Saturday, 4 July, 2020

SANship: AKPATA, OGUNLANA FAULT AWOMOLO, ADESINA SPEAKS

More aspirants have condemned the call by Bar leader, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN that the next president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be sourced from the rank of senior advocates.

Awomolo had in a letter to former NBA President, Chief Onomigbo Okpoko SAN stated that “It will be a great failure of leadership for the senior advocates to surrender leadership to the outer bar when there are willing and able senior advocates,” urging him to convene a meeting of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) to deliberate on the matter. Okpoko is yet to respond to the leaked letter.

One of the presidential aspirants, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN had earlier dissociated himself from the call, saying that “The focus should be on the character, capacity and antecedents of persons who aspire to lead our profession and not on their title or rank.”

While Mr. Dele Adesina SAN did not issue any direct response to the controversial letter, he had prior to the publication of the letter and as a part of his law series, written an article which spoke to the issue. Titled “Insights: A Bar For All,” he wrote: “As a firm believer in the objectives of the Nigerian Bar Association and the role it plays to its members and the community, I believe our Association is at a critical point in history where unity of purpose and synergy among lawyers is in desperate need.

“As such it is not a time for members to instigate division either among the senior members of the Bar and juniors or among the Senior Advocates and Non – Senior Advocates. I believe as members of the NBA, the Association is for the benefit of all members irrespective of position or ilk.

“The Leadership of NBA must always ensure strategic collaboration between the NBA, its Sections, Forums and other bodies such as the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Law Officers Association of Nigeria, Law Teachers Association of Nigeria, Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) and ‘Federación Internacional dé Abogadas’ a.k.a. ‘International Federation of Women Lawyers’, Capital Markets Solicitors, and any other interest groups among us.

“Our Association must continue to be a pillar of support and strength for the specialised bodies and individuals in pursuit of their goals and objectives. We must also resist any and all efforts to cause a division among our ranks, if the NBA must remain relevant, active and successful in its role.”

In a terse response on his verified Twitter handle, another presidential aspirant, Mr. Olumide Akpata said: “I have a lot of respect for the rank of SAN & I encourage those who aspire to it. But this letter by Awomolo SAN is a disservice to all lawyers who want a better Bar.” 

On his part, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, another presidential aspirant who was disqualified by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), in a broadcast on his verified Facebook handle described the letter as “extremely amusing,” adding however that the Bar leader “is entitled to his opinion.” Ogunlana has petitioned the ECNBA over his disqualification.

Hinting that the kernel of Awomolo’s “lamentations” is a quest to “protect the interest of his class”, he stated that Awomolo’s era “generally have failed this country. They have not added value most of the time – good value. They have failed us; it is a failed generation. They are used to privilege. He has not advanced merit in canvassing (Chief) T. J. O. Okpoko.”

He discredited Awomolo’s assertion that all NBA presidents since its rebirth from the 1992 Port Harcourt debacle have all been senior advocates, noting that Chief Lanke Odogiyan completed the tenure of Chief Bayo Ojo SAN.

He said that Awomolo has “exposed the inner thinking, inner workings and the pains and anguish of people they call Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, that there is a concerted effort to keep the leadership and all the things that connect to that leadership of the NBA in their ranks.”

Saying that this may explain why all the NBA committees at the national level are headed by SANs, Ogunlana added that “There is a clear intention given by the monopolistic hold of the senior advocates on the NBA that they are the repository of wisdom, that they are the repository of intellectual knowledge.”

He distinguished between the association and the profession, adding that the Bar leader has not only shown that he “is not a democrat,” but is advocating gerontocracy and plutocracy. Describing the rank of senior advocate as “fraudulent,” he stated that any move to amend the NBA Constitution to reserve the position of NBA president for only senior advocates “will be resisted.”

He stated that the issue of leadership of the association “should not be whether the aspirant is a senior advocate or not. “It should be, is this person competent? Does he have the know-how? What is the programme and what can he do? That is the issue?” He stated that voters should cast their ballots for either SANs or non-SANs based on their competence.

Describing Awomolo’s letter as “a gross insult to himself,” Ogunlana stated that the Bar leader has “betrayed that he doesn’t understand and accept democracy for what it is.”

Awomolo’s letter read: “Since you (Okpoko) became the president of the reformed NBA in 1998, and to avoid what happened in Port Harcourt in 1992, all successors to the office of the president have been senior advocates of Nigeria.”

“With respect, I believe you need to urgently call a meeting of the past presidents of the NBA and do all within your powers to preserve the integrity, honour and respectability of the office of the president of the NBA,” Awomolo said.

“What I hear is an unannounced but powerful and potent revolutionary move by our junior colleagues who are very much in larger numbers to wrestle the office of the NBA from the rank of SAN.

“That, in my view will be unfortunate for the rank. To the members of the public a ridicule of the rank and office of the president of the NBA.”

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NBA PRESIDENCY: AJIBADE COUNTERS AWOMOLO ON SANship

  • SAYS FOCUS SHOULD BE ON CHARACTER AND CAPACITY

One of the leading aspirants for the presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN has disagreed sharply with the position of Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN on his call for position to be retained within the rank of senior advocates.

Awomolo had in a letter to former NBA President, Chief Onomigbo Okpoko SAN called for a meeting of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) to deliberate on the matter.

But in a trending post on social media, Ajibade, a senior advocate, disagreed, saying that “The focus should be on the character, capacity and antecedents of persons who aspire to lead our profession and not on their title or rank.”

The full text reads:

THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION IS NOT THE EXCLUSIVE PRESERVE OF SENIOR ADVOCATES OF NIGERIA – DR. BABATUNDE AJIBADE, SAN

My attention has been drawn to a statement made by Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN in which he suggests that the office of President of the Nigerian Bar Association is the exclusive preserve of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).

I respectfully disagree with this position. There is nothing contained in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Constitution or in the history of the NBA to support this assertion.

There is near unanimous agreement that one of the most popular and effective Presidents the NBA has had is Late Alao Aka-Basorun and the NBA has had other non-SAN Presidents since.

The focus should be on the character, capacity and antecedents of persons who aspire to lead our profession and not on their title or rank.

There are serious challenges facing the profession at this time and we need to unite the profession in order to effectively address them.

Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, FCIArb.

NBA PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS WOO IGBO LAWYERS

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential aspirants stormed the meeting of Igbo lawyers yesterday to felicitate with the members and express their intention to vie for the presidency of the Bar. Also present at the meeting were some aspirants for the post of General Secretary.

Among the presidential aspirants who attended the virtual monthly meeting of Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society) are Mr. Dele Adesina SAN, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN and Mr. Olu Akpata.

The first to be admitted into the meeting was Adesina. He thanked the leadership of the law society for the opportunity. Turning to judicial corruption, he noted that it is condemnable, adding however that only a negligible number of judges engage in such misfeasance. He stated that the entire judiciary should not be tarred with the brush of its few bad eggs. Emphasizing the need to empower young lawyers, Adesina stated that he would unveil his roadmap in this regard when the ban on campaigns is lifted by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA).

The next available aspirant, Akpata told the Otu members that welfare is critical for every lawyer, adding that he would also place premium on health insurance. Harping on his track record as Chairman of NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Akpata stated that he “came with credentials.” He stated that aside from disciplining of lawyers, he would foster the administration of justice while ensuring that every lawyer who has a brush with law enforcement agencies is offered legal defence.

On his part, Ajibade expressed worry at the divisions within NBA circles. He vowed to cement the cracks as well as “get the justice sector working again.” Noting that young lawyers should be the focus of NBA, Ajibade said that he has the unique privilege of combining the skills and practical knowledge of a solicitor and advocate, having been engaged in both transactional and litigation practice at relatively high levels.

Coming on the heels of engaging interactions between the members and the aspirants, Chief Chuks Ikokwu, President of Otu Oka Iwu, thanked the aspirants for finding it worthy to felicitate with the law society, and wished them well in their aspiration to lead Africa’s largest Bar.

Among the aspirants for the post of General Secretary who also attended the virtual meeting are Mr. Alex Muoka and Mrs. Joyce Oduah, both members of the law society.

The NBA National Elections is scheduled to hold on July 24 and 25, 2020 through electronic voting.

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EDITORIAL: NBA ELECTIONS 2020 – OF OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2020 National Elections will hold barely 28 days from today. In fact, Paragraph 2.3 (d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended) provides that “The full list of all legal practitioners qualified to vote shall be published by ECNBA in conjunction with the National Secretariat of the NBA at least twenty eight (28) days before the date of the election.” The poll is scheduled to hold on July 24 and 25, 2020 via electronic voting. Continue Reading

‘WE’VE NOT SET VOTER VERIFICATION DEADLINE,’ SAYS TAWO TAWO

• …. MIXED REACTIONS GREET EXERCISE
• “MY EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN TERRIBLE,” SAYS FUNKE ADEKOYA
• … WARNS THAT MANY ELIGIBLE VOTERS WILL BE DISENFRANCHISED

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has declared that it has not set any deadline for the ongoing verification exercise, contrary to speculations that verification was billed to end yesterday.

ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN told CITY LAWYER that the committee has not decided on when to draw the curtains on the exercise.

Speaking on whether a deadline has been set to conclude the verification process, he said pointedly: “There is none yet.” The electoral umpire was also at a loss as to the source of the speculation, saying: “I wonder the origin of the confusion.”

The frenzy may not be unconnected with certain posts on social media platforms suggesting that yesterday was the deadline for the verification exercise.

A post trended on several social media platforms yesterday urging lawyers to make haste to verify their personal details on the NBA website. It stated that only 48 hours was allowed for the exercise, adding that it would end by 6 pm. The post read: “Today is the deadline for all eligible lawyers to verify their details on the NBA Website. Visit https://nigerianbar.org.ng/membership-portal. #Securethefuture.”

Another version of the post which was sent to lawyers via short messaging service (SMS) read: “Dear (name of receiver), The ECNBA has released the 2nd List of Voters. Kindly verify that your details are correct. If they are not, send the correct details with proof of payment to ecnba2020@nigerianbar.ng not later than 6pm on 23/06/20. You can verify via https://nigerianbar.org.ng/membership-portal.” The message came under the “BULK SMS” banner.

The information caused anxiety among lawyers, leading to many making frantic efforts to verify their details.

CITY LAWYER investigations show that the speculation may also not be unconnected with the ECNBA press statement unveiling its second provisional voters list where it stated that “Those whose names are omitted are expected to send their details with proof of payment of Branch Dues within 48 hours of this publication to the account ecnba2020@nigerianbar.ng. Please note that any mails or messages sent after 6PM on Tuesday 23rd June 2020 will not be attended to.”

Given that the verification process was heralded by the press statement, many stakeholders may have assumed that the deadline was for both the compilation and verification exercises.

Meanwhile, there has been mixed reactions regarding the verification exercise. While some lawyers said that the process was stress-free, others seem to have had a herculean task navigating the verification process on the NBA website.

One of those who had a tough time engaging the process is former NBA presidential candidate, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN. She told CITY LAWYER that her experience was “terrible.” Her words: “My experience has been terrible. I was verified before but forgot password; so I sent ‘forgot password’ message. I have been waiting for password reset email since yesterday (Monday). I received email this (Tuesday) morning and accessed link – it says password cannot be reset. I sent email to NBA Secretariat 4 hours ago – still no response!”

In an early morning SOS to CITY LAWYER, Mr. Augustine Ogbodo said: “I don’t know if you have any clue on verification of membership on the NBA portal. I have been trying to log in to the portal to verify my membership but have not been successful. I tried reaching NBA via telephone but wasn’t successful.”

Immediately CITY LAWYER escalated the SOS on some social media platforms, there was a flurry of responses both from the ECNBA and the NBA leadership. While the NBA publicity team uploaded several versions of the verification process on sundry social media platforms, the ECNBA Secretary, Mrs. Cordelia Eke advised eligible voters who have challenges with the verification process to “contact the NBA IT staff in charge.”

She added: “A lot of phone calls (are) coming (in). They may not be able to take all. We advise people to send emails. It’s easier to track and treat complaints that way.” She assured that she “will ask the IT staff to look into this (complaint).” She later stated that “Members’ complaints about the website have been forwarded to NBA IT to handle.”

When CITY LAWYER asked Ogbodo to provide more details on his challenges with the verification process, he said: “I was prompted to supply new password and to confirm same. I did so but was again prompted to insert the correct format.” He then requested the “contact or email of the IT staff?” adding: “Thanks so much for your efforts. I have sent them an email. Waiting for their response. I sent the email to support@nigerianbar.org.ng as indicated.”

Unlike NBA Lagos Branch Welfare Secretary, Anthonia Eke who stated that “I had a seamless process updating my data on the verification portal of the NBA,” both Adekoya and Ogbodo eventually surmounted the verification hurdles.

Said Adekoya: “(I) Have finally been verified! A 24 hour process. With WFH (working from home), even if you have been verified (as I have) if you do not have an ‘active’ profile on the NBA website, you are unlikely to be able to vote. An ‘active’ profile means you interact with the NBA through your portal on the NBA website. (It is) Not the same as being verified.”

On his part, Ogbodo told CITY LAWYER that “This is what I have been missing. I have been trying to put the password without inserting figures and special number. (I) Have just done the needful and Password successfully reset. Thanks for your assistance.”

Worried that many lawyers may be disenfranchised by the verification model adopted by the ECNBA, Adekoya predicted a very low voter turnout in the 2020 NBA Elections. her words: “(I) Will be surprised if up to 3000 voters receive voting link from NBA website.”

CITY LAWYER also observed that the ECNBA press statement was silent on the details of any Help Desk or help lines for eligible voters who may have challenges with the verification process.

It is recalled that while 32, 228 eligible voters were on the provisional voters register for the 2018 NBA Elections, only 16,825 or 52.21 per cent of the eligible voters were able to scale the verification hurdle. Analysts have observed that the 2018 verification process is more straightforward than the current exercise, leading to fears that even fewer eligible voters may get their names on the final voters register.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. 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: LAGOS, ABUJA, IKEJA, PH ARE BATTLE-GROUND BRANCHES

• 34, 418 ELIGIBLE VOTERS MAKE SECOND LIST
• ECNBA OKAYS VOTER VERIFICATION EXERCISE

Some Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) branches have maintained their rating as battle-ground branches in NBA National Elections, given the latest voter registration list published by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) in the run-up to the 2020 polls.

Following release of the second provisional voters’ list for the elections by the electoral umpire, Lagos Branch maintains its pole-vault position as by far the branch with the largest number of voters in NBA circles. It has 6,722 members on the voters’ register. Continue Reading

NBA PRESIDENCY: 31 SANs BACK AJIBADE TO WIN

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The political fortunes of Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN in the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Elections received a major boost at the weekend with over 30 senior advocates throwing their illustrious weights behind his quest to lead Africa’s largest Bar. The NBA National Elections is scheduled to hold on 24th and 25th July, 2020 via electronic voting.

As at this weekend, no less than 31 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have pitched their tent with Ajibade. Leading the pack of the first set of endorsements is eminent lawyer and former Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. A. B. Kasunmu, SAN who described Ajibade as “someone who has a passion for both the law and the profession; a lawyer with integrity and a gentleman, who subtly but effectively upholds the true ethos of the profession.”

On his part, renowned lawyer, Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN said of the NBA presidential aspirant: “In these trying times for the bar and bench, I see Dr. Ajibade as a person who will do his utmost to restore pride and dignity to the bar and bench by ensuring that such virtues as (a) integrity (b) diligence and (c) merit are enthroned at all times. I also see him as a person who will fight for the welfare of the bar and bench and promote a smooth relationship between the bar and bench.”

Said Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, NBA former 1st Vice-President and former presidential: “I find Dr. Ajibade to be courteous and with the personal attributes that describe a gentleman. He is known in both international and domestic legal circles and is an acknowledged leader in both. Within Nigeria he is an active member of committees of both the NBA Section on Legal Practice as well as Section on Business Law. He is a past President of the Capital Markets Solicitors Association. In the international arena he is a member of the ICC’s Africa Commission, and the IBA’s African Regional Forum Advisory Board. I support his candidacy because in my opinion he is the best bridge between the younger and older members of the profession.”

Perhaps the icing on the cake was an endorsement by Ajibade’s peers comprising a group of 14 senior advocates who were his 1989 classmates at the Nigerian Law School. In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the senior lawyers said they have known Ajibade “for over 30 years and can confidently attest to his character, integrity, humility, experience, brilliance and hard work in the legal profession, which led him to achieve the honour of being the first person to be elevated to the rank of SAN from the 1989 NLS Class.”

According to them, aside from the fact that he has over the years “been highly involved in Continuing Legal Education and other programmes that provide mentorship for young lawyers,” his wealth of experience in leadership “will help reposition the NBA as an effective and efficient world-class Association for the benefit of the different intra professional groups of lawyers under its membership and the growth and development of our great country, Nigeria.”

Aside from Kasunmu who took silk in 1979, other lawyers who endorsed Ajibade include Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN, Mr. Kayode Sofola SAN, Prof. Gabriel A. Olawoyin SAN, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, Mr. Bambo Adesanya SAN, Mr. Dolapo Akinrele SAN, Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, Prof. Andrew Chukwuemerie SAN, Mrs. Titi Akinlawon SAN, Mr. Folu Oguntade SAN, Mr. Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, Mr. Abiodun Jelili Owonikoko SAN, Mr. Segun Ajibola SAN and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN.

Others are Mr. Teslim Olatunde Busari SAN, Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN, Dr. Kayode Olatoke SAN, Mr. Olatunde Adejuyigbe SAN, Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, Dr. Muiz Banire SAN, Mr. Emeka Etiaba SAN, Mr. Olasheni Ibiwoye SAN, Mr. A. U. Mustapha SAN, Mr. Emeka Okpoko SAN, Mr. Adeyemi Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN, Mr. Olayode Delano SAN, Mr. Olumide Aju SAN, Mr. Olukayode Enitan SAN, Mr. Essien Andrew SAN, and Mr. Oladipo Olasope SAN.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. 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.

OGUNLANA APPEALS DISQUALIFICATION, BLAMES IKEJA CHAIR FOR WOES

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Controversial Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential aspirant, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana has made good his resolve to challenge his disqualification by the Electoral Committee of the NBA.

Ogunlana, the Convener of the Radical Agenda Movement in the Nigerian Bar Association (RAMINBA), blamed outgoing NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Dele Oloke for his woes, saying that the “failure of the Chairman of the NBA Ikeja Branch to issue me the Letter duly applied for within time and in compliance with constitutional provisions is absolutely reprehensible , grossly oppressive and a brazen and violent breach of the Constitution of the Association and a reckless, malicious abuse of the powers of the Nigerian Bar Association.”

Attached to the appeal are Oloke’s reply to his application for Letter of Good Standing, Ogunlana’s Letter of Reply to Oloke’s refusal letter and his Letter to ECNBA Chairman.

Please see details below:

OGUNLANA ADESINA ADEMOLA ESQ.

Phone- 08034854066 Email- thesquiblawjournal@yahoo.com
185, PALMGROVE, IKORODU ROAD, LAGOS.

17th June, 2020

The Chairman,
Electoral Committee of Nigerian Bar Association,
NBA House,
Plot 1101, Central Business District,
Abuja,
Federal Capital Territory.

THROUGH:
The Secretary,
Electoral Committee of Nigerian Bar Association

Dear Sir,
APPEAL AGAINST DISQUALIFICATION OF OGUNLANA ADESINA ADEMOLA FROM CONTESTING THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
I received the e-Letter of your Committee dated 12th June, 2020 entitled “Notice of Disqualification from Contesting Election, Re: Office of The President of the Nigerian Bar Association and signed by the Secretary on the 13th day of June, 2020.
I take the liberty to reproduce same here:
“June 12th, 2020

Mr. Adesina Ogunlana,
NBA,
Ikeja Branch

 

NOTICE OF DISQUALIFICATION FROM CONTESTING ELECTION
RE: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE NBA

TAKE NOTICE that upon the perusal and screening of your nomination form with the accompanying documents by a Sub-Committee of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) constituted for that purpose, it was discovered that you do not have a letter of good standing from your Branch as required by the ECNBA Election Guidelines with respect to nomination of candidates, made pursuant to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 (as amended).

You have therefore been found not qualified to contest election to the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association in the 2020 National Officers Election of the Association.

Note further that you have a right of Appeal exercisable within seven (7) days of receipt of this Notice.

Any letter or notice of Appeal should be addressed to the Chairman, ECNBA and sent to the Committee Secretary via email to : ecnba2020@gmail.com , not later than 4.00 PM on the 7th day subsequent to the date or receipt of this mail.

Cordelia U. Eke (Mrs.)
Secretary, ECNBA”

 

Being utterly dissatisfied with the verdict of your Committee, I hereby appeal same, asking for a reversal and qualifying me to participate in the election in issue.

You will kindly recall, Sir, that my bundle of Nomination Forms including documents pertaining to myself as Candidate, Dare Akande as Nominator and Lateef Abdulsalam as Seconder sent over to you numbered 81 pages. I hereby attach all earlier documents forwarded to you, except my Nomination forms , my Nominator’s forms , receipts and letter of good standing and my Seconder’s forms, receipts and letter of good standing, which are as follows:

1.Adesina Ogunlana’s Bar Practising Fees and Branch Dues paid as and when due for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

2. Letter to Chairman, ECNBA by Adesina Ogunlana, Prospective Candidate for Office of NBA President dated 29/5/2020 with the following attachments:
i. E-mail by Adesina Ogunlana to Dele Oloke Esq., Chairman , NBA Ikeja Branch
ii. Whatsapp Messages of Adesina Ogunlana to Dele Oloke Esq., Chairman, NBA Ikeja Branch
iii. Charge Sheet

3. (A)Chairman and Secretary , NBA Ikeja Branch’s letter to Adesina Ogunlana dated 25/5/2020

(B) Letter to Adesina Ogunlana dated 29/5/2020 in reply to Letter of Chairman , NBA Ikeja Branch dated 25/5/2020 with the following attachments:
i. NBA Ikeja Branch Insurance Committee’s Final Reports
ii. Adesina Ogunlana’s Response to NBA Ikeja Branch’s Insurance Committee’s Final Report
iii. Letter of Mr. Adesina Ogunlana to Chairman NBA Ikeja Branch for application for Letter of Good Standing dated 22nd day of May , 2020
iv. Letter of Reminder of Mr. Adesina Ogunlana to Chairman NBA Ikeja Branch for Letter of Good Standing dated 26th May , 2020

It can easily be gleaned from your said letter of 12th June, 2020 to me that your Committee based its decision to disqualify me from the election on the sole basis that a Letter of Good Standing from the Chairman of my Branch was not found in my bundle of Application papers.

However, as you will recall, I had at the earliest opportunity and within time allowed for the submission of Nomination forms (May 29, 2020) , informed and alerted your good office to the STRANGE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL reason for the absence of the letter in question, to wit that Mr. Dele Oloke, the Chairman of the Ikeja Branch decided not to issue to me a Letter of Good Standing despite that to his notice and knowledge, I am in full compliance with the provisions of the Constitution guiding the issuance of Letters of Good Standing .

I respectfully reproduce the said Paragraph 4 of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 (as amended) inter alia :

“4. Good Standing

A member is in good standing and, if he so desires shall be entitled to a certification of that status signed by the Chairman of the Branch if

(1) In addition to this Bar Practising Fees, he has paid his Annual Dues and all other financial obligations to the Branch as and when due for at least the immediate preceding three years, unless he was enrolled or and relocated to the states where the Branch is situate when a shorter period which shall then be the threshold point instead of three years; and
(2) He or she has in the past one year in question participated in at least three or more activities of the Branch, including attendance at Branch meeting or the sponsorship thereof. Provided that one or more of these requirements may be waived upon proof of temporary relocation to a place outside in the state where the Branch is situate and or serious and prolonged illness.”

By Dele Oloke’s letter to me, dated 25th May, 2020 , but received on 28th May, 2020, particularly in paragraph 6, he highlighted the major reason why he would not issue Letter of Good Standing to me, to wit:

“6. At the Monthly Meeting of Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch held at its Secretariat (THE BAR CENTRE) on Monday, 2nd December, 2019 and upon the consideration of the reports of the Insurance Committee of the branch, the following resolution was made:
a. That Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, Mr. Yinka Farounbi, Mrs. Derin Kappo and all persons indicted by the report of the Insurance Committee and to whom monies were traced from the insurance funds of NBA Ikeja Branch , not being an insurance company, should return all such monies within 30 days from the date of the resolution.
b. That till now, you have treated the Branch with disdain and arrogance and have failed to refund the sum of eleven million six hundred and fifty thousand naira (N11, 650,000.00) withdrawn by you from the Branch’s insurance account into your personal account.

In view of the aforesaid reason the Branch is unable to issue a Letter of Good Standing to you and we also urge you to respect the Branch’s resolution mandating you to refund the Branch’s money unlawfully converted to your own use”

Sir, I respectfully ask your Committee, are these reasons good in law, in view of Paragraph 4 of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 (as amended) to deny me a Letter of Good Standing?

You will clearly see the strenuous extent I went debunking Oloke’s baseless and malicious allegations in the attachments to the letters I sent over to you, especially to wit, the Report of the Insurance Committee (which never claimed that I converted the Branch funds), My Response to the Report of the Insurance Committee and the Charge Sheet in Charge Number ID/9472C/2019., FGN v. ADESINA OGUNLANA & 2 ORS ( to show that Oloke’s interesting objection is on a “subject matter sub judice before the Courts).

I submit respectfully further as follows:

a. The absence of a Letter of Good Standing for me from my Branch Chairman, in my Application Forms is not due to any fault or negligence on my part as I duly paid all requisite fees (Bar Practising Fees and Branch Dues) as and when due for 2018, 2019 and 2020 and I had attended functions of the Branch more than three times in the past one year.

b. That I duly applied to the office saddled with the responsibility of Letter of
Good Standing within time.

c. The refusal and failure of the Chairman to issue me a Letter of Good Standing was malicious, deliberate and not on account of any failure on my part to comply with Paragraph 4 of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 (as amended).

My further submission on this Appeal is that in the circumstances of this case, your Committee would be in the right to hold that Ogunlana Adesina Ademola, my humble self, is entitled to be issued a Letter of Good Standing from the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association and the refusal and failure of the Chairman of the NBA Ikeja Branch to issue me the Letter duly applied for within time and in compliance with constitutional provisions is absolutely reprehensible , grossly oppressive and a brazen and violent breach of the Constitution of the Association and a reckless, malicious abuse of the powers of the Nigerian Bar Association.

In the unlikely event that your Honourable Committee fails to uphold my appeal, I submit as follows that a refusal of this Appeal will only mean as follows:

a. That the Committee has construed the office of Chairman of a Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association as a “CONSENTING AUTHORITY” to and on the eligibility of members of his Branch to contest for National Offices of the Association. It would mean where a Branch Chairman for no just and legal reasons refrain or refuse to issue to a Candidate or Aspirant, Letter of Good Standing or issuing same out of time to affect the eligibility of such a candidate, the Electoral Committee will disqualify such a candidate.

I submit with greatest respect that this cannot be the true and acceptable interpretation of the power and status of the Chairman vis the issuance of Letter of Good Standing. The Constitution, truly makes the Branch Chairman, the ISSUING OFFICE of the Letter of Good Standing but the same Constitution by expressly defining entitlement to receipt of Letter of Good Standing, as shown earlier, has circumscribed the powers of the Chairman in this regard from that of loose subjectivity to that of codified and verifiable objectivity.

In simple terms, the Chairman cannot do as he likes in the matter of issuance of Letters of Good Standing. Irrespective of his sentiments for or against the applicant, the Chairman can only be guided in the exercise of his duty or refrain from same , ONLY by the consideration of the Applicant’s compliance or non-compliance with the directives and stipulates of the Constitution in that regard.

May I humbly stress this point. By the constitutional provisions regarding the issuance of Letter of Good Standing by the Chairman of a Branch, it is a right of the Applicant to apply for and receive a Letter of Good Standing, where he is in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015(as amended). Consequently, the Chairman has a COMPELLING DUTY on him to issue the letter, where there is compliance. He,(the Chairman), therefore, is not dispensing or conferring a PRIVILEDGE on the Applicant. In effect, the Chairman issues the Letter of Good Standing not because the application meets with his PERSONAL APPROVAL but rather because it is in CONFORMITY with the provisions of the Constitution.

(b)Should the Honourable Committee disqualify me on account of my nomination packet not having a Letter of Good Standing from my Branch Chairman, irrespective of the fact that same was untowardly, wrongfully, maliciously and unconstitutionally denied by the Chairman despite due, timely application and compliance, it would mean that the Electoral Committee has construed the situation as a STRICT LIABILITY CASE. Such a stance in my humble view cannot in any way, legally and morally, even spiritually be upheld as proper and just. This is because not only is such a stance punishing the innocent for the unfair and oppressive act of another but also APPROVING AND LEGALIZING SAME. In the event such a stance has conferred tyrannical powers not ascribed to Branch Chairmen by the Constitution and turning them to Frankenstein monsters. This certainly cannot be the intendment of the Constitution.

CONCLUSION AND PRAYER
As I have asserted in my letter of May 29, 2020 to you, Sir, Dele Oloke Esq is well known as a bitter political rival of mine since 2016 in the NBA Ikeja Branch. He was the factional leader of the Branch between 2016 and 2017 when he was thrown up unsuccessfully to replace me as Chairman after the national body of the Association on June 16, 2016 purported to nullify my June 14, 2016 electoral victory as the bonafide Chairman.

I had to go to Court against him and the National body to contain the situation. Kindly find attached a Copy of the Ruling of the Honourable Justice M.A. Lawal of the Lagos High Court granting an order of injunction against the Defendants (Dele Oloke inclusive) in Suit Number LD/1141GCM/2016.

The factional leadership crisis at the Ikeja Bar ended in May 2017 when he declined at the last minute to participate in a fresh election ordered between the two of us for the disputed position of Chairman.

The bitter rivalry resurfaced at the last month of my tenure when I disagreed with the desire of Oloke and his group to hand over the office of Chairman to him automatically without an election. I insisted on the election as the only acceptable means to attaining position in the Branch, much to the discomfiture of Oloke and his supporters, who believe he could not win in any election organised by my administration. The election held and ironically, he won.

Dele Oloke saw his emergence as Branch Chairman as a great opportunity to deal with me and anyone associated with me and he applied his energies strenuously to this his GRAND PROJECT. The refusal to issue me a Letter of Good Standing is just the latest of his reprisal schemes and attacks against my interest.

I conclude with a sober and passionate prayer to your Committee to take a deep and insightful assessment of the claims and merits of my Appeal and grant same.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

OGUNLANA ADESINA ADEMOLA

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THE USORO LEGACY: NBA NEC MEETINGS

BY AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Assistant Publicity Secretary, MR. AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL in this article made available to CITY LAWYER tracks the gains of the Paul Usoro SAN-led Administration in organizing National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meetings.

Meetings of the Nigerian Bar Association are above the simplistic coming together of two or more persons to discuss issues of mutual interest. The meetings of members of the NBA are to varying degrees the major decision making organs of the Bar. The essence, in my view, is democratic. And unsurprisingly, by virtue of Article 5 of the NBA Constitution, 2015 (as amended) the supreme authority of the Bar rests in the General Meeting.

At the national end, the NBA is mandated to hold three statutory meetings – National Officers meeting, National Executive Committee meeting and the General Meeting. The monthly National Officers meetings have an expected attendance of the 14 elected officers. The quarterly National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings are attended by almost 500 statutory and co-opted NEC members. The Annual General meeting is open to all members and participants in recent years had hardly been lesser than 1000 in number.

The logistics of holding these statutory meetings are quite heavy on the purse of the association, but we cannot run the extreme by limiting the meetings – both in essence and numbers – as the meetings serve as necessary and statutory checks on the Bar leadership. Thus, while we cannot cut down on the meetings, we can and we have been cutting down on the costs of the meetings since September 2018, when the Paul Usoro, SAN leadership came on board.

It was at the first NEC meeting hosted by the Paul Usoro, SAN administration in December 2018 at the NBA House in Abuja that the tone of changing the status quo was set.

NEC members came expecting their usual hurriedly printed NEC entrance tags, but they were met with bespoke neck tags bearing their names and the duration of their term (2018 to 2020). At the end of the meeting, the Secretariat staff recalled the tags from the participants and kept them. Upon return for the next NEC meeting, the same tags were returned to the respective NEC members and this has been the culture since 2018. One NEC tag for one NEC member in one NEC term. No reprinting tags. No return of money to the NEC Printer!

Hitherto, NBA used to ‘bless’ her NEC members with what was known as NEC Bundle. NEC Bundles were nicely printed hard books with the sober green logo of the NBA on their covers. A flip through the pages welcome you with the glossy pictures of National officers and ordinary prints of quarterly reports of all NBA activities. In a year, a NEC member would go home with 4 of such and if well arranged, you would easily mistake NEC Bundles for useful law books on the shelves of the library of a NEC member. The only difference is that they were bought for the half of a thousand NEC members with NBA funds – running into tens of millions.

Since December 2018, the ‘NEC Bundle’ and its contractors regime has been ousted. In its stead, NEC reports are sent via emails and special WhatsApp Groups to all NEC members prior to the meetings. NEC members are encouraged to attend the meetings with their devices and, in place of heavy NEC bundles, the Paul Usoro leadership makes pervasive fast internet facilities at the venue of the meeting to aid free and easier downloads of the electronic reports. In addition to this, the reports are projected on a large screen for members to follow proceedings.

It was the same initiative that the present NBA leadership adopted on a bigger scale at her first Annual General meeting in 2019. The yearly reports were electronically reduced into PDF formats and were sent to members via emails. By this seemingly simple but ingenious efforts, we saved our association hundreds of millions that would have gone to some printers. And this is one of the reasons we were able to record for the first time ever hundreds of millions as surplus, post -2019 annual general conference.

While the conversation about the NBA picking the hotel bills of statutory NEC members is ongoing, the Paul Usoro administration has made the process more transparent and prudent. Shifting from the earlier system of reserving hotel accommodation for statutory members who may end up not attending the meeting, presently, until a NEC member is confirmed physically present for the meeting, reservations of accommodation are not availed. An indication of the success of this system is that in 2019 and for arguably the first time ever in the NBA history, the present Welfare Secretary, Joshua Enemali Usman returned more than a million Naira of un-utilized hotel bills to the coffers of the NBA.

In respect of meetings of National Officers, long before Covid-19 pandemic, and at the first constitutional amendment opportunity in August 2019, this NBA administration caused the General meeting to amend the NBA Constitution by adding a proviso to Article 8 (6). The said provision now allows for the monthly national officers meeting to hold via teleconference, videoconference and other electronic means, thereby cutting hotel and travel costs that would otherwise have been incurred.

This forward looking provision defines how leadership stands tall to take a peep into the future and face it by earnestly changing the status quo.

“Upon return for the next NEC meeting, the same tags were returned to the respective NEC members and this has been the culture since 2018. One NEC tag for one NEC member in one NEC term. No reprinting tags. No return of money to the NEC Printer!”

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. 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.

‘WE HAVE DUMPED ICT FIRM, NOT NBA VOTING PORTAL,’ SAYS TAWO TAWO

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has resolved that TAVIA Technologies Limited, the company that built the NBA Election website, will not conduct the e-voting for the forthcoming NBA Elections.

Disclosing this in an interview with THISDAY LAWYER, ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN however stated that the electoral committee may still deploy the election platform built by the ICT firm for the forthcoming NBA Elections. The committee did not also state whether TAVIA would be given any other role in the run-up to the elections.

His words: “It may be of interest to point out that, the IT firm, TAVIA, that developed the NBA election portal/platform, is not conducting the e-voting election for the NBA; rather another IT consultant will do that.”

According to the ECNBA helmsman, “there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant to analyse, assess and critique the portal as to its integrity, functionality and suitability for the elections, or otherwise advice (sic) on other options.”

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report on May 11, 2020 hinted on the existence of a ready-made election portal commissioned by the Mr. Paul Usoro SAN-led administration thus: “It was unclear at press time whether the vendor’s scope of work included a mandate to deliver an election portal for the forthcoming NBA Elections, given the notice issued by the ECNBA seeking proposals to recruit an ‘Information Technology Specialist.’ ”

The existence of the election portal was subsequently confirmed by the ECNBA Chairman in ECNBA PRESS STATEMENT NO. 003 released on May 15, 2020 when he said: “The Committee was briefed that the NBA has its own e-voting platform/portal for elections developed by TAVIA, an IT firm. TAVIA was invited to brief the Committee in conjunction with the NBA IT Officer Umar Gezawa, on the said NBA election platform/portal.”

According to the electoral umpire, the final decision on whether the ready-made NBA voting portal would be deployed for the election would be based on an assessment of the integrity of the election website by the committee’s Information Technology Specialist. It was unclear at press time whether the committee has chosen a specialist, as it is yet to issue any statement in that regard.

Noting that there are advantages of a dedicated NBA Election Portal for all times, Tawo however said that the fate of the portal spearheaded by the Usoro Administration will be determined by the committee alongside its consultant, adding that “the e-voting portal to deploy for the election would depend on the advice and report of the IT Consultant engaged for the election, upon analysing the existing NBA election platform.”

He also gave insights on the challenges facing the committee in midwifing a free, fair and credible election. The full text of the interview is below:

NBA Elections Will be Free, Fair and Credible
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is unarguably the largest professional body in Africa. With almost 200,000 members, the body’s biennial elections come with understandably humongous challenges. This year’s elections to its national offices present no less, and Mr Tawo Eja Tawo, SAN has been given the herculean task of midwifing the elections, which will be by universal suffrage and e-voting. In a chat with Onikepo Braithwaite and Jude Igbanoi, he outlined the responsibilities of the Nigerian Bar Association Electoral Committee (ECNBA) of which he is Chairman, and gave insights on how his Committee intends to deliver a free, fair and transparent election next month

A few weeks ago, you assured Nigerian Lawyers that your Committee would deliver a credible, free and fair election. What specific plans do you have in place to fulfil this promise, given the fact the last few elections of the Nigerian Bar Association were trailed with controversies?
The assurance to deliver a credible, free and fair election for the NBA, still stands. To achieve that, we will ensure adherence to the attributes or ingredients of a credible, free and fair election, to wit, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and competitiveness in the 2020 general elections of the National Executives of the NBA. Inclusiveness; where members of the Bar are provided equal opportunities to participate in the elections either as voters or candidates subject of course, to the Constitution of the NBA. Transparency; where members and stakeholders can verify independently, the conduct of the electoral process. Accountability; where the rights of the members with respect to the conduct of the stakeholders and candidates in the election is sustainable, and competitiveness where members will have reasonable and equal opportunities to compete in the elections.

The Committee has a road map of activities for the election, which commenced with the issuance of a preliminary notice for the elections. Thereafter, the guidelines for the elections were issued, and nomination of candidates opened on May 11th, 2020 and closed on May 29th, 2020. We are in the process of screening the nominees, before publication of the list of candidates. There shall be a period for appeals, as provided for in the election guidelines. We have, and shall be issuing periodic statements, to put members in the know of the activities and the electoral process.

We are aware that one of the keys to the successful delivery of our electoral mandate, is the compilation of an authentic and credible voters register consisting of only the names of eligible voters as prescribed by the Constitution of the NBA, in order not to disenfranchise any qualified member from voting. Secondly, since the election is by e-voting, the deployment of a suitable election portal/platform that is easily accessible and user friendly is very important, and this has to be done on the advice and in consultation with a credible IT Consultant engaged for the purpose of assisting in the conduct of the election, which will also include voter education for the use of the election portal.

Nigerian Lawyers were shocked when you stated in a recent press release, that the NBA presented your Committee with an already prepared e-voting platform, over which your Committee had no input. This has raised serious apprehensions in the minds of many, that it could be a ploy to rig the elections in favour of a particular candidate. Is your Committee ready to accept that voting platform to deliver the election? If so, how will you be able to convince Lawyers that the elections will be free and fair?

If you had the opportunity of reading my press statement No. 003 of May 15th, 2020 captioned “The Journey so far”, you would have discovered that those were not my words. However, I want to believe that was the understanding of the reporter who chose such a headline for his story. What I said was that, the Committee was briefed that the NBA has its own e-voting platform/portal for elections developed by an IT firm.

I did not say the e-voting platform/portal was developed specifically for the 2020 elections, and neither did I say anything that should warrant an inference that the NBA developed platform was created for the purpose of rigging the elections, far from it. It may be of interest to point out that, the IT firm, TAVIA, that developed the NBA election portal/platform, is not conducting the e-voting election for the NBA; rather another IT consultant will do that. I went further in that statement to state that, in spite of the obvious advantages of the NBA portal, namely reduction in cost and security of members data vis- a-vis deployment of another election platform or portal, there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant to analyse, assess and critique the portal as to its integrity, functionality and suitability for the elections, or otherwise advice on other options.

Let me say this, we as a people, not just Lawyers but Nigerians, have so much programmed and skewed our mind set and perception to negativism and pessimism, that we fail to see or look at the good side or intention of a particular exercise or project; rather we look and search for the bad, the ugly and the hidden agenda, even when none exist.

That is why bad news sells faster. Having said that, what is wrong for an organisation that conducts a crucial election biannually to develop an election portal for use for its elections, rather than every two years an IT firm is commissioned or contracted to develop an election portal for the election, and discard same afterwards?

However, like I stated in the said Statement No. 003, the e-voting portal to deploy for the election would depend on the advice and report of the IT Consultant engaged for the election, upon analysing the existing NBA election platform.

Despite your warning to candidates for the various offices, it does appear as if your warning was observed in breach, as many of them have been on all media platforms practically campaigning and canvassing for votes, even when the ban had not been lifted.

How do you intend to assure that all candidates play by the rules? Do your rules and guidelines permit aspirants traversing the length and breadth of the country, visiting Branches to seek for votes? If not, what are your Committee’s plans to deal with this? What exactly do your rules permit for the canvassing for votes? After all, candidates must make themselves known to the electorate at large to share their manifestos and win them over.

The ECNBA has general powers to conduct the 2020 general elections of the NBA; those powers are however, subject to the NBA Constitution. It is in consequence of those powers, that we issued guidelines for the election. The ban for the campaigns has not been lifted, because there are no candidates for the elections yet. Assuming at this stage an aspirant embarks on a campaign spree and upon screening he or she is rightly disqualified from contesting the election, of what benefit would the campaign be? Come to think of it, and in all frankness, what is the campaign for the NBA election all about? Is it for vote buying or letting members know the candidate’s program for the Association and its members? If it is for the latter, paragraph 1.3(f) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended) has taken care of that, to the effect that candidates are to submit copies of their curriculum vitae, comprehensive manifestoes and other campaign materials to the ECNBA for publication on the NBA website. Besides, with a few inquiries from colleagues, members will be able to ascertain and determine the capability of any of the candidates.

The essence of the guidelines and constitutional limitations and prohibitions to campaigns, such as traversing and criss-crossing the entire length and breadth of the country for votes, is to discourage unnecessary spending of money with the attendant urge to recoup same upon being elected.

In terms of any breach of the guidelines or the constitutional provisions by the candidates, we are monitoring the activities of the prospective candidates and their supporters, and we shall not hesitate to impose appropriate sanctions for any violation. This also brings me back to the issue of accountability which I mentioned earlier, as an ingredient of a credible election which pertains to members’ rights to question the conduct of the stakeholders and the candidates for the election.

Some Aspirants have been accused of enticing young Lawyers with juicy monetary offers, by asking them for their account numbers to help pay their practicing fees and Branch dues. Does this not amount to inducement and election malpractice? How are you responding to such allegations?

Inducement or monetary offers to voters, is vote buying simpliciter. It is an anathema to the tenets of democracy, and portends grave damage to any society or organisation that encourages it, as it will scuttle the right to conscientiously call those elected through vote buying to account. In fact, it is inexcusable, both for the vote buyer and the vote seller.

Yes, asking for account numbers from some members for the payment of their Bar practicing fees and branch dues by aspirants or prospective candidates, especially during the election year, amounts to an inducement and election malpractice. However, those are general allegations which we cannot act upon, without proof or evidence of such allegations. That notwithstanding, if the Committee by whatsoever means and ways finds out that any aspirant or candidate indulges or indulged in such or any other malpractice, the full weight of the relevant constitutional provisions will be brought to bear on such aspirant or candidate.

What is your position on ethnic endorsement or adoption of Candidates, despite the fact that the election will be by universal suffrage?
In my humble opinion, there is a seeming difference between endorsement of a candidate and adoption of a candidate. Endorsement of a candidate, is the support or approval of a candidate by a person or group of persons. Adoption of a candidate, on the other hand, is the choice to make a candidate a group’s own candidate, i.e. the group of persons put forward the candidate as their own and only candidate.

Generally, endorsements and adoptions are integral to democracy. Adoption is usually an off shoot of consensus amongst the aspirants or candidates, and the group or platform the candidates seek to represent. It follows therefore, that in the absence of a consensus, adoption of a candidate by a group becomes more or less ineffectual, because other candidates may likely emerge in defiance of the adoption. Having said that, adoption on its own is not bad in a democracy, provided there is a consensus.

My take here is that, adoption arising from a consensus is good because it tends to reduce acrimony, rancour, as well as tension, and brings about collaboration, peace, synergy, unity of ideas and understanding, not only amongst the aspirants or candidates, but also amongst the electorates.

The interim list of voters just released by your Committee, is riddled with so many errors and omissions. Although there is said to be a window of opportunity to correct these errors, it has been revealed that many Branches claim that they don’t have the capacity to verify the list of their members who have paid Branch dues. This will undoubtedly affect the eligibility of many voters. What remedies are available to ensure that Lawyers are not unduly denied their right to vote?

It is not correct to say that the interim voters list released by my Committee is riddled with so many errors and omissions, especially when the interim list is considered with the accompanying ECNBA statement No.005 in view. The import of your statement on the purported errors and omissions, is that the errors were occasioned by the Committee, and that is far from the truth.

Paragraph 1.2(f) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution predicated the eligibility to vote at the elections on the twin requirement of payment of Bar Practicing Fees and Branch Dues as at when due, which by the Constitution is the 31st day of March of the election year, in this case 2020. To compile the voters list, the Committee’s resource for the assignment is the Bar Practising Fees list from the National Secretariat of the NBA, since Bar Practicing Fees is paid to NBA National, while the Branch Dues list from the 125 branches of the NBA, since the Branch Dues are paid to the branches. Paragraph 1.3 (d) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution stipulates that the full list of all legal practitioners qualified to vote shall be published by the ECNBA in conjunction with the National Secretariat of the NBA, at least 28 days before the date of the election.

Bearing in mind the said paragraph 1.3(d), the Committee asked the National Secretariat to request from the branches, the list of their members who have paid their branch dues. Based on our request, the General Secretary of the NBA early April 2020 requested for the said list from the branches, giving them about three weeks to do so. When the Committee realised that the response from the branches was very poor, it stepped in and made the request for branches to submit the said list of their members with proof of payment of branch dues not later than May 2nd, 2020.

The time was further extended to May 9th, 2020. Thereafter, the time for submission became open ended so to speak, just to accommodate all the branches. It was disheartening that as at May 29th, 2020, only about 36 out of 125 branches complied with the Committee’s request. From the list we got from the branches with proof of payment of branch dues matched with the Bar Practicing fees list from the NBA Secretariat, we could only compile a list with slightly below 10,000 names. The Committee had to fall back on the stamp and seal list of those who paid both their bar practicing fees and branch dues, and applied for the stamps. The rationale for the stamp and seal list is the assumption that to apply for stamp, the member must have paid both the bar practicing fees and branch dues. The stamp and seal list was obtained from the National Secretariat, bearing in mind the provisions of paragraph 1.3 (d) earlier mentioned. That was how we were able to get over 21,000 names, on the interim list.

The publication of the interim voters register was a strategy adopted by the Committee, to ensure the compilation of a credible voters register. It was a clarion call for the branch Chairmen to take responsibility, and for members to call out their branch Chairmen to do the needful, in order not to jeopardise their chances of voting in the election. I want to reiterate and reassure that, no Lawyer with proof of eligibility to vote will be excluded and/or disenfranchised howsoever, from the elections.

I call on all members and branch Chairmen to utilise the window of opportunity created by the publication of the interim voters register, to do the needful. I am happy with the response so far from the branches, and must say that the strategy is paying off.

How is the issue of Lawyers who were unable to pay their practicing fees before the deadline as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, being resolved?

The period and time of payment of Bar practicing fees as at when due is a constitutional issue, which to me requires a constitutional solution i.e. constitutional amendment. Aside, procrastination and the culture of last minute rush by most people, I am not exempt, to meet datelines can be detrimental sometimes. I want to believe that, that was what affected most of our colleagues who couldn’t pay their BPF before March 31st, 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic lockdown on March 25th, 2020, especially those in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State. In any case, I do not rule out the fact that some junior colleagues may not have got the resources to do so before the lockdown.

What would you say are your biggest challenges in this crucial assignment, before and after the elections?
For now, my biggest challenge before the election is the compilation of an authentic and credible voters register for the 2020 general elections of the National Executives of the NBA, occasioned in the main by the initial lack of cooperation from most members and their branch Chairmen. To put a stop to the blame game, I was compelled to discuss and interact with some branch Chairmen via phone calls to ensure progress of the process, and the initial feedback was not encouraging. Some said members, have failed to produce evidence of branch dues payments and the like. But, I am happy to state that, most branches rose to the occasion, and the level of cooperation in that regard became remarkable. In any case, the Committee will not act contrary to the letters of the NBA Constitution.

On the issue of challenges after the election, we are yet to conduct the election, so I cannot at this stage know or speculate on what challenges await me after the election. I pray there are none. We will do what is right under the Constitution, and by the grace of God, we shall conduct a credible, free and fair election; and I want to add that, such cannot be achieved without the cooperation and support of our members and stakeholders. I urge our esteemed colleagues to own the electoral process by making inquiries and seeking for clarifications from the Committee, rather than get involved only by making derisive comments that will tend to distract on the electoral process.

Many are saying that the NBA needs to be overhauled; that it needs to refocus, to play the role of a true Bar Association. Do you agree? Going forward, what do you expect from the incoming NBA leadership?
Before you talk of overhauling or refocusing the NBA, you have to ascertain and examine the attributes of a Bar Association, of which the NBA is one. The Bar Association is meant to represent the interest of its members, promote their continuing education and training, as well as protect the professional integrity of the members. Beyond the interest of the members, the development of a strong, virile and independent Bar Association is central to democracy and human rights by protecting the rule of law, and providing a means and platform for citizens to assert their rights.

Agreed the NBA has to do more by championing the cause of justice, and defence of the rule of law. However, it has been increasingly difficult these days for the NBA to speak with one voice, because the Association is constituted by members with diverse interests, opinions and views. It is not a crime or misconduct to hold and express different views from that of the Association, considering the guaranteed freedom of expression by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), provided such views do not run counter to the Constitution of the Association, or ethics of the profession. And that has always been the constraint of the NBA.

I want to see a strong and virile NBA that will stand on the side of justice, the rule of law, and the rights of the citizens; as such NBA should get involved, and engage more in public interest matters. And, as legal practitioners who are members of the NBA, if we engage more in ensuring the sustenance of justice, rule of law and all that will be beneficial to the generality of the populace, it will invariably impact on the NBA as a Bar Association that all will be proud of.
Thank you, for having me express my humble views.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. 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.