Mixed reactions on Friday trailed payment of 10 per cent of the Bar Practice Fees (BPF)of members to ameliorate the economic hardship brought by the lockdown to contain the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the NBA President, Paul Usoro, in a statement issued on April 15 titled “COVID-19 Pandemic– Release III” announced release of the 10 per cent fees.
He also announced the setting up of a “blue ribbon” welfare committee with mandate to raise funds for the benefit of vulnerable members and worst hit by the economic situation.
The President had added that entitlement to the funds would be based on member’s up-to-date payment of financial dues, as the 10 per cent remittance was made possible by diligence in living up to financial obligations to the association.
Reacting to the remittance, Chairman of the Lagos Branch of the NBA, Mr Yemi Akangbe, expressed joy that the remittance came at the right time.
“The NBA remits 10 per cent of Bar Practicing fees paid by members of the Branch to the Branch annually. This is provided for by the constitution of the NBA.
“It is a good thing that the money has been released early this year. However, I believe each Branch Chairman has the discretion to determine how best to use the funds remitted.
“I am however, grateful to our ever responsive President for the timeous remittance,” he said
Meanwhile, a Lagos rights campaigner, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, who commended the move, believed that the remittance was meagre.
He said:”It is welcoming but a far cry from what is needed considering all the dues collected from lawyers over the years, and I dare say that 70 per cent would have been ideal.
“I have been practicing law for over two decades now and have been religiously paying my dues without default, so the remittance is insufficient,” he said
On his part, Chairman of the Ikorodu Branch of the NBA, Mr Bayo Akinlade, also commended the remittance, indicating that the Ikorudu branch had received its share.
He, however, queried the setting up of a welfare account.
“As the letter stated, the national body is setting up a special welfare account for Lawyers affected by COVID-19 and asking lawyers to contribute to it.
“My opinion is that the national should have just focused on the most vulnerable branches in this regard and encourage the bigger branches to spread their resources statewide.
“This would be a most effective way of reaching to the grassroot lawyers using the branches and forums as an identifying and distribution mechanism,” he said
On his part, a member of the Lagos branch of the NBA, Mr Micheal Dugeri, described the remittance as belated and low.
“Not only is the remittance belated, it is also too meagre in this very trying moment of our lives.
“It must be noted that the statement did not make clear whether the 10 per cent being released to the NBA branches is in addition to the 10 per cent that the branches are originally entitled to.
“In the absence of such clarity, one is inclined to ask, where then lies the “assistance?
“It is also discouraging to hear the NBA’s view of setting up a blue ribbon welfare committee, nearly two full months into a pandemic that has already taken a crushing toll on the livelihood of countless lawyers,” he said
In the same vein, a former Ikorodu branch Chairman of the NBA, Mr Dotun Adetunji, said:”There has been widespread condemnation of the remittance.
“I can tell you as a matter of confirmation that this remittance is originally what is due to the branches; the only difference is that it came earlier than before.
“It is painful because a lot of lawyers are not working presently and just this 10 per cent is not good enough; we urge the president to come up with better measure of pallative,” he said.(NAN)