History

INTRODUCTION

History has it that prior to the formal establishment of the Nigerian Bar Association in the year 1959 and its concomitant registration in that name, lawyers in major cities of Nigeria had been organizing themselves and holding meetings at regular intervals to deliberate on issues or matters that are of interests to themselves including all other such matters that pertained to practice of law as a profession.

It can be recalled that Ibadan was first among all such major cities in Nigeria to meet as an organized group; hence Ibadan Branch is known and called the “Mother Branch” of the NBA. However, Enugu, Onitsha, Aba and Port Harcourt were the major cities in the Old Eastern Region for the establishment of law practices.

THE PRE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR ERA

Although the specific date of the inaugural meeting of the Branch is unascertainable due to poor data documentation that characterized the time, the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch traces its birth to the 1960s. The birth of the Branch predates the Nigerian Civil War. The pioneer members of the Branch were great lawyers such as Dr. N.B. Graham-Douglas, D.G Douglas, Esq., G.C. Nonyelu, Esq., C.A. Oputa, Esq., A.S. Young-Harry, Esq., N. Nwanodi, Esq., P.O.E. Bassey, Esq., and others who had by the 1960s established thriving and flourishing law practices in the Port Harcourt metropolis.

The cognizable pioneer Chairman of the Branch was Chief A.S Young-Harry of blessed memory while Chief P.O.E. Bassey (who later became the Judge of the Federal High Court of the South Eastern State of Nigeria) was the Secretary of the Branch before the eruption of the crisis that culminated in the Nigerian Civil War. The gathering of members for meetings and other activities of the Bar was truncated by the Nigerian Civil War which marked a period of interregnum in the annals of the history of the Branch.

THE POST NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR ERA

In or about the year 1970 following the end of the Nigerian Civil War, the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch was reconstituted by the lawyers who survived the War and returned to Port Harcourt to re-establish their law practices. The cognizable members of the Branch at the time were Chief A.S Young-Harry, D.G Douglas (who later became the Honourable Justice Donald Graham Douglas), Chief I.A. Idamiebi-Brown, Chief N. Nwanodi (who later became SAN), Chief M.V.O. Allagoa, Chief R.W. Woyike, Chief Clifford Ibim, R. Assisi Bellgam, Esq., J.A. Fiberesima, Esq., (who later became the Honourable Justice J.A Fiberesima upon his elevation to the Bench as the Judge of the Federal High Court, i.e the Federal Revenue Court as at then), Chief B.G Whyte (who later became the Honourable Justice B. Gabriel Whyte), Chief Gbene Dr. C.N. Nunieh, Chief S.E. Asuk, Chief Ruskin Jamabo, Chief D.S. George, Chief Hebron George(who later became the Honourable Justice Hebron George) and a few others.

Chief A.S. Young-Harry was still the Chairman of the Branch at its reconstitution after the Civil War while J.A Fiberesima, Esq.succeeded Justice P.O.E Bassey upon his elevation to the Bench. The elevation of Justice J.A Fiberesima to the Bench brought about the election of R.P.G. Okara, Esq (who later became Justice R.P.G. Okara) as the Secretary of the Branch. In the pre-civil War era, the offices of Chairman and Secretary were held in perpetuity as elections were seldomly held except in the occurrence of vacancy in any of the offices.

In 1970, the number of members of the Branch was under 20 (Twenty) including the Official Bar. This historical fact can be evidenced in a group photograph taken by all the lawyers in Port Harcourt, including the State Counsel, the Magistrates and the Judges of the High Court with the then retiring Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Adetokumbo Ademola when he paid a visit to Port Harcourt prior to his retirement. It was in the said 1971 that Kola Babalola, Esq became a member of the branch. However, between 1971 and 1972, the number of members increased tremendously by the arrival of some colleagues such as T.K. Amachree, Esq., Boma Peter-Kio, Esq., B.M Wifa, Esq., C.A.B. Akparanta, Esq., Sotonye Denton-West, Esq. and so on.

In 1979, O.C.J. Okocha, Esq. and later the 19th President of the NBA among others joined the Branch. At that time, Chief M.V.O Allagoa was the Chairman, Orabule Adele, Esq., was the Secretary while S.J. Ofoluwa, Esq. was the Assistant Secretary. Following the appointment of Orabule Adele, Esq. as the Attorney General of Rivers State in or about the year 1985, O.C.J. Okocha,Esq. was co-opted to serve as the AG. Assistant Secretary to S.J. Ofoluwa, Esq. who had then began to act as Secretary of the Branch.

It can be recalled that prior to the election of Chief M.V.O Allagoa as Chairman, the following persons had served as Branch Chairmen, namely:

  • 1. Chief A. S. Young-Harry
  • 2. Chief R.W. Nnwoka

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