‘I’M NOT SURPRISED AKPATA WON’ – CHIJIOKE OKOLI

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Bar Leader and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN has given a pass mark to the just concluded NBA Elections, saying he is not surprised that tier-one solicitor, Mr. Olumide Akpata won the presidential poll.

In an interview with CITY LAWYER, the fiery litigator stated that circumstances conspired to hand-over the mantle to NBA President-elect, even as he urged Akpata’s opponents to join hands with him to move the Bar forward.

His words:

“The election seems to be a significant improvement from the last one in which I could not even vote. Without prejudice to whatever genuine complaints some others may have, it was transparent in my view especially with the real-time results as the voting went on.

“It is therefore proper to commend the election committee for a good job. I know my Learned Brother Silk Chief Tawo as man of integrity, and he did not disappoint.

“As for the results, that of the President did not surprise me. Olu Akpata, truth be told, worked hardest and longest of all the contestants. And he rode the crest wave of the long lingering disenchantment of many – especially the vast horde of young lawyers – with the Bar status quo; an aspect of which is the bitterness some lawyers have for the institution of SAN and which was exacerbated by Otunba Awomolo’s rather unfortunate leaked letter to Chief Onomigbo Okpoko.

“Having said that, Olu proved with not only his top-tier firm and his stint in NBA-SBL that he possesses remarkable administrative capacity and vision. I congratulate him heartily as well as the winners of the other positions.

“I’m sure that if Olu works on the desk of NBA Presidency as hard as he campaigned for it then his tenure should be a refreshing and uplifting one for Nigerian lawyers. His cosmopolitan background and outlook should serve well in uniting a badly divided bar, including the seeming marginalization of the South West in the scheme of things. I’m sure he knows that a lot is expected of him, with the young lawyers especially investing fervent hope in his tenure for significant positive change in their professional fortunes.

“His task is enormous on many fronts, especially in leading the fight for the rule of law and enthronement of minimum standards in our administration of justice which are sadly lacking at the moment. The elections are over and we all remain friends at the Bar.

“I would urge all, especially his esteemed co-contestants and their supporters to rally round him to construct an NBA which works for all.

“Finally, the contest for the Assistant Secretary was such a closely fought one as to partake of an electoral thriller.”

Okoli had endorsed Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN in the run-up to the elections.

It is recalled that the Chairman of the Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN had on July 31, 2020 declared Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020.

According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Mr. Dele Adesina SAN polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear.  Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.

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N1.26TR NATIONAL THEATRE SUIT: COURT SET OCTOBER 29 FOR PARTIES TO BATTLE

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The forthcoming annual vacation of the Federal High Court has stalled speedy hearing of an application in a N1.26 trillion suit brought by Topwideapeas Limited seeking an order of the court to annul concessioning of a part of the controversial National Theatre edifice.

The plaintiff is praying for an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff’s rights as concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre. The substantive motion was earlier set down for hearing on March 10, 2020 but was aborted by the coronavirus crisis.

Among the defendants that were served by substituted means are Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation, Attorney-General of the Federation and Central Bank of Nigeria as second to fifth defendants. Other defendants in the suit are National Theatre & The National Troupe of Nigeria Board, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc and its Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, as first, sixth and seventh defendants respectively. The case is listed as FHC/L/CS/2392/2019, Topwideapeas Ltd V National Theatre & National Troupe of Nigeria Board & 6 Ors.

Though counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Matthew Nkap had at the resumed hearing last Wednesday sought an early date to argue the pending application for an interlocutory injunction, Justice Ayokunle Faji stated that his hands were tied by the impending vacation. He adjourned the matter to October 29 to hear all pending applications. Barrister C. Opara represented the 4th Defendant while Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN appeared for the 6th and 7th defendants.

The plaintiff had scaled a major hurdle last March when the court ordered that all the court processes should be served on some defendants by substituted means.

After listening to the Lead Counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN argue a motion ex-parte for substituted service on the defendants, the court had ordered the plaintiff to serve the writ of summons and statement of claim on the defendants via DHL courier service and also by publication in a national newspaper.

The court also ordered that hearing notice for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff’s rights as concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre should be served on the defendants, while the substantive motion was set down for hearing on March 10, 2020.

The plaintiff is seeking among others a declaration that the plaintiff has a valid and binding contract for the concession of the fallow land surrounding the National Theatre Complex in terms of the updated draft concession agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria (represented by the first and third defendants) and the plaintiff, the approval of the Federal Executive Council being a mere formality in the circumstances.

Topwideapeas also seeks a declaration that it is unlawful for the fifth to seventh defendants to purport to truncate and nullify the plaintiff’s right as the concessionaire of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex Iganmu, Lagos, by inducing the breach of the plaintiff’s contract with the first to third defendants or by any other means.

The plaintiff prays the court to declare that it is contrary to public policy and constitutes a misappropriation of scarce public funds for the fifth defendant (CBN) to divert public funds towards any project concerning the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, when the plaintiff and its partners and privies have mobilised local and foreign private investment into developing the complex and surrounding land into a grand mini-city on a scale entirely beyond the legitimate capacity of the fifth defendant.

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‘WHY I’M BACKING AJIBADE TO WIN,’ BY CHIJIOKE OKOLI SAN

Frontline white collar litigator and former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos Branch), Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN has given reasons for backing a leading presidential aspirant in the forthcoming NBA Elections, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN).

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the respected Bar Leader described the cerebral senior lawyer as “remarkable in many more ways than one,” adding that “he stands out as the best of the lot.”

Below is the full text of his statement:

THE MAN FOR THIS SEASON:
ENDORSEMENT OF DR. TUNDE AJIBADE, SAN-BY CHIJIOKE OKOLI, SAN.

This Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] national election year is hardly like any other. The legal profession in Nigeria and the country in general are at a momentous crossroads, with self-evidently daunting problems but behind which lies the promise of an enlivening new beginning. The situation is such that, more than ever before, we must be particularly careful with our leadership recruitment processes and choices. Luckily, the NBA is well served this year by an undoubtedly strong field of candidates for the NBA Presidency; three distinguished senior practitioners with good records of service to the legal profession.

I shall however speak of only Dr. Tunde Ajibade SAN who is remarkable in many more ways than one, especially because he stands out as the best of the lot. He brings to the table of the present NBA Presidential contest qualities which are sorely needed to tackle the present crippling problems of the legal profession and administration of justice in Nigeria in general. He epitomizes phenomenal breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise; belonging to that very rare breed of top-line litigators who are equally at home with transactional law practice. And his willingness to share and democratize legal knowledge is underscored by the annual Continuous Legal Education series organized by his law firm of which I have been privileged to attend a few times.

Perhaps most importantly, the present period of widespread anomie requires of the NBA leadership the exceptional personal and professional integrity which Dr. Ajibade exemplifies. More than at any time since the advent of our dysfunctional civilian rule, there is the urgent need for an NBA leadership capable of telling truth to power. His temperament is undoubtedly excellent for the task; possessing quiet but immense strength and courage which saw him visiting and showing solidarity with colleagues in the insurgency-ridden North East region of the country. And his instinctive courteousness and overall civility is unfailingly present in interactions with lawyers of all ranks and ages, in and out of the courtroom.

Finally, this. Whilst the generality of Nigerian lawyers owe the Austine Alegeh Presidency a debt of gratitude for the introduction of universal suffrage in NBA national elections, he was but a Paul who came to water the ground tilled by some of us Appollos; i.e., those who were appalled by the now jettisoned grossly unfair and corrupt delegates system and fought for its change. Part of the unfairness of the delegates system was that it badly shortchanged the larger branches exemplified by the Lagos Branch. Seeing it as my duty as Chairman of the NBA Lagos Branch at the time [between 2009-2011] to see to the correction of the injustice to the Branch and vast majority of lawyers, I heartily campaigned for universal lawyers’ suffrage for the election of NBA national officers.

Whilst I recollect the likes of Anselm Chidi Odinkalu and Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN being in the trenches of the struggle, so to speak, Dr. Ajibade was one of those Lagos based senior practitioners who steadfastly encouraged me from the sides, sharing my view that the concept of equality at the Bar can hardly find more practical and appropriate expression than giving each Nigerian lawyer the right to a direct vote in the election of NBA national officers. Ultimately, the goal was achieved for the majority, properly so called, to determine who leads the NBA. And it is to this majority, all of us essentially, that I appeal to give their vote to Dr. Tunde Ajibade. I have no doubt at all that the NBA would be in very good hands with him as our President.

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