better manage our costs and provide affordable services to members. I’ll also use my corporate relationships to raise funds for the Association and in the process subsidize services (including AGC fees) for members.