EXCLUSIVE: NBA ELECTIONS – WHY EFCC QUIZED NBA CHIEFTAIN

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have swooped on senior lawyer and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) administrative lynchpin, Sarah Ajijola over an alleged cash payment received from one of the presidential candidates in the last elections.

An impeccable source who is familiar with the EFCC investigations told CITY LAWYER that Ajijola, NBA’s Director of Membership & Bar Services, was pulled in by the anti-graft agency for questioning over a N25,000 inflow into her bank account in the run-up to the controversial 2018 NBA Elections.

The EFCC is investigating the outcome of the elections following an alleged petition by Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure who was an agent to Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, one of the presidential candidates in the elections. Olowokure is now deceased.

As the overseer of the NBA database, Ajijola worked closely with the Professor Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) in generating a register of voters for the elections. Reputed as highly knowledgeable in NBA affairs, Ajijola was quizzed for several days over the inflow. It was however unclear at press time whether the anti-graft agency was able to make a headway in its investigations into the elections following this latest effort to track those who allegedly rigged the Bar elections.

CITY LAWYER sent whatsapp messages to Ajijola requesting her response on the subject. When CITY LAWYER noticed that the messages remained unread, CITY LAWYER alerted Ajijola via SMS. Though there was compelling evidence that the whatsapp messages were read, Ajijola however did not respond to the enquiries even after CITY LAWYER made another request for a feedback.

CITY LAWYER gathered that Ajijola was released when NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN dispatched NBA Legal Adviser, Mr. Innocent Eze to Lagos to secure her release. It was gathered that Eze was able to persuade the anti-graft agency to let the NBA top officer off the hook. He was said to have processed the administrative bail granted Ajijola, leading to her release from EFCC custody.

Though some lawyers had frowned on Ajijola’s prolonged detention, there are strong indications that this may not be unconnected with the fact that key NBA chieftains were heading to Seoul, South Korea to attend the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference barely a few days after she was picked up by EFCC operatives and whisked away to their Lagos Office.

Usoro was declared winner of the election, having polled 4,509 votes to beat Okafor and former Nigerian Law School Deputy Director General, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN. While Okafor garnered 4,423 votes, Ojukwu polled 3,313 votes to place third.

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My ordeal with EFCC, by Ubani

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Second Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has shed more light on his face-off with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to Ubani, circumstances conspired to foist a state of helplessness on him, moreso as he personally persuaded his client and former National Insurance Trust Fund Chairman, Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme to return to Nigeria to face her charge.

His words:

Friends, thanks. It is not as if I was careless. See reasons for my action which now looks as if I was sentimental:

  1. I brought the said woman back with all her family members from South Africa to come and respond to her allegations.
  2. She had multiple operations prior to her coming and requested that her medical condition will not permit of any detention.
  3. Despite that fact, she was detained for 14 days in a hospital before release.
  4. Her health was deteriorating during that detention and pressure was mounted on me the lawyer to get her out on bail.
  5. She presented qualified sureties in accordance with the bail condition of EFCC but was rejected by them.
  6. They insisted on senior citizens and important personalities to stand.
  7. EFCC said that they won’t mind if I stand for her since I was the person that brought her back.
  8. The time for this discussion was 10 pm.
  9. The said woman had not taken her bath for the 14 days she was in detention due to her health condition.
  10. It would have amounted to a betrayal to her and a dent to my own integrity towards a woman I brought back to reject to stand for her when that window of opportunity was thrown open that my suretyship will suffice.
    11 Think what you will do if you were in my shoe.
    12 It is easy to criticize when you are not the one involved or if you do not have the full facts or know the full circumstances.
    She was later chased away for another matter that has nothing to do with the matter she came for. They invaded her home with several policemen and searched her house for over 3hrs. She was really scared and slipped away from her house when they left her to go for another matter. Since that day she ceased communication with me. I still went after her by getting INTERPOL to place her on Red Alert which was what I went to report at EFCC and was asked to be locked up for 24 days. IT SHALL END IN PRAISE! The experience while in there was a tremendous BLESSING FOR ME. THANKS FOR STANDING FOR ME AND WITH ME SIRS AND SISTERS. MOU.

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NBA, EBF, Igbo Lawyers Ask EFCC to Release Ubani


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has come under a flurry of attacks as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other groups of lawyers demanded immediate release of former NBA 2nd Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani.

An ardent social critic, Ubani has been in EFCC custody for about three weeks for allegedly standing surety for his client and former Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) chief executive, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme.

In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, NBA described Ubani’s continued detention notwithstanding a court order for his release as “a gross violation of his constitutional rights to personal liberty. “

Noting that “Democracy thrives only where there is a culture of respect for rule of law and due process by all persons,” the lawyers’ body said: “The Nigerian Bar Association, therefore, demands that the EFCC immediately complies with the subsisting order of the Federal High Court by releasing Monday Ubani or charge him to court, if there is any reasonable cause to so do.”

In a similar vein, Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society), the umbrella body of Igbo lawyers noted that “It is a matter of deep concern and national embarrassment that the EFCC has chosen to brazenly disobey this order of the court.”

In a statement by its President, Chief Chuks Ikokwu, the influential body of Igbo lawyers said: “It is more worrisome that Mr. Ubani, an ardent critic, activist and social crusader, was asked to personally take his client on bail by Mr. Magu, the EFCC having rejected top civil servants it earlier demanded. Was this a ploy to silence the former NBA chieftain and unrelenting social critic?”

On its part, the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) also chided the EFCC for its continued detention of the former NBA chieftain. In a statement signed by its Pulicity Secretary, Mr. George Fortune Igbikikuno, the EBF stated that “Nigeria is in a constitutional democracy where respect for rule of law reigns supreme,” adding: “The EBF seriously deprecates the EFCC’s disobedience to court order and urges it to do the needful.”

Below are the statements:


NBA CONDEMNS THE UNLAWFUL DETENTION OF MONDAY UBANI BY EFCC AND DEMANDS FOR HIS IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The attention of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN has been drawn to an order of Honorable Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the Federal High Court wherein His Lordship, on March 26, 2019 granted an ex-parte motion filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN directing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to charge, Monday Ubani, a former 3rd Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and his co-applicant to court on or before Friday, 28/3/2019.

The court in the alternative, ordered that

“If the Applicants are not charged to court on or before 28/3/2019, EFCC is directed to release them on bail”

It has been 3 days after the order of the court was made and the EFCC, has characteristically shown daring disobedience to the orders of the court by refusing to release Monday Ubani on bail or charge him to court before the 28/3/201.

By the provisions of Section 1(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme and binding on all persons and institutions in Nigeria.

By the further provisions of Section 35 (4) of the 1999 Constitution “ Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time.”

Mr. Monday Ubani still remains in the unlawful custody of the EFCC for more than three weeks, which is a gross violation of his constitutional rights to personal liberty.

Democracy thrives only where there is a culture of respect for rule of law and due process by all persons. The EFCC, being a product of law, must also be subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and therefore, cannot be above the law. The agency’s penchant for disobedience to orders of court is an ominous threat to rule of law and impacts negatively on Nigeria’s investment environment.

The Nigerian Bar Association, therefore, demands that the EFCC immediately complies with the subsisting order of the Federal High Court by releasing Monday Ubani or charge him to court, if there is any reasonable cause to so do.

The Nigerian Bar Association also urges the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari to closely monitor the activities of security agencies, like EFCC and DSS, and ensure that they obey the fundamental rights of Nigerians and respect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the performance of their functions.

Kunle Edun
National Publicity Secretary, NBA.

OBEY COURT ORDER, RELEASE UBANI NOW – IGBO LAWYERS TELL EFCC


The Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society) has watched with dismay the flagrant disregard of a valid and subsisting court order and the 1999 Constitution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by its Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

It is recalled that Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the Federal High Court had in a ruling on March 26, 2019 granted an ex-parte motion filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN directing the EFCC to charge former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani and his co-applicant to court “on or before Friday, 28/3/2019.”

The court in the alternative ordered that “If the Applicants are not charged to court on or before 28/3/2019, EFCC is directed to release them on bail” upon fulfillment of some listed conditions.

It is a matter of deep concern and national embarrassment that the EFCC has chosen to brazenly disobey this order of the court. It has neither charged the former NBA Vice President to court nor granted him any administrative bail.

Aside from the EFCC and its leadership being in clear breach of the extant order of the Federal High Court, the continued detention of Mr. Ubani also violates Section 35 (4) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that “Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time.” The maximum detention period is 48 hours, except extended by a competent court. Mr. Ubani has been in EFCC custody for about three weeks.

It also violates the detainees’ right to dignity of human persons, right to personal liberty, and right to freedom of movement as set out in sections 34, 35 and 41 respectively of the 1999 Constitution.

This culture of impunity as consistently exhibited by EFCC and its leadership continues to ridicule Nigeria in the comity of nations and sabotage efforts at attracting foreign direct investment. Investors only go to jurisdictions where the rule of law and respect for human rights are guaranteed while shunning countries where ‘rule of men’ predominate.

It is even more worrisome that this blatant disobedience of a valid court order by the Magu-led EFCC is coming on the heels of serial disobedience of court orders by the Federal Government directing the release from custody of former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki and leader of Shi’a Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife. Is Mr. Magu merely taking a cue from the Federal Government?

We note that by the continued disobedience of the order of Federal High Court, Mr. Magu and the EFCC have displayed utter contempt for our courts and the country’s judicial system. It is ironic that these are the same courts the EFCC routinely runs to for orders which they zealously implement in the discharge of their mandate under the EFCC Act. It is not for EFCC and its leadership to pick and choose which court orders to obey or disregard. That is an invitation to anarchy. What is more, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

It is further recalled that the courts have severally cited the EFCC and its chairman for contempt, even as stiff damages have been awarded against the commission, thereby dissipating scarce public resources.

It is more worrisome that Mr. Ubani, an ardent critic, activist and social crusader, was asked to personally take his client on bail by Mr. Magu, the EFCC having rejected top civil servants it earlier demanded. Was this a ploy to silence the former NBA chieftain and unrelenting social critic?

Also, the fact that EFCC is apparently complicit in the alleged disappearance of Mr. Ubani’s client further questions the modus operandi and institutional integrity of the anti-graft agency. This follows Mr. Ubani’s posers thus: “Why will EFCC from another unit (Enugu) invade the home of a suspect (Dr. Mrs. Olejeme) who is on bail with them, more so when the matter they came for is purely a civil matter which was already in court? Why the long wait to charge a woman whom EFCC declared wanted since last year and who came back in December and was granted bail early January and up to now, no charge? Was this issue of rejecting valid sureties and insisting that I should be the one to stand for her a ploy to embarrass me for bringing the woman back from abroad to respond to her charges? Why am I being asked to produce her when it is the same EFCC that invaded her home when she was under bail? It is pertinent to point out that later in the day, the investigating officer in Abuja confirmed that the EFCC officials who came from Enugu got permission from the Acting Chairman (Magu) to come and arrest Dr. Olejeme. These and many other questions demand answers!”

We demand immediate release of Mr. Ubani and his co-applicant in line with the subsisting order of the Federal High Court.

Further, we demand a high-powered judicial enquiry into the allegations of complicity and dereliction of duty leveled against the EFCC and its leadership. The time to sanitize EFCC and rid it of corruption is now! Enough is enough!

We urge the Federal Government to take immediate steps to ensure that EFCC does not derail its avowed commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights of citizens. This has become more pressing given the presence of many senior lawyers including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN in the Buhari Administration.

The EFCC’s Gestapo-style regime of holding citizens for weeks and months without trial and at times without valid court orders must stop. Nigeria is not a banana republic. Attempts by institutions of state to ridicule the country and make it seem like a lawless fiefdom must be resisted by all citizens and the international community.

Signed
Chief Chuks Ikokwu
President
Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society)
01/04/2019

RELEASE MONDAY ONYEKACHI UBANI, ESQ AND HONOURABLE CHRISTOPHER ENAI ON BAIL!!!

The Governing Council and distinguished learned members of the Eastern Bar Forum ably led by Chief Arthur Elvis Chukwu, Esq., ACIArb., KSJI., hereby lend its voice and support to the order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that is currently keeping in its custody Monday Onyekachi UBANI, Esq and Honourable Christopher Enai since 19/03/2019, bring them before a court of law charged with the offences they are alleged to have committed or release them on bail as already ordered by the court. Nigeria is in a constitutional democracy where respect for rule of law reigns supreme. The EBF seriously deprecates the EFCC’s disobedience to court order and urges it to do the needful.

George Fortune Igbikikuno Esq., Publicity Secretary, EBF.

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NBA ELECTIONS: EFCC GRILLS MAHMOUD, YADUDU TODAY

The last may not have been heard on the controversial Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Elections as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will today grill former NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN and Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) Chairman, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu on their roles in the elections. Also to answer queries from a battery of EFCC operatives is ECNBA Secretary, Mr. Bolaji Agoro.

According to an impeccable source who is familiar with the investigation, though the EFCC operatives had earlier scheduled to interview the trio before now, they had requested that the interviews be done in Abuja.

“EFCC turned down the request,” the source told CITY LAWYER. “Instead, it opted to reschedule the interviews to Friday, 24th January, 2019.”

CITY LAWYER also gathered that the anti-graft agency has invited over 50 other lawyers from several NBA branches to its office in its bid to unravel allegations of rigging and sundry infractions during the elections. The investigation is being conducted by EFCC’s Cybercrime Unit.

It is recalled that the EFCC had barely a month after the elections requested a certified true copy of the list of eligible voters for the poll from CHAMS Plc, one of the ICT firms that conducted the elections.

In a letter to the ICT company dated 10th September, 2018 with reference number CR:3000/EFCC/LS/STF/STF3NBA/VOL.7/382, the EFCC stated: “This commission is investigating a case of conspiracy and Cyber Crime in respect of the above-mentioned election featured.”

Signed by its Zonal Head, Mr. Akaninyene Ezima and titled “Investigation activities, Re: 2018 Nigeria Bar Association elections,” EFCC stated that the request was made pursuant to Section 38(1) of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended.

In the letter to the managing director of CHAMS Plc, the anti-graft agency further stated: “In view of the above, you are requested to avail us with certified true copy of the list of all eligible voters to include but not limited to Name(s), Phone Number(s), Email Address(es), Branch(es) and Voters ID.

“Any other information that may assist the Commission in its investigation.”

Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was declared elected as NBA President by the ECNBA. Usoro polled 4, 509 votes to beat Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN who scored 4, 423 votes while Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) polled 3, 313 votes. Both Obi Okafor and Ojukwu rejected the results, alleging that irregularities marred the elections.

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‘STEP ASIDE NOW,’ OJUKWU TELLS USORO

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) chieftain, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has asked NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN to “step aside” from the exalted office and face the charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Continue Reading

BREAKING: SANs THWART EFCC’S BID TO ARREST USORO

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have failed failed to arrest Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN today. Also, the arraignment earlier scheduled for today could not hold. Continue Reading

BREAKING: FRAUD CHARGE – USORO SHUNS EFCC

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN may have called the bluff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on service of the fraud charge on him. Continue Reading

FRAUD CHARGE: WE MUST STOP EFCC, SAYS USORO

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) has urged lawyers to rise against the alleged incursion into the legal profession by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Continue Reading

BREAKING: EFCC TO ARRAIGN USORO DEC 10 OVER N1.4 BN FRAUD

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed a N1.4 billion fraud charge against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), at the the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Justice Muslim Hassan fixed December 10, 2018 for the EFCC to arraign Usoro, THE NATION reports.

The anti-graft agency, in a charge marked FHC/418c/18, alleged that Usoro, from Akwa Ibom, converted and laundered the money in connivance with the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.

The charge sheet, signed by EFCC Counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, did not list Emmanuel as a defendant.

The EFCC indicated that he is “currently constitutionally immuned against criminal prosecution”. It did, however, mention four other defendants.

They are: Nsikan Nkan, described as Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State; Mfon Udomah, described as the Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State; Uwemedimo Nwoko, described as the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; and Margaret Ukpe, all of whom are said to be at large.

The commission alleged that Usoro, in connivance with the others mentioned, conspired to commit the offence “sometime in 2015 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”.

The anti-graft agency claimed that the N1.4bn belonged to the Akwa Ibom State Government.

According to Oyedepo, the offences were contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

Though SAHARA REPORTERS wrote that Usoro was picked up yesterday and released on bail by the anti-graft body, this was disparaged by NBA Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun who said Usoro was busy preparing to chair the NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting holding tomorrow.

Reacting to a rebroadcast of the Sahara Reporters story by a legal blog, Edun said: “Pls, where did you get this information from. I have been in Abuja for the past two days. I was in Port Harcourt for SLP Conference on Monday. From Sunday till this moment I have been in contact with the NBA President.

“National officers had a meeting with him yesterday evening and left about few minutes past 12 am. I have seen Mr. President this morning. Presently he is in the office working hard preparing for NEC meeting.

“Pls, let us stop spreading false news. Away (sic) verify your facts before publishing. You could have easily reached me.
Your report is therefore false and should be retracted immediately. I hope you will also publish this refutal.”

Corroborating Edun’s account, another source who seemed abreast with Usoro’s itinerary wrote: “This is absolutely false. I was with the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN throughout yesterday, Tuesday, 05 December 2018 and at no point whatsoever was he arrested by the EFCC.

“The President left Abuja to Lagos on Monday, 03 December 2018, with Airpeace 1:20pm and returned to Abuja on Tuesday, 04 December 2018, with Azman 8am, for a workshop organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission.

“After the workshop, he was in the office (NBA National Secretariat) till about 12:03am where he had a long meeting with other National Officers of the NBA.

“Please see below, pictures of the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN chairing a session at the Workshop on Reform of the Value Added Tax Act, organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission yesterday, 04 December 2018, at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja.”

Former NBA Welfare Secretary, Mr. Adesina Adegbite was forced to intervene when his attention was called to the concerns generated on his whatsapp platform by the report.

He wrote: “My attention was just drawn to this by a senior lawyer and past General Secretary of the NBA.

“However, by the response of the National Publicity Secretary and as the Chief Administrator of this platform, I hereby demand an immediate retraction of this post right here on this platform.

“Pls let’s get our facts right before rushing to press with false/fake news. It does us as lawyers and our noble Association no good to tarnish its image with undignified posts like this.”

However, when a learned silk classified the report as “fake news,” fiery Bar activist, Dame Carol Ajie who recently fell out with the NBA President retorted: “You know I called owner of the link (blog) they picked my call and after listening to my question ref to confirm they said to me they have confirmed.

“You know it’s not been posted to OurCountryNigeria@yahoogroups.ca but when I see the charge sheet then I can share it. Response from Carol Ajie to my comment of ‘fake news.’ ”

As at the time of this report, the NBA is yet to issue any official statement rebutting the alleged arrest.

NBA ELECTIONS INVESTIGATION: CHAMS REPLIES EFCC

CHAMS Plc, the ICT Partner for the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Elections, has responded to the query issued to it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the controversial elections. Continue Reading