NBA DECIDES 2020: OLUMIDE AKPATA RESPONDS TO COMMENTARY ON PROPOSAL TO LICENCE LAW FIRM

One of the major contenders for the position of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the forthcoming 2020 elections, Mr Olumide Akpata, has clarified that he made no statement regarding licensing of law firms. According to him, the assertion of Edoabasi Udo Esq. to the contrary was perhaps an “innocuous misunderstanding” of his position during the July 3 2020 virtual interactive session with the Employment and Labour Lawyers Association of Nigeria. 

Read below Mr. Akpata’s full response. 

My attention has been drawn to a commentary by a colleague, Mr. Edoabasi Udo, who asserts that during a virtual interactive session organised on Friday, July 3 2020 by Employment and Labour Lawyers Association of Nigeria, “Olumide Akpata proposed that law firms in Nigeria must be regulated and licensed before they can operate.” This is the pivot of his entire commentary. That commentary is perhaps, an innocuous misunderstanding by Mr. Udo of my position during the session, and hopefully, not a deliberate misunderstanding and distortion of the facts.

To set the records straight, I made no statement regarding licensing of law firms by the NBA prior to commencement of operations. Indeed, the only context in which I spoke about the regulation of law firms was in relation to ensuring minimum standards of employment, specifically the requirement of a written contract of employment to ensure certainty of terms between employers and employees, a situation which, I have noted with concern, is not common amongst many employers of lawyers. In more specific terms, I spoke about the employers’ obligation to contribute to and remit pensions, remittance of PAYE on behalf of their employees and group life insurance obligations in qualifying circumstances. These are legal obligations placed on employers and it is my firm belief that the NBA must do more in ensuring that its members comply as such, as these sit at the core of welfare. My proposal does not, in any way, suggest an intention to impose a pre-operation licensing requirement on law firms.  In any case, my manifesto will soon be released (when the Electoral Committee gives its approval for candidates to so release) and my views on this and a number of other related issues will become better known to our colleagues.

If we are genuinely committed to Transformational Leadership at the Bar, as I am sure that most of our colleagues are, then we must be prepared to challenge existing practices that do not augur well for our members and exchange ideas in such a collaborative manner as to achieve our intent. This, I would like to believe was the basis of Mr. Udo’s commentary, and hopefully, not a political stunt or propaganda intended to mislead. In the unfortunate event that the commentary was intended as a form of propaganda, then I should close by saying that the NBA 2020 elections are imminent and it is likely that there may be more acts of disparagement, mudslinging and political propaganda as we have, regrettably, seen in recent weeks.

I enjoin you to continue to support me on this journey. As I often say, I am open to ideas on how we can achieve our collective ambition, and more importantly your thoughts on what we can do to create an NBA that we all will be proud of and happy to identify with.
 
I thank you immensely for standing with me. I stand with you too for a better future for our profession and for a Bar that would indeed work for all. God bless you.
 

OLUMIDE AKPATA



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 worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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