AGC: ‘WHY WE CAN’T RELEASE RATES NOW’

  • Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant

There are strong indications that the inability of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) to agree on the rate for international delegates at its last meeting in Lagos is delaying official release of the fees for the 2019 Annual General Conference (AGC).

An impeccable source within the TCCP told CITY LAWYER at the weekend that the need to attract more international delegates to the conference has necessitated more brainstorming on the matter.

“We want to attract more African delegates to the conference,” he said. “Some stakeholders are of the view that the proposed $500 rate is rather high and may discourage international participants. So, we are still consulting on the appropriate rate. That is why we cannot release the AGC rates now.”

Given that $300 is now the advertised rate for international delegates, it was unclear at press time whether the debacle over the fee for this category of participants has now been resolved.

According to the ranking TCCP member, other rates have however been agreed upon by the committee. “The committee resolved to address the fears of lawyers,” he said. “This led to very lively brainstorming among committee members and made the meeting to be long drawn.” NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN had while inaugurating the committee assured delegates of a “pocket-friendly” conference.

CITY LAWYER had reported that there was anxiety among the legal community on a possible hike in AGC fees as the committee met last Thursday.

The TCCP member however told CITY LAWYER that the committee would retain the 2018 rates, even as 25% discount has been extended to 1-10 years post-call lawyers on early bird rates to allay fears of a prohibitive AGC fees regime. The advertised rates on the 2019 AGC website are as follows:
1-5 years – ₦20,000.00
6-10 Years – ₦30,000.00
11-15 Years – ₦40,000.00
16-20 Years – ₦60,000.00
Above 20 Years – ₦100,000.00
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Honourable Attorneys General, Benchers – ₦200,000.00
Magistrates – ₦50,000.00
Honorable Justices, Honorable Judges, Grand Khadis, Khadis – ₦75,000.00
Senior Citizens (Lawyers age 75 years and above) – ₦50,000.00
Non-Lawyers – ₦100,000.00
International Delegates – $300.00

When discounted for the early bird window, lawyers of 1-5 years post-call will pay N15,000 while those with 6-10 years post-call will pay N22,500.

Asked whether the rates are commensurate with the AGC package, the committee member answered in the affirmative. He said that apart from the huge overhead cost in delivering a world-class conference, each delegate would be given a “convertible, all-purpose” conference bag containing flash drive, charger, calendar “and other freebies.” CITY LAWYER also gathered that the committee is negotiating with some manufacturers and outlets to avail delegates with shopping vouchers with which to purchase items at discounted rates. “We want the delegates to have a feel of this year’s conference,” he emphasized. “But I can tell you that tablets are gone for good.”

“This is the first TCCP that has two chairmen,” he added. “This is informed by the need to deliver a world-class conference and ensure that members do not have any complaints whatsoever.” It is recalled that former NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) Chairman, Mr. Olumide Apata was recently co-opted into the committee. He was not in the original 42-member committee inaugurated by Usoro on January 18, 2019. The NBA-SBL has carved a reputation for organizing seamless conferences.

The TCCP member said that registration for the AGC would commence this month, even as he assured that the draft budget is ready and would be presented to the next NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting in June for approval. This is notwithstanding the “anticipatory approval” given to the committee at the last NBA-NEC in March.

On the controversy surrounding the appointment of Eventful Nigeria Limited as the “event planner” for the conference, the committee member argued that no member raised eye brows when the matter was discussed by the committee, adding: “Even when we asked the lady (Eventful) to leave the meeting briefly, nobody raised any issue. If any member had issues with the appointment or had special skills that would have made such appointment unnecessary, he or she should have said so when the matter was debated. That would have even led to more cost efficiency. However, we are lawyers; we are not event planning experts.”

Also speaking on the concerns being raised on the appointment of former TCCP Chairman, Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi SAN as a “consultant” to the committee, the member said the controversy was unnecessary. “The fact is that no TCCP member is being paid,” he said. “In fact, we use our own money to fund the activities of the committee, paying for our flight tickets and lodging among others. This is not in the public domain.

“Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant. It was decided that due to his privileged status as a former TCCP Chairman, he should be given a special title as ‘consultant.’ That is all. How much can you pay such a person?”

It is recalled that Usoro had while inaugurating the committee said: “The composition of this year’s AGC TCCP comes with some innovations and exciting bonuses. First is the selflessness of all the Committee members. I spoke with each of the 42 members and they all committed to serve on the Committee at minimal, if any, cost to the National NBA purse as it relates in particular to their transport and accommodation for Committee meetings. That is exemplary, and I cannot thank them enough for this commitment and sacrifice.”

This year’s conference, the 59th edition, is scheduled to hold between 23rd and 29th August, 2019 at Eko Hotel & Suites as well as Harbour Point, Ikoyi. The theme is “Facing the Future.” A provisional AGC programme has been uploaded on the conference website. However, the accommodation details are still reflecting the schedule for the 2018 conference held at Abuja.

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.

AGC: FEAR GRIPS LAWYERS OVER FEES

  • AS TCCP MEETS TODAY

There is palpable anxiety within the legal circles as the Technical Committee for Conference Planning (TCCP) meets today to determine the fees for this year’s Annual General Conference (AGC).

The “proposed fees” which were presented to members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Executive Committee (NEC) at their meeting in March have been viewed by many lawyers as prohibitive. The TCCP also seems divided on the appointment of a Consultant and an Event Planner for the flagship conference.

CITY LAWYER gathered that till date, the committee has been working without a budget, even as it continues to make payments for some of the AGC activities.

According to a member of the committee who spoke on condition of anonymity, “I can tell you unequivocally that there is no budget yet at the TCCP. There is also no information on the package for which the AGC fees have been proposed. This issue was raised at the March NEC Meeting but till date, nothing has been done.”

The TCCP member said that “part payment” has been made for EKO Hotel & Suites which is the main venue for the AGC. Other venues being considered to host some AGC events are Nigerian Law School and the highbrow Harbour Point in Ikoyi.

Querying the appointment of a “Consultant” for the conference, the member said that the NBA “has never used a consultant to organize its AGC,” adding, “What is the fee for the consultant?” Prof Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN was appointed “Consultant” by NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN. The member stated that the Consultant has been sparsely attending TCCP meetings.

The TCCP member also carpeted the committee for hiring an “event planner” for the conference, saying that former NBA General Secretary, Chief Phillip Umeh kicked against the plan during the March 28, 2019 NEC Meeting in Abuja. “We have colleagues who can discharge these duties,” the member said. “But instead TCCP is using an event planner.” Eventful Nigeria Limited is the designated event planner for the conference. It has been alleged that such event planners are often used as conduits to siphon AGC funds. The allegations remain unproven.

The member stated that it was such alleged profligacy that led to the current NBA debt over-hang in excess of N50 million, with AGC arrears forming the bulk of the debt. It is also recalled that NBA is yet to redeem the 2018 AGC Raffle Car Prize won by Rabiu Ayuba, a lawyer.

Asked whether the appointment has been firmed up, the member said: “The event planner has been attending meetings, thereby siphoning NBA’s scarce resources. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.”

Reputed as the largest gathering of lawyers on the African continent, the AGC has often been beset by hiccups and occasional scandals. The NBA does not seem to have gotten a handle on the logistical nightmares posed by its flagship conference, with the result that every succeeding year has witnessed a litany of complaints by participants.

CITY LAWYER recalls that former NBA presidential candidate, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) had in a May 14, 2018 letter to former NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) called for a reduction in the 2018 AGC fees. He wrote: “At the NBA NEC meeting Kano, all the speakers (including me) spoke in support of a reduction of the conference fees and Mr. President graciously directed the TCCP not to impose fees more than that of 2017.

“Mr. President may need to guide the TCCP further on this especially on the amount to be paid by lawyers under 10 years for the early bird. There is need to review the rate of 2017 further down especially as members have rejected the use of tablets for the 2018 conference. While everything should be done to support a high standard conference, everything must also be done to reduce the burden on members. Our members are really seriously complaining.”

According to the proposed schedule of fees, lawyers who are 1- 5 years post-call are to pay a humongous N25,000 for early bird; N40,000 for regular fee and N60,000 for late fee. For 6-10 years, the fees are N35,000 for early bird; N50,000 for regular and N80,000 for late fee.

Lawyers who are 11-15 years post-call will pay N50,000 for early bird; N65,000 for regular and N90,000 for late fee. For 16-20 years post-call, the fees are N70,000 for early bird; N85,000 for regular and N100,000 for late fee, while for 20 years post-call, the fees are N100,000 for early bird; N150,000 for regular and N250,000 for late registration. For Senior Advocates, Attorneys-General and benchers, a flat N250,000 applies.

The inability of TCCP to generate a budget upon which expenditures are made seems to be a recurring decimal. Regarding the 2018 AGC, Ojukwu, a former Deputy Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, wrote: “Mr. President expressed surprise during his remarks at the NEC meeting that the TCCP did not submit a budget for the conference. It would be very necessary that this anomaly be rectified as an urgent action Sir to conform to Section 21(c) of our constitution and the principle of openness, transparency and accountability. In fact it is only by providing a budget shall we be able to assess the conference costs by determining what is necessary and reasonable cost we must incur at this time of members’ serious economic difficulties.”

Ojukwu had also queried the absence of the accounts for the 2017 AGC, saying: “At the Uyo NEC meeting of November 2017, the TCCP Report of the Annual General Conference was deferred to the next NEC meeting. See the Para 9.1 of the NBA NEC minutes of 28th Feb-2nd March 2018 at Ilorin.

“That 2017 account was not rendered at the Ilorin NEC or at the recent Kano NEC. It seems to me that this is a fundamental omission. I missed the matter earlier otherwise. I would have drawn your attention to it.”

A source told CITY LAWYER that there are no records at NBA House on the 2017 and 2018 AGC. But there are strong indications that the 2018 AGC Committee led by Mr. George Etomi presented accounts showing that N1.2 Billion was spent on the conference.

An attempt by Ajayi to present the 2017 AGC Report at Uyo NBA-NEC was truncated as NEC members demanded a more detailed breakdown. CITY LAWYER however learned that the accounts ran into troubled waters when Ajayi discovered that some National Officers who were also TCCP members allegedly incurred over N70 million hotel bill on “Bar Leaders,” claiming that was “the tradition.” The source said that while about N1.4 Billion was raised by the committee, the bulk of which was through Ajayi’s goodwill and hands-on marketing, the entire sum was allegedly frittered away. Ajayi was said to have sought a budget ceiling of N800 Million, with the remainder ploughed into NBA coffers. It was unclear at press time whether this has stalled the report. A member of the 2017 TCCP committee however told CITY LAWYER that members never made input into the draft committee report as it was not circulated to members.

The AGC fees were first jerked up in 2017 by almost 100%, with young lawyers who hitherto paid N8,000 compelled to pay N20,000 as “early bird” fee prior to a reduction by the NBA-NEC. Onsite registration was pegged at N25,000 for young lawyers. The hike was attributed to the introduction of tablets as a part of the AGC package. But some lawyers claimed that the tablets were of inferior quality. 2018 fees saw young lawyers in year 1-5 bracket cough out N20,000 each. Unlike 2017 when tablets were dangled as a bait, no such package was included. N25,000 has been proposed by TCCP for young lawyers for this year’s registration, even as the package remains unknown. However, the AGC portal http://nbaconference.com/loader/register_home.php records N20,000 as the early bird fee payable by young lawyers. But registration is yet to commence. 6-10 years post-call fee is N30,000 and 11-15 years post-call fee is N40,000. 16-20 years post-call is pegged at N60,000 while above 20 years post-call is set at N100,000. Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Honourable Attorneys, General Benchers are to pay an early bird fee of N200,000 while Magistrates pay N50,000. Honorable Justices, Honorable Judges, Grand Khadis, Khadis will pay N75,000 while another category tagged “Senior Citizens (Lawyers age 75 years and above)” is to pay N50,000. This category was introduced in 2017.

While inaugurating the 42-member AGC committee, Usoro had especially assured that the AGC fees would be “pocket-friendly.” His words: “In my discussions with the Committee, I have impressed on them the expectations of our members for the best and most memorable Conference in 2019, both in terms of content and in being pocket-friendly vis-à-vis the conferees and the Conference output. I have in that wise extracted the commitment of the Committee, through its Chairman, that the 2019 AGC will live up to those billings. As National Officers, we are mindful of the promises that we made to our members in my Inaugural Address and we shall strive to keep and live by those promises in the planning and hosting of the 2019 AGC.”

He also emphasized that the NBA-NEC must approve all the activities of the committee, saying: “The Committee would report directly to me and would, as required obtain specific approvals from NEC for its assignments.”

NBA Publicity Secretary Kunle Edun again echoed this commitment in a press release when he said: “At the last NEC meeting of the NBA held in Abuja in Abuja on 28/3/2019 the TCCP Chairman presented the Committee’s report to NEC. NEC approved the report and members will be advised soon on the conference fees, which would be pocket friendly.”

The TCCP is chaired by renowned lawyer, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode MFR. It remains to be seen whether the committee will retain the current regime of fees even in the absence of any significant package for conferees and in light of shrinking opportunities for lawyers.

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.

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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USORO, OBI-OKAFOR MOURN OLOWOKURE

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor are among the Bar leaders who are mourning the sudden demise of veteran Bar activist and former Chairman of NBA Kaduna Branch, Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure.

Popularly known in Bar circles as “OO” in line with his initials, Olowokure was considered by many as a consummate Bar-man and a much-sought-after strategist especially in relation to Bar politics.

During the last NBA Elections, he pitched his tent with Obi-Okafor and was one of his ‘Returning Officers’ during the poll. In particular, he was known for his cerebral disposition and integrity, as his support for any particular candidate never wavered.

In a statement signed by NBA Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, Usoro described Olowokure as “an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years.”

On his part, Obi-Okafor described Olowokure as “an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant.” In his tribute titled “O. O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye,” Obi-Okafor said that Olowokure “will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch.”

Below are the statements by the Bar leaders:

NBA MOURNS THE DEMISE OF QUINTESSENTIAL BAR MAN, OLUMUYIWA OLOWOKURE

Moments ago the sad news of the sudden demise of Olumuyiwa Olowokure Esq reached the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN and the National Officers. It was shocking and saddening.

Mr. Olowokure was an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years. He was also the Kaduna State Co-Ordinator of Swift Count. Olumuyiwa Olowokure served the bar in many other capacities and made positive contributions to the development of the bar throughout his more than 3 decades of practice. He contested for the office of the General Secretary of the NBA in 2012.

On behalf of the National Officers, the NBA President condoles with members of the Nigerian Bar Association, particularly the leadership and members of NBA Kaduna branch and the family of our dearly loved colleague, over this very sad loss.

The NBA President prays that the almighty God will grant the family the fortitude and grace to bear this loss and grant our dear colleague a peaceful rest in the bossom of the Lord.

Kunle Edun
National Publicity Secretary, NBA

O.O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye.

It is with a heavy heart and sense of great loss that I join family, friends and associates in mourning the untimely demise of a one time Chairman of the Kaduna branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumuyiwa O. Olowokure Esq, who passed on to eternal glory yesterday afternoon after a brief illness.

O.O. as he was fondly called was an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant. As the head of my Technical Team during the 2018 NBA elections, I found in him a loyal, dedicated, dependable and committed ally who committed his time, energy and resources into my project to lead our noble association.

O.O. will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch who during his tenure as Chairman of Kaduna branch of the NBA hosted one of the most successful conferences in the history of the association. He believed in excellence and brought same to bear in all he did.

His sudden exit leaves a great vacuum that will be difficult to be filled. O.O. was a good man and my sincere prayers is that the Almighty grant his family, friends colleagues and members of the Kaduna branch of NBA, the grace to pass through this dark hour and may the soul of the deceased find eternal rest in the bosom of the Almighty.
Adieu O.O. Olowokure Esq till we meet to part no more.

Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN).

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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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GADZAMA’S SUIT: WILL COURT SACK USORO TODAY?

Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN will today know the outcome of his lawsuit challenging the election of former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN.

Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had at the last adjourned date set down today to deliver judgement in the long-drawn matter following the adoption of final written addresses by the parties.

Today’s judgement is being watched keenly by many in the legal circles, as it may affect the tenure of current NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN should the court rule in Gadzama’s favour. It is recalled that Mahmoud has concluded his tenure, thus the argument by the defendants that the suit has become academic. But the plaintiff argues otherwise.

Also, depending on the judgement, there may be implications for the controversial NBA Constitution going forward.

The case had suffered a setback when Gadzama appealed a ruling by then trial judge, Justice Y. Halilu. The Notice of Appeal stated that the appellant was seeking “an order setting aside the decision of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory contained in the ruling delivered by Hon. Justice Y. Halilu dated 8th November, 2016.”

Gadzama also sought “An order directing the consolidation of all pending preliminary objections/applications filed by the Defendants/Respondents with the substantive suit in this matter” as well as “An order directing accelerated hearing of the matter at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.”

“Having regard to the insinuation made by the trial judge that the Appellant’s case was unworthy or fruitless deserving of being nipped in the bud,” the appellant also seeks “an order of this Honourable Court directing the Chief Judge of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja to transfer the suit to another judge of FCT High Court for the hearing of all pending preliminary objections along with the substantive suit.”

The appeal was however withdrawn while the matter was also remitted back to Justice Adeniyi who handled it originally before proceeding on vacation.

Though the NBA leadership had at the pre-National Executive Committee Meeting in Port Harcourt set up a 5-member committee to reach out to Gadzama towards amicable resolution of the electoral debacle, the move proved abortive. Members of the committee were Chief Onomigbo Okpoko, SAN (Chairman); former NBA presidents Chief O. C. J. Okocha, SAN and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Yinka Fayokun and Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Mbanugo Udenze who doubled as Secretary of the committee.

It is recalled that Mr. Darlington Onyekwere had at the last adjourned date adopted the Claimant’s final written address and urged the Court to grant the reliefs sought. He appeared with a team of lawyers for the claimant.

While Miss Christabel Ndeokwelu appeared for the 1st Defendant, the 2nd to 6th Defendants were represented by Mr. Abdulrasheed Usman. Mr. Ede Uko represented the 7th Defendant (Grace Infotech Limited) while Mr. A. A. Malik appeared for the 8th Defendant. Mrs. R. U. Edibo appeared for the 9th defendant.

The defendants however argued that the case had become academic, while the claimant’s counsel posited that a matter does not become academic merely because the act or conduct which gave rise to the action had been concluded. He cited the case of Plateau State v. AG Federation (2006) 3 NWLR (Pt 967) and Peter Obi v INEC (2007) 11 NWLR Part 1046 and urged the court to discount the defendants’ argument that the matter had become academic.

Malik, counsel for the 8th defendant, aligned himself with the submission of the other counsel for the defendants that the case had become academic, moreso as Mahmoud had completed his tenure. He said there was no live issue for the court to determine and that the claimant had failed to prove his case. He however urged the court to nonetheless proceed to judgement.

Gadzama had sued NBA trustees including Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN) CON, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) OFR, Chief Thompson Joseph Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) OON, Chief (Mrs.) Priscilla Kuye, Alhaji Murtala Aminu OFR and Chief Anthony O. Mogboh (SAN). They are listed as 1st to 6th Defendants while The Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Bar Association is the 7th Defendant. Mr. Kenneth Mozia (SAN), Chairman of the ECNBA is the 8th Defendant while Mr. Oluwaseun Ajoba who doubles as the Secretary of the committee is the 9th Defendant.

Others are Hajia Safiya Balarabe, Mrs. Amaka Ezeno, and Mrs. Eucharia Pepple – all members of the Electoral Committee – as 10th, 11th and 12th Defendants while NBA’s ICT Partner, Grace Infotech Limited is the 13th Defendant. Mr. Augustine O. Alegeh (SAN), the NBA President , is sued as the 14th defendant while Gadzama’s opponent who was declared winner of the election, Mr. Abubakar B. Mahmoud (SAN) is listed as the 15th Defendant.

It is recalled that Mahmoud was declared winner of the election with total 3055 votes while Gadzama allegedly polled 2384 votes. But Gadzama had rejected the result, saying in his statement of claim that “contrary to the result declared by the 8th Defendant, at the close of voting, at 12:00 midnight on Sunday, 31st July, 2016, the result of the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President, as collated from and contained on the official voting domain/platform was as follows: Joe-Kyari Gadzama – 2,963; Abubakar B. Mahmoud -2,465.” This was as deduced by his ICT experts who conducted forensic audit of the poll.
Gadzama also wants the court to declare “that the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President held on 30th and 31st July 2016 under the supervision of the 8th to 14th Defendants, which purportedly produced the 15th Defendant as President, was in total violation and disregard of the mandatory provisions of the NBA Constitution 2015, Election Guidelines set down for the said Election fell short of established standards and international best practices, thereby making the said Election null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

Aside from stating that the Internet voting mechanism, method and system adopted for the conduct of the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election “was not in conformity with the mandatory provisions of the NBA Constitution 2015,” the Life Bencher also impugns the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) as illegal and unconstitutional.

He is also seeking a “declaration that the integrity of the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President organised by the 8th to 14th, Defendants on 30th and 31st July 2016 which purportedly returned the 15th Defendant as President was fundamentally and incurably compromised by undue influence, overbearing, biased conduct and utterances of the 14th Defendant (Mr Augustine Alegeh SAN, President, Nigerian Bar Association) through the media and at Bar meetings before and during the Election and thereby robbed the conduct of the election of every element of impartiality, independence and transparency as required by established standards and international best practices.”

Flowing from this, the NBA presidential candidate seeks an order of court “nullifying and setting aside the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President held on the 30th and 31st July, 2016 which purportedly returned the 15th Defendant as the President.”

He also seeks the following orders:
“An order directing the 1st to 7th Defendants to set up a newly constituted Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) which will issue Guidelines and conduct a fresh 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President.

“An order of this Honourable Court that the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President should be held through Electronic voting in all branches of the NBA or at least at the three (3) zonal levels established by the NBA Constitution, 2015 and that results should be collated at branch or zonal levels and transmitted to the ECNBA Secretariat for final announcement.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 8th to 12th and 14th Defendants from swearing in and/or recognising the 15th Defendant or in any way whatsoever taking steps or giving effect to the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association election as it relates to the office/position of the President held on the 30th and 31st July, 2016, whether by themselves, agents, employees, privies or anybody acting for or on their behalf based on the said Election,” and

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 15th Defendant, whether by himself, agents, employees, privies or anybody acting for or on his behalf, from parading himself, claiming and/or holding himself out as the President-Elect/President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) based on the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association election as it relates to the office/position of the President held on 30th and 31st July, 2016.”
According to Gadzama, the elections “held in total violation and disregard of the mandatory provisions of the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association, 2015,” adding that while the accreditation process was repeatedly extended, “the list containing the names of the said accredited voters was never released on the election platform (website), neither was it displayed on the screen used to monitor the Election.”

He alleged that “Around 12:01 a.m. of Monday, 1st August 2016, the 8th Defendant announced the end of the election exercise. The 8th Defendant further, for the first time, introduced some persons who were said to be staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and he further announced that the so called INEC staff were there to audit the election result, which was ready. The 8th Defendant also announced that it will take 1 (one) hour to audit the said results.

“Contrary to the expectations of the Plaintiff’s agents, established standards and international best practices, the said agents did not see the dashboard/monitor displaying the result of the Election, even upon voting being declared closed by the 8th Defendant.

“The Plaintiff avers that the 8th Defendant, the Managing Director of the 13th Defendant and the 14th Defendant and the so called INEC staff left the Plaintiff’s poll agents and others in the Situation Room at the NBA Secretariat in Abuja, went to a separate room to ‘audit’ the results.
“The 8th Defendant subsequently came into the monitoring room while the so called auditing was still going on to announce that the auditing was almost done and that the results were to be announced in due course. He remained in the situation room until after 1a.m. when the events in the next-following paragraphs took place.

“Around after 1a.m. on 1/8/2016, Mr. Olugasa, the Managing Director of the 13th Defendant, the 14th Defendant and the so called staff of INEC came back into the monitoring room and got seated.

“After re-introduction of the so called INEC staff; and the 8th Defendant and 14th Defendant had made some speeches, Mr. Ope Olugasa (Managing Director of the 13th Defendant) was asked to display the results on the dashboard.

“But instead of using the laptop that had long been connected online to the big LG Television/Monitor in the situation room, both of which had from the beginning been used to display the limited information about the election exercise described earlier on in this statement of claim, Mr. Ope Olugasa swapped the said laptop with another laptop which contained the so called election result. The 8th Defendant then pronounced the declared results as they were displayed on the big LG Television Monitor.

“The Plaintiff’s agent recorded the scene where the Managing Director of the 13th Defendant swapped the computer that was used throughout to display the votes that were being cast on the display screen/monitor, using Samsung Smartphone GT-I9500, Galaxy S4, with serial number R21D50BP33D.”

He stated that “On Friday, 29th of July, 2016 a day to the election, the names of eligible/verified voters continued to be padded and were never published 28 days ahead of the election, contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Bar Association constitution and electoral guidelines,” adding that instead of utilising the advertised official portal/domain, the 8th to 14th Defendants “utilised another portal/domain (http://www.nigerianbar.org.ng) for the same Election process, just to enable them manipulate the said Election.

“As a result of this deliberate manipulative step taken by the 8th to 14th Defendants, two sets of results bearing different features but having the same figures were produced from the respective portals/domains. Accordingly, printout of the so called result of the Election from http://www.nigerianbar.org.ng is also hereby pleaded; and the Plaintiff shall, at the trial, show out the said different features, beginning with the different sources (domains) of both results, as can clearly be seen on them.”
Gadzama’s legal team was led by Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN alongside Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN, Chief Pius Akubo SAN and Chief Sebastine Hon SAN among others.

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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.

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