As Nigerian lawyers prepare for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2020 elections, one of the major contenders for the position of the President of the NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata (Senior Partner at Templars), shared his perspectives in an interview with The Palm (People’s Accolade Law Magazine) on 18 June 2020. The interview was moderated by Mary Imasuen via Zoom.

Below are ten (10) things we learnt from Mr Akpata who had so much to say in the one (1) hour interview session. 

1. 24/7 on the Job

Mr Akpata noted that what the NBA needs is a leader that will be there to work 24/7 on the job. According to him, if voted as the President of the Bar, he will be there round the clock to ensure that the huge job needed to be done is done. His availability is made possible by the fact that his Partners at Templars have given him all the support he needs by confirming that he would be going on sabbatical during the period of his service to the NBA. He has no doubt that the Firm will thrive since it has well over 150 hands on deck. More importantly, Mr Akpata hinted that his 24/7 availability is one factor that distinguishes him from other contenders.

2. The work is huge but can be done

Mr Akpata did not pretend to undermine the magnitude of work that awaits anyone aspiring to lead the Bar as President. He acknowledges this fact but assured with commendable passion that the “Work can be done!” He knows the way and how to do it.

3. The Bar needs someone who can hit the ground at once

Mr Akpata explained that another factor that distinguishes him from other contenders is that he has the most relevant experience needed to lead the Bar, having recently served as the Chairman of the NBA Section on Business Law (SBL) and also served at the NBA National Executive Council (NEC) for about six years. He understands the issues and will hit the ground at once, if elected. He believes that the Bar does not need anyone who is coming to learn on the job because there is no time for that. The 24-month tenure is long but short as there is much to be done.

4. Leading the Bar is about credentials, ability, track, but not about being a Silk or not

When asked about his position on the issue of not being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Akpata expressed his admiration for courtroom lawyers who attain the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate. He noted that the top rank is awarded as a privilege to those who have distinguished themselves in courtroom practice. It however has nothing to do with administrative capabilities. (True!) According to him, leading the Bar is about credentials, ability, track, quality but not about being a Silk or not. There is more to practice than litigation. The NBA needs to embrace an all-inclusive profession, without discrimination.

5. Welfare

Mr Akpata had a lot to say on welfare. Within the limited period of the interview, Mr Akpata said he has plans towards ensuring the implementation of a living wage for lawyers; and also better working conditions devoid of sexual harassment, bullying, inhumane treatment, etc. He emphasised that these will not be tolerated under his watch. Mr Akpata noted that 7 out of 10 lawyers would often ask, “What has the NBA done for me?”. He stated that this is a serious problem and he is out to change the narrative. He hopes to work towards capacity building, knowledge development and creating limitless opportunities for lawyers and opening up of new practice areas. According to him, helping lawyers with fishing nets is an integral part of welfare.

6. Access to Finance

Mr Olumide Akpata stated that the NBA under his leadership if elected, will bring its gravitas to bear in ensuring that law firms have easy access to finance on reasonable terms. An average law firm in Nigeria is an SME in need of finance. He hopes to create avenues for lawyers to finance their dreams.

7. Health

Mr Akpata expressed his understanding that health is wealth, even for lawyers. He hinted at a 3 dimensional approach to tackling this idea – Health Insurance through HMOs, setting about a 100 Million Naira Fund (through the support of well-established colleagues), and entering into partnerships with hospitals around the country for the benefit of lawyers. He was emotional about any lawyer losing his or her life due to lack of funds for treatment.

8. Harm to one is harm to all

Mr Akpata stated that contrary to the belief held by many that he is just a successful business lawyer only interested in doing big deals, he perfectly understands that the rights of Nigerian lawyers need to be defended by all legal means. He hopes to set up a Lawyers Defence Fund for the collective good of lawyers. He knows that a harm done to one lawyer is harm done to all. He will tackle this with the same passion he uses to close deals. 

9. Young lawyers need all the attention

Mr Akpata stated that he is often regarded as being too passionate about young lawyers and that he owes no one an apology for that. He believes that young lawyers remain the future of the profession and need all the attention there are. He hopes to bring to them a world of opportunities and policies needed to attain greatness in the legal profession.

10. The NBA will be much more than conferences

Mr Akpata expressed the view that although NBA Annual General Conference represents the high point of activities of the NBA, he however noted that the NBA under his leadership if elected will demonstrate that there there is more to the NBA than conferences. This he stated while promising a 2021 and 2022 kind of conferences that the NBA has never witnessed in history.

While we await the full manifesto of Mr Olumide Akpata, the above snippets appear to be a tip of the iceberg. The man’s passion for the NBA and for the top position is actually contagious, as admitted by the moderator. It was worthwhile, once again, listening to the foremost business lawyer during the live interview.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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