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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EDITORIAL: THE JURIST AS A PUGILIST: WHY DANLADI UMAR MUST GO

On March 29, 2021 the public was treated to a bizarre tragi-comedy through a viral video clip where a high-ranking jurist and Chairman of the influential Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar unleashed a slap on a hapless security guard at the popular Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja.

The victim, one Clement Sargwak, a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited posted as a security guard to the plaza, recounts the vicious and inglorious assault thus: “After I informed him (Mr. Umar) about his wrong parking, he came out and slapped me, when he slapped me the driver also came down and slapped me and they tore my uniform and they stepped over me severally.

“…. When the man arrived with the security men, the Oga (Mr. Umar) slapped me again in front of the police and ordered a police officer to also slap me, which he did and thereafter ordered me to kneel down and I obeyed. As I went on my knees, the Oga (Mr. Umar) also kicked me in my face and hit my mouth.” Mr. Sargwak has a clearly bruised lip to show for the physical assault on him by Mr. Umar.

Mr. Samuel Ihensekhien, a solicitor for BANEX Plaza, alleges that “It was brought to my attention that on March 29, Mr. Sargwak was assaulted and harmed and was on the verge of almost being killed by Mr. Danladi Umar. And he was subsequently taken to the Maitama Police Station….

”They (the police) were very surprised, and the DPO saw the footage and immediately ordered he (Sargwak) be released on bail forthwith. He was then handed to the Banex manager and from there he was taken for medication.”

The unprecedented spectacle has expectedly caught the attention of a global audience and especially the legal community.

In a feeble and ill-advised attempt to exonerate himself from the macabre incident, Mr. Umar states that he “was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there (plaza),” adding that he “was drawn into an unnecessary altercation and subsequently assaulted, with this degenerating into an attack and injury by a mob that was chanting secessionist and sectional slogans.”

Instructively, the much lampooned press statement by CCT’s Head, Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, also made reference to the alleged “mob” which he described as “consisting of BIAFRAN boys.” Mr. Al-Hassan would later admit that it was Mr. Umar who directed him to weave the “BIAFRAN boys” spin into the macabre tale. What is more, the statement went ahead to conclude that sympathy in such circumstances usually goes to the “low personalities.” Yet in a fleeting sombre moment, the CCT admits that the incident “ought not to have happened.”

Mr. Umar claims he has reflected on the incident, adding that “the entire incident was avoidable” and that “I regret being drawn into responding to the situation.” However, perhaps torn between ego and genuine remorse, Mr. Umar curiously feels “upset” and even “highly disappointed” that his action has been “misconstrued” in the narrative trending on social media!

The “Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers 2016” as issued by the National Judicial Council (NJC) states in Rule 1 (1.1) that “Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal, are essential elements of a Judge’s life,” noting that “members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a Judge.” When in doubt, a judge should ask the question: “How might this look in the eyes of the public?” The National Judicial Council directs in Rule Four 4(ii)(b) directs that “bad behaviour, whether in or out of Court” is a necessary disqualifying factor.

Notwithstanding the controversies that have trailed the recent recruitment of Court of Appeal judges, it is safe to conclude that the NJC would not have recommended a street-brawling jurist-turned-pugilist for appointment as a judge of the all-important Code of Conduct Tribunal. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Mr. Umar superintends an entity that stands as a sentinel for good conduct among public officers. And to think that Mr. Umar has been the Acting Chairman or Chairman of CCT for more than 14 years!

It was in this exalted role that he sat in judgement on former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. He was unsparing, at all times projecting himself as an epitome of good conduct and morality. Perhaps with hindsight, he was rather combative in dealing with the counsel that appeared before the tribunal.

What is more, in finding Justice Onnoghen guilty of non-declaration of assets, Mr. Umar based the tribunal’s judgement on the “admission by the defendant in his own handwriting ….,” adjudging same as “a partial confession.” He further held that “hard facts” had been adduced by the prosecution to establish its case. There is no gainsaying that aside from Mr. Umar’s admission of “being drawn into responding to the situation,” the “hard facts” in the public domain compel a guilty verdict against him.

It is recalled that Mr. Umar was on February 2, 2018 slammed with a two-count charge of corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged receipt of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) bribe from one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service sometime in 2012 for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to a pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) and contrary to Section 12(1)(a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003. The charges were however dropped.

We strongly deprecate the ethnic slurs prevalent in the statement authorized by Mr. Umar which border on xenophobia, contrary to section 26 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 and punishable with 5 years imprisonment and/or a minimum N10 million fine. Also, to classify some Nigerians as “low personalities” is just as appalling and unacceptable. It raises the poser whether these categories of persons can ever obtain justice in Mr. Umar’s court.

It is apparent that the only ‘offence’ committed by the security guard is that, in the words of Mr. Umar, “I was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there.” For a jurist who was acclaimed in the CCT’s statement to have frequented the Plaza for about 18 years, he must be aware of the presence of police operatives on the premises. That he opted to literally take matters into his own hands instead of order the arrest of the security guard to answer to any misfeasance is highly inappropriate and condemnable. It does grave injustice to the NJC’s Code of Conduct which especially admonishes propriety in all circumstances. Clearly, Mr. Umar performs adjudicatory and quasi-judicial functions. It is therefore immaterial that Mr. Umar is answerable to Nigeria’s President, and may only be removed by him upon endorsement by the National Assembly.

Mr. Umar has brought palpable odium to his high office. We call on Mr. Umar to immediately resign from office. It is the only path of honour to redeem whatever is left of his honour. In the event that he fails or refuses to do so, President Muhammadu Buhari should promptly activate the process for his removal by transmitting a letter to that effect to the National Assembly.

We commend the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for its resolve to prosecute Mr. Umar at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) if a prima facie case is established against him, and urge the lawyers’ association not to relent in this regard.

Finally, we urge the Nigeria Police to thoroughly investigate the incident – including the xenophobic slurs – with a view to bring any culprit to justice and ensure closure especially for Citizen Sargwak.

 

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NBA MAY DRAG CCT CHAIR TO DISCIPLINARY C’TE OVER ALLEGED ASSAULT

  • VOWS TO INVESTIGATE THE MATTER

  • CCT CHAIR MAY BE DISBARRED

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) may drag the embattled Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Umar Yakubu Danladi to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers for professional misconduct.

An indication to this is contained in a press statement by the NBA over the alleged assault by the CCT Chairman on a security guard which was caught on a video that has since gone viral.

Giving an indication that the lawyers’ body may have made up its mind on the controversy, the association said it “frowns at any display of naked power by a public officer especially one who, by virtue of his high office, is expected to exhibit a high standard of conduct,” adding that “The situation is all the more critical when it involves the head of an agency of government set up to ensure compliance, by public officers, with the code of conduct.”

Noting that Danladi “is expected, by the extant rules that regulate the conduct of legal practitioners in Nigeria, to maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a member of the legal profession,” NBA stated that “Prima facie evidence available at the moment raise questions regarding whether such standards have been met.”

Signed by the NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, the statement concluded that “In view of the foregoing, the NBA shall through its relevant Committee, investigate the circumstances leading to the altercation, and depending on its findings, will ensure that appropriate action is taken to address this occurrence.”

The 15-member NBA Disciplinary Committee is chaired by Mr. Yunus Ustaz Usman SAN and co-chaired by Funke Aboyade, SAN.

It is recalled that the CCT Chairman was caught on video camera together with his security detail allegedly assaulting a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited posted as a security guard to the Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja. The victim has reportedly been hospitalized and was quoted by an online newspaper as expressing worry over his safety.

A press statement by CCT’s Head of Press and Public Relations, Ibraheem Al-Hassan admitted that there were exchanges between the CCT Chairman and the security guard, adding that “An incident like this when it happened (sic), sympathy usually goes to the low personalities. Though is (sic) unfortunate as I said, it ought not to have happened.”

Also speaking on the matter, longstanding LPDC Prosecutor, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN said: “From the press statement of the CCT which cannot be issued without the approval of the chairman and which press statement has not been denied by CCT HQ, it is my respectful view that the Chairman’s conduct in the circumstances in engaging in public altercations with security man was undignified of the office of Chairman of CCT. That conduct ought not to be celebrated by any right-thinking members of the society.

“As lawyer and chairman of CCT no reasonable person should celebrate the conduct of the chairman as corroborated by the press statement. The government must not allow this matter to be swept under the carpets. It is not one of those issues that should be treated with levity.

“The HAGF and FGN must not condone this conduct. It must take action.The Chairman cannot be allowed to be sitting over conduct of other public officers when his conduct is in public court.”

If NBA files a petition at the LPDC and Danladi is found guilty, he may have his name struck off the roll of legal practitioners. It is recalled that the CCT Chairman headed the tribunal’s panel which gave an unprecedented order removing former Chief Justice of Nigeria, retired Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen from office.

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NBA, JUDICIARY WADE INTO ENUGU MAGISTRACY REMAND SAGA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy trailing the alleged remand order on an Enugu-based lawyer by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs.), a Chief Magistrate sitting at an Agbogugu Magistrates Court in Enugu State.

The social media was agog at the weekend following reports that a lawyer, Mr. Fidelis Okeke was ordered to be remanded in police custody following the absence of his client in court in Charge No. CMC/12c/2017, Commissioner of Police vs John Chidozie Igwe. Speculations were rife that the trending ruling was fake, prompting a frenzied debate among lawyers and jurists.

CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report that both the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy with a view to unraveling the facts.

The first hint of NBA’s intervention was dropped by the National Welfare Secretary and Publicity Secretary Emeritus, Mr. Kunle Edun via an online post thus: “The NBA 1st Vice President is following up on the matter with the local branch. We are impatiently waiting for the report of the local branch intervention.”

When CITY LAWYER sought more clarification on the post, Edun, a human rights activist, said: “We want to get first-hand report from the branch first, which we are still awaiting.”

Confirming the interventions, Okeke told CITY LAWYER that both NBA Enugu Branch Chairman, Mr. Jude Ezegwui and the Chief Registrar of Enugu State Judiciary, Magistrate Kingsley Eze have got in touch with him.

While he had narrated his experience to the Chief Registrar, there are strong indications that the branch may have asked him to submit a written report on the debacle for onward transmission to the national body. “I plan to do so immediately I’m done with the two matters I have in court today,” he told CITY LAWYER.

Though Okeke claimed that the chief magistrate ordered his remand in police custody, some lawyers argued that the trending ruling was fake, as it was not signed by the magistrate. There were indications that the remand order was vacated by the court.

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BAR LEADER, DURU NAMED BADMINTON ASSOCIATION CHAIR BY SANWO-OLU

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has named Bar Leader and former 1st Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch as the new Chairman of the board of Lagos State Badminton Association.

In a letter dated 8th March, 2021 and made available to CITY LAWYER, it was noted that Duru’s appointment was “as a result of your keen interest and contributions to sports development as well as selfless service to humanity and sterling achievements in your chosen field. We believe and expect these qualities will be fully brought to bear in your role as a Board Member.

The letter which was signed by the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku added that “By this appointment, members of the board are expected to work assiduously for the transformation of the Association in line with the Lagos State Sports Commission’s Vision of building ‘The foundation for a sustainable vibrant industry’ and Mission ‘To make Lagos the leading sports destination in Africa.’

Also appointed as board members are Mr. Abiodun Akinyemi (Vice Chairman), Mr. Lekan Abdul, Mr. Bayo Haastrup, Alhaja Rekia Zubair and Mrs. Bukky George. The board members were sworn in on Thursday, March 11, 2021 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos and have since assumed duties.

An avid badminton enthusiast and player, Duru was the Chairman of the Badminton Section of Ikoyi Club 1938.

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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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LAWYERS WITHOUT BORDERS LAUNCH POLICE SITUATION ROOM

As part of its efforts in promoting the enjoyment of Human Rights in Nigeria, Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France or Lawyers Without Borders), in collaboration with its partners, the Carmelite Prisoners Interest Organisation (CAPIO) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has set up “The Police and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Situation Room” in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A statement made available to CITY LAWYER shows that the Situation Room was established under the “Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocation for Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria project” (SAFE) funded by the European Union and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and is targeted at addressing human rights violations such as torture, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention.

In attendance at the maiden convening of the situation room were representatives of ASF France, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), CAPIO, NBA, and key CSOs working on justice sector reform in Nigeria such as Amnesty International, CLEEN Foundation, Access to Justice. Others were representatives of CSOs from Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna States.

In line with ASF France’s objectives for establishing the situation room, insightful contributions were made by members of the situation room as follows:

  • Create a pool of possible reforms that are consistent with international best practices in respect of Police accountability and human rights;
  • Create a platform for CSO monitoring and collaboration with the Police on its operations towards human rights enforcements;
  • Develop strategies aimed at improving the respect of human rights by officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force; and 
  • Boost the image of the Nigerian Police Force before the citizens.

The situation room also considered recommendations generated from State-level stakeholders roundtable meetings organised on the SAFE Project on Human Rights. The Head of Office of Avocats Sans Frontières France, Angela Uwandu, in her opening remarks said: “The work for the advancement of Human Rights in the country should be a collaborative effort between CSOs and the Government hence the dire need for the situation room”. She also called on CSOs to replicate this effort so as to sustain the gains of the engagement.

In his contribution, the representative of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, restated the commitment of the Police to the advancement of human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law in the country.

The O/C of the Police Complaints Response Unit (P-CRU), ACP Martins Ishaku Basiran, during his presentation on the Police Internal Mechanism for Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Police Officers said “a total of 2,156 complaints were reported during the 2019 period, 1,617 (75%) complaints were resolved, 108 (5%) complaints were found to be false and 431 (20%) complaints are still under investigation. There is an urgent need to establish P-CRU Desk offices across various States of the country to ensure that complaints are reduced to the barest minimum”.

ASF France aims to build on a successful maiden convening of the situation room to ensure sustainability of this initiative. The situation room would continue to expand and operate remotely as it gears up for its next convening.

ASF France’s SAFE project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the French Agency for Development (AFD) and is implemented in partnership with the Nigerian Bar Association and the Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organization (CAPIO).

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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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USORO, EX NBA PRESIDENT, LOSES MOTHER-IN-LAW

Former Nigerian Bar Association President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has lost his mother-in-law, Mrs. Grace Ekong. The deceased was aged 91 years. 

Mrs. Ekong reportedly died on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

She is survived by the former pioneer Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Usoro’s wife, Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro among others.

Mrs. Usoro, a prominent Bar Leader, is the Managing Partner of Paul Usoro & Co. She has served on a number of presidential and ministerial committees and was chairperson of the ministerial sub-committee of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) regional Maritime development bank in 2009.

She is the recipient of several national and international honours and was conferred with the Officier de L’Ord de Mono, a national honour of the Republic of Togo in 2002.

She holds a BSc in Sociology from the University of Calabar, an LLB from the University of Buckingham, B.L from the Nigerian Law School and an LL.M from University College London.

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