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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 27 August 2020 at 09:44
To: “Paul Usoro, SAN” <email@example.com>
Cc: OLAGBEGI-OLOBA VICTORIA BANKE ESQ <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Salamatu Sidi <email@example.com>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, Ursula Agbamuche <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Ayodeji Oni <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Query and Suspension from Duties without Pay
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)
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