Our Stewardship to the Heritage Bar: A Farewell Address by Chigbo Okafor

Chigbo Okafor

Preamble

On 30th day of June 2018, I could not hold my appreciation for your choices of this executive team that have piloted the affairs of the Heritage Bar from the Election Day to date. Today, it’s proper that I start by thanking you once again for giving us the opportunity to serve you.

Learned seniors and colleagues, let me take this moment to acknowledge the deep gratitude I have for your immense kindness and unwavering support during the two years of our stewardship. I must confess how deeply I have been touched by the massive support, encouragement and inspirations I have enjoyed from our members, and that is why, today, I have come to say, THANK YOU.

Prior to the advent of this administration, and the events leading to the elections of 2018, we fought dirty, and as adversaries, we survived more in antagonism and hence, the palpable fear of total collapse of the love that bond us together as one Heritage Family.

Recall, the various accusations, counter accusations, campaigns of calumny, character assassinations, litigations and the likes that preceded the elections. In the wake of this administration, the obvious challenge that confronted our executive was, accomplishing the impossible task of re-creating a united Heritage Bar family.

To the joy of every member, today, the Heritage Bar is more united than ever. We disagreed to agree, and our disagreement has made us stronger, more respectful of each person’s rights, honour and dignity. That’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. By every measure, today the Heritage Bar is a better, stronger and united branch than it was when we started.

I give special recognition to the positive roles played by the major actors of the election, particularly our co-contestants in the persons of Chief SYZ Orlando, Chief Uzobueze Okolie, my good friends, Robinson Alaekwe, C.C. Muoneke and others who accepted to corroborate our effort in moving the branch forward. I thank them for exhibiting maturity and understanding, that despite our outward differences, we are all in this together, to create the Heritage Bar of our dream.

It is my time to thank you for the understanding, that only if all of us, regardless of our political affiliation, differences or particular interest, joined this executive team in restoring the sense of common purpose, which we so much enjoy right now within the branch. That is what I want to focus now; the gains and lapses of our administration.

Achievements

Every leadership is lauded for its achievements or criticized for the shortcomings of its administration, and ours, is not an exception. In my election manifesto, I once pleaded with you to hold me by my words and promises, some of which, this administration have accomplished. And for the unfulfilled promises, I sincerely own up for the lapses.
This administration from the go, inclined towards running a participatory, all inclusive and responsive government.

The first assignment, I and my team embarked upon, was to reconcile all warring factions and bring everybody on board, realising that we will rise or fall as one. Many contact visits were made, which enhanced idea exchange, and has moved us forward. Merit rather than loyalty formed the basis of the composition of the various committees which was manifestly encompassing.

We were vigorous in our pursuit of membership drive, which has undoubtedly yielded the desired dividends. The Heritage Bar has continued to grow in terms of number of membership. The increase in the number of our colleagues joining from Ikeja and other branches was phenomenal. Many aggrieved members were also visited.

Yes, our progress has been uneven, the task of leadership has been hard, contentious and sometimes very challenging. At inception, lack of finance posed the greatest challenge that confronted this administration almost to a breaking point. In those trying moments of our administration, I have learnt that change is possible when we all get involved, get engaged and come together to demand for it.

The rebranding of the Heritage Bar agenda started with the successful refurbishment of the Heritage Bar Bus, (The Only Son) which was made possible by the involvement of every one of you. Your generous support, encouragement and kind advice are what has kept me inspired and going. Indeed, you made of us, a more determined executive team, better leaders and persons.

Other aspect of our administration’s rebranding agenda is, ensuring active participation and/or partnership with the State/Local Governments and other NBA branches. It is not surprising that our branch with Ikorodu branch were rated the most active in the area of Magistrates’ visits to Police Stations under PDSC, received award of recognition from the former Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke among other encomiums.

This Executive is determined in its drive to ensure financial prudency and accountability in managing the finance of this great branch. Part of the measures we took, was to minimise cash payments, and ensure that all payments are made into the branch account. I am proud to announce that we have achieved 98% compliance in the above regard, which has made it easy to render periodic financial accounts. I am proud that this administration will bequeath to the incoming executive enough fund to make a smooth take off and onward progression.

This executive has adhered to strict financial discipline in spending. I must give kudos to the members of my executive and our statutory NEC members who have sacrificed so much on the altar of financial prudency. You have all truly demonstrated true patriotism to the noble cause of building a Heritage Bar of our dream.

This administration accords members’ welfare a priority attention. Our achievements in the above area speaks volume of the high esteem, to which we hold the interest of our members. And to ensure that this is sustained after the tenure of this present executive, this administration introduced the special welfare fund solely established to carter for the general and individual welfare of our members.

Our once abandoned Bar centre is today a place of relaxation and comfort for our members. All the necessary facilities have been provided to serve the comfort of the members. We have also taken further steps to make the Bar Centre more vibrant and a research centre by stocking the centre with five years Weekly Law Reports from January 2016 to December 2020, and other important Law Books including the Laws of Federation and all courts’ Rules at a cost a little below a million naira.

In this era of Covid-19 pandemic, the administration deemed it necessary to undertake provision of palliative/welfare packages for 103 of its members and also ensured that the Friends of Akpata welfare package was delivered to the beneficiaries at zero cost.

As a responsive administration, we have excelled in the area of prompt service delivery. This includes, delivery of stamp and seal to members timeously, free transportation to Congresses and other important events, massive attendance to members’ invitations such as, wedding ceremonies and funerals events, among other things. Presently, we have taken every necessary step to ensure that our departed Colleague, Chukwudi Raphael Nwodika family receives his NBA life insurance benefits with full assurances from the national body.

We have also stood for our members facing one challenge or the other ranging from assaults from law enforcement agencies. It will be very unkind of me if I fail to salute all our members who contributed financially or participated in the burial of our learned Colleague, Peter Rokosu and Chief Akilaja appeal fund. I am very proud of you all. The list of our welfarist program goes on.

The 2020 Law Week program was one of the defining moments of our history that should not be forgotten in a hurry despite the challenges of being held simultaneously with the National Executive Council meeting of our mother union. The glamour, the pageantry and publicity was second to none. An event that enjoyed such wide coverage in our popular national dailies as the Daily Sun, Vanguard, Tribune, Guardian Newspapers as well as a number of television stations is, to all standard successful. The introduction of Church/Jumat Services, probono services among others are novel.

The production of Heritage Bar Directory and Diary is another landmark achievement of this administration, which we are following up with the ongoing creation of the Heritage Bar Website, a work in progress.
The conducive and cordial relationship between the Bar and the Bench throughout our tenure is another milestone record for this administration.

This has helped to reduce the harassment and intimidation of lawyers by the members of the bench who see the Bar as a co-player in the judiciary team, thereby taming the tide of unnecessary and frivolous petitions. It is pertinent at this juncture, to thank the members of the Bench of the Badagry Judicial Division for their massive support and encouragement.
Adequate attention was paid to the Young Lawyers Forum of the branch, who hosted the best ever young lawyers’ program in the history of our branch. I salute the leaders of the Young Lawyers Forum for their efforts.
Let me say that, this administration has done its best in the fight to weed the profession of quacks and corruption, though our best may not be enough to confront these two ugly monsters that have wrecked the soul of our legal profession.

There is a second threat to our profession, disregard to the legal tradition of seniority at the Bar, a tradition as old as the profession itself. After our election, we made every effort to restore this age long tradition of respect for seniors by first, according the seniors reserved seats at our monthly congresses among other privileges. But for all the real progress we have made, we know it is not enough.

Unfulfilled Promises

It will not be fair to end my address without making references to a few of my campaign promises which we were unable to accomplish. This has got to do with the issue of Lawyers Remuneration and Lawyers Estate. We have developed a clear roadmap in the pursuit of the two objectives, made honest and conscious effort to get these targets over the line, but lack of good choice of site, and the terror of Covid-19 pandemic constituted a clog in the wheel of our success. We hope and pray that our successors should see these areas as part of their agenda. We will give everything to ensure that these targets are achieved.

It will be very fair to accept criticisms, which obviously will follow normal course of events, especially, where electoral promises are not fulfilled. Thank you for those times, you helped us in the tasks we weren’t able to do, and/or on time. You not only remind us of our campaign promises but kept us on our toes. It will be difficult to fill the void created by your absence.

Appreciation

There is time for everything, and it is our time to say Thank you to the leaders of the Heritage Bar who believed in us, stood with us and inspired us to be whom we are today. We say thank you to all, and in particular, Chris Okoye, Bode Oyeyemi, Oludare Fasea, J. K. Kiki and other leaders of our branch, to mention but a few. The knowledge that you shared with us and the learning you brought cannot be compared with anything. You have been true and amazing leaders to us.

Thank you so much for everything.

We are, and shall remain proud of the leaders and members of the various committees whose leadership performances always made our work easy. The monthly targets and performances which you achieved under our tenure were amazing. You have indeed set the standard to another level in Heritage Bar. Thank you to Mrs. Gladys Egbe, Nkoli Ezemba, M. A. Sodipo, Dr. O.G. Agidi, A. R. Omuviwe, Robinson Alaekwe, Gabriel Tinka, S.A. Toyi and Emeka Orafu for piloting the affairs of Human Rights, Disciplinary, Bar Directory, Bar/Bench/Judiciary, Bar/Police, Anti-corruption/Fake Lawyer, Lands, YLF and Law week Committees respectively.

We say thank you to all of us for donating generously towards all our accomplishments, some of you have contributed to this great family personally, as well as inspired others to make the difference. The standing financial contributions of one of our patrons Uzoma Unegbu, Dr. O. G. Agidi, P.C.P Ezeani, Emeka Orafu and others deserve special commendation. You have all helped us to achieve our milestones and your contributions and dedication will always be a prime example for others.

We are immensely indebted to the 2020 electoral Committee members for their dedication and commitment in ensuring the conduct of a peaceful, fair and credible elections. May God bless you.

Conclusion

I doff my cap to all the members of this executive team who have laboured night and day to keep the administration running. I would like to thank each of you for every experience shared, friendship made and the good times we had together. I would like all of you to know that working alongside you was very rewarding and I really appreciate all the help you have extended to me through tough and challenging times. It makes me wish that I had the chance to work with you more.

Words are not enough to express my gratitude but I pray that one day our paths can cross again in future.

Thank you all, while we will no longer serve you in our various leadership capacities henceforth, let’s keep working on our friendship and pray for God’s guidance and protection in this era of Covid-19 pandemic. God bless you as we strive to keep safe.

Mr. Chigbo Okafor
Chairman


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