$1.9 BN NIGER RAIL PROJECT: EX NBA CHIEF TAKES AMAECHI TO TASK

The controversy trailing the $1.9 Billion Nigeria-Niger rail project may not go away soon as former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Second Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani and Lagos lawyer, Mr. John Nwokwu have asked Transportation Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi to provide them with details of the proposed project.

The request dated September 29, 2020 and addressed to Amaechi is coming under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). The two lawyers stated that their demand for details of the rail project was premised on the need for transparency and accountability.

Some of the information sought by the duo include actual cost of the project, contract papers and the firm handling it, economic benefit of the project and where it is provided for in the 2020 Appropriation Act, including the source of  funding for the project.

They also requested to know the details of the deliberation and approval of such fund by the National Assembly.

The FOI letter signed by Joseph Igwe Esq. reads:

“Kindly provide the information to the best of your knowledge in the interest of transparency and openness which you have been at the vanguard.

“In a public statement credited to you, you did disclose to the media the award of contract for the development of the proposed Kano to Maradi rail line in Niger Republic.

“Sir, you are hereby specifically requested to make available to our clients or grant them access to: The actual contract cost of the rail line cutting across Kano state in Nigeria through Maradi in Niger Republic and the termination of the track length.

“The awarded contract document(s), name of the firm and procedure of
the award of the contract to the preferred firm.

“The detailed information on where it is provided for in the 2020
Appropriation Act and the source of the generation of the fund for the
contract.

“The details of the deliberation and approval of such fund and rail project
by the National Assembly.

“The detailed economic benefit of the rail line project from Nigeria
through Niger Republic to the generality of the Nigerian populace.

“However, if you think that another agency of the Government has
greater interest in the information requested for, you are obliged under
Section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 to transfer this request
to the other agency within 3 days, howbeit not later than 7 days of
receiving this request.

“Our clients shall pay the necessary fees for the information. Be notified
that if you fail to provide the above information within the period
stipulated by law we shall proceed against you in accordance with the
provisions of the law.

“We have no doubt that you will accede to this request in the interest of the Nation you are serving meritoriously,” the letter concluded.

Ubani told a newspaper (not CITY LAWYER) that he would “feel personally sad if Amaechi fails, refuses or neglects to respond to the request.” He stated that he may head to court to compel Amaechi to provide the information if he fails to do so voluntarily.

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.

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.

‘WE MUST PROTECT, PROJECT RULE OF LAW,’ – ALEX MUOKA

The Rule of Law is sacrosanct in any democratic Society. Consequently, it must be protected and projected at all times. The entrenchment of the Rule of Law in Nigeria is in our interest because the Law and legal practitioners can only thrive where the Rule of Law thrives.

It is instructive that the motto of the Nigerian Bar Association is “Promoting the Rule of Law”. In line with this, the very first aim and objective of our great Association is the “Maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary in Nigeria”, and many of the other objects speak to the role of the Association in promoting the efficient administration of justice, law reform, legal aid and access to courts, and respect for fundamental rights.

The NBA is widely regarded as the premier non-state actor in the constant battle for the promotion of the rule of law, and it is important in 2020 to put forward a bar leadership that will help to restore our pride of place as ‘the bastion of hope for the common man’. I propose to ensure this by working with the NBA President, national officers and other stakeholders to:

a) Ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld by State actors;

b) Champion public interest litigation to protect the rights of citizens and members from abuse;

c) Support the advocacy for implementation of fiscal independence for the Nigeria judiciary;

d) Liaise with the judiciary and offer support to facilitate the efficient administration of justice in Nigeria;

e) Sensitize lawyers and the general public by organizing workshops, conferences and summits on human rights and the rule of law;

f) Offer leadership and a focal rallying point to all Nigerians and relevant institutions in defending and expanding the frontiers of the Rule of Law;

g) Strengthen the Pro Bono and legal aid programmes of the NBA to make their impact felt (especially) by indigent members of the society; and

h) Propose a “legislative desk” for the NBA at the National Assembly which shall be saddled with the task of legislative advocacy, monitoring and liaising with the law makers in the task of enacting laws.

The NBA must live up to its name and reputation, and I will like to play my part. If you elect me as General Secretary of the NBA, I Pledge to serve with the passion, integrity and efficiency for which I am well known, and to pursue this and five (5) other Core Pursuits which I have elaborated on in MY MANIFESTO to deliver a ‘Fit For Purpose’ Bar Secretariat. My Profile and Manifesto have been uploaded by the ECNBA and can be viewed at (or downloaded from) https://nigerianbar.org.ng/node/257.

I will place my time, energy, talents, experience and resources at the disposal of the Bar for the next two years, and offer the kind of premium stewardship which the Bar definitely needs at this time. The Bar needs a great scribe. I have been tried, tested and adjudged to be one.

I seek your mandate. Let’s do this together.

Alexander Nduka MUOKA
Candidate for General Secretary of the NBA

ELECTORAL C’TE SETTLES FOR NBA WEBSITE AS VOTING PORTAL

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) may have resolved to deploy the NBA website as the voting portal for the forthcoming National Officers Elections.

An indication to this effect was given today by the NBA Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Akorede Habeeb Lawal while responding to concerns raised by lawyers on a CITY LAWYER whatsapp platform.

This may have laid to rest speculations on whether the newly built NBA Election Portal will be deployed by the Electoral Committee for the elections.

While one Osa Akpata had expressed worry over the challenges being encountered by lawyers in the verification exercise, Lawal said that the verification process was not commenced with the elections in mind. His words: “Although the ECNBA has chosen to conduct the election on the NBA membership portal, the verification exercise was not commenced primarily because of election. And we will not compromise its essence on the altar of politics. Verification takes some time and that time is used to ensure from the backend that the applicant for verification is indeed the owner of the bar certificate he/she uploads. It is far beyond the election – greater than politics.”

Debunking the charge that the verification process is “flawed,” the NBA publicist said: “No one who had been verified would state that the process was flawed. A lot of members got verified and paid their BPF during the lockdown in March. And there was no complaint about the process.

“We also have to acknowledge that not all of us are versatile with the use of technology and as such, while others have a seamless verification exercise, some have troubles with it. It is for this reason that we’ve set up a help desk in this respect. Members with issues may and indeed have been reaching out to me and other national officers. I can be reached through this WhatsApp line.

“While not holding the brief of the ECNBA, the Chairman of the Committee has stated number without times that no eligible voter will be disenfranchised. If you cannot trust them, then, at least you give them the benefit of doubt.”
On the controversy surrounding some strange names found on the final voters register, Lawal said: “We have no non-living things/duplicated names on the verified list. With respect, you are confusing the voters list with a verified list. In fact, there is no such thing as a verified list.”

Akpata had raised concerns on duplicated names on the voters’ register, adding that this may adversely impact the outcome of the election. She said: “The process is fraught with flaws; we have non-living objects on the verified list, we have names duplicated, we are days to the election and we have tons of lawyers who have not been verified due to the onerous and flawed online process.

“I’ve been trying to assist a colleague to verify for over a week with no success, how you can disenfranchise Lawyers who have paid their Practising fees and Branch Dues as required by the NBA out of no failure on their part simply because of the very flawed process. If we do not trust the process, how do we trust the outcome?”

Another lawyer, Favour Hart however agreed with Lawal, saying: “May I humbly align myself with your position. The process for verification on the NBA Portal might take a while but it doesn’t mean you’d not get any response from them. All those I’ve helped with verification have been successful! Agreed, the back and forth might be frustrating but that doesn’t meant (sic) it’s fraught with flaws. We need to leave politics aside when making some comments.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN had in a statement noted that the NBA had developed an Election Portal, adding however that its deployment would depend on the advice of an information technology expert. His words: “There is no gainsaying that the success of the elections would depend to a large extent on the electronic or IT platform that would be deployed for the election. The need to procure such a platform has been a priority. The Committee was briefed that the NBA has its own e-voting platform/portal for elections developed by TAVIA, an IT firm. TAVIA was invited to brief the Committee in conjunction with the NBA IT Officer Umar Gezawa, on the said NBA election platform/portal.

“Further to the said briefing, the ECNBA decided that in spite of the advantages of such a portal, exploring the use of other viable e-voting platforms if necessary is not foreclosed. As such there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant that would examine the NBA portal and critique same, its integrity, functionality and suitability or otherwise for the purpose of the elections as well as advise on other options. The Consultant would also be required to identify avenues for possible threats, and advise on how to contain same. Other issues to be addressed include the training of staff and all those associated with handling any part of the e-voting process by the consultant. They would be expected to verify electronically, the votes cast at the end of the exercise. Notwithstanding the above, the platform or portal to deploy for the election by the ECNBA would largely be dependent on the advice and report of the IT Consultant.”

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

Arguing that there is wisdom in having a permanent NBA Election Portal, the Electoral Committee chairman said: “Having said that, what is wrong for an organisation that conducts a crucial election biannually to develop an election portal for use for its elections, rather than every two years an IT firm is commissioned or contracted to develop an election portal for the election, and discard same afterwards?”

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.

FIDA LAGOS LAUNCHES PDSS PROJECT

The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Lagos State Branch has launched its Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS). The event took place during the weekend at the FIDA Lagos headquarters at Makoko, Lagos.

Speaking on the rationale for the scheme, the Chairperson of FIDA Lagos Branch, Mrs. Philomena Nneji said it was aimed to assist indigent persons who come in contact with the law, adding that special focus will be placed on protection of women and girls against rape and sexual assault.

Tracing the history of PDSS in Nigeria, the Lagos State Coordinator of Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACoN), Mrs. Iyabo Akingbade stated that approximately 70 per cent of total prisoners are awaiting trial detainees. She identified multiple adjournments as a major handicap in pre-trial detention, adding that State prosecutors charged with ensuring due process in criminal arraignments lack mechanisms to monitor or control the police.

“There are instances where detainees are held longer in pre-trial detention than would have been the case if they had been convicted for the offence charged,” Akingbade said, adding that duty solicitors are meant to “stand in the gap” and resolve many of the cases to reduce judges’ dockets.

On his part, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch PDSS programme, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke commended FIDA Lagos for the initiative, noting that there is a need to boost the provision of legal assistance to indigent persons. He however canvassed the need for an “urgent review of the PDSS framework in view of the fact persisting overhang in pre-trial detention.”

Former Chairman of NBA Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Adebayo Akinlade traced the implementation of the PDSS programme in the Ikorodu area, adding that the scheme posted several successes under his leadership. He urged the chapter to ensure that the scheme is sustained in order to foster access to justice for more citizens.

A senior officer with the Legal Department of the Nigerian Police Force, State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Lagos, Ibijoke Akinpelu spoke on the modalities put in place by the force to tackle rape and sexual offences among other crimes. She pledged the cooperation of the force with FIDA Lagos in carrying out its PDSS project. She also took questions from Makoko residents and duty solicitors during the interactive session.

Following the formal unveiling of the scheme, the chapter bestowed an award on Akinlade for his contributions to the growth of the duty solicitors’ scheme.

Other stakeholders who attended the launch are Mrs. Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai, Executive Director of REPLACE as well as a representative of the Chairman of Yaba Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Kayode Omiyale. Members of the chapter held a legal clinic on the sidelines of the launch to offer legal counseling to some Makoko residents who attended the launch under the programme.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

THE USORO LEGACY: NBA NEC MEETINGS

BY AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

ELECTIONS: ‘NBA OFFERED US READY-MADE VOTING PORTAL,’ SAYS TAWO TAWO

• CONFIRMS CITY LAWYER REPORT
• SAYS FATE OF PORTAL UNCERTAIN
• VOWS THAT ECNBA IS ‘TOTALLY INDEPENDENT’

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has admitted that it was handed over a ready-made election portal for the forthcoming National Elections by the Mr. Paul Usoro SAN-led bar association. This confirms CITY LAWYER exclusive report which hinted that the ECNBA may have been preparing for the elections on the basis of the election portal bequeathed to it by the NBA leadership.

CITY LAWYER had in a recent report stated that “It was unclear at press time whether the vendor’s scope of work included a mandate to deliver an election portal for the forthcoming NBA Elections, given the notice issued by the ECNBA seeking proposals to recruit an ‘Information Technology Specialist.’ Among the work to be done by the IT Specialist/ECNBA Partner is, ‘Analyzing the new NBA Election portal system and infrastructure.’ The successful vendor is also required to train NBA staff ‘to use the new IT system.’ ”

Putting the issue beyond speculation, the ECNBA in a statement personally signed by its Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN said: “The Committee was briefed that the NBA has its own e-voting platform/portal for elections developed by TAVIA, an IT firm. TAVIA was invited to brief the Committee in conjunction with the NBA IT Officer Umar Gezawa, on the said NBA election platform/portal.”

He emphasized the critical role of the election portal, saying “the success of the elections would depend to a large extent on the electronic or IT platform that would be deployed for the election.” He added that “The need to procure such a platform has been a priority.”

Giving more insights into the “briefing” received from the NBA leadership on the election portal, the ECNBA Chairman said: “Further to the said briefing, the ECNBA decided that in spite of the advantages of such a portal, exploring the use of other viable e-voting platforms if necessary is not foreclosed. As such there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant that would examine the NBA portal and critique same, its integrity, functionality and suitability or otherwise for the purpose of the elections as well as advise on other options.”

Highlighting additional roles of the consultant, the ECNBA Chairman said: “The Consultant would also be required to identify avenues for possible threats, and advise on how to contain same. Other issues to be addressed include the training of staff and all those associated with handling any part of the e-voting process by the consultant. They would be expected to verify electronically, the votes cast at the end of the exercise.”

Hinting on the fate of the election portal delivered by the NBA, Tawo who is said to be a born-again Christian noted: “Notwithstanding the above, the platform or portal to deploy for the election by the ECNBA would largely be dependent on the advice and report of the IT Consultant.” The ECNBA is currently sifting through applications received from its advertised request for expression of interest to pick its preferred IT consultant.

While the ECNBA Chairman did not state when the committee received the “briefing” from the NBA leadership, there are strong indications that this must have been before April 4, 2020 when the committee issued a “REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP): IT CONSULTANCY” which gave the scope of work of the IT Consultant to include “Analyzing the new NBA Election portal system and infrastructure.” CITY LAWYER recalls that the ECNBA was appointed by NBA-NEC on March 12, 2020.

At least three National officers who spoke to CITY LAWYER recently vowed that they were in the dark on the NBA website contract, adding that it was never discussed at any of their meetings. They also pleaded ignorance on the identity of the vendor or scope of work contained in the contract. The NBA did not respond to CITY LAWYER enquiries on the subject.

CITY LAWYER investigation however showed that Usoro informed NBA-NEC during its March 2019 meeting of his plan to “revamp” the verified NBA website to enhance its “functional uses.” He had stated that the websites for the Annual General Conference and NBA sections would be hosted on or linked to the NBA website while online payments and online platform for ordering stamps would be incorporated. However, the address was silent on the incorporation of a voting platform on the portal.

Though there are concerns among some stakeholders on the role of NBA staff in managing the elections, the ECNBA may have decided to give substantial roles to the staff. In its latest statement, the committee said: “Other issues to be addressed include the training of staff and all those associated with handling any part of the e-voting process by the consultant.” This aligns with item “f” of the “Scope of work” set out in the request for proposal which lists “Training staff to use the new IT system” as one of the deliverables of the IT Consultant.

While urging all stakeholders to shun “any activity that would be subversive and counter-productive to this exercise,” the committee however assured that it is “totally independent,” adding that “Mr. Paul Usoro SAN and his elected executive have given the ECNBA the needed liberty to do what is just and proper for the benefit of the profession in Nigeria. All candidates for the 2020 Elections shall be treated equally.”

The committee had published a Preliminary Notice of Elections as well as Election Guidelines in the run-up to the elections. Following its Call for Proposals from IT consultants, the ECNBA in its latest statement noted that it was “disheartening” for branches to shun the request to provide the data of eligible voters as requested by the NBA secretariat, warning that this may disenfranchise branch members. It however noted that it is in the process of compiling the Interim Voters Register as well as screening of IT proposals and interviewing of IT consultancy firms.

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MUOKA URGES EBF TO TACKLE NATIONAL ISSUES

Former Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, Mr. Alex Muoka has urged members of the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) to tackle “issues of compelling national urgency” as they meet today in the “Garden City” of Port Harcourt.
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NBA LAGOS LAW WEEK HOLDS JUNE 15

The Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Branch will hold its popular annual Law Week for this year from June 15 to June 21, 2019. The two-day plenary sessions will hold at the highbrow City Hall, Lagos.

Among the highlights of the event which is usually attended by the cream of Nigeria’s bar and bench are the classy Opening Ceremony, plenary sessions, health walk, prison visits, health check, closing party and Elders’ Nite.

Spearheaded by the cerebral Mr. Oyetola Oshobi SAN who also anchored last year’s highly successful week, the Law Week Planning Committee has been combing the entire legal landscape for A-list speakers. Over 40 leading jurists had audiences asking for more at last year’s event. The theme was “Human Capital and the Legal Profession in the 21st Century.” The theme for this year’s Law Week is still under wraps and will be unveiled at a Press Conference to formally herald the week.

Meanwhile, registration for this year’s law week has since commenced. Multiple registration channels have been provided by the Law Week Committee towards a seamless and hassle-free registration experience for intending participants. These include payment at the bank or through POS at the branch office. Participants can also download the registration form and pay through the payment gateway on the branch website.

The registration rates are below:

1-7 years: N3,500
8 – 15 years: N5,000
16 – 19 years is 10,000
20 years and above is N15,000
SAN AND BENCHERS N20,000

Please make payment to Nigerian Bar Association Lagos Branch at Access Bank. Account Number is 0728253326. Please return the registration form to the branch office with proof of payment.

For enquiries, please contact:
Nkem Agboti
08035739791
nagboti@gmail.com.

Oluyemisi Iwajomo:
08064112076
olwajomo@babalakinandco.com

Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.