INDEPENDENCE: NBA WARNS AGAINST ANARCHY

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has warned the political class not to plunge the country into chaos, especially as the 2019 General Election approaches. Continue Reading

My NBA Presidency Roadmap, By Usoro

• SAYS ‘IT’S A NEW AND MOST PROMISING DAY’
• MANY DISTRUST NBA LEADERSHIP
• ELECTIONS HAD HITCHES AND GLITCHES
• I WILL SET UP ELECTORAL REFORM COMMITTEE
• I SHALL REACH OUT TO OJUKWU, OBI OKAFOR, GADZAMA
• TRANSPARENCY. ACCOUNTABILITY OUR WATCHWORDS

Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was today sworn in as the 28th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at a colourful ceremony in Abuja. Continue Reading

PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION: Usoro, Obi Okafor Camps in Cat and Mouse Game

* Inauguration Venue Uncertain

* ‘We will not storm the venue’ – Okutepa

* Defendants May be Cited for Contempt of Court

There are strong indications that the camp of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN may have engaged in a hirewire cat-and-mouse game to forestall any last-ditch moves by defeated NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN to truncate the inauguration ceremony scheduled for today. Continue Reading

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Audit Will Not Alter Election Results – Yadudu

Any hopes by defeated candidates in the recent Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections that an audit will upturn the outcome of the elections has been dashed by the Electoral Committee of NBA (ECNBA) Chairman, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu.

It is recalled that a presidential candidate in the elections, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN had specifically requested an audit of the elections as a pre-condition to cooperate with NBA President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN.

But Yadudu while responding to enquiries by CITY LAWYER, foreclosed any possibility that the audit will reverse the election results as declared by the ECNBA.

His words: “A post election audit will be carried out as promised. However, it is not to validate or invalidate the result announced.”

This is bound to rattle some of the candidates who are hoping that the planned audit may void some of the results declared by the ECNBA.

Asked to respond to allegations by Okafor and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN, the two other presidential candidates, that the elections were riddled with rigging among other infractions, the ECNBA Chairman declined comment, saying: “Sorry l cannot comment on views by others about or in any matter pertaining to (the) election.”

When CITY LAWYER asked the veteran law teacher for suggestions on electoral reforms, he also side-stepped the issue, saying: “These are matters that will go into (our) report. So it will not be proper to address (same) in the press.”

He however noted that the NBA National Executive Committee meeting which held yesterday did not ratify the outcome of the elections but merely the change in date. His words: “NEC did not ratify the election. It ratified the timing by which the ECNBA held the election in August instead of July.”

It is recalled that CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report revealed that Usoro is a co-director at Access Bank Plc with Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika, the first female Chairman of CHAMS Plc. CHAMS was originally hired by the ECNBA as its sole ICT Partner for the elections. It eventually deployed its voting portal for the elections.

The CITY LAWYER report had raised concerns on the integrity of NBA’s electoral process and the ability of the ECNBA to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

Following petitions by candidates and a flurry of meetings, outgoing NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN had initiated several electoral reforms to reassure stakeholders.

In a press statement dated July 21, 2018 Mahmoud had promised that an audit of the elections will be carried out.

His words: “The ECNBA will develop a post-election audit framework and process and may engage an independent entity for that purpose.”

Usoro was declared winner of the hotly contested poll on August 20, three weeks after the initial date set for the conclusion of the elections.

Both Okafor and Ojukwu rejected the results, alleging rigging and other electoral infractions.

Though the elections were conducted in August as against July specified in the NBA Constitution, the NBA-NEC yesterday ratified the shift in date, clearing the way for Usoro to be sworn-in as the 29th NBA President.

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What Usoro Told Obi Okafor, Ojukwu

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN had written to his co-contestants for NBA Presidency, seeking their cooperation towards a successful tenure.

The letter, which was copied to all NBA current and past presidents, has generated much furore.

Below is the controversial letter as obtained by CITY LAWYER:

On ‎Friday‎, ‎August‎ ‎24‎, ‎2018‎ ‎02‎:‎33‎:‎36‎ ‎PM‎ ‎WAT, Paul Usoro, SAN <paul@xxxxxx> wrote:

Dear Current and Past Presidents

On second thoughts, I decided I should make you privy to my self-explanatory mail below to my brothers, Ernest and Arthur. It would be my joy to work with both of them for the common good of the NBA and I respectfully and most humbly implore you to join voices with me to intercede and direct the three of us towards that common goal, in the terms of my mail to them. I thank you all and pray for Divine blessings and protection for you and your families.

Best

Paul Usoro, SAN
Senior Partner

From: Paul Usoro <paul@xxxxxx>
Date: Friday, August 24, 2018 at 1:59 PM
To: “Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN” <arthur@xxxxxx>, Ernest Ojukwu <ernestojukwu2@xxxxxx>
Subject: Nigerian Bar Association

My dear brothers Ernest and Arthur

Soon after the NBA Elections last Monday, 20 August 2018 I called both of you (same day in regard to Arthur and on Wednesday, 23 August 2018 in regard to Ernest) but you both must’ve been busy and couldn’t take my calls. I also left WhatsApp messages on your phone but again, your schedules may not have permitted you to revert. I had intended to use my calls to reach both of you and solicit your support for my running of the NBA, post the elections; not having reached you nor heard from you, I thought it wise not to wait any further but to articular my thoughts vide this e-mail.

Let me start by first stating that I fully understand your respective feelings and belief that you and not me should’ve won the NBA Presidential election. I probably would’ve felt the same way, perhaps, not as heated, if I had lost. I’m however reminded of the fact that, win or lose in an NBA election, we, the three of us, remain learned friends, brother Silks and kinsmen from Eastern Nigeria. Those are strong unbreakable bonds that NBA election, win or lose, should not and must not put asunder. Indeed, a win by any of us ought to have been and should be seen as a win for all of us, given those bonds that I’ve listed. It is in that spirit that I’m truly and earnestly extending my hands of brotherhood to both of you and appealing that we sheath swords and join hands in reshaping the NBA into an institution that we all can take pride in.

In truth, beyond the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that I’ve highlighted above, there’s a lot more that binds us together as far as the NBA is concerned. By virtue of our ranks, we’re all leaders of the profession and each of us is eminently qualified to lead the Bar – at least, that’s what I believe in regard to you two. Indeed, our Election Manifestoes shared some common features with the difference being only in the modalities and strategies for achieving those common objectives. Our three Manifestoes, for example, talked about welfare issues for lawyers, not least, the young lawyers, we all talked about an inclusive Bar where there’ll be standing room for all lawyers irrespective of gender, age, ability/disability etc. and we also talked about giving voice to the voiceless and the promotion of the rule of law, amongst others.

These and much more were our common agenda items during the elections and I believe that the Bar will be greatly enriched if we were to join hands to achieve these and several other goals that we so beautifully articulated in our respective Manifestoes. Just think of it: can you imagine what pride we bring to Eastern Nigeria and indeed the profession if we were to work together along these lines, and, God being on our side, we achieve great things for the NBA during my tenure as the President of the NBA? In two years, we’ll jointly be the toast of the Bar and indeed of Nigeria if we seize this moment. I truly request you to think of my proposition even as I look forward to the opportunity of sitting with you, jointly or separately, to advance and flesh out such a course while harmonizing our thoughts in that regard.

I thank you for taking the time to read this “epistle” and look forward to an indication from you on the convenient time that I may call you, respectively, to advance discussions on these matters. Meanwhile, please, feel free to reach me by sms or whatsapp or e-mail. Do have a restful weekend and see you at the AGC.

Best

Paul Usoro, SAN

Senior Partner

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Ojukwu Raps Usoro, Says ‘Only Truth Will Heal NBA’

A presidential candidate in the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has carpeted NBA President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro over his olive branch to the law teacher.

In a response to recent a letter by Usoro urging Ojukwu to put the controversies arising from the NBA Elections behind him, the former Nigerian Law School chieftain stated that senior lawyers were the problem bedevilling NBA governance.

Ojukwu, in the letter made available to CITY LAWYER, also warned that only truth will save the Bar from extinction.

The letter reads:

Dear PAUL,

YOUR LETTER IS IN BAD FAITH

I regret to state that your letter written jointly to me and Mr Okafor was written in bad faith.

You commenced your letter with a claim that you called me and that I did not take your call. When I refuted this claim, you posted a WhatsApp log where you stated that you called and that my telephone was switched off. If this was true that my telephone was switched off, on what basis did you then claim that I did not take your call? If you had made an honest mistake, the natural thing would be to apologise for that but instead in trying to defend the defenseless, you posted a WhatsApp log and intentionally included an unrelated private chat we had early in the year. In character you did not also show the entire discussion of that unrelated chat.

On 23rd August 2018 my telephone was on and assuming that you had called once and you could not connect, would it not have been a natural thing to make further attempts to call? But instead you wrote your email letter on 24th August at 1.59pm stating that you called me and I did not take your call.

In addition you published the letter on the media within 30 minutes of sending the email, and copied past NBA Presidents within 1.5 hours.

May I reiterate that the NBA elections and governance is not a personal issue to me. I have dedicated most of my adult life outside my mainstay to the development of the legal profession and the bar. I did not do those works as the leader of the Association. There is nothing that will prevent me from contributing as much as I can while I exist. It is a passion and calling for me. NBA is not an employment or political thing for me. There is therefore no reason to “appeal” to me “to sheath swords and join hands in reshaping the NBA into an institution that we all can take pride in.” Paul, you owe me no duty or responsibility for what happened at that elections. Mr Arthur Okafor, President AB Mahmoud, Prof Yadudu and ENCBA owe me no duty or responsibility. You all owe that duty and responsibility to the entire bar, the legal profession, Nigeria and God. I moved on an hour after and I publicly stated that I will not contest the outcome of that charade and I am sure you read it.

I have said it before and I repeated it at the SLP Port Harcourt this year that the problem with the Bar and the legal profession in Nigeria is not laws, rules, constitution, systems and so. Our problems are our lawyers and our governance problems are mostly senior lawyers. The day our leaders decide to be honest with us, that would be the day of transformation for the bar and the profession. “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised” (Chinua Achebe). True integrity knows no form of derogation. Only honesty and the truth will save the BAR!

Ernest Ojukwu (TEACHER)

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NBA ELECTIONS: Usoro Wins ‘Round One’

*As NBA NEC Ratifies Election

*Saraki, Olanipekun, Okocha, Others Hail Victory

* ‘Embark on Electoral Reforms Now’

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has scored a major victory with the ratification of his election by the NBA National Executive Committee meeting that held today in Abuja. Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: NBA ELECTION – Usoro, Obi Okafor Rigged, Says Ojukwu

A presidential candidate in the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has alleged that his two rivals in the presidential bid attempted to out-rig each other during the poll.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, the former Nigerian Law School helmsman claimed that he was the only presidential candidate that did not tamper with the electoral process, adding that the election is the “worst” conducted by NBA since 1991.

Warned that CITY LAWYER would quote him on the allegation, Ojukwu was even more emphatic, saying: “Quote me on that; hundred per cent. Both candidates corrupted the system, bribed voters with money, practice fee, and then ultimately stole people’s data and used it to vote. Quote me hundred per cent.”

Continuing, the defeated NBA presidential candidate who polled 3313 votes to trail both the president-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN said: “I am the only person who didn’t try to rig the election. They were competing with each other on who will rig better.

“The election was rigged 100 per cent. The candidates hijacked the process from the time members were asked to verify; that’s when they hijacked the system – and stole people’s data. From the ones they paid their practice fee and the others stolen during the verification exercise. And many many people couldn’t vote because of that. Once that was done, they were competing with each other as to who will out-vote each other with stolen data.”

On his suggestions towards electoral reforms, Ojukwu said: “Nothing. Nothing. It’s not the system that is the problem; it is the human beings. So, there is nothing I can suggest to a person who is elected by a stolen mandate because he will not do a new free election. That’s why we have transited from hand-to-hand since 2012. People who emerged through a stolen system have not been able to hand over through free and fair elections. This is one of the worst elections conducted at the Bar since 1991. In fact, it is the worst. And it will have a place in infamy.”

Ojukwu restated his resolve not to challenge the result of the poll. His words: “My statement is very clear. I said I was not going to contest the election. What am I going to court to do? I said I was not going to contest it.”

On whether he would explore any internal mechanism within the NBA system, the former law teacher said: “You complain to the person who is the armed robber? How would you get the verdict? You complain to the armed robber for stealing your money? To do what? To settle between me and Paul (Usoro SAN) or between me and who?”

Reminded that the pre-Annual General Conference NBA National Executive Committee may deliberate on the debacle, Ojukwu said: “It depends on the issue that arises. That’s the only time I know what to answer – if there is any need to answer.”

The former law teacher also told CITY LAWYER that he has no plans for the future in relation to his political fortunes. His words: “I don’t have any future plan. I’m still a member (of NBA).”

It is recalled that the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) had in the early hours of Monday, August 20, 2018 declared Usoro as the duly elected 29th president of the NBA. Usoro polled 4509 while his closest rival, Obi Okafor garnered 4423 to place second. Ojukwu placed third with 3313 votes.

The election was severally postponed due to many hiccups that plagued the process.

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Guy Ikokwu Wants NBA Election Cancelled

Veteran politician and senior lawyer, Chief Guy Ikokwu has called for the cancellation of the controversial Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Election.

In a statement titled “TO BE FOREWARNED IS TO BE FOREARMED,” Ikokwu who has clocked 56 years at the Bar, stated that the election was “fraught with problems which had not been resolved even as at the date of the voting exercise.”

The vocal lawyer urged the Body of Benches to “fashion a more credible system for a new voting exercise for the BAR to regain its honour which is currently being subjected to unnecessary disdain and ignominy.”

Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was declared winner of the election while the defeated presidential candidates, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN poked holes in the exercise.

The statement reads:

20th August, 2018

TO BE FOREWARNED IS TO BE FOREARMED

We all know and realize that computer systems have always been faulted or manipulated if they are left unchecked. The usual saying in reference to computers is “Garbage in Garbage out”

In the United States today the issue of computer hacking is having monumental effect on the relations between America and Russia. In America itself there is a dysfunctional relationship between the Presidency and the Senate and the House of Representatives (Congress) which has been investigating the issue of hacking of the2016 USA elections by Russian Agents. Even in the United States they have both electronic and manual voting systems. Where there is a dispute, a losing candidate can request a recount of the votes cast manually to have an exact result not subject to further disputation.

The election result of the Premier Branch of Lagos with thousands of accredited lawyers have not been subjected to any dispute in the last 10 years, because of our system of accreditation, verification and voting at the same venue, same date, and same hours with representatives of the contestants and elected experienced supervisors of the exercise.

The system is such that eligible legal voters are not disenfranchised by any system unless the lawyer does not want to vote or is not available in person.

The last NBA election 2 years ago was also fraught with e-voting problems which led to a High Court pending litigation. This current election exercise was also fraught with problems which had not been resolved even as at the date of the voting exercise which is a real shame for the legal profession in Nigeria.

I saw the dangers ahead in this exercise and had to post a warning that the BAR must utilize a system that is full proof no matter who the contestants are. The current failed system has to be challenged effectively so that we can have a credible system which combines electronic and manual accreditation of voting no matter whose ox is gored.

The current National Executive should therefore suspend any further declaration through the current malfunctioning system which may have been systematically hacked for the endorsement of the National Conference holding in Abuja. The body of benchers can be entrusted to fashion a more credible system for a new voting exercise for the BAR to regain its honour which is currently being subjected to unnecessary disdain and ignominy.

The member of lawyers disenfranchised is far greater than the merging of votes between the contestants! It must be cancelled for a proper election machinery to be set up and salvage the reputation of Nigerian lawyers! I am not bordered about who wins but about the probity of the system, its transparency and lack of manipulation and inordinate disenfranchisement.

* Chief Ikokwu, a member of NBA Lagos Branch, was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1962

Odinkalu Calls NBA Election a ‘Racket,’ Raps Mahmoud

Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu has lampooned the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, saying it was a “racket.”

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, Odinkalu who is increasingly assuming the role of the ‘Conscience of the Bar,’ also berated NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN for the debacle, saying that “the  outgoing Bar leadership is incredibly tarnished by its role in this messy racket.”

Although Mr. Paul Usoro SAN was declared winner of the presidential election by the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), both Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN who contested for the NBA Presidency also rejected the results, alleging that the election was marred by rigging among other vices.

The statement reads:

Concerning What AB Mahmoud & the NBA Have Done

Good morning colleagues.

It is unfortunate colleagues failed to heed the clear facts & evidence of a compromised process in #NBADecides2018. The contestants and their supporters mostly behaved desperate, conferring legitimacy on a process that manifestly lacked it from the get go.

Each campaign appeared to behave in such a way as to suggest they were best placed to benefit from a system configured for pre-determined outcomes.

This was not an election. It was not even a selection. It was a racket and a messed up one at that. Now, they will ask the NBA NEC to make this messed up racket their own & ratify it at the pre-conference NEC. That will be interesting.

This racket is a disgrace. The process was compromised and did not even pretend about it. The outcome lacks legitimacy and the declared winner has procured a compromised non-mandate.

Those who hope or expect that there will be an audit should come off that kind of hallucination – you don’t ask a burglar to investigate the burglary.

The outgoing Bar leadership is incredibly tarnished by its role in this messy racket. Yet, we are unlikely to learn. There are no plaudits to hand out, no congratulations to anyone and no one comes out of this a winner.

My name is Chidi Anselm Odinkalu. I am a City-Zen.

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