Yemi Akangbe and the Repositioning of NBA Lagos
By Elo Adhekpukoli
Dear Learned Seniors and Colleagues, as we are all aware, the tenure of the current leadership of our Premier NBA Branch, NBA Lagos, piloted by Mr. Omoyemi Akangbe will soon be over. I can attest to the tradition of stellar leadership that our Branch is accustomed to since I joined the Lagos Branch in 2012. From Mr. Taiwo Taiwo (now an Honourable Justice of the Federal High Court), Mr. Alex Mouka, Mr. Martin Ogunleye, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN, and Mr. Omoyemi Akangbe, our Branch has continued to be led by very competent and visionary leadership.
Leading in times of crisis is no mean feat. The entire world was thrown into a pandemic barely six months into the current administration. We witnessed several lockdown measures that affected virtually every sphere of human endeavour. As if that was not enough, the destruction of court infrastructure and the Branch Secretariat by unknown persons in the aftermath of the hijacked EndSars protests presented additional challenges to the current administration.
I have taken time to revisit some of the campaign promises of the current administration. I am personally impressed with the effort by Mr. Akangbe and his team to reposition our Branch for greater heights and deliver on their mandate despite the challenges. While campaigning for office of Chairman of our Branch, Mr. Akangbe expressed his objective to ‘help create a bar that focuses on its members through achievable welfare initiatives and human capital development programs whilst also playing an active role in public interest matters.’ It will be fair to say that the current administration did not deviate from this core objective in the last 20 months. I have decided to share my personal score card on six campaign promises, which I believe, formed the core of the expressed objective stated above.
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Mentorship
Mr. Akangbe promised to continue with the CPD and mentoring sessions initiatives started by his predecessor, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN. Mr. Akangbe’s choice to retain Mr. Tobenna Erojikwe as the Chair of the CPD Committee to continue with the initiative was laudable. Mr. Tobenna Erojikwe was recently appointed as Chairperson of the NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education (NBA-ICLE).
KSS Model: The knowledge Sharing Sessions (KSS) during monthly meetings have afforded members of the branch to learn more about different specialist practice areas and exposed members to knowledge faculty from within and outside Nigeria. It is also important to note that our Branch has been at the forefront of institutionalizing continuous professional development at the National level of the NBA by spearheading recently introduced CPD courses on Energy, Taxation, Fintech and Intellectual Property. Other Branches of the NBA are now coming to take a cue from the KSS model of our Branch. Representatives of NBA Branches in Jos, Nnewi, Enugu, Gwagwalada participated in our recent meetings to understudy our KSS model. Importantly, our KSS has now been accredited by the NBA-ICLE with one hour allocated to each session.
Arbitration Trainings: Another laudable achievement of this administration was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK (Nigeria Branch), for the training and certification of our members in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice at a 50% reduced fee. The Branch also sponsored 100 members for the ADR certification course. The second phase of enrolment for the NBA Lagos Branch/ CIArb collaboration for the CIArb Associateship training and assessment is on- going as at the time of writing this article.
From recent updates by Mr. Akangbe at the monthly Branch meetings, there are other professional development events scheduled before the end of his tenure including the launch of the Branch’s Career Development Center. The Branch also held very well received mentorship programs with Mr. Asue Ighodalo of Banwo and Ighodalo, and Mr. Sola Adepetun of ACAS-Law.
- Medical Insurance and Welfare
Mr. Akangbe promised to enter into arrangements with health care providers to enable affordable enrolment of our members into a health insurance scheme. This administration through the Welfare Committee led by Mrs. Abiye Tam-George and the Welfare Secretary, Mrs. Anthonia Eke, made good its promise by setting up a Health Insurance Plan with one of the leading health care insurance providers in Nigeria to offer first class healthcare to our members at affordable rates. This administration also continued with the humanitarian initiative to provide financial assistance to bereaved families of members of the Branch as well as members in need of critical medical assistance. This administration has also ensured that life insurance benefits of deceased members who subscribed to the group life insurance schemes both at branch and national levels of the NBA are processed and duly paid. These insurance schemes are particularly very helpful for our members who hitherto did not have any form of health or life insurance, or better alternatives. Notably, during the lockdown in year 2020, the branch distributed food packs to over 1,350 members and made further cash disbursements to mostly young lawyers from the covid-19 palliative funds raised by the Branch in the sum of N14,130,000 (Fourteen Million, One Hundred and Thirty Thousand Naira).
- Human Rights
Mr. Akangbe promised to structure the Branch’s Human Rights Committee to be more efficient, productive and self-sustaining. Notably, this administration introduced the NBA Lagos Prison Decongestion Annual Scheme (PDAS) led by Mr. Olumide Babalola to decongest correctional centres by offering pro-bono services to unrepresented inmates and those awaiting trial. This administration also set up the NBA Lagos Police Duty Solicitors’ Scheme (PDSS) under the leadership of Mr. Emeka Nwadioke to provide free legal services to detainees in police formation and detention centres. The project aims at curtailing abuse of rights of pre-trial detainees at police stations, fast track access to justice and stem congestion in prisons by ensuring that only cases with merit are escalated to prosecution. This is an improvement from the annual ceremonial visit to prisons and correctional centres during the annual Law Week.
- Law Reform
Mr. Akangbe promised to set up a standing committee on Law Reform to regularly advise on complex legal and policy issues whilst also engaging relevant stakeholders in the justice delivery sector. Mr. Akangbe appointed Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN to Chair the Law Reform Committee, with Dr. Wale Olawoyin SAN as co-Chair. The committee’s approach has been to review the existing bodies of laws and identify areas of reforms. The committee is working hand-in-hand with the Lagos State Law Reform Commission on reforms including but not limited to pre-judgment interest, smart mortgages. As a fall out of the Lockdown and the ascendency of remote work environment, the committee in conjunction with the Commercial Disputes (Best Practices) Legal Network (CRID-LawNet), a project of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Lagos State Ministry of Justice set up a Joint Working Group to look into a legal framework for adoption of remote hearings whilst addressing the practical constraints such as poor technology, inadequate teledensity and poor internet bandwidth, poverty, illiteracy, computer illiteracy. It is expected that the benefits of these reforms will soon become obvious for legal practitioners in Lagos State as a whole.
Also worthy of mention, in the context of this discourse, is the administration’s effort through the Judicial Relations Committee led by Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), to liaise with the Lagos State Judiciary to ensure that the court system in Lagos is repositioned for service delivery, especially after the destruction of some court rooms and files by unknown persons some months ago.
- Bar Center
Mr. Akangbe promised that the construction of an ultra-modern Bar Center for our Branch with well-equipped meeting rooms, halls and offices. The construction of the first phase of a world class Bar Center in Lekki has now commenced. Going by the agreed timelines with the project contractors as communicated through the Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN led Building Committee, this phase is expected to be concluded by July 2021. It is expected that the incoming administration will conclude the last phase of the project.
- Digital Solutions
As part of promises to make the Branch secretariat more effective, Mr. Akangbe’s administration has embraced technological solutions. We now have a more digitized secretariat and better communication channels with members through a re-engineered branch website and online portal. A few years ago, the idea of holding virtual Branch meetings was very remote. That is our reality today. Many members of the Branch who, before the pandemic, could not attend physical meetings, are now able to participate in the governance of the Branch remotely due to the quick response of this Administration to embrace technology and innovation. The Branch website is now fully automated and has now become a ‘one-stop shop’ where all branch activities can be transacted, obviating the need to physically visit the branch secretariat. Members can now carry out requisite Branch related activity through the Branch Website, since most activities requiring physical attendance at the Branch Secretariat can now be performed by the press of a button from anywhere in the World. Members no longer have to expose themselves or their staff to queuing up in the bank or to the rigours of bringing bank tellers to the Secretariat in exchange for a receipt. Members can now visit www.nbalagos.ng and discover the ease and the comfort at which they can now interface with the Lagos Branch of the NBA, obtain Letters of Good Standing, apply for stamp and seal, apply for Branch ID cards and follow the activities of the Branch, amongst other things.
As I mentioned earlier, I have only touched on six promises amongst others, from my own perspective as a satisfied stakeholder in the affairs of our Branch. I know there are other areas where this administration can improve. No single tree can make a forest. I believe Mr. Akangbe’s fellow Executive members deserve to share in the success of this administration and should get special mention. Okey Ilofulunwa (Vice Chairman), Moshood Abiola (Secretary), Foluke Akinmoladun (Treasurer), Chinenye Oragwu (Financial Secretary), James Sonde (Publicity Secretary), Gloria Egeonu (Social Secretary), Anthonia Eke (Welfare Secretary), Harry Ukaejiofor (Legal Adviser), Florence Chijioke-Duru (Provost), Ifeoma Ben (Assistant Secretary), Tobenna Erojikwe (Co-opted), Kehinde Daodu (Co-opted), Sotonye Amachree (Co-opted), Onye Rumuna.
I believe, future administrations of our Branch will continue to build on the strong foundations of our past. I wish every member of the Branch greater success and progress in all our endeavours.