GADZAMA TO CHAIR BENCHERS’ MENTORSHIP C’TE, SEEKS TO PARTNER NBA

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate and Bar Leader, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has been appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB).

Disclosing this in a letter to the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, Gadzama noted that the appointment was made on March 25, 2021 by the highest policy-making body in the legal profession.

In the letter made available to CITY LAWYER, the Bar Leader noted that “this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

J-K/ABJ/NBA/APP/04/21

Wednesday, 7th April, 2021.

Mr. Olumide Akpata,
President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA),
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

MY APPOINTMENT AS CHAIRMAN, MENTORSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS (BOB)

On Thursday, 25th March, 2021, the undersigned had the privilege of being appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB). The Mentorship Committee of the BOB is charged with the responsibility of promoting the values and skills that are crucial to excellence in the legal profession, and is committed to ensuring that these skills are transmitted to the coming generations of lawyers.

I understand that this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.

I look forward to working together with the NBA under your leadership, along with the Young Lawyers Forum, in the effort to raise ever higher the professional standards of our noble profession.

Thank you for your kind cooperation, and please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.

Yours faithfully,

__________________________
Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN.
JOM/SJA

CC:

Mr. Tobi Adebowale,
The Chairman,
Young Lawyers Forum
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

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A/COURT SCREENING: ‘I PLAYED KEY ROLE IN NJC DUMPING NOMINEES,’ SAYS CAROL AJIE

RIGHT OF REPLY

Fiery Bar Activist and former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, Dame Carol Ajie has said that she contributed to the dropping of two candidates who allegedly performed poorly during the National Judicial Council (NJC) screening of the nominees for elevation to the Court of Appeal.

In a rejoinder to CITY LAWYER‘s report on the matter, Dame Ajie narrated her high-profile interventions on the controversial screening exercise, adding that CITY LAWYER did not credit her efforts as contributing to the reversal of fortunes suffered by the affected jurists.

Below is the full text of the rejoinder which was sent to CITY LAWYER.

NBA vs NJC Appellate Court Nominees: Mr Emeka Nwadioke – Unfair Reporting

As you privately twice acknowledged yesterday Saturday 20th Match I wrote self inspiringly interventionist views on the above subject many including Gambo Saleh NJC Secretary received it I I also sent it to Ms Hadiza Supreme Court Chief Registrar on my contact list via WhatsApp and email to a former CJN Mariam Muktar GCON. I believe a number of people were surprised that I backed Akpata on anything cos they had perceived I won’t and couldn’t back him.

Perhaps I don’t know the part of the real reason for NJC U Turn arose from the shocking endorsement I have Akpata though you are too dishonest to admit it in your poor article which I have trashed.

A former NBA GS who shall not be named wrote me a long whatsapp text yesterday to dump support for Akpata on this I didn’t buckle. I said Akpata is right.

I sought on my own initiative to back him that is why I wrote my interventionist text like that. If I didn’t want to back him I know how to write Read a draft of what would have appeared anti Akpata

An NBA President Akpata who never hid his aversion for the court room suddenly becomes an advocate of who a good appellate court Judge should be. Please Distinguished readers trash it. You know Akpata is conventionally greedy he has zero record on public interest chances are that as NBA President he probably had his preferential candidates who didn’t pass the mark set by CJN/NJC A transactional lawyer indeed should not be telling a CJN who is eligible for the bench when not his turf. Thank U
End

Chidi Odinkalu himself cannot file a motion he knows nothing about litigation he has no practice he was never in practice.

But why put down Akpata or Chidi they are my Brothers I said one from Midwest plus Akpata actually is UNIBEN Alum. As a Catholic Christian I said he has taken a right step let me publicly support him. That z it. As for Chidi he is my Brother I call him Brother CAO hus (sic) initials

If I wrote that anti Akpata and shared it within half an hour it would get to CJN through Ahmed Gambo.Saleh and Madam Chief Registrar SC or other sources. Trust me they will say Iroko Tree Ajie is against Akpata and she is for us CJN CR SC NJC Secretary and the fight goes on . Note there is no NBA nominee into FJSC I didn’t support Usoro and they read me and as you know CJN has not yet resolved it

My friends may not be happy with me that I backed Akpata openly I mean my friend Madam CR SC and then I am now reading a dishonest report in City lawyer magazine that failed to give credence to efforts in a struggle I courageously took part in my name on it

If you don’t know how to address me I am a Georgetown scholar I read for it on my degree certificate are the appellation Professor Scholar Juris I didn’t inherit it and as a renowned Constitutional Law lawyer I changed a few provisions in the Nigerian Constitution through documented struggles google search Carol.Ajie and Constitutional Law I have an Intl human rights certificate from Georgetown which cannot be bought with all the money in the World I worked to get my credentials Dues fully paid.

Best regards
CA

Copy Mr Akpata etc

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SHOCKER: A/COURT NOMINEES CAN’T EXPLAIN ‘LIS PENDENS,’ NJC DUMPS THEM

There are strong indications that under-fire National Judicial Council (NJC) may have dropped two jurists who performed woefully during its screening exercise for appointment as Court of Appeal justices.

This may not be unconnected with their inability to answer basic legal questions as well as the backlash the NJC has been receiving following the unprecedented revelation by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata that the entire screening exercise was near shambolic.

CITY LAWYER was told by a reliable source that the dropped candidates (names withheld) are from Kebbi and Katsina States.

Respected human rights activist and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu hinted on the NJC’s decision when he tweeted thus: “The President of @NigBarAssoc, @OlumideAkpata, deserves considerable credit for his advocacy on standards of judicial appointments. He managed to pare back this recent list of #CourtOfAppeal nominees from 20 to 18. The 2 candidates reportedly didn’t know what #LisPendens means! https://t.co/Y9B9bVwoBF.”

CITY LAWYER had gathered from an impeccable source that at least one of the candidates was unable to explain the term, ‘lis pendens.’ Our source said the aspirant argued that the subject ‘had not come before his court!’ Akpata had alluded to this when he sensationally revealed that “Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered,” though he refused to give details. Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘lis pendens’ as “a Latin phrase for a pending suit or a person who has been suspended.”

Narrating his disappointment with the entire screening exercise, Akpata told members of the NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) at their quarterly meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, that the screening exercise was akin to “an old school boys meeting.”

His words: “What I saw and experienced at the NJC meeting on the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal left me aghast. At a point, I, as a “Johnny Just Come’ (new attendee), had to ask, ‘Are these people really going to the Court of Appeal?’

“Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered. The whole proceedings appeared more of an old school boys meeting. When I wondered at this, I heard things like, ‘They will learn on the job.’ We were to interview 20 nominees at a point but only 2 hours was allocated for this important exercise. That meant six minutes only for each nominee. What is this? Let me assure you that the NBA will never be a rubber stamp participant at such bodies. You can quote me.”

CITY LAWYER had exclusively reported that Akpata had also written a petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and NJC Chairman, Justice Tanko Muhammad on the issue.

The NJC is yet to respond to the indictment by the NBA President at press time.

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APPEAL COURT SCREENING: SCANDAL ROCKS NJC, AS AKPATA WRITES CJN

• PRESSURE MOUNTS ON NBA PRESIDENT TO RECANT

The last may not have been heard on the scandal rocking the screening of candidates for appointment to Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, as it has emerged that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad on his reservations.

This is coming on the heels of a press statement by the under-fire National Judicial Council (NJC) recommending the appointment of 18 Justices of Court of Appeal and 8 heads of court following its 94th Meeting held on 17 to 18 March, 2021. The Council also constituted a committee to investigate a judge and issued warning letters to some judges.

A source who is familiar with the controversy told CITY LAWYER that Akpata had written to Justice Muhammad, who also doubles as the NJC Chairman, intimating him of his strong reservations on the screening process, adding that the NBA President was scandalized by the shoddy manner the screening was conducted.

In a searing and unprecedented indictment of the apex policy making body in the legal profession, Akpata had lampooned the screening of the jurists, reportedly saying: “What I saw and experienced at the NJC meeting on the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal left me aghast. At a point, I, as a “Johnny Just Come’ (new attendee), had to ask, ‘Are these people really going to the Court of Appeal?’ Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered. The whole proceedings appeared more of an old school boys meeting. When I wondered at this, I heard things like, ‘They will learn on the job.’ We were to interview 20 nominees at a point but only 2 hours was allocated for this important exercise. That meant six minutes only for each nominee. What is this? Let me assure you that the NBA will never be a rubber stamp participant at such bodies. You can quote me.”

There are strong indications that Akpata’s comments may have drawn the ire of many jurists especially the conservative bloc in the legal profession. CITY LAWYER gathered from an impeccable source that pressures are being mounted on the NBA President to recant or engage in some damage control, given the backlash generated by the comments.

The NJC has not responded to the damning indictment at press time.

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REVALIDATION: NBA REJECTS MOVE, BLASTS CAC OVER POOR SERVICES

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has carpeted the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) over moves to charge each lawyer N10,000 to enable them revalidate their status as CAC accredited agents.

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the lawyers’ body described the revalidation exercise as “insensitive,” adding that it “smacks of utter bad faith on the part of the CAC to proceed with this policy without due consultation with the NBA whose members make up over 80% of the customer base of the CAC.” The NBA also lampooned the nation’s corporate registry over persistent poor services.

CITY LAWYER reliably gathered from a source at NBA HOUSE that the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata had vigorously engaged the CAC leadership immediately news of the revalidation exercise was made public, leading to “slight relaxation” announced by the national registry.

Below is the full text of the NBA statement.

CAC DIRECTIVE ON RE-VALIDATION OF ACCREDITED AGENTS: THE POSITION OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) has been drawn to a directive credited to the
Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (“CAC”) to the effect that accredited agents of
the CAC, including lawyers, are to revalidate their status as agents with the CAC and pay the sum of
Ten Thousand Naira (₦10,000), failing which the defaulting agents may be unable to access the CAC’s
Portal.

Since the news broke out, the NBA has been engaging with the CAC on this subject. The ostensible
reason given by the CAC for this directive is to checkmate the spate of proxy interactions with the
Portal and to weed out from the CAC’s Database, accredited agents who are either now deceased or
have emigrated out of the country and/or changed their location.

Whilst this objective may be well intended, the position of the NBA on the issue is as follows:
1. The NBA takes the view that it is both insensitive and smacks of utter bad faith on the part of the
CAC to proceed with this policy without due consultation with the NBA whose members make up
over 80% of the customer base of the CAC. This is in spite of the fact that the NBA-CAC Task Force
has been in constant touch with the CAC regarding improving efficiency and processes at the CAC.

2. While we appreciate that following engagements with the CAC, the Commission has extended the
deadline from 31st March 2021 to 10th June 2021 and has also clarified that the payment will be
one-off fee, the NBA remains of the view that it is possible to achieve a clean database of accredited
agents by requiring those who had been previously accredited by the CAC to simply update and
revalidate their records on the CAC portal (at no cost) or lose their accreditation by the new
deadline. The obligatory charge imposed by the CAC should not apply to existing users but only
to those customers who have never been accredited by the CAC and who now seek to be part of
the system.

3. The NBA is deeply concerned about the timing of this policy, which is coming at a time when many
lawyers have endured epileptic services from the CAC and have either lost the faith of their clients
or have been de-briefed by clients who believe that the lawyers treat their instructions with levity.
This state of affairs is what has led to the establishment of the NBA-CAC Taskforce to facilitate
regular interface with the CAC in resolving issues associated with the its services. Available
reports from the Taskforce indicate that in spite of its engagement with the CAC, the service levels
are still quite abysmal.

4. The NBA strongly urges the CAC to reconsider its position with respect to the payment of the
revalidation fee by existing users, and more importantly to continue to work assiduously towards
improving customer experience by resolving the several complaints by users of the system and
enhancing efficiency. Resolving these issues will not only be beneficial to the CAC and its
customers but will significantly advance the Federal Government’s Policy on Ease of Doing
Business in Nigeria.

Members of the NBA can be assured that we will continue to engage the CAC on these and other related
issues that affect their dealings with the Commission.

OLUMIDE AKPATA
NBA PRESIDENT
12th March, 2021

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EXCLUSIVE: NBA TO SUE MALAMI OVER RPC

Barring any last-minute change of mind, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will in an unprecedented move soon drag the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN to court over his alleged unilateral and illegal amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (RPC). The Attorney-General is considered the Leader of the Bar.

A source who is familiar with the controversy told CITY LAWYER that the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has directed the Public Interest Litigation Committee led by Dr. Charles Mekwunye to draft the pleadings on the matter.

CITY LAWYER gathered that the NBA leadership may have been frustrated by the fact that efforts by the Bar association to amicably resolve the debacle have not yielded fruit. It is recalled that Akpata had visited Malami last September immediately rumours filtered into the public domain that “the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.” Rule 10 of the RPC deals with issuance of the NBA Stamp. The “Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules 2020” expunged the use of NBA stamp by lawyers and provisions requiring lawyers acting for government, ministries or corporations to pay annual bar practising fees.

According to Malami, the amendment was made in exercise of the powers conferred on him as Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as President of General Council of the Bar by section 12 (4) of the Legal Practitioners Act.

Though the visit seemed to have doused the tension between the two camps, the debacle took a new twist when copies of the gazetted RPC hit the cyberspace recently. The gazette is listed as Government Notice No. 140 Vol. 107 of 7th September, 2020.

It is recalled that the NBA had in a statement promptly disowned the new Rules, saying that the Attorney-General lacked the power to unilaterally issue the Rules without calling a meeting of the Bar Council. It urged Malami to “rescind” the Rules, saying: “Pending such proposed holistic reforms to the RPC, I urge you to immediately rescind the Instrument in the interest of the rule of law, the unity of the Bar and the sanctity of the legal profession. The NBA has been subjected to needless controversy and ridicule on account of the Instrument, and this does not augur well for the sanctity of the profession, of which you are a key stakeholder.”

Said Akpata: “I have been duly informed, by NBA Representatives on the Bar Council and other members of the Bar Council who have reached out to me, that to the best of their knowledge, no meeting of the Bar Council was convened to discuss any amendment to the RPC or to approve the Instrument. It therefore appears that the Instrument was enacted without proper authority.”

Former NBA First Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani had last October sued Malami over the controversial amendment. He later withdrew the suit apparently due to pressures from the NBA leadership, saying: “The leadership of the bar at the highest level have reached out to me to have the law suit withdrawn to avoid an ugly situation where the issue of the case in court will be used as an excuse to scuttle the much anticipated resolution of this unnecessary rumble within our revered body.”

RPC (Amended) 2020

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‘LAWYERS WILL GET ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING RULES SOON,’ SAYS AKPATA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is set to roll out anti-money laundering guidelines for lawyers across the country. This was disclosed by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata while receiving a delegation from the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur.

In a statement by NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Akpata said the guidelines had become imperative to ensure that lawyers are not conduits for money laundering activities. According to the statement which was made available to CITY LAWYER, “The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.”

It is recalled that NBA has been in a face-off with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over implementation of Section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 which mandated lawyers to report certain financial transactions by their clients to the anti-graft body through the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML). SCUML, the forerunner to NFIU, was originally under the supervision of the EFCC.

In an Originating Summons dated March 15, 2013 and taken out on behalf of the Registered Trustees of the NBA by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Messrs Babajide Ogundipe, Emeka Nwadioke and Davison Oturu, the NBA asked the court to declare that the provisions of section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, insofar as they purport to apply to legal practitioners, were invalid, null and void.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and SCUML from enforcing the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 against legal practitioners. The judgement was CBN-VS-NBA_CA on appeal by a full panel of the Court of Appeal. CITY LAWYER gathered that a final appeal may be pending at the Supreme Court.

Below is the full text of the statement.

ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR: NATIONAL FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT MEETS WITH NBA LEADERSHIP; SEEKS NBA’S COOPERATION IN COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING AND OTHER CORRUPT PRACTICES.

Dear Colleagues,

The National Financial Intelligence Unit (“NFIU”) paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) on the 17th day of February 2021.

During the course of the engagement, the NFIU team led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur, highlighted the critical role of the NBA and its members in fighting corruption, as the nature of their work places them in a privileged position of requesting disclosure of sources of funds, investigation of funds, checkmating money laundering and other corrupt practices.

The NFIU boss also reiterated that NBA’s role as a Self-Regulatory Organization, imposes a moral responsibility on the NBA and her members to ensure that there are ethical rules that modulate their relationship with clients and members of the society at large.

Against the above background, the NFIU team recommended to the Association as follows, that:

I. The NBA sets up a dedicated Self-Regulatory desk officer at the NBA Secretariat.

II. The NBA sets up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee to collaborate with the NFIU on its anti-corruption mandate.

III. The NBA trains legal practitioners on their roles in fighting money laundering and related corrupt practices.

IV. The NBA partners with NFIU at large.

In response, the NBA President pledged the commitment of the NBA to work with existing government agencies in ensuring that legal profession in Nigeria is practised in line with global best practice so that legal practitioners are not seen to be enablers, or facilitators of corrupt practices.

The NBA President, further assured the NFIU of the Association’s desire to collaborate with the Unit, in building the capacity of legal practitioners by educating them on anti-money laundering, investigation of sources of funds, disclosure of origin of illegal funds, etc, in a manner that does not compromise their professional obligations to their clients.

The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.

Dr. Rapulu Nduka
Publicity Secretary,
Nigerian Bar Association.

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CROSS-RIVER CHIEF JUDGE: OF IMPUNITY, HEROES AND LESSONS

Fiery human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN x-rays the year-long debacle surrounding the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge for Cross River State. While lampooning the ‘executive lawlessness’ that birthed the crisis, he argues that the quagmire threw up a few heroes and lessons

On February 8, 2021, the Honourable Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme, was sworn in as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross-River State, in a colourful ceremony that was attended and watched live by many. It has been a tortuous journey, for My Lord in particular. How did it happen? On March 3, 2020, Governor Ben Ayade shocked the nation and the judiciary in Nigeria when he proceeded to swear in Honourable Justice Maurice Eneji, as the Acting Chief Judge of Cross-River State, to take over from Honourable Justice Ikpeme, whose tenure expired in acting capacity on March 2, 2020. It was an executive act that blew dust on the face of the judiciary directly, ranking as it were, as the greatest act of impunity, so far displayed against the most sacred institution of governance, by the executive arm. At all relevant times, the Honourable Justice Ikpeme was the most senior judge in the Cross-River State judiciary, but then she is a lady and she is from Akwa Ibom State by birth, although married to a citizen of Cross-River State. Honourable Justice Eneji was at the time next to her in the rank of seniority and above all, a man.

Governor Ayade had forwarded the names of Honourable Justices Ikpeme and Eneji to the National Judicial Council, for recommendation for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the State, with Ikpeme as the preferred candidate and Eneji as the reserved candidate, ostensibly based on seniority. The NJC in December, 2019, interviewed both candidates, whereupon it found worthy and recommended Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge, being the most senior judicial officer and she had no negative report whatsoever. Then commenced the various schemes and spins, targeted mainly at denying Ikpeme J., the substantive position, purely on the grounds of gender and her state of origin. It was then suddenly realized that she is from Akwa Ibom State, thereby putting her loyalty to Cross-River State in doubt. But all that has ended now, partly due to the role played by the Nigerian Bar Association, led by its dynamic President, Mr. Olumide Akpata.

My Lord Honourable Justice Akon Ikpeme started her career in Calabar and later got married to a Cross-Riverian. At the creation of Akwa-Ibom State, members of staff of the judicial arm were given the option to move to the new (Akwa-Ibom) State or remain in the old (Cross-River) State. Ikpeme continued to discharge her duties as a judge in Cross-River State, handled several cases and delivered judgments thereon, without any dent on her judicial career, till she rose to become the most senior judge in the State. The former Chief Judge therefore had no difficulty in recommending her for appointment as the Chief Judge. Then the executive arm of government under Governor Ayade began to put obstacles in her way, first with the composition of the State Judicial Service Commission and thereafter the manipulation of the State House of Assembly. On March 2, 2020, the Cross-River State House of Assembly had a stormy and rowdy session, in debating the issue of approval of the substantive chief judge. Through voice vote, they claimed to have rejected Ikpeme’s candidature due mainly to ethnicity. It was the first time in the history of Cross-River State that the most senior judge would be denied appointment as the substantive Chief Judge.

Now, section 271 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that ‘the appointment of a person to the office of the Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State’. The simple interpretation of this section involves some processes, but surely the most fundamental of them all is that the appointment of the chief judge is the responsibility of the governor. That process is commenced by the State Judicial Service Commission, which will interview and recommend candidates to the governor for appointment and the governor will in turn send the name of his nominee to the National Judicial Council. If he sends two names to the NJC and both are recommended as suitable, as was done in this case, he has to take a decision first, before activating the process of confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

The case of Ikpeme J, has brought to light the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution, which many are taking advantage of to perpetuate lawlessness and impunity. The legislative houses of the States are all under the control and manipulation of the governors, such that no meaningful debates or legislative activities go on in those hallowed chambers, except in a few States. By law, it was not yet time for Ikpeme J, to retire from the judicial service of Akwa Ibom State and by swearing in Eneji J, her junior, as the Acting Chief Judge at that it, it meant that Ikpeme J, would take directives from and be under the authority of Eneji J. Seniority is one of the most cherished traditions of the legal profession, both at the Bar and on the Bench. And this is why section 271 (4) of the Constitution was enacted to uphold this age-long tradition, by stating that ‘if the office of the Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office , then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint THE MOST SENIOR JUDGE of the High Court to perform those functions’ (emphasis supplied).

From the clear provisions of section 271(4), it cannot be in doubt that the intent of the drafters of the Constitution was to allow THE MOST SENIOR judge of the State to be the occupant of the office of the Chief Judge, once a vacancy occurs. Even in other establishments outside the judiciary, such as the military, whenever it is the desire to appoint a junior officer to the highest position, all his seniors and contemporaries have to be retired compulsorily, as it will be absurd to retain them in service and expect maximum loyalty. It was therefore a game of chess in Cross-River State, since neither Governor Ayade nor his cronies in the Cross-River State House of Assembly commenced any proceedings in compliance with section 292 (1) of the Constitution, to remove Ikpeme J, in any manner known to law, the consequence of which was that she would have to continue to function in office as the most senior judicial officer in Cross-River State until she retires, notwithstanding the painful experience of her unwarranted persecution.

When all entreaties on Governor Ayade to do the needful fell on deaf ears, some human rights activists, led by the ever-militant Welfare Secretary of the NBA, Comrade Kunle Edun, filed a suit before the Cross-River State High Court, for judicial interpretation and application of section 292 of the Constitution. The trial Court upheld the objection of the State challenging the locus standi of the plaintiffs in the suit and the appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed, whereupon a further appeal is now pending at the Supreme Court. Now, part of the lessons in this whole saga is for all citizens to be conscious to demand for their rights, anytime there is a breach or likelihood thereof. Even though the court case was dismissed, it is on record that Governor Ayade cannot claim that the issue was a walk over for him. Activists in Cross-River State, Comrade Agba Jalingo, human rights lawyers, Femi Falana, SAN, Monday Ubani, Inibehe Effiong and many others too numerous to mention, rallied support from across the nation, to resist the impunity of the executive governor, to trample upon the judiciary, with such flagrancy. But today, we are talking about heroes.

While his men were out there slugging it out with Governor Ayade, Mr. Olumide Akpata adopted the carrot and stick approach, by constructively engaging Governor Ayade, the NJC and all other stakeholders, for a common solution, which culminated into the swearing in ceremony of February 8 instant. The fundamental implication of this selfless effort is simply that a people united can never be defeated. Even if another judge had been sworn in as the Chief Judge of Cross-River State other than Ikpeme, J, it would still have been a struggle won, for the people of Cross-River State in particular and the Bar and Bench, in general. The other hero of this struggle is the rule of law, eloquently championed by the NJC, the human rights activists and the NBA. Given the physical location of the champions of this noble cause, traversing Warri, Lagos, Abuja and Calabar was certainly not a tea party, given the security situation in Nigeria, alone. Not to talk of the financial implications, in convening and attending several meetings, filing and prosecution of the court cases and the concomitant effect of all these on their private practice. This is why they deserve the applause of all men and women of good conscience, as the laudable example that they have set will remain an indelible reference point to guide us in similar cases in future, which honestly, no one prays for.

In it all, commendation also goes to Governor Ayade, for allowing wise counsel to prevail and for upholding the oath of office he took, to respect, observe, defend and enforce the Constitution, without ill will, fear or affection. That is the way it should be, as there is nothing personal in the appointment of the Chief Judge of a State, being a tenured office that is purely statutory in nature. Should His Excellency have persisted, in defiance of the Constitution, to retain his preferred candidate in office as Chief Judge, it would have been a dangerous precedent, which even the court, as the major casualty, was not readily available to upturn. It is an irony of sorts, that the institution being defended failed, at the appropriate time when given the opportunity, to rescue itself, clinging as it were, to the discarded theory of locus standi, which even courts in foreign jurisdictions, have jettisoned in favour of local fishermen against multinational oil companies. It is rather unfortunate.

The Cross-River State House of Assembly also acted in a matured fashion, in reversing itself concerning the swearing in of Ikpeme, J., ultimately. Members of the CRSHA have only all opted to defend the Constitution, to preserve our noble institutions and to allow the rule of law to prevail, over the rule of man. But all of these efforts would have gone unnoticed but for the media, which kept the matter in the public domain throughout. It is gratifying that the NBA President has also opened up discussions with Governor Ayade on the fate of Magistrates in Cross-River State, who have worked for about two years without payment of their salaries and allowances. That will be the icing on this beautiful struggle, when Governor Ayade would demonstrate uncommon statesmanship, by granting unconditional approval for the payment of all outstanding entitlements of all judicial officers, who have labored and toiled to sustain his administration.

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. The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect

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#ENDSARS: AKPATA STORMS PROBE PANEL, VOWS CLOSE MONITORING

  • PROMISES FREE LEGAL HELP FOR VICTIMS

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata yesterday stormed the inaugural sitting of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry for Restitution for victims of #EndSARS-related abuses and the October 20 Lekki Tollgate shootings.

Briefing NBA Lagos Branch members after the visit, Akpata vowed that NBA will closely monitor the activities of the panel to ensure that justice is done to all victims of the crisis.

Akpata, who was addressing the lawyers during their monthly general meeting, said that NBA would also set up free legal assistance teams to help victims pursue their cases before the panel, even as he called for “sober reflection and positive action.”

He stated that he visited the Lagos State panel of enquiry to represent the association, adding: “My Lord Justice (Doris) Okuwobi gave me the opportunity to let the panel know that the NBA intends to be actively involved in this panel in Lagos and similar panels set up all over the country.”

Speaking specifically on NBA’s roadmap for the enquiry panels, Akpata said: “And just to latch on to the point made by my brother Emeka Nwadioke, our intervention will be two-pronged: firstly, as we have already indicated, we want to provide through our members pro bono service to victims – so that we can help them at all these panels, the 36 States and the National Human Rights Commission Panel set up in Abuja, help these victims articulate their petitions and also present their petitions.

“We are going to set up teams. We already have the Public Interest Team that we are putting together and a database of lawyers who have already indicated that they would like to be part of this process. He stated that the process is ongoing and urged the branch leadership to seek out more volunteers for the pro bono project.

Continuing, Akpata said: “The second leg of our intervention would be serving as independent observers in all of these panels, serving as friends of the court – or friends of the panel, as it were – to ensure that the panels are proceeding unimpeded.”

He stated that the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry leadership was “very delighted that the NBA is ready to play these roles, and has assured me that we would be given due recognition, and that our members who come in to play the independent observer role would be duly accorded recognition and audience as at when necessary.

“For Lagos, for example, by my calculation there would be 72 days of sitting for the next 6 months. So it will be important for us to set up committees. The volunteers can take turns to participate in the proceedings of the panel so that we can be the watchdog, play the watchdog role that is ours to play. We intend to be very involved.”

Turning to the protests, the NBA president noted that many lawyers bore the brunt of the destruction of properties. Noting that standing aloof is not an option, Akpata stated that there are “wider issues” involved. He said that beyond the #ENDSARS protests and the Lekki Toll Plaza killings, “there are root causes that we must address.”

He noted that “the masses are protesting,” adding that “we must attack the root issues, we must intervene in this process as the NBA, we must mediate in this process.”

On the efforts earlier made by the NBA, Akpata stated that in the days leading to October 20 when the crisis peaked with the killing of some protesters at Lekki Toll Plaza, NBA led efforts along with its branches and States Attorneys-General to free all detained protesters, adding that he is “very proud of the work our members did facilitating the release of members of the public who were arrested around the country.

“Beyond that, we very quickly collaborated with the National Human Rights Commission. As you know, we are working closely with the NHRC on the independent panel of enquiry that has been set up by the commission to look into the SARS protest. Our First Vice President is a member of that panel which is led by the Honourable Justice Suleiman Galadima.

“We are also working closely with the National Assembly. Working closely with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, we set up a 7-man Committee on tweaking the Police Service Commission Act to ensure that the new iteration of that law will cater for a transparency and accountability framework that will deal with erring police officers.

“As soon as the unfortunate event of 20th of October happened, we issued a statement where we made it categorically clear on behalf of the association that the event of that night was totally unacceptable – shooting at unarmed harmless protesters – totally unacceptable, and would not be entertained by the Nigerian Bar Association; that we would rise up in defence of any Nigerian so assaulted, which is what we are doing.

“Immediately, we called for a meeting of the NBA and at that meeting we discussed the issue extensively and came out with a communiqué which had since been issued. Essentially, the association has given us the mandate not only to do that which we are already doing – which is to support Nigerians who have come under attack from the security forces – but also to intervene in what has become an impasse, to intervene in a situation that is degenerating by the day because the society is looking up to us as the NBA to intervene in this process.

“Of course, you know that it has come close to home – uncomfortably so. We inspected the High Court at Igbosere and what we saw left us speechless. It is one thing to hear about the destruction, but to see it first-hand leaves you numb as it did to us yesterday (Sunday).”

He urged NBA Lagos Branch to “lead the way” in working with the judiciary “to see how we can come back to where we were before the unfortunate incident, and taking the opportunity to improve on the facilities that existed previously.”

Akpata also commiserated with members of the branch whose offices were vandalized during the carnage at City Hall.

In his response, NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe applauded Akpata intiitives taken by his administration to tackle the crisis, saying: “You have stepped in an.d taken leadership. We are proud of you as an esteemed member of this branch.”

Among many senior lawyers who attended the virtual meeting are former NBA presidential candidates, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN and Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN; Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN; Mr. Tunde Busari, SAN; Mrs. Olufunke Agbor, SAN; Mr. George Etomi, NPOM; NBA General Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Oduah and fiery Nigerian Law School teacher, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue.

The panel is made up of the retired Justice Okuwobi as chairman; Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN; Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and a founding member of SARS; Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizens Rights; Ms. Patience Udoh, Mr. Segun Awosanya (segalink) and two representatives of the youth.

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LAWYERS’ GROUP, EBUKA, NBA PUBLICIST HAIL AKPATA AT 48

A group of lawyers under the aegis of Lawyers for Welfare Advocacy (LAWFWA) has felicitated with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata on his birthday today.

NBA Benin Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ogaga Emoghwanre has also congratulated Akpata on his birthday, describing him as “a  quintessential gentleman, effervescent, intelligent, savvy, spruce, dapper and a stylish personality.”

In separate messages made available to CITY LAWYER, they prayed for greater success for the NBA President.

Meanwhile, popular lawyer and TV host, Mr. Ebuka Obi-Uchendu has also joined in the flurry of congratulatory messages to Akpata. In the message posted on his verified Twitter handle, he wrote: “Happy birthday my presido @OlumideAkpata !!! More wins boss Folded hands

Below are the messages:

LAWYERS FOR WELFARE ADVOCACY (LAWFWA) CELEBRATES THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT; OLUMIDE AKPATA ON THE OCCASION OF HIS BIRTHDAY.

The Lawyers for Welfare Advocacy wishes to congratulate the most innovative President of the bar in modern history; Olumide Akpata on the occasion of his birthday.

Sir, not only do you seamlessly adapt to addressing the emerging challenges from the persistent ones that we face in our country today, but you are also always striving to make things better with new approaches and such unfaltering determination and focus.

We therefore seize this opportunity to thank you for all of your amazing efforts in repositioning our dear bar, for your sagacity in making Nigeria better and for your pragmatic approach to addressing her numerous challenges for the betterment of all.

We wish you many happy returns today and always.

Happy birthday sir.

For: Lawyers for Welfare Advocacy
Ezekiel Ugwueze Esq.
National Secretary

OGAGA EMOGHWANRE, ESQ FELICITATES MR. OLUMIDE AKPATA, PRESIDENT OF THE NBA ON HIS BIRTHDAY.

Today is the oldest you have ever been and before it loses that privilege, I will attempt to eulogize your good self. Words may fail me in doing that, however, this eulogy is inextricably linked with verifiable facts.

Mr Olumide Akpata, before the day goes dim or lusterless, I want to say a huge Happy Birthday to you. You are a  quintessential gentleman, effervescent, intelligent, savvy, spruce, dapper and a stylish personality, I wish you all the best as you celebrate today.

Our President Sir, you are a man with a keen sense of beauty, a genius of the first magnitude, a man of transparent honesty, your amiable disposition, regal dignity and humility makes you a matchless colossus.

Today may be like any other day for some, but a special, glamorous and illuminating day for you. It is not the years of our lives that counts but the life of our years.

You are a man who breaks down barriers, explores new frontiers, sets records only to  break them.

You are  quintessential in all that you do, a leader par excellence. You are revolutionary and progressive in ideas.

To truly know you is to have a  piece of heaven as you are God’s hand on earth. Your philanthropy transcends mortal reasoning; a man with a heart of gold and accessible to all.

You are by every means a man of the people and loved by all. We are indeed blessed to have you around; a gift to humanity.

Mr Olumide Akpata is a detribalized Nigerian with a penchant for bringing everyone together. As a trailblazer who has shown light in so many ways, moreso as a unifying factor to lead the largest community of learned personalities in Sub Saharan Africa.

The internet is agog today, the 7th day of October, 2020 from both lawyers and non lawyers with so much encomiums and birthday wishes. This shows that the Support and acceptance that trailed your emergence as PRESIDENT of the NBA was vox populi and a testament of the fact that it was divinely orchestrated. 

As is true about life, some hard balls may be thrown at you at some point; some days are good and some are bad, pain is written on all our cards so we remember to value our good times.

But one thing I know is that you have the grace to always weather the storm.

There is no doubt and it is crystal clear that your vast knowledge is unprecedented and oceanic, these and so many of your stirling qualities endeared me to you and I am indebted to you with so much gratitude, thank you for all you have done and will still do.

Your birthday is an opportunity for me to express my sincere and unalloyed gratitude to you for everything.

My wish for you on your birthday is that you always be, happy and healthy.

May you live a prosperous and abundant life.

May God grant you more wisdom, knowledge and leadership prowess to pilot the affairs of our Association, the NBA.

Happy birthday once more sir. May this year bring for you all the graces you require to sustain the good works you have gained notoriety for.

Amen.

Cherish and savor the unprecedented love of God in your life and enjoy your Natal day to the fullest. God bless the President of Nigerian Bar Association Mr Olumide Akpata.

OGAGA EMOGHWANRE, ESQ.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails tocitylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebookat https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTERat 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.