ONDO GUV’SHIP ELECTION AND KEKEMEKE’S UNHOLY OUTBURST

In this article, ADEBOLA OLAROTIMI LEMA, a former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch and Partner in the Lagos law firm of Fountain Court Partners, tackles frontline politician and former Ondo State Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke over his recent comments on the forthcoming Ondo Governorship Election

A few days ago, a video surfaced on the social media where Hon. D. Isaac Kemekeke, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State and a senior lawyer was talking to some group of persons. In the video, Kemekeke issued threats of giving Ondo State electorate the Yahaya Bello and militant treatments.

The said video was subsequently confirmed by Kemekeke in his response to a genuine concern raised by Her eminence, Moyinoluwa Olubunmi Falowo, the Regent of Ibulesoro, Akure, Ondo State in an open letter to the learned senior lawyer. Kemekeke went ahead to affirm his ‘militant treatment’ prescription but was silent on the ‘Yahaya Bello treatment.’

For those who haven’t watched the video or non-Yoruba speaking persons who may have seen the video, Hon. Isaac Kekemeke mentioned ‘Idajo’ (a moniker for Ondo State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers), Bayo Igbira and Amoda. My interactions with members of the public on the relevance of the above-mentioned persons revealed they are non-state actors and or politicians who may have tendencies to disrupt electioneering campaigns and elections. 

Kekemeke went ahead to mention ‘Federal might,’ a reference to the use of the various security apparatus of the Federal Government to intimidate the electorate of Ondo State during the election. He stated that Eyitayo Jegede, SAN the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has been raving that his posters have been defaced, and that he hasn’t seen anything yet! He also said that he is a militant, and that none of the candidates in the upcoming election can withstand and or talk to Yahaya Bello, the Kogi State Governor whose election in November, 2019 was characterized by violence and deaths.

There is no doubt that the sole intent of the video is to overawe and instill fear in the hearts and minds of the Ondo electorate as they approach the Gubernatorial Election scheduled for 10th October, 2020. The inescapable conclusion of any discerning viewer of the video is the suggestion of deployment of violence to foment trouble, destabilize and intimidate the electorate during the elections.      

I believe that a senior lawyer like Kemekeke ought not to make inciting comments at all, how much more in public. Furthermore, a lawyer is under obligation among other things ‘to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.’ The above are the exact words of Rule 1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners issued by the Attorney General of the Federation and Chairman of the General Council of the Bar pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA). 

Hon. D. Isaac Kekekmeke, Esq is a senior lawyer, a former Attorney General of Ondo State and Commissioner for Justice; a former Commissioner for Lands; an elder in the State and a leader in his own right. 

I am well aware that Hon. D. Isaac Kekekmeke did express his intention to be Governor of Ondo State in the last Gubernatorial primaries of one of the political parties and lost. May be his loss is not unconnected to his inability to bridle his tongue, as the Holy Writ admonishes. Who knows?

Let me digress a little by going historical. I have known the senior lawyer for over three decades while living at Chief Aworunse’s House (down) Irewole Street, Okitipupa, Ondo State and I was endeared to him then as a young school leaver by the fact that he was a gentle and humble lawyer. Amongst his contemporaries then were Chief Olusola Oke SAN; Chief Olajide Ajana, SAN; Honourable Justice Fola Adeyeye; Honourable Justice Peter Ikujuni; Apostle O. B. Tobase; late Ade Ayeomoni etc.  Subsequently, I became a classmate to his younger sister at Mr. Goma’s lesson in 1993 when I was preparing for Joint Admission and Matriculation Board JAMB examination.

Fast forward to 2002 while doing my Court and Chambers attachments at the High Court of Ondo State in Akure (the Court and Chambers attachments being prerequisite for the award of the Bachelor of Laws (BL) Certificate by the Nigerian Law School) where he had his office at Toyin Bookshop. I was opportuned to visit his law firm before I concluded the said Court and Chambers attachment.

All my respect and regards for Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke, over the years were deflated and lost the day I watched the video where he threatened the entire people of Ondo State with the Yahaya Bello’s treatment and militant attack.

It may be that Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke has lost sight of the circumstances surrounding the General Elections in 2015 where an incumbent President with the enormous powers at his disposal was defeated in the first of its kind in Nigeria’s history as a nation. The then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan even congratulated the winner before the final results were declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) thereby laying a foundation for the country to accept defeat where necessary and avoid overheating the polity. It also earned the former President accolades around the world. Again, in 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde defeated an incumbent party in Oyo State to emerge as the Governor of the State. Other states in the country where the incumbent Governors were defeated are Adamawa and Bauchi States and the people in the said states were not given Yahaya Bello or Militant treatments.

The lessons in the above instances are that incumbency without more is nothing. What helps the incumbents is the opportunity to affect the lives of the people while in power. Democracy is as good and efficient in that it makes election a recurrent activity, such that no matter how powerful a Governor, a President or a Legislator is a day will come – at least once in 4 years – when he or she will go before the electorate to seek for their votes; and no power on earth, not even the power of guns, artilleries and mortars could prevent the electorate from exercising their right to choose who they want.

If Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke’s party has not done what it ought to do in the last 42 months or he has lost record of what the party has done I will like to encourage him to go back to the drawing board and take an inventory of what its party has done and start mentioning them one after the other so the people who sit in judgement on election day may consider his political party or reject it. However, elections are not won on threat of violence or militancy and I believe the lesson of 2007 Ondo State General Election which PDP lost to the Labour Party will serve as a lesson here. I am sure Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke knows what I am saying, because he was a senior member of late Dr. Olusegun Kokumo Agagu’s administration which the Court of Appeal sacked on 24th February, 2009 as a result of the challenge by the Labour Party led by Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko.      

The question that will agitate the minds of all the indigenes of Ondo State and their friends across the country is: What will be the gain of our leader if his militants and militia men kill or maim indigenes of Ondo State?  Whether in the interim or in the long run, there will be no gain, learned senior. History is not nice to anyone who intimidates others with powers that God gave to them. Even Paul, the Apostle, regretted his actions in the death of Apostle Stephen. He said in his epistle to the people of Ephesus in Ephesians 2: 8-9, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith, and not of yourselves, It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast’.

Let me use this opportunity to remind the learned senior lawyer that he owes the legal profession and some of us his juniors and admirers a lot of explanations on the said video. Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke has stylishly in his response to the Regent said Eyitayo Jegede, SAN will not be harmed by him as he has no capacity to harm him neither will he be visited with Yahaya Bello’s or militant treatment. I am of the opinion that it is not only the candidates that should be assured of safety; all the indigenes of the State need the assurance that no harm will come to them. As postulated earlier, the learned senior lawyer has a duty not to engage in any act unbecoming of a legal practitioner, which duty he must observe at all times. Let me also remind him that the infractions for which the former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Andoanka, SAN was derobed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria was not far from what Kekemeke exhibited in the uncontrolled statements made in the video. The earlier he retraces his steps, the better.

I will implore our leader and self-acclaimed ‘militant’ to read again ‘The Casualties’ by Professor J. P. Clark. Two lines in the poem read as follows; ‘The casualties are not only those who started a fire and now can’t put out. The casualties are many and a good number as well outside the scenes of ravage and wreck’. Professor J. P. Clark captured the above lines succinctly and the lines perfectly fit the situation on ground. The indigenes of the State who are to be given the Yahaya Bello’s treatment are our brothers and sisters, our fathers and our mothers, our friends and our colleagues, our nieces and our nephews, our cousins and our neighbours, our uncles and our aunties, our children and our siblings, our teachers and the civil servants, our farmers and students, our okada riders and our drivers, our unemployed out-of-school indigenes of the state and those who have been laid off from their jobs by several circumstances beyond their control. The people who are meting out the treatments on the other hand may be indigenes of the State who have sold their hearts to the devil or those from other States in Nigeria. 

During the 1983 General Election in Ondo State I was 10 years old then and I witnessed how an NPN leader threatened my father with his pistol which the NPN Government had procured for its leaders; 37 years afterwards that incident hasn’t left my mind – it has become worse now.

I believe the best a senior lawyer and a committed party member ought to do to support his political party is to campaign on the amenities that his party has done in the last 4 years but to threaten violence on the electorate is disastrous and below the expectation of the revered senior lawyer and leader. What happened in 1983 was a spontaneous reaction to similar indiscriminate statements by political leaders.

Again in 2007, the ‘Owo Agbara’ and ‘Wogba Wegba’ – which literarily means ‘the Hand of Power’ and ‘By Force by Crook’ – mentality of the PDP and Labor Party led to the highjack of ballot boxes using military men and securities agencies. This caused a lot of havoc to the psyche of Ondo State people. The end-result was the sacking of the PDP Government.

Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke should speedily retrace his steps and seek genuine forgiveness to avoid the curse of the people of Ondo State. He should not be fooled that the incumbent Governor of the State will hand over power to him in February, 2025. I am a student of political history and those who lead and or rule this country are chosen by God and not by overzealousness which your statement and body language depict. 

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was not ready to be Head of State in 1976 when Murtala Mohammed was assassinated. Neither was he ready to lead in 1998 when he was released from prison by the Abdusalami Abubakar Government.

Remember that the late Abubakar Audu was already a winner of the Gubernatorial election in Kogi State in 2016 when death came calling at 4: 30 am. Also recall that his running mate, Hon. James Faleke lost out, even though he challenged his loss from the Federal High Court through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

I learnt too that Olagunsoye Oyinlola was only interested in becoming a Senator in Osun State before a party leader in PDP allegedly told him that if he had N20 Million Naira to pursue his campaign he would become the Governor of the State.

Mr. Dapo Abiodun, Governor of Ogun State was not a longstanding member of his party before he became the gubernatorial candidate. Mind you, the initial primaries that produced the likes of Babajide Sanwoolu in Lagos and Adebayo Adelabu in Oyo State also produced Mr. Adekunle Akinlade in Ogun State. But because the powers brokers spurned Akinlade due to his closeness to the former Governor of the State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, another gubernatorial primaries was ordered. Abiodun won and the rest is history.

In the final analysis, I call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari to urgently call Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke to order and preserve the people of Ondo State. I also call on both the Director General and Ondo State Director of the Department of State Service, the Inspector General of Police, and the Ondo State Commissioner of Police to immediately invite Hon. Isaac Kekemeke for questioning.

I call on the well-meaning indigenes and leaders of thought in Ondo State – and by extension lovers of the State across the country – to prevail on the relevant agencies of government to do their work in this regard.

I call on Civil Society Groups in Ondo State and Nigerian at large to stand up to Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke and his goons who are apparently planning to foment violence on the people of Ondo State in the October 2020 Governorship Election to retrace their steps and embrace peace.

I call on all our traditional rulers – Obas and Chiefs in Ondo State and Nigerian at large – to call Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke to order and impress on him the urgent need to embrace peace and desist from threatening violence on the people of Ondo State.

I call on our religious leaders in Ondo State and Nigeria at large to appeal to Hon. D. Isaac Kekemeke not to foment violence with any militia. I call on the Body of Benchers, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to immediately commence a disciplinary action against Hon. Isaac Kekemeke to serve as deterrence to others.

May I also call on the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, a legal luminary and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), to immediately intervene and call Hon. Isaac Kekemeke to order. If after 3 years and six months in office as Governor of the State members of your party do not have tangible dividends of democracy to convince their followers to support their political party, it does speak volume either they are inept or they are out to cause embarrassment to the ruling government. 

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‘MY STEWARDSHIP AS NBA PRESIDENT,’ BY USORO

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

In what may pass as a self-assessment of his legacy as the 29th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), MR. PAUL USORO SAN went down memory lane in an address to the association’s Annual General Meeting and scored his administration highly on several fronts.

Below is the full text of the address at the virtual meeting of the association held yesterday.

Address by NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN) Delivered at the 2020 Virtual Annual General

My Distinguished Colleagues

1. Introduction

1.1 It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this 2020 Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) of our great Association. We thank the Almighty for today and for life. This AGM meeting is significant in many respects. To start with, this is our first-ever virtual NEC meeting, no thanks to the dreaded COVID-19 and it comes at the heels of our first-ever and most successful virtual Annual General Conference.

The 2020 Annual General Conference which also marked our 60th Anniversary of Conferencing had 25,544 registered attendees, 23,878 unique visitors with 222,906 page views. An uncountable global audience watched the Conference proceedings on Channels and CNBC Africa television channels. Our Branches were also inventive in taking the Conference literally to the grassroots: viewing centers were created for our members and other attendees.

1.2 In one sense, I can say that this is a welcome development because it affirms our transmutation, as an Association into the technology age where Conferences and meetings can be held despite our being in disparate locations and places. In these days that social distancing has not only joined our lexicon but is now the norm, it is gratifying and heartwarming that we could still hold our meetings and Conferences, whether General Meetings, NEC, or Committee meetings, without regard to the physical distance between our members. From that perspective, our 2020 AGM, just like our AGC signifies our triumph over COVID-19.

1.3 However, from a different perspective, most, if not all of us, miss the physical and social bonding and camaraderie that traditionally accompanies our AGC and AGMs. I recall with nostalgia, our 2019 AGC and AGM that was held in Lagos, with a record attendance of 12,000 delegates. That was a great moment to renew friendships and indeed build fresh relationships I particularly feel deprived of our usual physical and social bonding during our AGCs and AGMs given the fact that this would be the last AGC and AGM that I would be privileged to preside as your NBA President. My tenure as we are all aware comes to an end at the end of this meeting with the swearing-in of the incoming administration. I would have loved that we had this last Conference and General Meeting physically together and enjoy each other’s company and banters either in our brand-new Secretariat or in Port Harcourt where we had planned to host our AGC. Alas, that could not happen, given the pervading COVID-19 pandemic.

1.4 We must however thank God for His mercies and for life, for, as the graffiti on the back of our lorries reads, “many have gone”. During this interregnum, a number of our colleagues, both on the Bench and in the Bar have passed on. These include such eminent personages like Honorable (Dr.) Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte CFR, CON, retired Justice of the Supreme Court and mentor and role model to a number of us, Chief M A Ajomale, past Chairman of the Body of Benchers and Life Bencher, urbane gentleman and active and consistent Barman, Alhaji AGF Abdulrazak, SAN another past Chairman of the Body of Benchers and Life Bencher and one of the first, if not the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Northern Nigeria, my classmate, friend and renowned jurist, Honorable Justice Nonyerem Okoronkwo, JCA who will be committed to mother earth today, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, Life Bencher and another active and committed Barman, Honorable Justice Nasiru Ajanah, the Chief Judge of Kogi State and past Chairman of Okene Branch, Honorable Justice Jude Okeke, Judge of the Federal Capital Territory Judiciary and past Chairman of Abuja Branch. 1.5 There are sadly many more of our colleagues who passed on at this time. Not all were COVID-related passages; some passed on from old age and other ailments and we thank God for their lives. Others were cut down, some in their prime, by the devastating COVID-19. As at date, Nigeria has recorded 985 deaths from this dreaded Pandemic. We pray for the peaceful repose of all lives lost whether from COVID-19 or any other ailment or circumstance. In regard to our colleagues in particular, we must remember them fondly and pay them deserved tribute by continually refining and conducting our lives, our profession and our Association in a manner that not only honors their memories but also brings deserved adoration and respect to all of us.

2. Annual Scorecard

2.1 Governance Reforms – Finance Records and Prudence

One of my proudest achievements in the two years of my tenure as the NBA President has been the institutionalization of governance reforms, notably in the publication of Quarterly Financial Statements. We have been consistent in this regard in all the Quarters of my tenure and we have in that regard been transparent in the contents thereof and made full disclosures in regard to all our financial transactions. Let me make this very clear: I am ready, available and able to defend and justify all the expenditures that were made in my time.

And if evidence is required of our prudent management of the NBA funds, the evidence lies in the fact that I leave behind an aggregate of [ ] in the NBA’s Bar Practicing and Admin Accounts. In the history of the NBA, that has never happened. It is even more epochal when one considers that we inherited an aggregate liability of N908,423,094.00 and, as we leave, we leave behind a total of [ ] liabilities, the biggest of which is the Lagos State Government Land Charge of N397,794,423.00 in respect of the NBA’s Alao Aka-Bashorun House in Victoria Island, Lagos. That was an inherited debt and we have requested the Lagos State Government to either waive the entire amount or a substantial portion thereof and we are hopeful that we would be favored with a positive response.

2.2 National Secretariat

2.2.1 Another of my proudest achievements this year has been the completion of the construction work at our National Secretariat in Abuja. During the 2020 Q1 NEC meeting that was held on 12 March 2020, I informed members of the active resumption of the construction work and committed that we would be handing over a completed Secretariat building to the incoming administration. Even though COVID-19 slowed us down, I am pleased to inform our members at this AGM that we have kept to that commitment. We would very shortly watch video clips of the completed building. Ahead of that video, however, I would in this Address highlight a few of the salient completed features. We now have a ramp that would facilitate entry into the Secretariat by our physically challenged colleagues. That was not provided for in the initial design of the Secretariat; we saw the need for it and worked it into the construction completion plan.

2.2.2 We inherited one epileptically functioning lift that routinely trapped persons including some of our members during NEC meetings. It was always with anxiety that our members joined that lift. Now we have 3 (three) functional and efficient lifts with no record of anyone being trapped in recent months. The basement of our building that was always water-logged has now been converted into a beautiful, well designed and fully functional car park that can accommodate up to 50 vehicles. Construction work has been completed on all the floors of the building and we now have 5 (five) lettable floors that should earn the Association income.

2.2.3 The only significant outstanding work is the construction of a motorable access into the building. The city plan envisages the construction of an access road through an adjoining ravine, to the left of the building, facing the building from Muhammadu Buhari Way. That access road appears not to be in the immediate contemplation of the government. We have however approached the Abuja Municipal Area Council authorities for approval to construct a motorable access into the building from Muhammadu Buhari Way. Early indications suggest that our application would be favorably considered.

2.2.4 Some neighboring properties have secured similar approvals for themselves and constructed access into their property. We are hopeful that our application would be similarly granted. The envisaged access would lead directly to the Secretariat’s basement car park and would greatly enhance the value of the property, inter alia, for letting purposes. We are assured by our contractors that construction of the access would be completed within one month from the grant of approval by the Abuja Municipal Area Council and we have started the process which we expect the incoming administration to assiduously pursue to conclusion.

2.3 COVID-Related Relief Measures

2.3.1 The COVID-induced national lockdown has occasioned very severe economic reversals for Nigerians generally. In the wake of the pandemic and to reduce the spread of the disease, courts were shut down nationwide and that meant that, our colleagues who depend entirely on court practice for their earnings and livelihood were very adversely impacted thereby. Transaction lawyers and Solicitors were no less affected as there was a general slow-down in transactions and business activities generally. Some organizations including law firms had to reduce their workforces and, in some cases, compensation packages. The most vulnerable and the most impacted in our profession were our young lawyers some of whom lost their jobs or had their compensation packages slashed. To ameliorate their circumstances, we came up with two relief schemes for them.

2.3.2 First, we worked with LawPavilion to provide all young lawyers who had paid their 2020 Bar Practicing Fees as at 31 March 2020 one-year subscription of the LawPavilion bouquet of offerings. As we are all aware, the LawPavilion bouquet includes law reports, statutory enactments and all the Rules of Courts of the various courts of record in Nigeria, both Federal and States. In general terms, this is an invaluable resource for any and all lawyers. For a focused and ambitious young lawyer, in particular, the LawPavilion subscription should be and is a priceless resource, a significant empowerment tool and an assured route to self-development and professional realization. We do hope that it has and will continue to serve that purpose for all the beneficiaries of that scheme.

2.3.3 We also believed that a cash relief would be most helpful to our vulnerable young lawyers and, to this end, we constituted a Welfare Committee led by our most hard working and reliable member, Dr. Olawale Babalakin, SAN OFR. Dr. Babalakin lived up to his reputation; with his team, made up mostly of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, he worked our senior members and raised almost N100m. I truly cannot thank our Welfare Committee members and our senior colleague-donors enough for their generosity, self-sacrifice and support for this scheme.

2.3.4 The Welfare Committee recommended, and we accepted to distribute the relief funds to all young lawyers of 1-4 years Post-Call who had paid their 2020 Bar Practicing Fees as at 31 March 2020 at the rate of N10,000.00 to each beneficiary. Just last night, the bank accounts of the third set of [ ] beneficiaries were credited with their share of the relief funds bringing the total number of beneficiaries so far to [ ] young lawyers (i.e. with the addition of the first and second batches which together totaled [ ] beneficiaries). The expressed gratitude from most of the beneficiaries makes the effort worth the while. We have published, as part of this AGM documents, the full list of the beneficiaries of the Fund together with the full names of donors, including the NBA.

2.3.5 In talking about the COVID-related relief measures, I must pay tribute to our various branches and, for the second time, our senior members. Most branches organized relief materials and programs for our members and our senior colleagues made very generous contributions to these efforts. Some of these senior colleagues contributed both to the Branches’ efforts and the National Welfare Committee COVID-19 Relief fund. This show of love, amongst others, is the reason we have always sued for respect and acknowledgement for our senior colleagues. They play critical and invaluable roles in our lives and practice and we owe them a collective debt of gratitude. On our part and to assist the Branches the best we could, we promptly paid the traditional 10% of the 2020 Bar Practicing Fees to the Branches in April 2020. I am told that, the 10% payment, in the years that it had been made, has never been made that promptly from the National Secretariat. The expressed gratitude from our Branch Chairmen made the exercise most fulfilling for us.

2.4 Life Insurance

2.4.1 Still on welfare issues, albeit, not necessarily COVID-related, we have ensured that our life insurance scheme continues to work for our members. As at date, the total number of settled death benefits stand at 32. We owe a debt of gratitude to our most reliable insurance partner, Leadway Assurance Company Limited, and we feel gratified that we resumed the scheme during this administration. To be sure, these death benefits do not make up for the loss of our loved ones. However, it is always more devastating when the lost loved one is also the breadwinner of the family, nuclear and/or extended, or a contributor to the financial well-being of the family and other dependents. More often than not, life loses its meaning for the surviving members of the family in those circumstances and the future seems so very bleak. It is our hope that the payment of the death benefit of N1,000,000.00 to the beneficiaries of each of these our deceased members would help or has helped in cushioning the pains of the loss and restoring some hope to them.

2.5 Rule of Law – Virtual Court Hearing Practice Direction

2.5.1 In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA played very prominent and significant roles in relation to the administration of justice. Following the news of the community spread of the disease in Nigeria, we contemplated the vulnerability of our judicial officers and attendees of courts generally and met with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable (Dr) Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR to share our concerns and discuss the need for the shutdown of courts nationwide in order to stem the probability of our courts serving as vectors of the disease, with debilitating consequences mostly for our judicial officers and staff. We remain grateful that His Lordship, the CJN, took immediate action thereon and obviously saved lives thereby. 2.5.2 However, the prolonged closure of our courts also had a most destructive economic effect on our members and stakeholders in the justice sector generally. With the indefinite shutdown of our courts, the rule of law appeared to lie prostrate and almost lifeless. To remedy the situation, the Bar pushed the idea of virtual court proceedings into national consciousness and our representatives at the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) prepared and presented a Paper thereon to the Council which prompted the establishment of the NJC’s Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19 as it relates to justice administration. The NJC Committee was headed by Honorable (Mr.) Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivor, CFR JSC and had 3 (three) of our representatives as members – Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN OON, Damian D Dodo, SAN OFR and my humble self. I am pleased to inform our members that our representatives on the Committee did us proud; they played pivotal roles in the drafting and final publication of both the Committee’s Final Report and the Virtual Court Hearing Guidelines that was published by the CJN as the NJC Chairman.

2.5.3 Those Guidelines have been adapted and implemented by our various courts, with varying degrees of success. Perhaps, the 3 (three) greatest inhibiting factors to full-blown implementation of virtual proceedings in our courts are (a) skill and knowledge gap in relation to technology amongst our members and the judicial officers and staff; (b) technologically ill-equipped courtrooms; and (c) funding. These are however not insurmountable challenges; the pathways to resolution were mapped out and recommended by the NJC Committee in its final report and we look forward to implementation of those and related recommendations. However, the burden of pushing for those implementations and reforms still rest on the Bar given that we have a bounden duty to fight for the judiciary and the Rule of Law. Indeed, virtual court proceedings should be the precursor of a full-scale technological revamp of our justice administration and processes. The benefits of such a revamp are unquantifiable, and they go well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It is my hope that the succeeding administration will continue the relay race in that regard.

2.6 Incorporation and Filings at Corporate Affairs Commission (“CAC”) 2.6.1 The status of our filings at the CAC has been irregular and tardy over the years. Soon after the 2019 AGM, we filed our Annual Returns for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 together with our Audited Accounts for those years. We also made the required statutory filings in regard to our new Trustees and the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 (as amended) in the terms of and pursuant to the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Pursuant to our said filings, the NBA was issued with a new Incorporation Certificate on 20 November 2019 as an incorporated trustee with, amongst others, powers to sue and be sued in the name of its Trustees. We can now proudly state that our incorporation and filing status at the CAC are unassailable.

2.7 2020 NBA National Officers’ Elections

2.7.1 I must finally talk about our 2020 NBA National Officers’ Elections that were conducted on 29 and 30 July 2020. Whatever one may say about those elections, one thing that cannot be taken away from it is that, that was the first ever of our National Elections where everyone was turned into election monitors as well as electoral and returning officers, all rolled into one, from the comfort of our homes, using our various devices and tracking the ballot, right from the first vote up to the last. For most of our members and based on the comments I have received, this was an exhilarating experience in transparency. And it was fun. The transparency was unparalleled, and we are expecting that subsequent Bar elections will build on that quality of transparency.

3. Conclusion

3.1 This would be my last Address to the NBA NEC as President of the Nigerian Bar Association. It has been a great privilege and an honor to serve you in that capacity. I must in particular thank all the NEC members for the tremendous support that I have enjoyed from all of you this past two years. Without your stout support, I would not have served out my term, particularly with the attempted and failed coup by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (“EFCC”) under Ibrahim Magu at the inception of this administration, notably during our first NEC meeting. That coup attempt which was solely intended to take me out as the NBA President, and the sustained persecution before and after the failed putsch, was of course hatched and executed with the active connivance, support and urgings of some of our members.

3.2 The good news is, you all stood by me and foiled that coup because you knew me and did not believe the malicious lies and falsehoods that were told about me both by Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC and some of our conniving colleagues. You believed in me, trusted me and encouraged me. In those dark days, one of my very good friends and a member of this body, sent a message to me and said “don’t ever ever contemplate any weakness at all don’t bow never ever. Who born dem?”. By the way, pardon his language; he is a Warri-boy and he knows himself. Mena, you are special, and you may not know how much I appreciated (and still appreciate) your message and support. Thank you ever so much. God bless and keep you. Most of you sent similar messages of support and solidarity to me and these kept me strong, these kept me going and, together, we have achieved so much, notwithstanding those distractions. I remain eternally grateful to all of you and pray continually for God’s blessings, rewards and sustenance for you.

3.3 In point of fact, your support went beyond foiling the antics and attempted putsch of the Ibrahim Magu-led EFCC. You gave me your support in all the projects and reforms that we undertook in this administration. One of our lasting reforms has been in the governance structure for the Association. Like clockwork, we have published the NBA’s Quarterly accounts, every quarter, since the beginning of this administration, without fail. We have received resounding commendation from all of you for this. At this meeting, we will present for approval the Audited Accounts for the periods ended 31 December 2019, 30 June 2020 and 31 August 2020. We have also instituted workforce reforms in the National Secretariat which are on-going and would be continued by the succeeding administration. These reforms constitute the foundation for the institutionalization of our Association on which platform succeeding administrations will be able to function and focus on upbuilding and specific projects for the benefit of our members, profession and society at large.

3.4 I definitely cannot cover the field today in identifying and expressing gratitude to everyone who made my job easy as the President of the NBA and Chairman of NEC but I must close out by isolating and mentioning four classes of persons in this Address i.e. Past NBA Presidents and NBA Trustees, my fellow National Officers, Chairmen of NBA Branches and Mfon, my soulmate. I have enjoyed a very special relationship with all past NBA Presidents and NBA Trustees, a number of whom have, at different times attended our NEC meetings. I communicate with them regularly and update them constantly on our activities. They constitute my advisory council and a strong support base for me, and I thank all of them from the bottom of my heart. May God bless and continue to keep you for all of us.

3.5 My fellow National Officers have been most gracious and kind to me in these two years. This is perhaps one of the few NBA administrations that has not experienced any serious blow out or revolt amongst its national officers. A few minor skirmishes, yes, we have had those and those are not unusual in any family, even of two but there was no incident that commanded sustained national attention and/or concern amongst our members. Regardless, not once did I press on any of my colleagues on an assignment and they were not ready to oblige even when I was infamously stingy with expense approvals. Literally all of us were willing to sacrifice and make a success of this administration right from day one when we were sworn in and promptly discovered that we not only inherited an empty till but had huge financial liabilities to contend with. The Association indeed owes all my colleagues a debt of gratitude for all the sacrifices they have individually and collectively made in serving the Association. I personally owe them my debt of gratitude for the support I have enjoyed from them and for making our tenure a resounding success.

3.6 I have always had a very special relationship with my Branch Chairmen. We have a dedicated and exclusive platform on which we communicate, and I was quite active on that platform until recently when the demands of office became allconsuming and made my appearance thereat rather epileptic. Even then, I was only physically absent but emotionally still present at the platform. In recent weeks, I have remedied my absence at the platform. What can I really say about my Branch Chairmen? They were and are God’s special gift to me. They constitute my bastion of support. You trusted and believed in me. You did not believe in the lies about me. You staked your names with me. I thank God for all of you, past and present Chairmen of our Branches. The relationship that we forged is not and cannot be transient. It will survive my tenure as the NBA President. Please, feel free to reach me at any time. I know you would continue to be there for me, and I would also always be there for you and with you.

3.7 Just before I dwell on Mfon, let me express my heartfelt gratitude to my brothers and sisters who worked tirelessly to make our AGC the most successful Conference ever, starting with my brother Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN, George Etomi, my elder and most dependable brother, my dependable sisters, Oyinkansola BadejoOkusanya, Ayotola Jagun, my younger brother, Prince Akin Ajibola and so many others I cannot, for lack of space and time, mention now. Uncle George in particular was phenomenal. And, of course, Mfon. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you and I thank my sisters, Efe and Dupe, for loaning me Uncle George and Konyin for the duration of the TCCP assignment.

3.8 Finally, let me talk about Mfon, my soulmate and life partner. In my inaugural address, I had openly confessed that you complete me. In truth, I cannot tell your story today because we have a meeting to conduct and conclude. But I will, someday, God sparing our lives. Suffice for me to say that you have been my rock. In those moments when I was buffeted with all sorts of anxieties, doubts and fears and I could not share them with any other, you were there, with words of encouragement, advice and suggestions and also giving comfort. You fought some of my battles – real and imagined – on my behalf, without my prompting and, in instances, without my knowledge, some, at personal cost and danger to yourself. I could not have wished for a better partner and soulmate. My prayer is that God should continue to bless and keep you for me.

3.9 Some members have openly expressed concerns as to whether I would continue to be active and present in future NBA activities including NEC meetings after my tenure as NBA President. I thank all of you who have expressed and/or harbored those thoughts and concerns because they exemplify, in my humble opinion, how highly you think of me and my modest efforts in managing the affairs of our great Association. I wish to assure all of you and everyone else that I will continue to be a permanent fixture at NBA activities including our NEC meetings for as long as God spares my life. We owe a lot to our profession and I consider it my bounden duty to serve the Association in any capacity that I may be required to. Indeed, I look forward to our physical camaraderie and bonding at our NEC meetings, AGCs and AGMs, post-COVID, whenever it may please God for that to be. Once again, thank you, my distinguished colleagues for all you have done for me and with me and thank you for listening.

Long Live the Nigerian Bar Association.

Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Paul Usoro, SAN
NBA President

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

NBA INAUGURATION: ‘THE WORK AHEAD IS IMMENSE,’ SAYS AKPATA

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

* EXTENDS OLIVE BRANCH TO ADESINA, AJIBADE
* SETS UP ELECTION AUDIT & REFORM COMMITTEE
* THANKS USORO, ECNBA FOR STEERING THE SHIP
* RESTATES ELECTORAL PROMISES

Newly sworn-in Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has promised to prioritize lawyers’ welfare while driving initiatives towards electoral and justice sector reforms.

In his inaugural speech after he was sworn-in by the immediate past NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, Akpata noted that the task ahead of his team of National Officers is “immense,” and urged former NBA presidential candidates, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN and Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN to join hands with him to lift the Bar.

His inauguration came on the heels of the Annual General Meeting of the association which was almost overshadowed by a bust-up between the leading lights of the Usoro Administration.

Acknowledging the roles of his parents and teachers in his life, Akpata stated that “I consider it a great honour and privilege to stand before you today, on the epochal 60th anniversary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), to be sworn in as the 30th President of the foremost professional membership association in Nigeria and the most influential network of legal practitioners in Africa.”

In his 20-page inaugural address, the newly sworn-in NBA President thanked his partners at TEMPLARS for their support, adding that “in recognition of the magnitude of the job at hand, they gave me their blessing to embark on sabbatical for the next 24 months to focus on the job. I cannot thank them enough.” Akpata also thanked his Campaign Team led by Mr. Tobenna Erojikwe for their commitment and said that they gave meaning to the saying that “a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.”

Akpata commended “very senior members of the Bar especially those who demonstrated their belief in my candidacy and stood by me publicly even when it was the less convenient thing to do,” while acknowledging “the role of the young lawyers in my emergence as the President of the NBA. Indeed, I was characterised as the candidate of the young lawyers and they came through for me. I thank them immensely for their support.”

Turning to Usoro, Akpata commended the former NBA President and his team of National Officers “for the role they played in navigating the affairs of our Association in the past two years,” noting that while it has been a “difficult year” for everyone all over the world, “it is to their credit that they did not crumble under pressure and were able to pilot the affairs of the NBA until the end.”

He noted that while there were “clearly moments of tension” between him and the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) led by Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN, “I am gratified that they understood that those were borne out of a strong desire for things to be done the right way.”

On the controversial NBA Elections, the leading commercial lawyer expressed his “utmost respect” for Adesina and Ajibade “who have contributed in very significant ways to the growth and development of our Association,” noting that “I therefore intend to count on their support and counsel as we work towards Securing the Future through a United Bar that Works for All.”

Akpata emphasized the need for unity at the Bar, moreso given the issues that trailed “the uniqueness of my candidacy, being the first non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria to win an election as NBA President in thirty years.” He noted that “the elections are now over, and we must, of necessity, retrace our steps.”

The newly sworn-in NBA President frowned at divisions within the ranks of lawyers and stated that “The Bar I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength.” His words: “We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful, and sensitive in our words and actions, as doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.”

On the vexed issue of electoral reforms, Akpata said that “it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there were several glitches in the build up to the Election,” stressing that “As Nigeria’s foremost professional Association, our electoral process ought to be the standard for others to follow and should, to the extent humanly possible, be devoid of the glitches that we witnessed.”

He said instituting an efficient data management system for the NBA and institutional and structural reforms “is now a top priority issue for me,” even as he announced the setting up of a 12-member “Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee” to be led by respected Bar Leader, Mr. Ayo Akintunde SAN. The committee will “audit our 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for our electoral systems and processes.” Akpata promised “to implement whatever recommendations they come up with well ahead of time to ensure that the 2022 election is devoid of those glitches that we noticed in the 2020 election and that we truly set a standard that others will aspire to.”

Turning to what he titled “The task ahead,” the NBA President decried the “unfortunate erosion of the ethical values and professionalism that once characterised our Noble Association,” adding that “this must stop.”

Akpata pledged to enhance the welfare of lawyers, assuring that he would “personally engage the leadership of these organisations (other professions and private organisations) and prevail on them to refrain from the practice of encroaching into areas that are the exclusive preserve of lawyers. In cases where this is not heeded, we shall not hesitate to challenge such encroachments in court. It is no longer business as usual.” He also promised to engage the heads of the major regulatory agencies “to ensure better synergy with the NBA in the interest of our members.”

The new NBA President promised that his administration would deliver two free packs of 48 stamps to all lawyers that pay their Bar Practising Fee before March 31 of each year and assured that he would “negotiate a more favourable deal with our current insurance policy provider for an upward review of benefits to members” as well as institute a comprehensive health insurance scheme and a medical health fund “to help deserving members subscribe to the scheme.”

Saying that he would “tackle the menace of harassment and brutality of lawyers by the security agencies,” Akpata assured that his administration would also strengthen the NBA Human Rights Institute “and also engage the heads of the various security agencies proactively and constructively from the outset, to set the tone for a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship between their respective agencies and our Association.” This is aside from setting up a Lawyers’ Defence Fund “to cater for the free representation of lawyers who are financial members of the association and are victims of human rights violation by the securities agencies.”

Akpata also rolled out the plans of his administration in the areas of capacity building, administration of justice, promotion of the rule of law and human rights, ethics and discipline, as well as inclusiveness at the Bar.

He committed to “create an administrative structure that ensures that we are able to deliver on our blueprint for the progress of the NBA as an institution” and “a legal profession and indeed a Bar that stands tall as an unwavering bastion of the rule of law, an advocate for the sanctity and independence of the judiciary, and a bulwark against tyranny and oppression.”

Other national officers who were sworn-in by the new NBA President are Joyce Oduah (General Secretary), Adeyemo Kazeem (Second Vice President), Mercy Agada (Treasurer), Kunle Edun (Welfare Secretary), Raphael Anagor (Financial Secretary), Rapuluchukwu Nduka (Publicity Secretary), Uche Nwadialo (Assistant General Secretary) and Ferdinand Naza (Assistant Publicity Secretary).

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

N119 MILLION ‘SCAM’: ‘MY HANDS ARE CLEAN,’ SAYS USORO

Outgoing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has debunked allegations of attempts to fleece the bar association, saying that the claims are baseless.

In a report by COURTROOM MAIL, Usoro deflated the allegations by outgoing NBA General Secretary, Mr. Jonathan Taidi, saying: “I couldn’t have known that you (Taidi) carry so much bile and harbour so much hatred against me all these while.”

It is recalled that CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report stated the allegations by Taidi against the NBA President. Many lawyers and Bar Leaders have weighed in on the report. While some said the allegations are weighty and called for a full-scale investigation to determine their veracity or otherwise, others said the outgoing administration should concern itself with its handover ceremonies. 

CITY LAWYER gathered from an unimpeachable source at the NBA HOUSE that the Usoro camp made frantic peace overtures to Taidi, noting that the optics of a warring administration in its twilight was uncomplimentary. This also led to some ‘photo ops’ between the two NBA chieftains.

In an email Usoro reportedly issued on the matter, he debunked any “personal relationship” with Miss Ayodeji Oni who was suspended for “insubordination” by Taidi but directed to resume work “with immediate effect” by Usoro, adding: “Exactly what do you have in mind?” Saying that the issue of Oni’s alleged elevation is not on the agenda for the Annual General Meeting, the NBA President advised Taidi “not to advertise one’s ignorance and incompetence.”

On the alleged attempt to “fleece” the association of N20 Million for practice license allegedly produced and paid for by the Abubakar Mahmoud Administration, Usoro said: “But you should’ve told me and also let me know what makes the contract unlawful.  By the way, as you know, NSPMC in their letter expressly recommended the third party Company that you’re referring to and for your information, I neither know the Company or any person connected therewith nor do I know anybody whomsoever in NSPMC.”

He stated that the exact amount paid to the Supreme Court staff was N10 Million and not N15 Million, adding that the payment was for services rendered. His words: “Actually, it was a payment for N10m (not N15m) for the compilation of the Roll for the NBA website.  Yes, you spoke with me about that payment and so did the National Treasurer who actually sent me a private mail on it and the payment was dropped without any fuss whatsoever.”

Below is the full text of Usoro’s email:

My Dear GS

Many thanks for your enlightening e-mail response below on the Ayodeji Oni issue.  But for this letter, I couldn’t have known that you carry so much bile and harbour so much hatred against me all these while.  Hmm!  We learn every day.

To the extent that it’s necessary or required, I’ve addressed some of the issues you raised below (in red).  As I said in my concluding comments below, I do not intend to press this issue any further seeing as I’m out of office in a few hours, very happily.

In those remaining hours, however, I will continue to work with you, best I can, in the interest of the Association.  Meanwhile, I wish you the very best.

Best

Paul Usoro, SAN

President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)

My President,

I have read your email below and surprised at your interference in MATTERS OF DISCIPLINE in the National Secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) occasioned by your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with AYODEJI ONI who was suspended on 25th August, 2020 for acts of gross insubordination. Personal Relationship?  What Personal Relationship”  Exactly what do you have in mind?  I have absolutely no such relationship with Ayodeji Oni.  In any case, that was not the thrust of my mail to you; it would’ve been a lot more helpful for you to address the factual issues in my mail.

Ayodeji Oni was at my instance issued with a query dated 21st August, 2020 to explain why as Head of Bar Services the attendance sheet of the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of 5th December, 2019 was used in place of the attendance of 12th March, 2020.  She did not respond to the query, but challenged my authority to authorize the issuance of the said query and stated as follows:

                                “1.  On the 21st August, 2020 at about 11.58pm, you sent me a “Query” to which I responded only out of professional courtesy.”

  1. Secondly, I responded to you in order to facilitate the smooth transition of the current administration.”

The response confirms the planned NEW JOB PLACEMENT AND DESCRIPTION which you intend to present to the Annual General Meeting of the NBA wherein Ayodeji Oni will be ELEVETED TO OCCUPY THE MOST SENIOR POSITION IN THE NATIONAL SECRETARIAT even though she is unable to justify her qualification on the current job description. I would’ve thought that you, as GS, are aware of the fact that only matters on the agenda of an AGM can be placed before the AGM.  Is there any matter like “New Job Placement and Description” on the agenda of the 2020 AGM?  Is there any such Paper that has been prepared by me or you or anyone else and distributed to members?  I’m not aware of any such Paper or agenda item.  If you are, please, let me know. Piece of advice: sometimes, it’s wise not to advertise one’s ignorance and incompetence.

Your directive to Ayodeji Oni to resume work today is aimed at undermining my office for refusing to recommend payment to a private company for a contract you awarded to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company for the printing of 2019/2020 practice license in the sum of Twenty Million Naira (N20,000,000.00) which I consider to be unlawful.   But you should’ve told me and also let me know what makes the contract unlawful.  By the way, as you know, NSPMC in their letter expressly recommended the third party Company that you’re referring to and for your information, I neither know the Company or any person connected therewith nor do I know anybody whomsoever in NSPMC. I recall that sometime in September, 2019 you sent me an invoice in the sum of One Hundred and Four Million Naira (N104,000,000.00) purportedly meant for purchase of a new elevator for the NBA House.  That invoice was from Otis Lifts and I was in talks with them, to your knowledge when we considered the option of replacing the single lift that was working epileptically.  For your information, I discussed the planned purchase with the Chairman of the Company and our respected professional colleague, Gbenga Oyebode, and he facilitated some discount for us.  That plan was abandoned when President Augustine Alegeh, SAN reached me (and I was copying all past Presidents with my correspondence in this regard and that’s how he knew) and informed me that the Contractor confirmed that the 3 lifts in the building were in place and power source was all that needed to be fixed for them to work I blocked the attempt to fleece the NBA and I know you have not forgiven me.  There was really nothing to forgive here because there was no attempt at fleecing the NBA by me or anyone else Recently, you caused Ayodeji Oni to send an invoice to pay Fifteen Million Naira (N15,000,000.00) to a female staff of the Supreme Court for services not rendered to the NBA which I refused to recommend and many more. Actually, it was a payment for N10m (not N15m) for the compilation of the Roll for the NBA website.  Yes, you spoke with me about that payment and so did the National Treasurer who actually sent me a private mail on it and the payment was dropped without any fuss whatsoever.  

I will resist your attempt to undermine the office of the General Secretary, uphold the confidence reposed in me by our members and will not hesitate to dismiss Ayodeji Oni for gross insubordination if she resumes work in violation of the suspension order.  Hmmm!  This is rather interesting.  Even though the NBA Constitution makes the NBA President the final authority in and for the management of the National Secretariat, I won’t press this point seeing as I’m out of office, happily, and out of the National Secretariat in a matter of hours.  You may wish to stay back to guard the gates.

Accept my regards, please.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

EXCLUSIVE: CRISIS ROCKS NBA, AS GENERAL SECRETARY ACCUSES USORO OF N119 MILLION ‘SCAM’

* USORO OVERRULES TAIDI, ASKS SUSPENDED STAFF TO RESUME “WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT”

* NBA VP BACKS TAIDI, ASKS USORO TO COME CLEAN

* DADA COUNTERS AGBAKOBA, ALERTS AKPATA

There are strong indications that the administration of outgoing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN may end up in a cloud of controversies following disagreements between top National Officers at NBA HOUSE.

In a searing email obtained by CITY LAWYER, the outgoing NBA General Secretary, Mr. Jonathan Taidi accused Usoro of an attempt to “fleece” the association of the sum of N104 Million, saying that he “blocked” the alleged scam.

His words: “I recall that sometime in September, 2019 you sent me an invoice in the sum of One Hundred and Four Million Naira (N104,000,000.00) purportedly meant for the purchase of a new elevator for the NBA House. I blocked the attempt to fleece the NBA and I know you have not forgiven me.”

Taidi also accused Usoro of another attempt to pay N15 Million to a staff of the Supreme Court of Nigeria “for services not rendered to the NBA.” His words: “Recently, you caused Ayodeji Oni to send an invoice to pay Fifteen Million Naira (N15,000,000.00) to a female staff of the Supreme Court for services not rendered to the NBA which I refused to recommend and many more.”

The outgoing NBA scribe also stated that he shunned Usoro’s attempt to pay N20 Million to Fazfal Enterprises, a private company for a contract already paid by the regime of former NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, saying: “Your directive to Ayodeji Oni to resume work is aimed at undermining my office for refusing to recommend payment to a private company for a contract you awarded to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company for the printing of 2019/2020 practice license in the sum of Twenty Million Naira (N20,000,000.00) which I consider to be unlawful”

CITY LAWYER gathered from a reliable source that Cheetah Print Services was paid by the Mahmoud Administration to produce 50,000 practice licenses which have already been produced awaiting delivery, even as there is allegedly no evidence that Fazfal Enterprises is an “authorized agent” of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company as stated in an August 13, 2020 letter by Usoro to the Mint commissioning production of the 55,000 new practice licenses.

The reposte by the General Secretary is a direct reaction to the reversal by Usoro of Taidi’s his directive suspending one Miss Ayodeji Oni, NBA Head of Bar Services over alleged insubordination. Though the NBA scribe had through Ms. Salamatu Sidi, NBA’s Head of Finance & Administration, issued a query to Oni “to explain why as Head of Bar Services the attendance sheet of the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of 5th December, 2019 was used in place of the attendance of 12th March, 2020,” he stated that Oni did not respond to the query “but challenged my authority to authorize the issuance of the said query….”

According to Taidi, “The response (reversal) confirms the planned NEW JOB PLACEMENT AND DESCRIPTION which you intend to present to the Annual General Meeting of the NBA wherein Ayodeji Oni will be ELEVETED (sic) TO OCCUPY THE MOST SENIOR POSITION IN THE NATIONAL SECRETARIAT even though she is unable to justify her qualification on the current job description.”

The outgoing NBA President had overturned Taidi’s suspension order, directing Oni instead to “orally apologize” to the NBA scribe and Sidi.

In today’s early morning e-mail which he copied NBA Treasurer Banke Oloba and several other NBA staff titled “Query and Suspension from Duties without Pay,” Usoro wrote: “Further to my various discussions with you (Taidi/Usoro) in the last two days on the above subject matter, I am by this e-mail directing Ayodeji Oni to resume her duties at the Secretariat with immediate effect this morning.”

He stated that having reviewed all the documents relating to the controversy, “I have arrived at the conclusion that this was a totally needless and unrequired incident. We truly did not and do not need this incident in the days if not hours leading up to our exist (sic) from the Secretariat as National Officers.”

Usoro promised to in a separate follow-up e-mail “address the substance of the query and give reasons for my afore-stated conclusions. In the meantime and without prejudice to those final conclusions, I am by this mail directing Miss Oni, as she resumes work this morning, to orally apologize to you and Salamatu Sidi for her rather truculent and impertinent mail of 24 August 2020 attached hereto and which was in response to Salamatu’s mail of the same date (directly below Ayodeji’s mail in the same e-mail trail).”

Perhaps conceding to the charge of insubordination against Oni, the NBA President said: “I have told her in very clear terms that not only did her response not address Salamatu’s issues (again, this is without prejudice to my final conclusion which I’ll communicate in a follow-up mail), it was, more importantly, saucy in style and took no note of the fact that, in age, she and Salamatu are not age mates.

“In our respective cultures, age counts literally for everything in terms of decorum and respect and I cannot condone Ayodeji being rude or saucy towards you and/or Salamatu. She claims, however, not to have known that Salamatu’s mail was written at your instance. I do not believe her, but even if that was correct, Salamatu did not deserve the tone of her response and it is on this account that I have directed her to orally apologize directly to Salamatu and you for while resuming work this morning. I expect that to put an end to this unfortunate incident, albeit, without prejudice, I must repeat, to my mail which would communicate the reasons for my earlier conclusion on the nature of this needless incident and distraction.”

He directed the Finance Unit “to re-prepare the salary schedule and include Ayodeji’s full salary and entitlements for the month of August 2020.”

Meanwhile, NBA Second Vice President, Dr. Foluke Dada has aligned with Taidi, commending him “for your email availing us of the above critical matter regarding issues of discipline at the General Secretariat.”

Dada said that Taidi’s handling of the issues “is clearly a line of action that an extremely tolerant man like you would not take flagrantly!” adding that “You have clearly endured too much in the past 2 years such that Mr. President should consider himself lucky to have in you, a highly disciplined professional!”

She stated that she was “not surprised” Oni “took the line of insubordination,” alleging that it was because of her “close” relationship with Usoro. “Additionally, the attached letter from Mr. President shows how greatly a man can be weakened by innate emotions that run deep as to jeopardize his personal reputation and professional integrity,” she said.

Saying that Taidi’s email “clearly indicts the President and suggests professional impropriety and the unlawful dissipation of the funds of the Association,” Dada added that “For a man who thrived for two years on the mantra of “good governance” to be so emotionally and recklessly involved in an internal disciplinary issue reveals the tip of the iceberg of financial mismanagement and serious disciplinary issues.”

Dada said that she disagreed with former NBA President and Chairman of the NBA Board of Trustees, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN when he said yesterday at the ongoing Annual General Conference that “the Bar President of the Bar can do no wrong,” stating that “this issue (crisis) is within the purview of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar through the Board of Trustees.”

She stated that Usoro’s reversal of Oni’s suspension is “mere interference and a demeaning of the person and office of the General Secretary of the Bar” and should be disregarded, adding: “I further support and recommend the sack of Ms. Ayodeji Oni with immediate effect since she sees no reason to address the legitimate issues raised by her immediate and direct boss, the General Secretary of the Bar! She has truly earned her removal from the office. Particularly, her incompetence in office has not been disputed by her when accorded the opportunity to do so! Consent, I say!”

She said she had alerted NBA President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata and General Secretary-elect, Mrs. Joyce Oduah over the debacle, and called on the outgoing NBA President “to render the true financial account and administrative report of the Association at the AGM. In this, I join to request that the officers of the Association whom Mr. Paul Usoro has accorded any inclusion, consent in any of the contract awarded unilaterally by him or in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, particularly in the exercise of due diligence, should come forward. Included in this is the due diligence request on all the contracts solely issued by the President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN. We cannot continue to encourage wastage and dissipation of the hard-earned assets of the Bar! This is an urgent call for action before the President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN escapes from office!”

CITY LAWYER recalls that Dada had in an earlier email indicted Usoro for allegedly excluding many National Officers from his administration, accusing him of being a “sole administrator.”

Usoro was said to have responded to the allegations at press time.

Below is the email by the NBA General Secretary:

From: Jonathan Gunu Taidi <taidi.jonathan@nigerianbar.org.ng>
Date: Thursday, 27 August 2020 at 09:44
To: “Paul Usoro, SAN” <paul.usoro@nigerianbar.org.ng>
Cc: OLAGBEGI-OLOBA VICTORIA BANKE ESQ <banke.oloba@nigerianbar.org.ng>, Salamatu Sidi <salamatu.sidi@nigerianbar.org.ng>, “abayomi.o.ogunola@pwc.com” <abayomi.o.ogunola@pwc.com>, Ursula Agbamuche <ursula.agbamuche@nigerianbar.org.ng>, Ayodeji Oni <ayodeji.oni@nigerianbar.org.ng>
Subject: Re: Query and Suspension from Duties without Pay

My President,

I have read your email below and surprised at your interference in MATTERS OF DISCIPLINE in the National Secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) occasioned by your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with AYODEJI ONI who was suspended on 25th August, 2020 for acts of gross insubordination.

Ayodeji Oni was at my instance issued with a query dated 21st August, 2020 to explain why as Head of Bar Services the attendance sheet of the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of 5th December, 2019 was used in place of the attendance of 12th March, 2020. She did not respond to the query, but challenged my authority to authorize the issuance of the said query and stated as follows:

“1. On the 21st August, 2020 at about 11.58pm, you sent me a “Query” to which I responded only out of professional courtesy.”

2. Secondly, I responded to you in order to facilitate the smooth transition of the current administration.”

The response confirms the planned NEW JOB PLACEMENT AND DESCRIPTION which you intend to present to the Annual General Meeting of the NBA wherein Ayodeji Oni will be ELEVETED TO OCCUPY THE MOST SENIOR POSITION IN THE NATIONAL SECRETARIAT even though she is unable to justify her qualification on the current job description.

Your directive to Ayodeji Oni to resume work today is aimed at undermining my office for refusing to recommend payment to a private company for a contract you awarded to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company for the printing of 2019/2020 practice license in the sum of Twenty Million Naira (N20,000,000.00) which I consider to be unlawful. I recall that sometime in September, 2019 you sent me an invoice in the sum of One Hundred and Four Million Naira (N104,000,000.00) purportedly meant for purchase of a new elevator for the NBA House. I blocked the attempt to fleece the NBA and I know you have not forgiven me. Recently, you caused Ayodeji Oni to send an invoice to pay Fifteen Million Naira (N15,000,000.00) to a female staff of the Supreme Court for services not rendered to the NBA which I refused to recommend and many more.

I will resist your attempt to undermine the office of the General Secretary, uphold the confidence reposed in me by our members and will not hesitate to dismiss Ayodeji Oni for gross insubordination if she resumes work in violation of the suspension order.

Accept my regards, please.

Jonathan Gunu Taidi, Esq.

General Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)

https://citylawyermag.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/NBA-LETTER-1.pdf 

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

NBA AGC KICKS OFF WITH 22, 000 DELEGATES

* USORO PREACHES UNITY AT THE BAR

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The 2020 Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference (NBA-AGC) kicked off today with over 21, 000 registered delegates in the first virtual conference by the association.

In his address, NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN noted that while over 21,000 delegates had registered for the conference, about 25,000 delegates are expected to participate in the conference

He commended NBA members for remaining united and professional, adding that while “those who are bent on dividing the Bar” would not relent, “We must always remember that we are one united Nigerian Bar Association. We must continue to ensure that we remain a united bar association; we must not be divided along ethnic, religious and other lines. It must always be ‘One is for all, and all is for all.’”

Usoro noted that the association has survived for more than 60 years, even as the conference marks its 60th anniversary. Speaking on the theme of the conference, Usoro said that when combined with last year’s theme, the conference urges lawyers and other stakeholders “to step forward and face the future.”

He noted that the association is celebrating not only its first virtual conference but for surviving the coronavirus pandemic, even as “some of our colleagues and judges have passed.” He called for a one-minute silence in honour of the deceased, adding that “we will continue to honour their memory by making sure we remain one united bar.”

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP), Prof. Konyin Ajayi SAN noted that the conference is a landmark in the annals of the association, noting that it is the “first virtual conference ever of the NBA.” 

In a veiled reference to the controversies that trailed the conference recently, he apologized to those “who may have felt offended” by the turn of events.

On his part, the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN stated that the Federal Government would continue to support judicial autonomy.

He noted that his ministry has aided the recovery of $301 million looted funds which has been “ploughed into economy,” adding that the theme of the conference urges all stakeholders “to step out of our comfort zone” and take measures that galvanize economic development.

Represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation & Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata SAN, Malami stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has “improved” Nigeria’s legal system through the issuance of Executive Orders “for better implementation of law,” stating that “there is need for better understanding of executive orders.” He stated that Executive Orders “are directives which outline how to implement existing law,” adding that such orders “must flow from the Constitution and Acts of the National Assembly.”

In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad applauded the association “for holding this virtual conference in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” noting that this “exemplifies the doggedness of the Bar under the able leadership of Paul Usoro SAN.”
He stated that “We have enjoyed excellent working relations with the Nigerian Bar Association,” and commended the array of speakers at the conference.

According to Muhammad, the theme of the conference “is more of a challenge to all of us to improve our legal system so that we can be leading lights of the nation.” Commending the NBA on its diamond anniversary, he stated that the conference underscores that the Bar is setting the pace in many areas of national life.

CITY LAWYER recalls that the organisers state that the core objective of the 60th edition of the NBA AGC “is to host a world class international conference, with in-depth discourse stirred by a wealth of unparalleled experience, aimed at proliferating the knowledge, skills and inspiration bequeathed in past NBA Conferences, to improve our lot in Africa, build legacy law firms, shape subsequent generations of the African Bar, and more importantly, reposition the Bar to play its critical role in economic and socio-political development on national and continental trade frontiers.”

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

N.7 MILLION UP FOR GRABS IN LAWYERS’ VIDEO COMPETITION

                                                                                                                                                     FEATURED

No less than N700, 000 has been set aside by an alumni class of the Nigerian Law School to reward some young and mid-level lawyers in an upcoming competition. Spearheaded by the Nigerian Law School Alumni Class of 1989, the competition is targeted at savvy young and mid-level lawyers of 5 to 15 years post-call.

Modeled along the world-famous TED programme, the competition requires the participants to upload their videos on any legal topic in which they have interest and significant expertise.

The competition is slated to hold between August 24, 2020 and September 24, 2020. It is aimed to unlock the wealth of knowledge among this much neglected category of lawyers as well as shine a spotlight on the winners while celebrating their personal sacrifices towards self-improvement and advancement in their careers.

With over N700, 000 at stake in prizes, gifts and awards, the competition will offer the participants a unique opportunity to share their ideas with the legal community both in Nigeria and globally, as the winning videos will be uploaded on the groundbreaking Continuing Legal Education (CLE) digital platform developed by the class.

Participants are expected to register at http://bit.ly/e-CLEVideos. To join the conversation on Telegram, please click on http://bit.ly/CLETelegram or call Dinma at 08131500009 or Peju at 08032249755.

It is recalled that the Class of 1989 last year donated an e-platform to the Nigerian Law School as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations. The facility is aimed to support quality training and retraining of Law School students and young lawyers. The electronic platform is reputed as a first in Africa, and is aimed at transforming legal education and law practice.

Speaking on the e-platform initiative, the Chairman of the Class of 1989, Mr. Emeka Albert explained that “it is a multi-dimensional e-platform built by the Class, and includes an Alumni module that enables alumni members to engage and interact.”

According to the leading justice sector reform consultant, “Lawyers need only to register with their call year and the system will group members according to year of call, making it possible for members to engage with their classmates and organise themselves into alumni associations just like the Class of ’89 and a few other Classes have done.”

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

NBA ELECTIONS: ADESINA CARPETS TRUSTEES, DEMANDS PETITION REPORT

SAYS ‘AGBAKOBA HAS NOT RETURNED MY CALLS’

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Dissatisfied former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN has lampooned the NBA Board of Trustees led by prominent human rights lawyer, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN on its failure to avail him with a copy of their ruling on his election petition. CITY LAWYER recalls that Adesina had petitioned the trustees seeking cancellation of the poll.

In a letter personally signed by Adesina and dated August 22, 2020 he stated that though the trustees agreed that the “the Elections were not perfect” and “strongly recommend that a major transformation of our electoral process and framework must be undertaken….,” they failed to avail him with a copy of their report.

His words: “While, I noted your appeal for the need to promote a cohesive, united and strong Bar – a cause I have dedicated over 30 years of my participation in the affairs of the NBA, I am however taken aback that notwithstanding the fact that I am the Petitioner of the Petition that the Board members sat on, deliberated and wrote a Report upon, and a copy of the Report sent to the President of the NBA and NEC, you did not deem it necessary to send a copy of the Report to me.”

Apparently displeased with this state of affairs, the Bar Leader said: “This is definitely out of order. I think it is only proper and indeed in accordance with normal practice and procedure, that a copy of the Report of the Board be sent to me as of right.”

Hinting that he is being given the cold shoulders by the BOT leadership, Adesina stated that his telephone calls and text messages to Agbakoba have not been responded to. His words: “Mr. Chairman, I have called your telephone number several times without answer and sent text messages without response with a view to asking for this Report.”

Adesina pointedly demanded that a copy of the BOT Report on its hearing on his petition should be issued to him, saying: “Please do well to oblige me with a copy of your Report on the Petition.”

It was unclear what Adesina plans to do with the report, even as there are speculations that he may head to court to challenge the outcome of the elections.

Meanwhile, former NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Bayo Akinlade has dragged the NBA to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), asking the anti-graft body to investigate the elections.

In the petition which has been received by the commission, Akinlade noted that the trustees “agreed that indeed there were anomalies and inconsistencies in the conduct of the elections that required resolving,” adding that “it is to this end that I respectfully call on your goodself to investigate these inconsistencies and the following allegations….”

This is the second time in a row that the commission is being invited to investigate the NBA Elections. It is recalled that Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure, the deceased Technical Team Lead for erstwhile NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN had also petitioned the anti-graft body over the 2018 Elections. Olowokure died while the petition was pending. The EFCC has reportedly filed charges against two lawyers allegedly involved in manipulating the elections.

In the petition dated August 28, 2018, Olowokure alleged that “The NBA 2018 National Elections which held from August 18 to 20 2018 has been mired in controversy following complaints of gross irregularities characterized by theft of members’ identities and data, internet fraud, interference/manipulation of the online portal…parties connived to fraudulently manipulate the electoral process to achieve a predetermined outcome”.

In a ruling dated August 19, 2020 and obtained by CITY LAWYER, the trustees had noted that they received responses from the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA); NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN; NBA President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata and Mr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN “in line with the principles of fair hearing.”

Noting that “we have no judicial authority to give direction to the NBA,” the Board of Trustees stated that its position “is at best advisory.”

Reviewing the responses received from the parties, the trustees declared: “We note that the Elections were not perfect. We reviewed your petition and note that it raises serious issues. Nonetheless, our advice will be the overall interest of the Bar should be paramount on the mind of every Nigerian lawyer and to that extent, we urge that all lawyers and no less the candidates be mindful of the need to promote a cohesive, united and strong Bar. We regret that we are unable to advise that the election should be cancelled in the overall interest of the Bar.”

Noting that NBA elections “continue to present challenges going back to 2016,” the trustees “strongly recommend that a major transformation of our electoral process and framework must be undertaken,” adding that “we are happy to be assigned this very important responsibility of ensuring that the incoming administration acts accordingly.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN had on July 31, 2020 declared Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020.

According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Ajibade who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

A ROADMAP FOR AKPATA, NBA EXCO – BY ADEGBORUWA

Fiery human rights activist, EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA SAN x-rays the recent Nigerian Bar Association Elections and warns that the incoming administration must take a hard look at the poll in order to make progress

At its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of 20th August, 2020, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was briefed on efforts made by all stakeholders to resolve the controversies associated with the last election of its national officers, following which the Board of Trustees has since released a statement that seems to have doused all the tensions generated by that election. The new Executive Council (Exco) will be inaugurated this week, to take charge of the affairs of the NBA for the next two years. The expectations are high indeed, given the promises made by the candidates during their electioneering campaigns. The Exco is not entirely new, at least not to NBA matters. The President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata, has been the head of the NBA Section on Business Law, he has been part of the organization of NBA Conferences for many years and he has been working in the background with many Excos before him. The General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah, is in history the second female lawyer to be elected into that position, about twenty-nine years after the legendary Mrs. Hariat Balogun. The two Vice-Presidents are officers familiar with the NBA terrain. Mr. Kunle Edun, the activist Welfare Secretary, was in the saddle with Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, as the Publicity Secretary of the NBA. What this means is that the Exco should hit the ground running, moreso that we are not likely to have the usual luxury of ceremonies and travels that consume the time and resources of leaders, all due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This piece is an attempt to set an agenda for the new Exco, purely as a guide.

By its aims and objectives as stated in its Constitution, the NBA is to be preoccupied with:

1. ‘Maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary in Nigeria;
2. Improvement of the system of administration of justice, its procedures, and the arrangement of court business and regular law reporting;
3. Promotion and protection of the principles of the rule of law and respect for the enforcement of fundamental rights, human rights and people’s rights’.

Of course there are other objectives but I have only highlighted these ones to guide my thoughts on the issues that I consider urgent and germane. The new Exco should prioritize its goals and not fall into the same trap as professional politicians who promise everything but do nothing. It is worth stating that the Motto of the NBA is: ‘Promoting the Rule of Law’. This is similar to the Motto of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which is captured in the Latin maxim ubi jus ibi remedium, (where there is a right, there is a remedy). The NBA, by its nature and composition, is different from all other professional associations and pressure groups, because it is also an interventionist agency for the protection of the rights of others, beyond its registered members. It cannot but be pro-people, especially the masses and the underprivileged in the society. For this and many reasons, the NBA has become the mouthpiece of the oppressed of the society, the official defender of the judiciary and judicial officers and indeed the conscience of the nation.

Two eminent lawyers and nationalists of old, have given some guides to the new NBA Exco, namely Sir Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams and Pa Tunji Gomez. Sapara Williams was the first Nigerian to be admitted into the Inner Temple on November 17, 1879. He came back to Nigeria to help liberate his people from oppression and injustice, he campaigned vigorously for press freedom and for the abolition of the notorious Seditious Offences Ordinance of 1909, which fortified Colonial authority. According to Sapara Williams, “the legal practitioner lives for the DIRECTION of his people and the ADVANCEMENT of the cause of his country”. For Pa Tunji Gomez, everything a lawyer does should be “a matter of CONSCIENCE.”

STATE OF THE NATION
The NBA should constantly interrogate the affairs of Nigeria against its stated aims and objectives, as the voices of lawyers must be heard on issues concerning the masses of our people, especially those of security and welfare. To this end, the NBA NEC should mandate every NBA Branch to always list State of the Nation as part of the agenda of its monthly meetings. A gathering of lawyers cannot be complete if it does not discuss and take decisions on fundamental and topical issues affecting the nation. Lawyers should not just gather to discuss branch dues, practicing fees, stamp and seal, NBA elections, etc; we must affect society for good. It does not matter what the government in power feels or says, the NBA MUST be guided by its own Constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The NBA as an organization CANNOT be pro-government, it just cannot happen, because it won’t work. And it is gratifying that the President-elect has indicated this in some of his interviews after the election. The Exco can count on the support of all lawyers in this regard. In my humble view, the responsibilities associated with the office of the President of the NBA may not permit him to be the official spokesperson of the Bar, but he must delegate that function to other officers so long as any intervention from the Bar on national issues has his input.

STATE OF THE BAR
The Bar in Nigeria is too fragmented and nothing says this more than the last national election. The new Exco should strive to build bridges across the Bar and work assiduously to downplay the issues that drove the campaigns during the election, which divided the Bar along ethnic and class lines. The Bar should henceforth speak with one voice. The inability of the NBA to implement its resolutions on the fate of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria will haunt the association for a long time to come. Another ugly scenario is already playing out from the decision of NBA NEC on the cancellation of the invitation extended to the Governor of Kaduna State as a speaker at the NBA Conference. This is not the Bar that we grew up to know and cherish.

Lawyers and judges have become endangered species, as the practice of the legal profession, whether on the Bench or at the Bar, is increasingly becoming a dangerous path to tread. The persecution of lawyers, purely on account of the prosecution or defence of the cause of their clients, cannot continue. The Exco should have Standing Committees comprising seasoned lawyers and activists, across the six geo-political zones, monitoring cases involving lawyers who are victims of overzealous security agencies, to take them up with superior authorities and to file cases in court for judicial pronouncements. Judges are unofficial members of the NBA and as such, the NBA Constitution requires that the NBA should ensure that judges are independent, well catered for and protected.

The relationship between senior and young lawyers calls for urgent review. We need to find a balance between ambition and consolidation. The senior lawyer has spent years setting up his practice, invested heavily in it and is looking forward to the days of harvest. This is expected. However, he didn’t build the practice alone, so he must show enough magnanimity to accommodate the needs of those working with him. I’m concerned with the pitiable plight of young lawyers, especially in terms of remuneration, but given that law practice is mostly personalized, the NBA must find a way to set some guidelines on the issue of remuneration. As the African saying goes, if the hunter should reflect on the vicissitudes of hunting in the wild, he would most probably be unwilling to share his game. For instance, the NBA could give a guideline to the extent that any Senior Advocate of Nigeria, or a senior lawyer aspiring to be an SAN, should not have a lawyer in his office who earns less than N100,000 monthly as his basic salary, quite apart from transport fees to attend court and other benefits. Gladly, Mr. Akpata is renowned for running one of the best law firms in terms of the welfare of young lawyers, so he should make this a priority.

However, this must correspond with established ethics of the profession, especially on the issue of due deference to and regard for senior lawyers. A major issue that played out in Mr. Akpata’s favour was the campaign by young lawyers against senior lawyers. That ugly development should die and be buried upon the inauguration of the new Exco, as it will not augur well for the Bar, should it be allowed to fester beyond its election campaign value. I have good reasons to believe that Mr. Akpata does not personally share this banal sentiment at all, having himself worked tirelessly to produce two erudite Senior Advocates of Nigeria within the space of just two years. Being the immediate beneficiary of that anomalous rebellion, the President-elect should make it his priority to build a bridge between young and senior lawyers, in the overall interest of the Bar.

ELECTORAL REFORMS

The NBA Exco must audit the last election so as to improve on it. To the extent that the Board of Trustees has confirmed that the election was flawed, it should not be difficult for the Exco to take up the pitfalls immediately and give a roadmap for a credible election in 2022. The late President Umaru Yar’adua admitted that the election that brought him into office was not perfect, so he set up the Honourable Justice Muhammadu Uwais Panel for electoral reforms. It is believed that the inability of leaders after him to implement the recommendations of the Uwais Panel, has been the bane of free and fair elections in Nigeria. An association of learned minds, with less than thirty thousand active voters, cannot afford to conduct a flawed election. The new Exco should work assiduously to abolish this odious legacy, if it can be so called. (To be continued).

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

OVERCROWDING: CONTROLLER GENERAL HAILS CORRECTIONAL SERVICE ACT

• SAYS 33, 000 FCT COVID-19 CONVICTS DID COMMUNITY SERVICE

The Controller General of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Mr. Ja’afaru Ahmed has expressed his commitment to ensure that the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 “is fully implemented,” adding that “we are on course and on top of the situation.”

Speaking yesterday during a virtual conference on “Overcrowding of Custodial Centres – Implementation of Section 12 (4-12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019, the Control of Inflow into Custodial Centers During COVID 19 Pandemic Confirmation,” Ahmed commended Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) and Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) programme for facilitating the conference, adding that since the training started in March, “it is a new season and a new chapter in the life of the Nigeria correctional Service.”

According to Ahmed, who was represented by Assistant Controller General Tunde Ladipo, “Apart from the non-custodial service, the Act has made very important provisions on other issues bedeviling the Nigeria correctional service especially the custodial service.”

Describing overcrowding as “a thorn in the flesh of the custodial centres,” Ahmed said that “over 70 percent of the inmates who are incarcerated are not supposed to be in our centres, but due to reasons beyond our control, the trend has continued to linger on.” He however added that the Act “is made available to correct all these lapses,” noting that he is delighted that “this Act is in place and functional.”

On his part, Ladipo noted that over 33,000 Nigerians were convicted in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for violating coronavirus regulations, adding that the adverse impact on overcrowding of correctional centres would have been immense if not for the community service option enshrined in the Act.

He commended the operatives for their performance, adding that “this is made possible by the support of PRAWA and ROLAC as well as the cooperation from the judiciary and other stakeholders.”

In her opening remarks, the Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomoh noted that the initiative is spearheaded by the National Civil Society Forum on Detention and Corrections in collaboration with the NCoS, National Human Rights Commission and the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LAC), adding that the forum “is committed to partnering with NCS to ensure effective implementation of this Act.”

She described the Act as “very progressive and capable of positioning the NCS as one of the best – if not the best – correctional service in Africa,” noting however that “this can only be achieved when the provisions are fully and effectively implemented. That is why we are also encouraging other stakeholders to partner with the NCoS, so that we can all enjoy the fruits of the Act.”

Agomoh, who is also the Convener of the Forum, noted that the virtual conference “is a dialogue with correctional officers.” She stated that there were representatives from all the nation’s geo-political zones as well as NCoS training institutions.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Tony Ojukwu commended PRAWA and its partners for spearheading reforms in the corrections sector, urging other stakeholders to “join hands to ensure that our correctional centres benchmark the best in the world in terms of respect for rights of inmates.”

On his part, the Director General of Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar commended the Federal Government for the COVID-19 palliative fund, noting that this would empower the youth and keep them away from crime. He was represented by Mr. Kenneth Mozia, Head of Decongestion Unit.

Speaking on the theme, the various Controllers of Corrections among other officers observed that the provision has been useful in containing overcrowding in the centres.

They noted that aside from phased admission of inmates into the facilities where the inmates were first quarantined in “isolation centres” within the facilities prior to admission into the general cells, robust collaboration with the State chief judges and Attorneys-general aided amnesty and jail delivery initiatives which cut down on overcrowding.

Noting that overcrowding is an act of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, some of the speakers noted that the collaboration with pro bono lawyers and other stakeholders led to containment of overcrowding during the pandemic.

Speaking during the interactive session, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke, Chairman of the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme Sub-committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch stated that the jail deliveries by Nigeria have been low compared to some countries including Iran and Turkey which released 100,000 inmates each at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Noting that the pandemic has compounded delay in trial of cases, Nwadioke urged strategies to fast-track trials and releases in the new legal year.

Section 12 of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act empowers controllers of corrections to trigger a mechanism to reject potential inmates if their facilities have reached full capacity.

Nigeria has 244 custodial centres, 139 of which are the core outlets and 85 as satellite centres, with a total of 74,127 inmates, among which 1,450 are females, 21, 901 convicted and 52,226 awaiting trial.

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