Aniekan Akpan Welcome Address At EBF Quarterly Meeting In Enugu March 23 2024.

WELCOME REMARKS/ADDRESS from the Governor of Eastern Bar Forum, Aniekan Akpan, Esq., at the EBF Quarterly Meeting held on Saturday, March 23, 2024 at Golden Royale Hotel, Enugu.

Dear Esteemed Delegates, distinguished guests, Ndi Enugu, Ladies and gentlemen, t is with great honour and privilege that I extend a warm welcome to each one of you gathered here today at the banquet hall of Golden Royale Hotel, in the Coal city of Enugu for our first Quarterly Meeting in the year 2024.
Enugu State holds a special significance for the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) as a regional body of lawyers, being a former seat of the government of the old Eastern Region which encompasses all the states in the present South East political zone and four of the six states in the South South region of Nigeria.
Enugu symbolizes the rich cultural and historical heritage that we hold dear, and for many of us, it bears cherished memories and fond thoughts of a glorious past.As the Headquarters of the Eastern Bar Forum, Enugu stands as a beacon of our collective aspirations as easterners in the NBA. It is fitting that this city should serve as the home for our forum’s Secretariat, a testament to its importance in our organizational structure; the reason the founding fathers of the EBF in their wisdom decided, long ago, to site the Secretariat of our Forum here in Enugu, subject of course to the Government and people of Enugu State accepting us and opening their doors to us by granting us space within the city to construct a befitting structure to accommodate us. And why not, if for no other reason, Enugu State is about the only state in Nigeria where the Governor and the deputy Governor are lawyers. It is our belief that in the life time of this administration, this dream will see the light of day.
Let me formally at this juncture, humbly appeal to their Excellencies, the Governor and the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, to help bring these strong desires to fruition by allocating to us a parcel of land within the Enugu metropolis to enable us erect a befitting secretariat here.Dear colleagues, as we gather here today, enjoying the hospitality that Enugu State and her people avail us, it is important that we remember that the world is watching us and the common man on the street across our region, who see us a beacon of hope expects us to deliberate on issues affecting us as a region and take important decisions that will rekindle their hope in this entity called Nigeria. As the foremost regional fora in the NBA, we need to speak in one voice and defend our common heritage, history and aspirations.

FELIX CHUKWUMA ASHIMOLE, Esq., consulting to serve NBA as PUBLICITY SECRETARY 2024-2026.

Today, we cannot ignore the pressing challenges that confront our region; namely the pervasive state of insecurity that has endangered the lives of citizens and that has vitually brought our economy and road travel to a standstill. As lawyers both at the Bar and on the bench we are not spared these harrowing experiences.
Between our last meeting in November 2023 and today, we have lost several colleagues whose promising lives were cut short by both state and non-state actors.
The government appears helpless and rudderless in the face of this daunting insecurity and state of lawlessness. Chief Jude Oguejior, our colleague based in Newi, Anambra State was kidnapped alongside his brother, a medical doctor when gunmen were said to have invaded his home in Orsumogu community in Ihiala Local Government Area, while his younger brother was rele sed, our colleague unfortunately was brutally murdered.
While we were yet to recover from the sad news of the brutal murder of Jude Oguejior of Counsel, another colleague, Victor Onwubiko was killed along Okigwe/Uturu road on Saturday, February 10, 2024, during a kidnapping incident by unknown gunmen in Imo State, while returning to Abia State University, Uturu, where he resided. Also, some days back, another colleague and member of the Nsukka branch of our noble association, Elias Ugwu was killed in Anyigba, Kogi State by policemen, while he was in the state to pay Ransom for his cousin who was kidnapped earlier. The Kogi State Command of the Nigerian Police in a press statement issued by its Public Relations Officer, SP. Williams Anya, has admitted complicity in the murder of our dear colleague, throwing us and his loved ones into a state of mourning.
In the month of December, 2023, Hon. Justice Joy Unwana of the High Court of Akwa Ibom State and her driver were kidnapped by gunmen while returning from work.
Unfortunately her police orderly tragically lost his life during this heinous incident. She was in the kidnapper’s den for almost a week before she was released. Till date, the culprits have not been brought to book. Such brazen attack on the judiciary strikes at the heart of our justice system, undermining the rule of law and threatening the safety of those entrusted with upholding it.
This is totally unacceptable and our security agencies must live up the demands of their calling. The Nigerian government at all levels must fund and equip them to fight and surmount these security challenges, not only in our region, but Nigeria as a whole. We call on law enforcement agencies to intensify efforts in protecting lives and property of the Nigerian citizens, bring the killers of our dear colleagues and other culprits to justice and prevent further attacks on our legal professionals.
In addition to the pressing issue of insecurity in our region, I must also draw our collective attention to the dire economic challenges facing our beloved nation.
The skyrocketing cost of living in Nigeria, coupled with the free fall of the Naira, paints a bleak picture for our fellow citizens. While the common man grapples with poverty and hardship, the political class shamelessly flaunts affluence and indulges in vulgar displays of wealth, acquired through primitive accumulation, in the most insensitive way.
It is disheartening to witness the glaring disparities in our society, where the gap between the privileged few and the struggling masses widens with each passing day.
Governments at all levels appear helpless and rudderless in the face of this economic quagmire, failing to implement meaningful policies that address the root causes of multidimensional poverty and inequality.
As members of the legal profession, we have a moral obligation to speak out against injustice and advocate for the rights of all Nigerians. We must use our platform and expertise to hold the government accountable for its actions and demand transparency, accountability, and effective governance.
In holding our elected representatives accountable, demanding good governance at all levels, we must do this responsibly, based on verifiable facts and devoid of malice, ethnic biases, mischief, sectionalism or sensationalism.
We must always stand to protect our democratic institutions as the bedrock of our constitutional democracy on the principle of shared prosperity, with no region or bloc made to feel subservient.
In the light of these challenges, it is imperative that we come together as a united front standing in solidarity to address the issues that threaten our profession and our region.
Let us engage in constructive dialogue and collaboration as we seek solutions to the pressing issues facing us.

Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN (in white) with Tochukwu Maduka, SAN(LOC Chairman of EBF Quarterly Meeting.)

As we prepared for this meeting, news coming out of the Enugu Judiciary tending to suggest the application of a new and strange qualification for the practice of law, reached us.
The directive was restrictive in nature and a most unwelcome invasion of our practice space. It was not only in violent conflict with the Legal Practitioners Act, It was also a frontal attack on vested constitutional rights both of Legal Practitioners and of the litigating public. We will spare further comments on this because of assurances we are privy to that the issue is being redressed.
We hope this is so if for nothing else, to avoid a threat to the cordial relationship between the Bar and the Bench. I must commend the Judiciary in the state for letting the voice of reason prevail.
It will be uncharitable, if I allow these myriads of challenges take away my sense of appreciation by failing to commend the Government and People of Enugu State for their support in hosting this meeting.
I specially thank the Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Dr. Peter Mbah who is also a member of this forum for accepting to host us and providing an enabling and convivial environment for this meeting.
I also thank His Excellency, the Deputy Governor for his support to the LOC. We equally express appreciation to all our colleagues in government who have done so well to facilitate the hosting of this meeting in the coal city.
I specially thank the Chief Judge of Enugu State, the Honourable Justice Raymond Ozoemena, and My Lord the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, a quintessential Barman, even on the bench, the Honourable Justice G. C. Nnamani, judges of Enugu State Judiciary and finally, the Chairmen and members of all the branches of the Nigeria Bar Association in Enugu State.
At this meeting we will, inter alia, set up the structures of our Forum and refocus and retool ourselves to deliver on the goals we set for ourselves when we took over the mantle of leadership of the Forum a little over 8 months ago. In conclusion, I urge each one of us to actively participate in the deliberations of this meeting as we strive to uphold the principles of justice, integrity, and unity that define the Eastern Bar Forum especially in the buildup to another round of elections in the NBA. As usual, we must put our best foot forward.
Thank you for your attention, and may our gathering be fruitful and impactful.
Long Live the government and people of Enugu State, Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Long Live the Easter Bar Forum!!!

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