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.

UKIRI, FIERY BAR ACTIVIST, IS DEAD

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‘STEP ASIDE NOW,’ OJUKWU TELLS USORO

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

FOI: ‘EITHER NBA GIVES ME INFORMATION OR…’ – OJUKWU

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has faulted the bar leadership for its reaction to his suit aimed to compel the NBA to accede to his Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request. Continue Reading

BREAKING: SANs THWART EFCC’S BID TO ARREST USORO

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

BREAKING: FRAUD CHARGE – USORO SHUNS EFCC

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

FRAUD CHARGE: WE MUST STOP EFCC, SAYS USORO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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