The 2nd Vice President of NBA , Monday Onyekachi Ubani , Esq. In a no holds barred Interview speaks on his plan as chairman of NBA welfare committee, controversies on various publications on some media outlets and social media suggesting that he intends to contest for NBA President in 2018. Excerpt:
Sir, could you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Monday Onyekachi Ubani Esq. popularly known and called MOU.
As Chairman Welfare Committee, what is the proposed blueprint your Committee intends implementing with respect to the welfare of lawyers?
We were inaugurated by the President of NBA Mr. AB Mahmoud, SAN on the 17th July, 2017, in Abuja. He set out the Agenda or what you call Terms of Reference for the Committee, part of which is to actually initiate a framework/ blueprint on the issue of welfare for Nigerian lawyers. Over time there has been this persistent agitation of lawyers against NBA for lack of adequate welfare package for lawyers especially for the young lawyers.
Their major argument is that they make their contributions mostly in the area of finance (by paying practice fees, branch dues etc) but get nothing in return in terms of welfare, protection, care and adequate participation. In the light of this revealed facts, the President of NBA will want our Committee to formulate a formidable framework/ blueprint on welfare for all lawyers; especially for the junior lawyers who are more vocal on the perceived neglect of their plight. It is for this reason that the Committee will appeal and welcome wider inputs from the constituency in order to formulate a better and bigger enduring framework/blueprint on welfare for all categories of lawyers.
Once again, comprehensive ideas are highly solicited by the Welfare Committee from our colleagues across the federation to make our formulations more encompassing. The email address for lawyers to send in their ideas and contributions is firstname.lastname@example.org. The much ideas we will receive will help us formulate a framework that is all inclusive. The blueprint when completed will be passed on to the national officers for input after which it will be brought before National Executive Committee of NBA for approval.
This Committee was just recently inaugurated almost a year after our inauguration as National Officers, so we need speed to accomplish this onerous task before the next AGC that will come up in 2018 where everything about our welfare package/scheme will be ratified.
It has almost been a whole year since you were elected into the office, shouldn’t this committee have been set up earlier?
There may be reason/s for the delay. Recall that since our inauguration the President and his team have been very busy pursuing several other important issues that will help position the legal profession in the 21st century. There was the stakeholders meeting in Abuja during which a comprehensive document on the strategic plan for the National Body was formulated and documented which is widely circulated currently. The second major engagement was the work of a committee that toured round the federation collating memos and inputs from the constituency in the area of regulatory framework.
The work of the Committee is completed and their findings and recommendations submitted to the President and his team. Committees on the Niger Delta crisis and North East insurgency were also set up and these committees are presently on their duties as mandated. These and several other engagements may have been part of the reason for the delay including sourcing for the right persons to work in these Committees recently inaugurated.
However, despite the shortness of time we will do something that is worthwhile by leaving a legacy. This accounts for the reason why we are seeking for inputs, ideas from lawyers in order to serve them better.
One of the mandates of your committee is looking into the matters which include designing a nationwide insurance policy to cover the risk of which legal practitioners are exposed to in the course of the performance of their duties. In the light of this mandate how does your committee intend achieving this?
I am sure you are aware that already there is an insurance policy in place initiated by the Alegeh SAN administration and it is functional up till date. What we have to do is to see if what is on ground now is sufficient. The issue is this, is one million Naira cover sufficient in case of a death of a lawyer? If it is not, then there is room for improvement. There are rooms as to improving the insurance coverage to something bigger and better for all.
This is what we intend to do with regards to insurance scheme but subject to negotiation with the Insurance Company and approval by the leadership.
Can there be possible partnership between NBA and the insurance company in the future?
The insurance company will be willing to discuss having good partnership with the NBA. The NBA is a professional body with respectable and large number of lawyers. An insurance company that has such a large data of lawyers will be interested in going into workable partnership with the NBA. I think NBA will be a choice for any corporate body that is serious with its business. That is why the previous administration did not have any challenge mapping out that policy. The Committee will go into discussions with the insurance company to see how some amendments will be made if necessary, to have bigger and better coverage. The partnership is what is clearly on our table.
In your opinion, do you think that lawyer’s cooperative society is necessary for the welfare of lawyers despite the general mandate of the committee?
The welfare committee is also mandated to ensure that Branches initiate and formulate cooperative society schemes that will assist lawyers. Already some branches are running a cooperative society scheme. Like my branch in Ikeja we started it either five to six years back. When I visited the North Central Zone recently for my assignment as the Supervisor of the zone, the Makurdi Chairman informed us that his local branch has cooperative scheme which they incorporated in their policy; that the scheme has been helping them to take care of their needs. And that the body managing it is different from the elected EXCO of the branch. This is what is obtainable in Ikeja Branch also. So, one of our mandates is to encourage all the branches to have cooperative society scheme to enable them help their members. We will table this before NEC for approval. It will be rather encouraged at the branch level, not at the National.
How far has the Welfare Trust Foundation helped the NBA?
Since we came in, I have not been told of any fund and I have not gotten any details concerning the foundation. However, I will inquire at the National office of the NBA.
How can a Legal practitioner take advantage of the NBA Health Care Management Scheme?
This is another aspect we will have to look into. On this issue we may consider whether we can bring in the National body. There are so many health care schemes of corporate bodies and I believe they will be willing to enter into partnership with the NBA. It is important to have a health care coverage for lawyers because lawyers are busy and in most cases stressed up and there is tendency of falling ill. We must ensure that they get good health coverage whenever they are fall ill, though this is subject to certain ailments that can be covered.
We will find out what their terms and payment terms are like, and then bring it before NEC for approval to cover all the lawyers. We may either encourage it at the local level just the way we will encourage cooperative society or at best at the national level. So it is the NEC that will determine whether it will be done by the branches or at the National.
Is there any connection between the Young Lawyers Forum and the Welfare Committee, and what is the connection?
It is important that we work hand in hand. There is a Young Lawyers Governing Council. Most of the agitations about the Issue of welfare comes from the young lawyers. So there is no way we can afford not to have a relationship with the young lawyers. When talking about the welfare of young lawyers, whatever we want to do for them will come from the governing council because the Council has to articulate all the ideas they think the national body should implement for the benefit of young lawyers.
I am happy that the NBA was wise in creating the young lawyers forum. It was created during Olisa Agbakoba SAN’s regime and it is very commendable. The Council will formulate and articulate policies that will reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian young lawyers. And I recommend a situation where there is a perennial relationship between the Welfare Committee and the Young Lawyers Forum so that any time they have an issue on how they should be taken care of in terms of welfare, they pass it over to the welfare that will formulate a framework to reflect their desires.
So far can you briefly tell us how this administration has fulfilled its Brave “New Bar” promises to the lawyers?
You can remember that not quite long after the AB Mahmoud SAN’s administration came on board, he set up a committee whose job description is to collate information from the constituency and put down a regulatory framework for the legal profession in a big and radical manner, departing from the old way of doing things. He created the Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee (LPRRC). In addition to this he conveyed a stakeholders meeting during which a strategic plan for NBA was also formulated. He has positioned NBA as a professional body that should be respected, proficient and efficient in most of its operations. He has taken care of institutional memory at the Secretariat; that any information even after several years have come and gone, we will still have those information in the archive of the body. And if the subsequent administrations can maintain this procedure then the glory of the NBA will be restored fully.
Also our strategic donors and partners are beginning to come back to enter into perfect working relationships with NBA. We are receiving promises and recently certain amount of money was approved for a committee of NBA. Believe me we have not heard such good news for a while before now. All these are the doings of Brave New Bar administration. This administration has done a lot that I cannot enumerate them all here. About the forthcoming Conference, the administration of AB Mahmoud SAN wants to give the best conference ever to the Nigerian lawyers. It is a conference where tablets will be given to every conferee loaded with law reports for one year. This will actually help the young lawyers going to court having electronic law reports at their beck and call, the same way senior lawyers have them and having been using them to a great advantage. I pray that this will be delivered as promised without any hitch whatsoever. It is another radical way of revolutionizing the bar. Turning the bar into a Brave New Bar where knowledge is power and ICT a priority.
Why is the position of Chairman of Welfare given to the VP and what is the role of the duly elected Welfare Secretary?
The welfare secretary of the NBA is a member, in fact the Secretary of the committee but someone has to be the chairman of the committee. And since we are talking about formulating frameworks and policies, it has to be by a properly constituted committee. Secondly, the requirement of the NBA Constitution is that the second Vice President of the Association will chair the Welfare Committee.
How do you feel about the inauguration of the Welfare Committee?
It gives us a room to do our best in order to ensure that those agitations against NBA are reduced to a reasonable extent. If you read on social media you will see that most reactions of lawyers is that they are not getting much from NBA. At times they give instances of how those in the medical profession are protected and taking care of by their professional body. So to us, this is an opportunity to find out and ask questions and get ideas on how to tackle this issue of ensuring that lawyers’ welfare is of priority and addressed adequately. I feel good and we will convey a meeting of the Committee soon to look into these issues holistically. We will make this Committee effectual and operational, not business as usual. At least the President promised us this at the inauguration; he said every recommendation from the committees will not be allowed to gather dust. God helping us, we will fulfill our mandate before our tenure expires.
There is a rumor that you intend running for the office of the NBA President in 2018, is there any truth in it?
I have seen and read it on social media. I laughed the very day I saw it. If I am going to run for any position, won’t I be the one to sit, count the cost and articulate my position and then communicate? All that I’ve been reading is mere speculation. But it gives me good feelings though, that I have several admirers who wish me and will want me to be the President of NBA someday, but timing is very critical in every venture. But to tell you the truth, I am not running for presidency of the NBA in the next dispensation. There is no iota of truth in it. If I want to run for the presidency of the NBA, it will not be by rumor, I will use my God given mouth to tell you.
Secondly, I am currently the Second Vice President of NBA; I have no handed over, won’t that look too ambitious for me to even contemplate that at this time? Bible says: “in all you’re getting’s, get wisdom”. You must know the appropriate time to do certain things in life and get respect and regard from persons and well-wishers. You don’t do things because others are doing it or you want to get a name, or you have the feeling to do it. I am not known for that. I have never run for anything and lose; God has always been there with me and for me. I am known for doing things at the appropriate time and Bible says “God makes all things beautiful in His own time.” God has timetable for everyone. So it is important I understand and work with His timetable. The time is not ripe for me to even contemplate running for the presidency in 2018. When the time comes, everyone will know. So for me it is a mere speculation, no iota of truth. I will rather support the person that will run and win. I will make sure that in our turn, we will give effective leadership that will turn NBA around for the better and continue with the strategic plans of making NBA a proficient body that has respect, regards and dignity.