ENUGU MAGISTRACY SAGA: ‘MY STORY,’ BY ‘REMANDED’ LAWYER

MR. FIDELIS OKEKE is the lawyer in the eye of the storm. He was reportedly remanded by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs.), a Chief Magistrate sitting at Agbogugu Magistrates Court in Enugu State, in lieu of his client. In this no-holds-barred interview with CITY LAWYER, he chronicles the eventful proceedings that have caught the attention of the nation’s legal community

Please briefly introduce yourself
I’m Okeke Chinweze Fidelis Esq., also known as F. C. Okeke Esq. I am a legal practitioner of No. 33 Ogui Road, Enugu. I wish to state my ugly experience at the Magistrate Court, Agbogugu on 16th March, 2021 where I was detained by the magistrate for inexplicable reasons.

We understand you were remanded by a magistrate due to the absence of your client. How true is this?
On 15th March, 2021, the Registrar of the Court by name Austin called me and informed me that the Magistrate told him to fix Charge No. CMA/12C/2017 for 16th March, 2021.

Immediately, I called my client who informed me that he was in Lagos. My client pleaded that I should represent him. On 16th March, 2021, the matter was called and both the Prosecutor and myself announced our appearances. I told the Learned Magistrate that the Registrar just informed me about the matter the previous day, that I called my client immediately but he was not around.

The Prosecutor did not object. As we were about to take date, the Learned Magistrate said, ‘Oh, I remember this case! This is the case I made an order and the accused is disobeying.’ The Magistrate started writing, after which she read what she wrote.
In her Ruling, she read that “the Court should be acknowledged and now justice and not a play house. In the regard the Counsel for the accused will remain in Police custody upon the production of his client.”

However, lawyers like Onwe Vincent Esq. (0803772xxxx), Gladys Ani and C. C. Agu (0803435xxxx) were in court, including the Prosecutor, Innocent Egbuaba (ASP).

The trending order has been cited as fake. How true is this?
Those who regard the order in circulation as fake are enemies of justice. On 16th March the order was made. I applied for the Record of Proceedings. If I go to MTN, I can get (call record) evidence that from that 16th March, 2021 the Registrar continued delaying to issue me the record and the ruling until 25th March, 2021.

I paid for the record of proceedings and a receipt was issued to me in regards to that. I have the receipt as evidence that I processed the Proceedings and the Ruling. Whatever that makes any person(s) to classify a genuine Order of Court as fake is strange to me. The person(s) can produce another one to contradict the one I have.
Again, those who regard the Order as fake ought to have verified if the signature in the Proceedings is that of a staff of Magistrate Court Agbogugu designated to sign such processes. I deem the allegation that the Order is “FAKE ” as laughable.

Tell us briefly about the facts of the case
The fact is that the Complainant is the step-sister of the accused (my client). The Complainant reported at Agbogugu Police that the accused person demolished her (complainant’s) father’s house and built a Duplex. The complainant claimed that her property inside was valued about N7 million. The accused was charged to court. Upon the accused’s arraignment, he was granted bail and the condition fulfilled by the accused person’s surety (not myself). Subsequently, trial commenced. PW1 testified and was cross examined.

On the day the matter was adjourned for PW2 to testify, the Prosecutor made an application for the accused person to give the Complainant one room in his (accused) house. The application was granted. Dissatisfied with the Order, the accused filed an action for judicial review, challenging the Order for Possession made by the Magistrate in a criminal matter.

The High Court, Awgu delivered Judgment against the accused person. Dissatisfied again, the accused filed a Notice of Appeal and Stay of Execution. The Stay of Execution is still pending at the High Court, Awgu in Suit No. HAW/2019.

On 8th December, 2020 the Magistrate – without any application before her – remanded the accused for contempt of court. Dissatisfied, the accused approached High Court, Awgu and was granted bail.

At Awgu High Court, the accused applied for the Order to be quashed based on INEC and Ejike Oguebego where the Supreme Court (coram Nweze JSC) held that where a defendant in a cause challenges the validity of an Order directed against him, either by way of an appeal or other application, he cannot be proceeded against for contempt of that order unless and until the issue of its legality is settled. Nweze JSC further held that for contempt exfacia curiae, a charge and plea are necessary and the accused is entitled to fair hearing.

Sadly, as if the Learned Magistrate had the intention to remand the defendant’s Counsel, at the bottom of the Order I secured, surprisingly the Magistrate wrote: “defendant council (sic) is to be put in Oji custody until he complies.”

In fact, one of the Judges at High Court, Awgu saw the order and started laughing and jokingly asked, ‘Counsel, why are you here instead of Oji Prison.’ Other lawyers started laughing.
The application the accused made was first ex parte and for stay of all actions; this was granted. After service of the processes, including hearing notice, the respondents didn’t oppose; in short, the lawyer to the Complainant at the lower court said that he was not opposed to the application. The High Court Awgu presided over by His Lordship N. Orji delivered judgment in favour of the accused on 25/3/21.

In the judgment, the remand of the accused without any contempt proceedings was quashed and the charge was transferred to Awgu Magistrates’ Court. The High Court Registrar said that the CTC of the Judgment will be ready this week.

Is it true that the remand order was discharged by the magistrate?
The lawyers I mentioned earlier pleaded for the Magistrate to discharge the Order but she refused initially. However, when the Magistrate finished all her matters, the lawyers continued begging until she read again that the Order was discharged. One of the lawyers had pleaded that instead of detaining a lawyer, a Bench Warrant be issued against the accused. The Magistrate then issued a Bench Warrant against the accused.

Surprisingly, when I got the Order from the Registrar, there was no discharge or Warrant of Arrest Order contained therein. Immediately, I asked the Registrar of the Court if that was the only thing on record and he said yes. I tried to find if he omitted some pages but he was firm that there was nothing more on the record of the Court for that day.

We understand the accused had a contempt order hanging on his head which had not been discharged. Could that be a reason the court was aggravated by his absence?
It is very interesting to point out that there is no contempt proceeding/charge against the accused person. The accused was always in court except that day that I was given a short notice. I immediately called the accused but he told me that he was not in town.

Could your attitude to the court have compelled the remand order on you?
I had never exhibited any unusual conduct in the Court, including the day the incident occurred. Ask lawyers that are always in the court. I had never behaved in any way that could have led to such incident. I never behaved in any reprehensible manner. My conducts have been that of a diligent lawyer.

We understand the order was promptly discharged by the magistrate, and that you suffered no hardship ultimately. Is this correct?
I maintain that I am still surprised that the Learned Magistrate purportedly feigned to have discharged the Order when she was about to rise because when she made the Order, lawyers in the court pleaded for her to discharge the Order but she refused. I had no option than to sit in the court hall because I was aware that an Order was made against me. When she finished all matters in the cause list, lawyers continued begging the Learned Magistrate; then she purportedly read that the Order was discharged and I was able to leave the court.

What is in circulation was the document the Registrar issued to me and nothing less or more. The document is genuine and I paid for it. In fact, the Order made by the Learned Magistrate is worse than the one in issue. I am also ready to produce all the documents I mentioned in connection with this case.

We understand that the matter has been transferred to another court. How does that make you feel?
From all indications, even the High Court Awgu saw reasons to transfer the matter; but all in all, I suffered because after the Order, I would have gone because I was supposed to go for check-up at the 82 Division Hospital due to my illness but I stayed until the court rose and read that I was discharged.

Given that the remand order was discharged by the court and that the matter is no longer before the magistrate, some may accuse you of seeking cheap publicity or sensationalizing the issue. What is your reaction to that?
Despite that the discharge order is not contained in paper circulating, I was purportedly discharged in the presence of the lawyers that pleaded. If I wasn’t discharged, will it be said that I disobeyed the Court or why did the police in Court not arrest me? Even the Complainant whom the Prosecutor said was in Lagos later appeared and was jubilating. I feel that some information can on interrogation come from the Complainant.

Before the paper even started circulating, I told many lawyers about my ugly experience in the court and how I was remanded. Also on the 25th of March, 2021, I informed my Lord N. Orji about how I was detained by the Learned Magistrate. On the same day, I applied for CTC of the proceedings, yet till date the Registrar has been telling me to come today, come tomorrow; though that can’t be a much barrier to me. I posted this issue in my ESUT LAW CLASS 05 WhatsApp group on 24/3/21 while we were discussing about the remand of an Abuja lawyer by the group.

The trending ruling does not show you were really discharged. Do you plan to take steps to remedy this?
As it stands now, it is obvious that the Order has not been discharged. My liberty is at stake because once it is an Order of a court, it is subsisting until discharged.

 

 

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ENUGU RULING: DIALECTICS OF CTC, REMAND AND LAWYER’S FREEDOM, BY PROF. RACE ACHARA

In this article, leading jurist and former Dean of Law, PROF. R. A. C. E. ACHARA tackles the claim that the certified copy of a trending ruling of an Agbogugu Magistrates Court presided over by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) which allegedly ordered a remand of one F. C. Okeke Esq, is fake and proffers a synthesis 

The beauty of law often consists in its long established rules for testing between opposed versions of a story.

Currently, there is a CTC of the court’s proceedings. A CTC is by our Evidence Act the equivalent of the manuscript record of the presiding magistrate. If it has been forged by the court’s registrar, we should all be alarmed and the felon should be prosecuted and dismissed from service. What was published is not an enrolled order where perhaps the registrar might, in the inevitable attempt at summarization, have lost the meaning intended by the adjudicator. But even here, the hoary legal principles provide an important safeguard. If it is an enrolled order drafted by the court’s clerk or registrar, the adjudicator himself must sign it. This affords such a magistrate the opportunity and duty to cross-check the draft. A CTC involves no summary. It is a direct capture ipsissima verba of the record made by the adjudicator on the record book. This is why there’s no legal necessity for the judge to sign it, having already signed the original record book from which it has been extracted by her own staff.

So, which of the two conflicting stories would lawyers accept under our age-old laws and practice procedures? The record book (extracted by the court’s registrar, at a fee, and under the judicial seal of Enugu State by the usual Evidence Act procedure of a CTC)? Or, a social media publication by a random lawyer (with no legal practitioner’s stamp and seal, no claim of representation for the Hon. Chief Magistrate, or any apparent nexus or employment with the Enugu State judiciary)?

Nota bene:

The two narratives conflict only on the matter of whether or not the learned magistrate made the order suggesting, as shown in the CTC of her own records, that learned counsel should be remanded in police custody until such a time as his contemptuous client is found to replace him in gaol.

The grammatical ambiguity might be good reason for the police not to detain the lawyer, but that is a different conversation altogether.

Other than in this respect, the body of the new narrative does not conflict with the gist of the CTC. It talks of the conduct of the client, which if proven, could warrant his committal to prison for contempt. Apparently, the learned Chief Magistrate had already indeed committed him (ostensibly in absentia) to prison. It did not address the CTC evidence that as a result of the client’s assumed peccadilloes, the Hon. Chief Magistrate turned her ire on the client’s counsel. Indeed, the narrative tends to buttress this.

This is no instance to throw the safety of fellow counsel to the dogs merely for representation of their clients in court. Unless taken to its legal limits, the precedent would be dangerous and only encourage any out of control adjudicator to gamble on an abusive, infra dignitatem imprisonment of a legal practitioner, in the malicious understanding that before its reversal, the humiliated fellow lawyer would have unjustly, even if for a few hours, been incarcerated in shame.

Chief Theodore Ezeobi, SAN, God rest his soul, would never tolerate this sort of humiliation. His name need not be dragged into this fiasco.

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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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CONTROVERSY, AS JUDICIAL BODY SHUNS NBA, APPOINTS SCRIBE

Barring any last-minute hitches, the Secretary of Nigeria’s Body of Benchers, Hajia Sadiya Turaki will tomorrow assume duties as the new scribe of the influential Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

Multiple and unimpeachable sources told CITY LAWYER that Turaki has been appointed by the commission chaired by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad as the new Secretary to replace Mr. Bassey E. Bassey who retired on September 23, 2020.

Turaki’s appointment is coming on the heels of allegations that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) may have been shut out of the appointment process, contrary to the provisions of Section 153(2) and 154(1) of the 1999 Constitution as well as Paragraph 12 Part 1 of the Third Schedule to 1999 Constitution. 

While Paragraph 12 (6) Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution stipulates that the membership composition of the FJSC shall include “Two persons, each of whom has been qualified to practice as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria for a period of not less than fifteen years, from a list of not less than four persons so qualified and recommended by the Nigerian Bar Association,” CITY LAWYER gathered from impeccable sources that NBA has not participated in the decision-making process of the commission for over two years since the tenure of its former representatives ended.

Paragraph 13(c), Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution empowers the commission to “Appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over the Chief Registrars and Deputy Chief Registrars of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and all other members of the staff of the Judicial Service of the Federation not otherwise specified in this Constitution and of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.”

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that the last set of NBA representatives at the commission were Mr. Olumuyiwa Akinboro SAN and Hajia Fatima Kwaku (MFR) whose names were forwarded by then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar to former President Goodluck Jonathan for transmission to the Senate for confirmation. Their five-year tenure ended on 3rd July, 2018.

A source who is familiar with the matter told CITY LAWYER that though the immediate past NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN made spirited efforts to ensure NBA’s representation at the commission, such efforts did not yield fruits. The source stated that though Usoro had on at least three occasions submitted the list of NBA nominees to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, there are strong indications that the list was not transmitted to the Senate through the President for approval. CITY LAWYER also gathered from unimpeachable sources that the names of two NBA nominees are still currently pending at the all-important commission.

Though CITY LAWYER sought the views of NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata on the development through a short messaging service and WhatsApp message to his verified telephone number, he promised that “I will call you back shortly” but was yet to do so at press time. 

Aside from NBA representatives, the commission’s membership comprises of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who shall be the Chairman; President of the Court of Appeal; Attorney-General of the Federation; Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; President of the National Industrial Court, and “Two other persons, not being Legal Practitioners, who in the opinion of the President are of unquestionable integrity.” The non-lawyers are Senator Abba Ali and Malam Mohammed Sagir. However, only NBA is currently unrepresented in the 9-member commission.

The commission’s Secretary doubles as its Chief Executive and Accounting Officer.

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.

AKPATA’S AIDE BLASTS ADESINA OVER NBA ELECTION

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

  • SAYS ‘HE PREPARED TO FAIL’

  • ‘HIS AGENT ONLY CAME TO SITUATION ROOM TO SUBMIT PETITION’

The controversies trailing the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections took a new turn today following a fierce indictment of erstwhile presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN by an aide of NBA President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata.

It is recalled that Adesina had petitioned NBA Trustees, urging them to cancel the election due to alleged irregularities. Influential Yoruba lawyers’ forum, Egbe Amofin O’odua has also joined the fray, saying: “In clear terms, the Egbe Amofin rejects the purported results declared by the Election Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA).” CITY LAWYER also reported that the forum has placed a gag order on its members on the election, even as it appointed Mr. Femi Falana SAN and Chief Niyi Akintola SAN as its spokespersons on the election.

Apparently responding to the barrage of criticisms relating to the election, Mr. Aderemi Oguntoye, Akpata’s “Accredited Agent” at the ECNBA Situation Room for the election, blasted Adesina, saying he was “prepared to fail.”

In a trending post on social media, Oguntoye said Adesina “strongly believed he’s entitled to be handed the Bar Presidency since he served with Olanipekun as Gen-Sec and Olanipekun and Egbe endorsed him.” He stated that the former NBA General Secretary “didn’t realise that Egbe’s influence had limitations and it was actually counterproductive in the preceding circumstances of the endorsement.”

The ranking Akpata associate also noted that Adesina’s camp was aloof as regards tracking of the electoral process, adding that “the first time we had a glimpse of Adesina’s representatives was when they arrived in the afternoon of 30th July with the sole purpose of submitting their petition and this was well over 14 hours into the election.”

The full text of Oguntoye’s post is below:

Guys, pls calm down! Sustained grievance can lead to cancer. Quote me.

Adesina prepared to fail. Ask me why?

He strongly believed he’s entitled to be handed the Bar Presidency since he served with Olanipekun as Gen-Sec and Olanipekun and Egbe endorsed him. Adesina didn’t realise that Egbe’s influence had limitations and it was actually counterproductive in the preceding circumstances of the endorsement. My friends, endorsement doesn’t win elections, preparation does. *In the 21st century, nobody hands power, influence to you. You go for it.* You’ll be shocked to know that some junior lawyers in Adesina and probably Chief Olanipekun’s law firms actually voted Akpata. *The junior lawyers (age 21-33 yrs) don’t understand tribal sentiments,which our seniors are preaching on Egbe’s platforms, what they understand is Instagram and Tiktok and that’s the language OLU spoke to them* .😊😉

Pointer to Adesina’s preparation to fail:

On Wednesday 29th when the election was about to commence, ECNBA officials addresed candidates’ representatives btw 10:50pm-11:05pm. They explained the reason why they froze candidates from knowing ahead of time, the cyber platform to be utilised for the election. They basically guarded against likely direct interference by candidates with the platform/server providers (US company called Election Buddy). *Interestingly, Adesina’s representatives were absent.* At 1am, we (Ajibade’s agent and myself) were invited to ECNBA’s local tech room at the NBA house. They wanted to show us round in order to assure us that the ongoing election back up tech installation was free from manipulation.

You know what’s shocking? Adesina’s rep/agent was still no where to be found.* At about 1:30 am when the results platform temporarily froze, I agitatively rushed up to the ECNBA server room and the officials put a call through to the Americans hosting the main computation server, who later assured us that the link will come back on. They had to quickly re-configure the refreshing timing, since there was more traffic on the result link than voting link. They were overwhelmed by the number of lawyers and non-lawyers following up on the results even at 1:30am.

By 7:30am, I enquired from the ECNBA officials whether they had independent officials and they informed me that they had sent the link to nothing less than 7 Judges/Justices of different courts amongst other observers for monitoring.

Guys, the first time we had a glimpse of Adesina’s representatives was when they arrived in the afternoon of 30th July with the sole purpose of submitting their petition and this was well over 14 hours into the election.

Please, let no one fool us because we are a very intelligent people and we shouldn’t be swayed by Adesina’s pre-planned reaction. The fellow doesn’t wish to go into oblivion without some noise. My inclination is that he either overestimated his chances or he knew he would lose. *How do you explain his inability to present a situation room representative as required by the ECNBA?

Enough said for now.

Aderemi Oguntoye

Olumide Akpata’s Accredited Agent at the ECNBA Situation Room at the just concluded NBA Elections

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.

AREWA LAWYERS ADOPTION: ANOTHER BRANCH CHAIR DISTANCES SELF

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The controversy trailing the adoption of Mr. Dele Adesina SAN as the preferred candidate of the influential Arewa Lawyers Forum (ALF) deepened at the weekend, with the Nigerian Bar Association, Shendam Branch Chairman, Mr. Gabriel Tsenyen washing his hands off the exercise.

Stating that he only got wind of the adoption via a Facebook post, Tsenyen vowed that he received no notice of any plan to adopt Adesina, neither did he attend any meeting at which the adoption was discussed and resolved.

In a notice titled “DISCLAIMER” and dated 26th July, 2020 which he made available to CITY LAWYER, the branch helmsman said: “I wish to note that as the Chairman of NBA Shendam Branch, I have not received any notice of meeting of Arewa Lawyers Forum neither am I aware of any meeting held where such was ever discussed.”

Tsenyen called on the ALF Caretaker Committee to “confirm the veracity, authenticity or falsity of such publication so that our forum will not be maligned unwarrantedly to the detriment of our young and teaming (sic) members.”

Tsenyen assured branch members “that I have not nor did any of our executive up to the time of writing this disclaimer receive any notice of meeting neither have I attended any such meeting where the purported adoption was made,” stating categorically that “This (adoption) is false and should be totally disregarded.”

CITY LAWYER had reported a letter addressed to the Secretary of Egbe Amofin Oodua and signed by Mr. Mohammed Monguno as “Member/Secretary” of Arewa Lawyers Forum where he stated: “Accordingly, on behalf of the leadership and members of Arewa Lawyers Forum and after a meeting of our Executive Committee, I have the honour to hereby convey our adoption, endorsement, satisfaction and the unanimous acceptance of the candidature of MR. DELE ADESINA SAN, FCIArb for the Office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association in the forthcoming July 2020 Election.”

However, a group of lawyers led by NBA Lafia Branch Chairman, Mr. Mustapha Sadiq issued a disclaimer stating that “the person who signed the purported letter of endorsement did so on his own accord and spoke only for himself.” Messrs Lukman Usman Nuhu and Wada Ahmed Wada, Chairman of NBA Damaturu Branch and Ag. Chairman of NBA Ungogo Branch had also issued a separate notice distancing themselves from the adoption exercise.

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.

AWOMOLO LETTER: WHAT SANs, BAR LEADERS, OTHERS ARE SAYING

Many Bar Leaders and lawyers have been weighing in on the recommendation by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN that the next president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be sourced from the rank of senior advocates.

Aside from the presidential aspirants, many lawyers have also joined the fray in reacting to the controversial letter.

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.

Below are some of the views of Bar leaders, senior advocates and other lawyers on the letter.

KEMI PINHEIRO, SAN
Awomolo SAN expressed his personal opinion and conviction. That is a right guaranteed to everyone one. The NBA has had non SAN presidents before. So it is not going to be news if we have another pls. HEAVEN WILL NOT FALL. However those calling for a revolution should be reminded about what became of the movement to abolish the rank of SAN or the Revolution Now movement in the larger political space!!! A child who wants to become the head of the house while his father is still alive must first find out and understand how the house was built!!! More particularly those who say their candidate is opposed to parochialism must remember that the entire NBA constitution is anchored on parochialism by the zoning of offices to sections of the country and that by paying your branch dues you have subscribed to that constitution albeit parochialism!!

JIBRIN OKUTEPA, SAN
I do not think that anyone should be castigated for his or her views on an issue that the person feels too strong about. Prior to the views expressed in the letter of Chief A S Awomolo SAN on whether the position of the President of the Bar be reserved for SAN, many had expressed the views that the position should not be for only SAN. I think one of the hallmarks of democracy is the freedom of expression. There is no need for anybody to castigate Chief Awomolo SAN or those who hold contrary views. Chief Awomolo SAN has been playing leading role in bringing the members of the Bar together. As lawyers we are not bound to see things the same.

PROF. CHIDI ODINKALU
I have known and respected Asiwaju Gboyega Awomolo, SAN for long. This letter by him concerning #NBADecides2020 is at best ill-advised. The mind-set here inhabits a world of unearned privilege & entitlement with no sense of responsibility. I hope it no one takes it seriously. Any system in which a minority claim entitlement to rule over the majority has only 1 name: Apartheid.

OSAS ERHABOR
That statement by the learned Chief Awomolo is uncalled for both in terms of poor timing and context. It is very divisive and certainly not needed in the heat of campaign for the Presidency of the Bar. This also is my personal opinion.

TUNDE FAGBOHUNLU, SAN
A candidate’s qualification to lead the Bar should be a function of his/her competence and integrity. It is entirely immaterial whether he/she is or IS NOT a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

DAME CAROL AJIE
The position of Chief Awomolo SAN that the office of the President of NBA should be the exclusive reserve of SAN is impolite and disrespects the majority. As INEC counsel defending some democratic institutions Asiwaju ought to know that majority be respected. The duties and privileges of a SAN are clearly spelt out and restricted to the courts. Period! You have a distinct group known as Body of SANs? Only SANs should lead there not in NBA. I had thought you would deal with NBA constitutional issues of rotation within the sub-region. Why do you have such disdain for the NBA Constitution? It does not restrict the office of the President to SAN?

AHMED T. UWAIS
For me this is a game changer, some years ago my dear friend Afam was disqualified simply because he was not an SAN. Its not a provision in the NBA Constitution that in order to contest and be elected the NBA President you have to be an SAN. Though it has been long since any non SAN was elected the president of NBA, in my humble view this election is not about electing an SAN or not as the right person to lead our dear profession which has been declining in terms of integrity, respect and influence in our society.

CHUKWUKA IKWUAZOM
The decision to vote a candidate as President of the Bar should not be based on the titles that the candidates bear. It should be based on an objective assessment of the character, ability, track record and programmes of each candidate. In the same manner, I disapprove of any campaign to vote for a candidate because he/she is not a senior advocate, I disapprove of the statement allegedly issued by the very respected Silk, Chief Awomolo.

OLUKAYODE ENITAN, SAN
The forthcoming NBA elections should be made a revolution that we all should ensure succeeds in bringing forth the best of us in content of character, abundance of capacity and excellent antecedents devoid of parochial and pecuniary sentiments!

ANTHONY MALIK, SAN
Mr. Gboyega Awomolo, SAN is, by any parameter, a doyen of the Bar. I respect him and appreciate his overall contributions to the Bar and the enrichment of our body of laws. Regrettably, I am unable to navigate my way through the contents of his letter. In clear terms, his letter does not enjoy my endorsement in the least. We have a Constitution which has just been amended and it serves no good importing into it what is not contained therein. If it was the desire of the Association to make the Presidency of NBA the exclusive preserve of SANs, a provision along this line would have been inserted in the Constitution.

ADEMOLA ADEWALE
This statement credited to Highly respected member of BOSAN Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, is not only unfortunate but capable of boomeranging and destroying the chances of the very able and competent SANs who are in the race to become the next President of the NBA!!!!! To start with it comes across as arrogant and condescending!!!! Particularly when it is considered that most of the voting electorate is overwhelmingly non SAN!!!! So as we all await the NBA election that will lead to the emergence of the next President of the NBA, let our focus be on competence and vision of service to our great Association!!!! Not rank or status!!!!!

AFAM OSIGWE
I subscribe to the view that to attain leadership at the Bar, you do not have to be a Senior Advocate. If you are a Senior Advocate, that’s fine, if you are not, that’s also fine. If the NBA thought it was important for you to take the top job, you must be a senior Advocate, It would have put it in the NBA constitution. Since there’s no stipulation that one must be a Senior Advocate, then it’s a non-issue. To the question, “Is it imperative that one be a senior advocate to aspire to be president”, one must note that Dr Mudiaga Odjeh, Alao Aka Bashorun, Prince Bola Ajibola, Charles Idehen to name a few were NBA Presidents without taking Silk at the time of their election. And that tradition has continued to be maintained in our constitution.

GODWIN OMOAKA, SAN
I read with utter shock the letter by eminent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo in which he argued that the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association should be reserved only for Senior Advocates of Nigeria. As a member of the inner bar, I strongly disagree with the views expressed by my respected leader and learned brother silk who appears to have lost touch with the current trend in the profession. The letter is, at the very least, discriminatory (it offends section 8 of the NBA Constitution), ill-thought out and clearly divisive. I see it as an attempt to pitch SANs against the majority of our colleagues in the outer bar.

AYULI JEMIDE
“It is a great failure of leadership for the Senior Advocates to surrender leadership to outer bar when there are willing and able senior advocates,” says Adegobyega Awomolo SAN. I consider this ‘inner vs outer’ notion as discriminatory.

SANNI ABBAS
The learned senior advocate has not written a letter as to the issue of welfare of lawyers, he has also not proffered an opinion on the minimum wage to be paid by senior advocates even when it is in public domain how much many senior lawyers pay lawyers (peanuts). It’s an open secret that some Silk do not even pay close to what non senior advocates are paying i.e he pays take home that is not even enough to take you home.

SILAS ONU
I was not surprised by the content, especially coming from Awomolo SAN. I must state for the sake of clarity, that I know as a fact, that so many Senior Advocates, properly so called, are not in support of the letter from Awomolo SAN and will never share his view on the NBA leadership. In the nearest future, the activism record of individual, public interest litigations and penchant for defending the right of person should be the core criteria for Bar leadership. Legal practice is different from leading the Bar. The Bar leadership requires a person who can jump in the mud with the masses to protest against abuse of human rights and unconstitutional actions of government.

N5M COVID-19 PALLIATIVE: SANs, OTHERS CARPET, HAIL AKPATA

A N5 million relief package funded by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential aspirant, Mr. Olumide Akpata and “his friends” and administered by the NBA Lagos Branch has raised a firestorm within the Bar, pitching many lawyers against their colleagues.

The fiery debate on the propriety of the palliatives was set off by a notice by NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe when he urged “members of the Branch that genuinely need this support” to email him and other named branch Executive Committee members.

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