The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, NBA, Uyo Branch Ememobong Nicholas Udoh, Esq., led other Executive Committee members and Elders of the Branch on a courtesy visit to the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, Uko Essien Udom, SAN.
The meeting which took place at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Justice Headquarters on Tuesday, 10th August, 2021, also had in attendance the Solicitor General & Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Directors of Public Prosecution, Civil Litigation, and Sexual & Gender based Violence Response Department, in the Ministry of Justice, respectively; and the Principal State Counsel in the office of the Attorney General.
In his address during the visit, the Chairman of NBA, Uyo Branch stated the purpose of the visit to include introduction of the new leadership of the Branch to the Attorney General and interaction on issues relevant to the Uyo Bar, rule of law and Justice delivery in the State. The Chairman thanked the Honourable Attorney General for the audience and congratulated him on his appointment, describing his proactive leadership style and innovations since he assumed office as commendable.
The Chairman identified the cardinal areas of focus of his administration bordering on the administration of justice in the State, amongst others, and succinctly made a case for the following:
- Full implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in the State, describing the delay in the implementation of the law as falling short of the usual standards of speed, foresight and proactive zest which Acts of the Federal Parliament have been domesticated and implemented in the State to aid in the speedy dispensation of Criminal Justice;
- Amendment of Akwa Ibom State Customary Court Law to allow for the representation of litigants by qualified Legal Practitioners;
- The establishment of Customary Court of Appeal in Akwa Ibom State to decongest the State High Courts and ensure speedy dispensation of justice;
- The establishment of a Court of Appeal Division in Akwa Ibom State, owing to the deplorable condition of Calabar-Itu Federal Highway and the fact that the avalanche of cases pending at the Court of Appeal Division in Calabar emanates from Akwa Ibom State;
- Online publication of the Laws of Akwa Ibom State to aid students, lawyers, Magistrates, Judges and the general public in legal research and documentation;
- Improving the welfare of lawyers through sponsorship to conferences, capacity building trainings in areas of law such as Maritime, Aviation, Oil and Gas, Energy, Taxation and other emerging areas;
- Recruitment of lawyers into Ministries, Departments, Agencies of Government and into the 31 Local Government Councils in the State to unburden the Ministry of Justice, while ensuring employment, especially for the new wigs;
- Completion of the Uyo Bar Secretariat project under the tenure of the Attorney General, amongst other requests.
On his part, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice thanked the Executive Committee for the visit and congratulated them on their emergence as the newly elected officers of Uyo Bar, noting that the new Exco is made up of very young and vibrant colleagues who would conduct the affairs of Uyo Bar vigorously.
In his response to the issues raised, the Learned Attorney General responded thus:
- That he was liaising with the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and State Government to ensure a speedy implementation of the ACJL;
- He confirmed that the Akwa Ibom State Customary Court Laws had been amended and is awaiting Governor’s assent and assured the Bar that same will be signed into law;
- That the importance of having a Court of Appeal Division in Akwa Ibom State cannot be over emphasised, adding that it was capital intensive to always bring the Justices of the Court of Appeal to sit on temporal basis in Uyo. He suggested an interface of the Bar with the Justices during their conference slated to hold in Uyo in September 2021, to press home this demand;
- That the structures earlier built for the Customary Court of Appeal in Akwa Ibom State were abandoned, adding that though being a project that should be funded by the federal government, that he made a proposal to the State Government to assist in actualising this project;
- That the Laws of Akwa Ibom State were last amended in the year 2000, adding that he was consulting with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the Laws of Akwa Ibom State are reviewed, codified and published online;
- That he was particular about the welfare of lawyers, especially the young lawyers, and promised to host a social outing with senior lawyers in the Bar to address the concerns of welfare of young lawyers;
- He promised to give the Bar the necessary assistance to actualise the completion of the Uyo Bar Secretariat;
- In conclusion, the Learned Attorney General thanked the Bar immensely for the visit and promised to work closely with the Bar to actualise all the concerns raised.
Ekpa B. Ekpa, Esq. and Ekanem Ekanem, Esq., on behalf of the Elders of the Bar, in their respective reactions, added credence to the demands of the Bar and thanked the Honourable Attorney General in anticipation of partnering with the Bar to achieved the various concerns raised.
At the end, the Chairman of the Bar presented the Bill of Quantity for the Uyo Bar Secretariat to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Bar, Iniobong Isaac Udoh, Esq., gave a vote of thanks.
Report by NBA Uyo Branch Publicity Secretary Udeme Rivers.