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Friday, April 11, 2014

WHY I WANT TO BECOME NBA LAGOS CHAIRMAN – ALEX MUOKA


VOL 13, NO.14  17-06-13

Squib Interview – 17-6-2013


SQUIB: WHO IS ALEX MUOKA?

 

MUOKA: Alex Muoka was born and bred in Lagos. I attended Methodist Boys' High School, Broad Street, Lagos, and the Lagos State University where I graduated with a law degree in 1990. I made a Second Class Upper Degree at the Nigerian Law School, won the 'Company Law and Commercial Practice' prize, and was called to the Bar in 1991. I have a Master of Laws Degree from the University of Lagos. I have been in private legal practice since 1992, and presently run a commercial, intellectual property and litigation law firm.

 

I have been active in the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association for many years, and am currently the Secretary of the Branch, and a Member of the Nigerian Bar Association-National Executive Committee. I am also a Member of the Steering Committee LCF of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, and Treasurer of the Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria.

 

I have held several earlier positions in the Lagos Branch of the NBA, including Secretary of the Branch Building Committee from November 2006 – July 2009, Member of the 2007 NBA-Lagos Branch Law Week Committee, Member of the 2006 NBA-Lagos Branch Law Week Committee, and Ex-Officio Member of the Branch Executive Committee from December 2005 – July 2007.



SQUIB: YOU'VE BEEN THE SCRIBE OF THE NBA LAGOS FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, HOW IS THE EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LEGACY WILL YOU SAY YOU ARE LEAVING BEHIND?

 

MUOKA: It has been an interesting two years. I have had the opportunity of working with a diverse set of people from different backgrounds in the Executive Committee and in the Branch, and it has been an incredible learning experience for me. I introduced some innovations in Branch Secretarial Administration which have been very well received. I changed the format of our Minutes to a more professional and contemporary style, and ensured that minutes are free of typographical and grammatical errors and reflect the discussions and decisions at meetings.

 

I pioneered the use of an electronic mailing platform to send detailed information about activities of the Branch and the National Body, conferences, workshops and other events (as well as non-legal issues of burning national interest) to members via a regular chatty newsletter. This newsletter has been so well received that hundreds of members of the Branch of all ages look forward to receiving and reading it.

 

Partly through my suggestions, the Branch Executive (led by Mr. Taiwo O. Taiwo) has ensured that Branch Meetings are timely – starting at about 1.00 pm or a few minutes thereafter and running for an average of two hours – so that busy lawyers can schedule their calendars and plan to attend. Again, my suggestion drove the holding of two annual black-tie bar dinners in our administration – which were well-attended, and much talked about high-octane events.

 

I have also raised the profile of the office of Branch Secretary to a new height of conscientious respectability.



SQUIB: NBA LAGOS IS PROUDLY KNOWN AS THE "PREMIER BAR", WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE HISTORY DYNAMICS AND PEDIGREE OF YOUR BRANCH?


MUOKA: Lagos is unarguably the cradle of the legal profession in Nigeria. It was the colonial capital and therefore the place where the judiciary and legal profession first took proper roots in Nigeria. The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal were in Lagos. The Federal High Court (then Federal Revenue Court) started here as well. It is not surprising that back then the finest crop of lawyers were to be found in Lagos.

 

The pace of legal practice in Lagos made the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association the most vibrant and progressive Branch. It still is. The Lagos Branch is 'primus inter pares' and this makes it the Premier Branch. It has a history of providing leadership and direction to the other Branches and the National Bar. It is also arguably the largest Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association with a membership of over 3,000 legal practitioners.

 

The Lagos Branch has over the years boasted of the finest and best amongst its members. Lagos has the highest number of Senior Advocates and the majority of them are members of the Premier Branch. It also has the highest number of large commercial firms – whose partners and associates are again members of the Premier Branch. It would interest you to know that the current Governor of Lagos State (and at least one other serving Governor) practised in Lagos and were members of the Premier Branch.




SQUIB: WHY DO YOU WANT TO BECOME THE LEADER OF THE LAGOS BRANCH?


MUOKA: The Premier Branch boasts of over 3,000 members including a large number of senior advocates, senior lawyers, lawyers in large multi-disciplinary practices, lawyers in multinationals and large corporations, and numerous solo-practitioners – with diverse backgrounds, interests and aspirations. I believe that the Branch should continue to show leadership in the quality and commitment of its elected officers. Chairmanship of the Branch is an important office and must not be left to the vagaries of sentiment or parochial considerations. The Branch should ensure that only a charismatic, committed, competent, capable and sincere leader is elected to steer its affairs.

 

The Premier Branch has had a history of very distinguished and capable Branch Chairmen – many of whom are still active in the service of the bar. The quality and cosmopolitan nature of the membership of the Premier Branch has over the years been demonstrated in the pedigree of its elected leaders.

 

I have carefully considered the qualities that should be expected of the chairman of the most powerful and important branch of the Nigerian Bar Association - qualities of leadership, integrity, charisma, erudition, competence, quiet dignity, gentlemanly comportment, a capacity for work, preoccupation with excellence, and an ability to inspire others to action. These are qualities I believe I possess and have demonstrated over the past two years whilst discharging the duties of the very technical office of Branch Secretary. 

 

As an active member of the Branch over many years, I have noted the concerns and complaints of members, and have given very careful consideration to areas of Branch administration where there is room for intervention, improvement and innovation. I have designed a five-point carefully articulated agenda that will address the complaints and concerns, carry the mantle of leadership forward, and transform the Premier Branch to a new level in the areas of leadership, institutional reform, capacity building, welfare, and discipline.

 


SQUIB: IN WHAT WAYS WILL THE LAGOS BAR UNDER YOUR WATCH IMPACT ON THE LAGOS JUDICIARY TO BE MORE USEFUL AND PRODUCTIVE AS AN INSTITUTION?

 

MUOKA: I must say that the Lagos State Judiciary under the current Chief Judge – Hon. Justice A.A. Phillips is being repositioned and strengthened for greater efficiency. And I must commend the laudable steps the Chief Judge is taking to enhance welfare and working conditions of judges, judicial officers and judiciary staff, as well as upgrade the court infrastructure and systems.

 

If elected as Chairman of the Premier Branch, I would seek to forge a closer working relationship between the bar and the bench to build on the gains of the bar-friendly leadership of the Judiciary that we have in place now and address some of the recurring problems that users of the Court system complain about.

 

I must add that the problems go beyond the Lagos State Judiciary. Lagos is also home to the Lagos Divisions of the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, and there is a need to extend the bar-bench forum to these other Court institutions too.


SQUIB: AS A PRACTITIONER DESCRIBE YOUR FIRM AND THE VALUE OF SAME

 

MUOKA: I manage a small five-lawyer firm that does mainly corporate/commercial, transactional and civil litigation work. The firm is blessed with very loyal and hard-working legal and para-legal staff - some of whom have been with the firm for over ten years. My colleagues have been very supportive of my bar activities and have freed me to devote time to the onerous duties of Secretary over the past two years.

 

My firm occupies a spacious office in the business district of Yaba, Lagos (off Commercial Avenue), with a decent modern law-library and IT infrastructure. I love art and my office is a mini-museum with paintings adorning every wall. All told, I would say that we have tried to create a convivial and friendly work environment – where people can learn, work and actualize their aspirations.

 

I consider that the value of the firm is the high quality of the professional service we offer to discerning clients, and our concern with stakeholders. We handle pro-bono cases for indigent people and run a mentoring scheme for law students/ young lawyers.

 


 

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