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NBA May Lose Its Monopoly Over The Legal Profession If… — Okutepa

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria J.S. Okutepa SAN, has strongly admonished the NBA president, Olumide Akpata to be weary of early victory celebration with regards to the process that produced him as the 30th president of the association; describing the nobility and respect once ascribed to the profession as being dragged to the muds.

Okutepa, made the admonishing when responding to the “manner young members of the Bar we’re hauling insults on elders of the Bar”, stating that those ” congratulating him and taunting those who lost are doing Mr. Olumide Akpata great professional disservice and doing so with respect out of primordial partisan selfish interest”; stressing that the crisis within the NBA is such that can consume the profession if adequate care is not taken.

He warned that the NBA President must not be seen encouraging young lawyers to disrespect elders and seniors within the profession, as that may rob the NBA of its monopoly status over the profession. Stressing that it would go against the interest of the NBA President if the association is divided under his watch.

“I think Mr. Olumide Akpata should worry more about the process that produced him as the 30th President of NBA, than celebrating his ‘victory’. Yes in any contest there must be a winner and losers and winners naturally should celebrate and thank God. But I don’t think this is the time to celebrate. It is time to feel pains for the once noble profession, whose nobility and professional integrity are being undermined and dragged to the mud.”

“As someone rightly pointed out, the crisis rocking NBA is like a mustard seed. It may look tiny and insignificant but it will grow and may consume the profession… I do not think Mr. Akpata wants the Bar divided under his watch. NBA may not continue to enjoy the monopoly it is enjoying now if we failed to address the indiscipline and total disrespect for elders and senior members of the Bar, the rule of law, and our constitution.” Okutepa noted.

According to the learned silk, the NBA president owes a duty to both himself as a senior member of the Bar, and the Association in general, to “call to order immediately the open insults being hauled at senior and other lawyers on social media by overzealous young members of the Bar in the name of victory celebrations.”

He further noted that “the open abuses being hauled at those who ‘lost’ the elections and their supporters by those who think they are now the kingmakers should be frontally addressed before it is too late” insisting that “what distinguished the legal profession from other professions is our code of conduct. While as lawyers we discussed and disagreed, we do so with decent and decorum expected of lawyers. Gutter languages are prohibited by our professional code of conduct. Abusive language is not allowed. Conduct likely to bring the legal profession to odium and disrepute is not allowed. While freedom of speech is allowed, what I think is not allowed is an abuse of that freedom.”

Okutepe noted that the Akpata when running for office, had also complained about the breaches to the NBA constitution by the ECNBA; complaints, he noted, which fell on deaf ears. As such there those cheering Mr. Akpata on are not more patriotic than those complaining about the elections insisting that the question should revolve around compliance with the electoral laws than with fairness and a free election.

“Those who are struggling to justify the outcome of the election based on fairness are missing the points. The election may have been free and fair, but a product of constitutional breaches as in this case. We as lawyers have gone to courts to challenge elections on the basis that Electoral Act or Constitution was not followed. We need to speak as lawyers and not like conventional politicians who believe that the end justified the means. As the foremost professional Association, NBA must be seen to do and conduct itself and its affairs in the most transparent manner and by its constitution. The certificate of incorporation given to it and the law under which it was registered required it to conduct its affairs by the constitution. We therefore cannot continue to be breaching NBA Constitution and then celebrate. It is a mockery that should not be seen amongst learned gentlemen and women of the Bar. This is the duty I owe the profession. It is based on the foregoing that I think we should not celebrate but interrogate the processes that produced the outcomes of this election 2020 and those before it. It is then will the Bar be seen as truly the voice of the rule of law and due process.” the learned silk noted.

Stressing further, Mr. Okutepa noted that the Association is more polarised than before, with a near tipping cap on insults and insubordination, by younger members of the profession, to an intolerable level.

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