I have read on various platforms and different Lawyer groups particularly on Facebook and Twitter about stories ascribing the establishment of the formation of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to the administrations of Mr. O.C.J. Okocha SAN and Chief Bayo Ojo SAN. A particular write-up even stated mischievously that Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN’s Executive almost frustrated the creation of the Section on Business Law. Let me state without any equivocation whatsoever that Mr. O.C.J. Okocha SAN, past President of the NBA, past Chairman of the Council of Legal Education and presently the Chairman of the Distinguished Body of Benchers is a highly respected leader of the Bar and an accomplished Legal Practitioner. He was President of the NBA between 2000 and 2002.
Chief Bayo Ojo SAN, also past President of the NBA and former Attorney-General of the Federation was President between 2004 and 2005. These two gentlemen are not only accomplished Legal Practitioners but are some of the outstanding leaders the NBA has produced. Collectively and individually, they have given their best to the Association and our beloved Profession. I was an active player in their administrations. This is why I decided to ignore the misinformation going on about the establishment of the Section on Business Law; because of the necessity to avoid any claim of intension to undermine the contribution of these leaders of the Bar.
On the 3rd of July, 2020, at a virtual Zoom debate among the three Presidential Candidates vying for the Office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association organised by the Employment and Labour Lawyers Association of Nigeria (ELLAN) and moderated by the seasoned Presenter, Shola Soyele, my brother, Olumide Akpata Esq. misinformed the audience once again by ascribing the formation of the Section on Business Law (SBL) to Mr. O.C.J. Okocha SAN’s administration and Chief Bayo Ojo SAN’s administration and stated in passing that Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN’s administration though “played a role.” As a participant at the debate, I tried to correct this misinformation; unfortunately, time did not permit a full chronological narration of how the SBL was founded in NBA.
Just today, 21st of July 2020, a senior Lawyer in one of the commercial Law Firms in a discussion asked the question on the correct position regarding the creation of the SBL. In the interest of our members and in defence of the institutional history of our beloved Association, I am compelled to put the record straight whether the misinformation is a product of ignorance or a deliberate mischief to lower my esteem.
First, in the course of my campaign for Election into the Office of the General Secretary of the NBA in 2002, I made the creation of SBL and SLP as a campaign issue. While I do not lay claim to being the originator of these two Sections, I want to affirmatively claim that I got the idea from the structure of the International Bar Association (IBA) which I have been attending before 2002. In the course of the campaign, there was a chance meeting between my dear brother, George Etomi Esq., and I in front of the NBA Ikeja Bar Centre where we further espoused the idea. To the glory of God, I won the election. The Executive under the leadership of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN as President and my humble self as General Secretary swung into action. The Executive was purposeful and creative. The idea to establish SBL was deliberated upon and approved of by the National Officers and taken to the National Executive Committee (NEC) by the President.
At the NBA NEC Meeting of January 30 and 31, 2003 held at the Cultural Centre, Abeokuta, the Committee on Sections within the NBA was set-up. Mrs. Modupe Akintola, who at that time was the Vice Chairman of IBA Section on Legal Practice, was made the Chairman of the Committee while Obi Okusogwu, past General Secretary, was nominated as Secretary to the Committee. Other Committees set-up at that NEC meeting includes Continuing Legal Education Committee, Human Rights Committee and Law Reform and Judiciary Committee.
At the NBA NEC Meeting of the 24th and 25th of July 2003 which held at the Leadership Institute Hall, Jos, Mrs. Modupe Akintola presented her Committee’s Report which was adopted accordingly. The motion was moved by Mallam Yusuf Ali SAN and seconded by Chief Bayo Ojo SAN. At the pre-conference NEC Meeting held on the 24th of August 2003 at Banquet Hall, Enugu, the President further reported the outcome of Mrs. Modupe Akintola’s Committee on Sections within the NBA to NEC further to which the Report and the Bye-laws presented by the President was approved. The journey moved to the Annual General Meeting of the NBA for final approval.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Association on the 29th of August, 2003, at Enugu, the President while presenting the creation of the Sections for approval stated inter alia: “This Committee under the Chairmanship of Chief Mrs Modupe Akintola went about their historic assignments with maximum zeal and commitment. It has not only recommended to the National Executive the establishment of two Sections that is to say Section on Business Law and Section on Legal Practice modelled as near as possible after the Sections within the International Bar Association but it has most importantly gone ahead to submit a draft bye-law for each of these Sections…”
Further to the above approval, the pioneer Council of the two Sections were constituted at the Ilorin NEC of 8th and 9th of July 2004 with Mallam Yusuf Ali SAN as Chairman and Richard Ahonaruogho Esq. as Secretary of Council, Section on Legal Practice and George Etomi Esq. as Chairman and Adeniyi Adegbola Esq. (now Judge of the F.C.T., Abuja) as Secretary, Section on Business Law. The same giant steps attended the introduction of the Stamp and Seal programme which was launched by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Lawal Uwais, during the NBA NEC Meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State in July 2004 under the same administration.
I have gone this far to put the record straight. It is important for people to know that putting off another man’s candle will not necessarily make your own candle to shine brighter. Besides, this is an election to elect officers of a Professional Association to serve the Association and the Profession and not partisan politics. The unassailable and undeniable truth is that I was part of the virile, dynamic, creative and purposeful Executive imbued with the Grace of God and foresight to create the SBL opportunity and we are happy to have done so for our Association. The purpose of leadership is to create opportunities for the followership. The establishment of the Section on Business Law was to create opportunities for members of the Association who have developed and acquired expertise in several areas of commercial law for specialization and maximum advantage. The SBL has produced many giants in commercial law practice specialising in one aspect of commercial law or the other.l today. The same goes for the Section on Legal Practice and I know as a fact that every member of that executive is fulfilled.
By Dele Adesina SAN, FCI Arb
NBA 2020 Election
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