JUSUN STRIKE: ANXIETY, AS NBA IKEJA BOYCOTTS LAGOS BRANCHES’ PARLEY WITH SANWO-OLU TOMORROW

  • LAGOS, BADAGRY, EPE AND IKORODU BRANCHES TO ATTEND

  • CONFUSION OVER PARTICIPATION OF BRANCH MEMBERS

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch has vowed to boycott a meeting of all Lagos branches with Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu scheduled for “Lagos House,” Marina tomorrow.

In a telephone interview with CITY LAWYER, NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Batholomew Aguegbodo said: “I can tell you for free that I will not be there. We complied with the NBA President’s directive by embarking on our protest march today in line with our tradition as Tiger Branch. I tried to move the other branches to join us today but they gave sundry reasons on why it is impossible for them to do so. I respect their position. We shall return to the streets on Monday if by then the State Governors had not complied with JUSUN’s demand.”

However, the four other branches comprising Lagos, Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu will meet with the Governor tomorrow by 10:30 am. CITY LAWYER gathered that the branch chairmen may have agreed to converge on “Lagos House” by 10 am prior to the meeting with the Sanwo-Olu. The meeting is being facilitated by former Bar Leader and Lagos State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN.

While it was gathered that only three members from each branch would be permitted to go into the meeting with the Governor, it was unclear at press time whether branch members would be allowed to mass around the premises. This comes against the backdrop of conflicting signals from the branches regarding the level of participation of their members.

While Lagos Branch may have restricted participation to the official three-man delegation and very senior lawyers who may insist on attending, Epe and Ikorodu branch chairmen told CITY LAWYER that all their members who wish to attend have been fully mobilized to storm “Lagos House” in their numbers.

According to Mr. Ademola Koko, NBA Epe Branch Chairman, “Everybody is coming. We have mobilized all our members. We are coming in three buses which we have hired.”

This was echoed by NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Abimbola Ojedokun who told CITY LAWYER that “We are going with our members. All those who are available will accompany us on the visit.”

The branches may have however conceded to shun display of placards so as not to “embarrass” the Governor. A source told CITY LAWYER that while Epe Branch has agreed to display its banners at the Epe High Court, Badagry Branch may have directed its members to display their banners at the Lagos High Court, Igbosere.

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association had at the weekend asked all NBA branches “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

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‘OUR STAND ON JUSUN STRIKE,’ BY 5 LAGOS BRANCH CHAIRMEN

The five branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos State held a virtual meeting yesterday to deliberate on the ongoing strike by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the directive by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata relating to the strike.

Below is the text of the communique made available to CITY LAWYER as issued by the Committee of Chairmen after the meeting.

COMMUNIQUE ON THE DIRECTIVE OF THE PRESIDENT BY THE FIVE CHAIRMEN OF NBA BRANCHES IN LAGOS STATE ON THE ONGOING JUSUN STRIKE:

AGENDA:
1. The Chairmen of NBA Lagos, Ikeja, Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry held a meeting today 18th April, 2021 to fine tune the modalities to be jointly adopted by the Branches in effectively executing the mandate of Mr. President. The following issues were discussed:

A) Execution of the joint mandate for maximum impact in line with the mandate. After the submission of the Chairman, Ikeja Branch that all arrangements have been put in place against tomorrow by the Branch for their peaceful protest. Other Chairmen pleaded for Branches to jointly carry out the mandate as dictated in the president’s directive. The Chairman of Ikeja promised to try and convince his members against Tuesday now granted by the president for Lagos State Branches.

B) The directive dated 16th April, 2021 and personally signed by the president chronicled efforts made by our National Body and the negative effects on our members, hence, our involvement as critical Stakeholders.

C) The president’s directive enjoins NBA Branches”” to visit their state governors and demand compliance with the provisions of 1999 constitution…”

D) page 2 paragraph 1 of the directive enjoins Chairmen to effectively mobilize their members “and pay visits” to their respective state government houses on Monday 19th April, 2021 to press home the demand…”
“..at the visit, NBA Branches in each state are to present a joint written demand to their state governors”

E) At page 2 paragraph 2 of the directive which states ” The Chairmen of the NBA Branches are further requested to ensure that these visits are embarked upon every subsequent Monday until..”

The above premises formed the following resolutions:
A) That consequent upon the president’s approval for the visit on Tuesday and with the hope of Ikeja Branch joining, the Branches shall proceed with the visit to the Governor with Branches mobilising their members who shall be dressed in their official black and white.

B) Members shall converge at the Government house between 11 am and 12 pm with placards showing solidarity pursuant to our mandate. No abusive placards please.

C) Visits on subsequent Mondays shall follow the same pattern

Signed by the Chairmen of NBA, Lagos, Ikeja, Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry Branches.

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JUSUN STRIKE SPLITS LAGOS NBA BRANCHES, AKPATA WADES IN

• Ikeja Branch insists on protest march today
• Akpata Gives Nod to 4 branches to visit tomorrow
• Schism on interpretation of NBA’s directive

The directive by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata to NBA branches to pay a “visit” to Governors’ offices today and deliver letters to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary has split the five branches in Lagos State.

While Ikeja Branch insists on holding a “protest march” today in support of the ongoing strike by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the four other branches yesterday agreed to “visit” the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu tomorrow to deliver their joint letter.

At least two branch chairmen told CITY LAWYER that efforts made to persuade Ikeja Branch, otherwise called the “Tiger Branch,” to join other branches in the visit tomorrow met a brick wall, as the branch insisted that it had resolved at its last monthly meeting to embark on a “protest march,” even before Akpata’s directive.

NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Abimbola Ojedokun told CITY LAWYER that all the branch chairmen met via whatsapp call yesterday to agree on the modalities for the visit, noting that aside from Ikeja Branch, the other branch chairman resolved to deliver a joint letter to the Governor tomorrow.

“We agreed to gather at Alausa Secretariat between 11 am and 12 noon and proceed to the Governor’s Office to meet with the Governor and deliver a joint letter to him on the issue,” said Ojedokun. “We set the time to enable members from far-flung branches like Epe and Badagry to join the group.”

Ojedokun said that the branches were mandated to mobilize their members for the visit, adding that while NBA Lagos Branch would alert its members of the decision at its monthly meeting holding today, the three other branches have scheduled emergency general meetings today to work out modalities for tomorrow’s visit.

Confirming Ojedokun’s stance, the Chairman of NBA Epe Branch, Mr. Ademola Koko told CITY LAWYER that the during the virtual meeting, Ikeja Branch stated that its plan to proceed on a protest march was 99 percent complete, adding that it could not resile from the resolve of its members.

“After the meeting, we issued a communiqué for each branch to convene an extra-ordinary general meeting to inform its members of the resolution to visit the Governor tomorrow. The meeting considered the fact the Mr. President’s directive was issued on Friday, leaving limited time to plan for the visit.

“Mr. President’s directive was for a joint visit to the Governor to deliver a jointly signed letter by all the branches in each state. That way, the letter will carry more weight. I am glad to tell you that Mr. President gave approval to the four branches to proceed with the visit tomorrow. We have just ended our own EGM. We are already mobilizing our members.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe was mandated by the other three chairmen to write the letter, to be endorsed by other branch chairmen prior to delivery to the Governor.

When CITY LAWYER telephoned NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Bartholomew Aguegbodo, he did not pick the call. However, a former Secretary of the Branch, Mr. Chinedu Ifezue told CITY LAWYER that the branch was holding an extra-ordinary general meeting where the chairman was presiding.

He said the EGM had again endorsed the earlier resolution to proceed with a protest march today, adding that “it is strictly in compliance with the NBA President’s directive. In fact, not to conduct the visit today is the real breach of the directive.”

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association asked all NBA branches to march to their respective State Governors on Monday “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

Noting that the demand for financial autonomy “is legitimate, constitutional and is in the best interest of the Judiciary as it is one of the key parameters for enthroning independence of the Judiciary and fostering democracy,” the NBA also directed the branch chairmen “to ensure that these visits are embarked upon, every subsequent Monday, until there is full compliance with this demand that is aimed at strengthening our democracy and the dispensation of justice. We trust that our members will give the leadership of their respective branches all the support that they require to achieve this much needed victory for our justice system.”

The move is coming on the heels of stalled efforts to amicably resolve the impasse, a situation bemoaned by the lawyers’ association which stated that “With these developments and the recent actions and utterances of officials of some of the State Governments, it has become apparent that most of the State Governments are not ready or willing to implement the constitutional provisions which grant financial autonomy to the

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JUSUN STRIKE: LAWYERS SET TO STORM GOVS’ OFFICES TOMORROW

Nigerian lawyers are poised to storm Governors’ offices tomorrow in compliance with the directive by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary. The move is in apparent solidarity with the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) which embarked on a nationwide strike to ensure financial autonomy for the judiciary.

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association asked all NBA branches “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

Noting that the demand for financial autonomy “is legitimate, constitutional and is in the best interest of the Judiciary as it is one of the key parameters for enthroning independence of the Judiciary and fostering democracy,” the NBA also directed the branch chairmen “to ensure that these visits are embarked upon, every subsequent Monday, until there is full compliance with this demand that is aimed at strengthening our democracy and the dispensation of justice. We trust that our members will give the leadership of their respective branches all the support that they require to achieve this much needed victory for our justice system.”

The move is coming on the heels of stalled efforts to amicably resolve the impasse, a situation bemoaned by the lawyers’ association which stated that “With these developments and the recent actions and utterances of officials of some of the State Governments, it has become apparent that most of the State Governments are not ready or willing to implement the constitutional provisions which grant financial autonomy to the Judiciary.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

JUSUN Strike – NBA Directive to Branches

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OLEJEME SAGA: MAGU’S EFCC WAS LAWLESS, CLUELESS – UBANI

Former Nigerian Bar Association Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has taken a swipe at disgraced former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, describing his tenure at the anti-graft agency as “lawless, clueless and brash!”

The Bar Leader in a statement made available to CITY LAWYER also revealed that he prayed “dangerous” prayers for Magu to be humiliated out of office for detaining him for 23 days due to failure of his then client and former Chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme to honour subsequent invitations by the commission.

His words: “The truth of the matter is that I did not breach any rule of professional conduct of NBA in the first instance, as the said Rule is only applicable to a lawyer who is defending an accused in court and stands surety for the same client in the court. The matter at hand then was not yet before any court; it was an administrative bail by the Agency pending formal charge before any court. That was how EFCC under Magu operated; lawless, clueless and brash!”

Ubani stated that Magu criminalized a civil matter when his client jumped bail, warning succeeding chairmen of the commission not to play God but to operate in line with the law and international best practice. He said: “Let everyone accused of crime in Nigeria be given fair trial and let those who are guilty be jailed, while those who are innocent be discharged and acquitted. That is how it is done in every civilized clime.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

GOD JUSTIFIES THE RIGHTEOUS ALWAYS.

About four years ago or thereabout a woman by name Dr Mrs Ngozi Olejeme sought my legal representation over an allegation that she converted about N69 billion of Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) to herself while she held sway as the chairman during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan. She was declared wanted by EFCC after she refused to honour their invitation because she was abroad and according to her, was undergoing critical medical treatment over her ill health.

I inquired from her if she committed the crime as alleged and she denied the veracity. Secondly, she opined that her medical condition made it impossible for her to honour their previous invitations, however she was prepared to honour them if she can be guaranteed fair trial without illegal detention.

I demanded her medical reports which she graciously provided, and straightaway I sent a letter to the then EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu attaching the medical papers and informing him that I have advised my client to come down to respond to the allegations against her. My client naturally was afraid having been abreast of the antecedent of EFCC under Magu but I assured her that she will get a fair trial as we were not under a Banana Republic.

On the date we agreed, she returned from abroad and on the following Monday morning I took her to the office of EFCC in Abuja. They were shocked to see her because several persons like former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke SAN and former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Deziani Allison Madueke whom EFCC had declared wanted did not respond to them let alone coming down to face their trial.

Her interrogation on the first day lasted about eight hours after which they told me politely that they will not allow her to go home that day, but because of my personality and previous explanation about her health condition, she will be taken to a hospital of her choice and be under their watch so that her subsequent interviews will proceed without unnecessary interjections. My team of lawyers and I raised objection because the bail conditions they gave her were complied with but the Head of the Investigating Unit, overruled and insisted on his position. We obliged, and got a good hospital in Abuja for her under the watch of about two security personnel of the Agency.

Her detention that we all thought will be short later entered the ninth day. I convinced my client that we should sue for the enforcement of her fundamental human rights as her long detention was contrary to the provisions of the constitution as regards investigation and detention. She agreed and we filed the court process and served EFCC. In response, they attached a court order granting EFCC power to detain her for 14 days. It was shocking for me as we were not aware of this secret court order that was never served.

On the date slated for the hearing of the application, the court did not sit but the EFCC prosecuting counsel wrote and convinced the then Acting Chairman to release the woman on administrative bail.

We provided two senior civil servants of grade level 14 and 15 as sureties as required by their condition of bail and presented to them. When the application was presented before Magu, he blatantly refused to approve, insisting that the sureties must be ‘Elder Statesmen’, contrary to the bail condition. We were wondering who these elder statesmen should be. The Unit head then quipped that the chairman will not mind if I will stand surety for her since I was the one that convinced her to come down for her case. My client heard him clearly that my suretyship will grant her freedom to go home. At that point I had a moral burden to get her out of detention having been denied that opportunity after returning from abroad for 14 days.

Secondly, her health was deteriorating due to staying in one place for that long, and thirdly she was complaining of not taking proper bath for those days due to the condition of her health. Finally, she was under severe psychological stress by virtue of her ugly situation. Despite my assurances that she will get fair treatment and trial, she felt that her coming back to Nigeria to respond to the allegations has not been reciprocated by the EFCC by virtue of her long detention. She was very distraught!

When that window of opportunity was given that my suretyship will let her go home and get her prepared for trial, I felt mutually obliged to be of assistance to a woman who honoured my word when I promised the Agency that she will come down for her trial. She did come down as agreed. If I had refused to stand for her at that point, she has every right to conclude that I was in league with EFCC to bring her down to humiliate and embarrass her person. That would not have been the truth and I needed to prove that point to her. For me, I desired her to come down in order to respond to the myriads of allegation that was not good for her reputation.

On the path of EFCC, I also desired them to prove and convict the woman if she was liable or discharge and acquit her if she was innocent. On the basis of the two desires, I provided the link for both parties to satisfy their need.

To cut a long story short, Mrs Olejeme was granted administrative bail that night (at about 9pm) by virtue of my singular signature despite that the condition of bail was that they needed two sureties. The second surety, Hon Christopher Enai, came to sign his own papers two days later after her release to fulfill all righteousness.

After her release, Mrs. Olejeme was honouring their invitations except one or two occasions when she was ill and which she explained in writing through her solicitors. I ensured that whenever she had interview sessions with them that I will be there physically in accordance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and I was doing this regularly coming from Lagos to Abuja.

In course of the investigation, two things happened that startled me. One was that EFCC’s investigation was anchored only on one witness whose evidence was mere hearsay and uncorroborated. It was the witness’s words against the accused and secondly, EFCC was more interested in the properties of the woman more than the facts of the case that will secure her conviction. I was wondering how EFCC will forfeit the property of an accused person facing trial without first securing her conviction except that can happen in a country run by the likes of Ibrahim Magu.

From December to April the following year, the EFCC that published to the whole world how Olejeme stole N69 billion remained static and was not able and keen to prefer any charge against her. However, something strange happened one morning in April 2018. EFCC operatives numbering over 18 from Enugu invaded the home of Mrs Olejeme over a matter that was purely civil and stayed in the woman’s house searching her for over 10 hours. They blocked every entrance and exit on the street. Having failed to convince her to follow them to Enugu, they left her for another assignment according to them. My client fearing for her life escaped from her home and was not heard or seen until this Thursday April 15, 2021 when I heard that SHE IS BACK TO NIGERIA AND HAS REPORTED TO EFCC, possibly to face her trial.

When she escaped and went abroad due to the treatment she got from EFCC, I was called upon by the same EFCC to produce her. I felt that it was very wicked of the Agency to drive the woman back abroad and still have the audacity to request that I produce her. I felt outraged but as patriot I went after the woman through INTERPOL and finally got her placed on RED ALERT by Interpol headquarters in France. That piece of good news got Magu infuriated as he needed unwarranted evidence to embarrass himself and not me. In his clueless fury, he ordered my arrest and detention.

If an accused person jumps bail, the surety certainly has not committed any offence under our law. It is a civil matter which is to the effect that the surety forfeits the bail bond. It is only when the surety is unable to pay the stated sum in the bail bond that he or she will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC read their own law upside down and criminalised a purely civil matter. I even over heard that they said I breached the Rules of Professional Conduct of NBA. When did EFCC start to enforce Rules of Professional Conduct for NBA?

The truth of the matter is that I did not breach any rule of professional conduct of NBA in the first instance, as the said Rule is only applicable to a lawyer who is defending an accused in court and stands surety for the same client in the court. The matter at hand then was not yet before any court; it was an administrative bail by the Agency pending formal charge before any court. That was how EFCC under Magu operated; lawless, clueless and brash!

I immediately instructed my lawyers to enforce my fundamental human rights before the court, and quickly process was filed and served. The court ordered my release or a formal charge if I have committed any offence. Ibrahim Magu disobeyed the court order and kept me in detention for 23 days contrary to the order of the court. My lawyers commenced contempt proceedings and with avalanche of criticisms from all quarters including the harshest from NBA, CLASFON, OTU OKA IWU (Lawyers), Femi Falana SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN and several NGOs and well-meaning Nigerians, Ibrahim Magu was dazed as he ordered my release by 11:00PM. I refused his release by that ungodly hour and remained in detention till the following morning to be sure of my safety.

I prayed two “dangerous” prayers while in and out of detention. Yes you heard me right. One, is that as long as Ibrahim Magu has refused to see the wrong he has committed against me and several others and has not apologised including making peace, that God should disgrace him out of office. Those who are close to me and those inmates with me at the EFCC facility in Abuja remembered this prayer point when it was answered. I am not rejoicing at Magu’s fall but how I wish that men in power both in Nigeria and elsewhere will know and understand that POWER IS TRANSIENT AND EPHEMERAL.
In his glory, Ibrahim Magu felt he has become “God”. God will never share his glory with anyone. His rise and fall is a story for another day.

The second prayer I prayed was that Mrs Olejeme will never have peace of mind wherever she is on planet earth until she comes back to answer to her charges and prove to the world that I neither wronged her nor Nigeria.

Just this Thursday, the 15th of April, two years after I was wrongly detained by Magu’s EFCC, I got a call from Hon Enai, my Co-surety that Mrs Olejeme is back to the country and has dutifully reported herself to EFCC.

To say the least, I was elated and grateful to God for answered prayers. Since she escaped, she has intentionally refused to call or speak with me. She has her reasons, it may be out of fear or for some other reasons best known to her. For now it is no longer my headache. I have my plans. She is back to face her case and the ONUS IS ON EFCC TO PROVE THE THEFT OF N69 Billion against her. Newspaper and public trial characterisation of Magu era is gone, perhaps for good.

Let everyone accused of crime in Nigeria be given fair trial and let those who are guilty be jailed, while those who are innocent be discharged and acquitted. That is how it is done in every civilized clime. I further plead that let everyone note “that anyone ACCUSED OF CRIME, NO MATTER HOW GRIEVOUS, that person is ENTITLED TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION”. It becomes even compulsory under the law if the crime is grievous and carries death penalty. On no account should public opinion be used to scare any diligent lawyer from defending any accused person especially if the accused story is contrary to the “spurious” allegations by the Prosecutor. In saying this, I am not pronouncing Mrs Olejeme innocent but from what I saw during her interview sessions, the spurious figure of N69 billion is not only ridiculous, it is downright stupid to market that kind of figure to the public when the evidence on ground is nothing near that!

While we await the trial proceedings or whatever EFCC wants to do with her, my ultimate joy is that I have been vindicated as I have no hand in her escape. I never knew her while she was the chairman of NSITF. I only played the role of a patriot in bringing her back and I am here giving glory to God for vindicating me that I did not commit any crime in doing that or while doing that.

I have applied and withdrawn my suretyship of the woman from EFCC. The letter to that effect was written and acknowledged on the 16th of April, 2021.

All in all, “the just shall live by faith”, the word of God says so. It further says “Say to the righteous and it shall be well with him”. “No weapon fashioned against any Child of God shall prosper”. My trust is on God, and He alone will continue to direct my path.

My profound gratitude goes to my comrades, friends, senior friends and colleagues, family members and workers including silent and distant admirers who stood with me at those trying period. They shall make heaven, Amen.

God shall also bless my haters and unknown enemies. They may have their reasons since I am not perfect and never claim to be. We all need God’s forgiveness and Grace on this planet earth.

To God be all the glory, honour and praise for honouring His name. I am wantonly grateful to this awesome God!

M. O. Ubani Esq. (MOU).
Barrister & Solicitor

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AFAA LAUNCHES AFRICAN ARBITRATION DIRECTORY, PROFILES ADEKOYA, OTHERS

The African Arbitration Association (AfAA) has unveiled “A Directory of African International Arbitrators (DAIA)” as well as the “African Arbitration Atlas,” a free online one-stop resource that comprises of African Arbitration Legislation (AAL).

Announcing the launch of the resources in a statement, AFAA said: “The AAL holds arbitration laws of African countries. It is a tool that has interactive and comparative features. The interactive features allow a user to hover over text on the left-hand side of the page, which will highlight countries on the interactive map of the continent indicating whether or not they have arbitration institutions, have adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law and are signatories to the New York Convention, the ICSID Convention and OHADA.

“Clicking a country on the interactive map will bring up an arbitration summary of that country, allowing a user to view, search and download that country’s arbitration legislation. A user is also able to view contact details of a country’s arbitration institution(s), if any. The comparative feature allows a user to compare arbitration provisions of two African countries or of an African country with the UNCITRAL Model Law by selecting them and the arbitration topics from a dropdown menu.

“The DAIA holds information on African arbitrators with international arbitration experience or qualification. Users are able to search arbitrators by gender, nationality, language, areas of specialism and more. Users are also able to contact arbitrators directly.”

Among the leading Nigerian arbitrators profiled in the inaugural Directory of African International Arbitrators (DAIA) are Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, Prof. Ike Ehiribe, Mrs. Olusola Adegbonmire, Mr. Muhammad Belgore SAN, Mrs. Diane Okoko and Mr. Isaiah Bozimo.

While spotlighting Adekoya, AfAA stated that “Her appointments have been both ad-hoc and institutional under the LCIA, ICC and ICSID rules, where she has acted as sole, party appointed or chaired arbitral panels in disputes arising out of shareholder agreements, commercial contracts, licensing or joint venture arrangements in the energy, natural resources and infrastructure sectors.

“She is a Chartered Arbitrator of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and was a past Chairman of the Nigeria Branch. She is ranked in Chambers Global and in Who’s Who Legal Arbitration, is listed on the Chairman’s Panel of Arbitrators at ICSID and is currently a member of the ICC Africa Commission.”

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JUSUN STRIKE: NBA DIRECTS LAWYERS TO STORM GOVS’ OFFICES TOMORROW

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has directed its members to storm Governors’ Offices tomorrow to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary. The move is in apparent solidarity with the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) which embarked on a nationwide strike to press home its demand for financial autonomy of the Nigerian Judiciary.

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association asked all NBA branches “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

Noting that the demand for financial autonomy “is legitimate, constitutional and is in the best interest of the Judiciary as it is one of the key parameters for enthroning independence of the Judiciary and fostering democracy,” the NBA also directed the branch chairmen “to ensure that these visits are embarked upon, every subsequent Monday, until there is full compliance with this demand that is aimed at strengthening our democracy and the dispensation of justice. We trust that our members will give the leadership of their respective branches all the support that they require to achieve this much needed victory for our justice system.”

The move is coming on the heels of stalled efforts to amicably resolve the impasse, a situation bemoaned by the lawyers’ association which stated that “With these developments and the recent actions and utterances of officials of some of the State Governments, it has become apparent that most of the State Governments are not ready or willing to implement the constitutional provisions which grant financial autonomy to the Judiciary.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

JUSUN Strike – NBA Directive to Branches

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CONSTRUCTION ARBITRATION: AWODEIN READS RIOT ACT TO LAWYERS

The President and Chairman of Council of the Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators (ICIArb), Mr. Kola Awodein SAN has warned lawyers against engaging in unethical conduct in the practice of arbitration.

Speaking at the investiture of Fellows and induction of new members of the Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, Awodein noted that there are “numerous reports of Arbitrators, especially legal practitioners, making a seeming mockery of the Arbitral process by demonstrating obvious bias and partisanship and blatantly refusing to do justice to the parties and in most cases, without appropriate sanctions being meted out to them.”

Warning that the Institute would no longer condone such malpractice, Awodein, who was represented by the Institute’s President-elect, Mr. Felix Okereke-Onyeri (FNIQS, FICIArb), said: “It is important to sound it loud and clear that this is a practice and conduct that we do not welcome or tolerate in our Institute especially now that there is increasing interest in joining the Institute.”

He urged the new fellows and members to “comply faithfully with the ethics of the Body as we are determined to enforce the ethics especially in the light of the damage that is being done to the practice of Arbitration by Arbitral panels.”

In his address, the Secretary General of the Institute, Bar. Emmanuel Dike (FICIArb) noted the confidence reposed in the body by the inductees “and trust that you will be ambassadors of the Institute as far as construction industry arbitration is concerned.”

Noting that construction involves immense multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary activity “governed by layers of simultaneous contractual relationships,” the Secretary General stated that “An understanding of the technical principles for the purpose of dispute resolution provides an edge to the professional equipped with the relevant skillset. Admission to this prestigious body is therefore an opportunity to join the league of successful sought-after arbitrators.”

According to Dike, “Given the ongoing need for continuous professional development within the Institute, our members who belong to the primary institutions governing their professions, such as the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors – to mention but a few – are encouraged to attend courses by other certified professional bodies to enhance their skills and competence.”

Among those inducted as fellows are former Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Bayo Ojo SAN; leading arbitrator, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN; Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN; Mrs. Funke Agbor SAN; Mr. Godwin Omoaka SAN and Mrs. Obosa Akpata. Also honoured posthumously was Arc. Umaru Aliyu, the Institute’s past Vice President and former president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). Others are Chief Eboh Andrew Otokhina, Mr. Adedapo Osariuyime Tunde-Olowu (SAN), Mr. Okey Akobundu and Mr. Emeka Onyeka.

The Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators was inaugurated on the October 15, 1993 as a multi–disciplinary institution with members drawn from the professions related to the construction industry and has become the leading arbitral institution in the construction industry in Nigeria. As a specialized alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body, in the construction industry, the Institute provides a one-stop shop for the resolution of disputes arising from construction contracts in order to free the construction industry from protracted litigation and the uncertainties inherent in construction related disputes.

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GADZAMA TO CHAIR BENCHERS’ MENTORSHIP C’TE, SEEKS TO PARTNER NBA

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate and Bar Leader, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has been appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB).

Disclosing this in a letter to the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, Gadzama noted that the appointment was made on March 25, 2021 by the highest policy-making body in the legal profession.

In the letter made available to CITY LAWYER, the Bar Leader noted that “this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

J-K/ABJ/NBA/APP/04/21

Wednesday, 7th April, 2021.

Mr. Olumide Akpata,
President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA),
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

MY APPOINTMENT AS CHAIRMAN, MENTORSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS (BOB)

On Thursday, 25th March, 2021, the undersigned had the privilege of being appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB). The Mentorship Committee of the BOB is charged with the responsibility of promoting the values and skills that are crucial to excellence in the legal profession, and is committed to ensuring that these skills are transmitted to the coming generations of lawyers.

I understand that this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.

I look forward to working together with the NBA under your leadership, along with the Young Lawyers Forum, in the effort to raise ever higher the professional standards of our noble profession.

Thank you for your kind cooperation, and please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.

Yours faithfully,

__________________________
Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN.
JOM/SJA

CC:

Mr. Tobi Adebowale,
The Chairman,
Young Lawyers Forum
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

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EDITORIAL: THE JURIST AS A PUGILIST: WHY DANLADI UMAR MUST GO

On March 29, 2021 the public was treated to a bizarre tragi-comedy through a viral video clip where a high-ranking jurist and Chairman of the influential Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar unleashed a slap on a hapless security guard at the popular Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja.

The victim, one Clement Sargwak, a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited posted as a security guard to the plaza, recounts the vicious and inglorious assault thus: “After I informed him (Mr. Umar) about his wrong parking, he came out and slapped me, when he slapped me the driver also came down and slapped me and they tore my uniform and they stepped over me severally.

“…. When the man arrived with the security men, the Oga (Mr. Umar) slapped me again in front of the police and ordered a police officer to also slap me, which he did and thereafter ordered me to kneel down and I obeyed. As I went on my knees, the Oga (Mr. Umar) also kicked me in my face and hit my mouth.” Mr. Sargwak has a clearly bruised lip to show for the physical assault on him by Mr. Umar.

Mr. Samuel Ihensekhien, a solicitor for BANEX Plaza, alleges that “It was brought to my attention that on March 29, Mr. Sargwak was assaulted and harmed and was on the verge of almost being killed by Mr. Danladi Umar. And he was subsequently taken to the Maitama Police Station….

”They (the police) were very surprised, and the DPO saw the footage and immediately ordered he (Sargwak) be released on bail forthwith. He was then handed to the Banex manager and from there he was taken for medication.”

The unprecedented spectacle has expectedly caught the attention of a global audience and especially the legal community.

In a feeble and ill-advised attempt to exonerate himself from the macabre incident, Mr. Umar states that he “was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there (plaza),” adding that he “was drawn into an unnecessary altercation and subsequently assaulted, with this degenerating into an attack and injury by a mob that was chanting secessionist and sectional slogans.”

Instructively, the much lampooned press statement by CCT’s Head, Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, also made reference to the alleged “mob” which he described as “consisting of BIAFRAN boys.” Mr. Al-Hassan would later admit that it was Mr. Umar who directed him to weave the “BIAFRAN boys” spin into the macabre tale. What is more, the statement went ahead to conclude that sympathy in such circumstances usually goes to the “low personalities.” Yet in a fleeting sombre moment, the CCT admits that the incident “ought not to have happened.”

Mr. Umar claims he has reflected on the incident, adding that “the entire incident was avoidable” and that “I regret being drawn into responding to the situation.” However, perhaps torn between ego and genuine remorse, Mr. Umar curiously feels “upset” and even “highly disappointed” that his action has been “misconstrued” in the narrative trending on social media!

The “Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers 2016” as issued by the National Judicial Council (NJC) states in Rule 1 (1.1) that “Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal, are essential elements of a Judge’s life,” noting that “members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a Judge.” When in doubt, a judge should ask the question: “How might this look in the eyes of the public?” The National Judicial Council directs in Rule Four 4(ii)(b) directs that “bad behaviour, whether in or out of Court” is a necessary disqualifying factor.

Notwithstanding the controversies that have trailed the recent recruitment of Court of Appeal judges, it is safe to conclude that the NJC would not have recommended a street-brawling jurist-turned-pugilist for appointment as a judge of the all-important Code of Conduct Tribunal. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Mr. Umar superintends an entity that stands as a sentinel for good conduct among public officers. And to think that Mr. Umar has been the Acting Chairman or Chairman of CCT for more than 14 years!

It was in this exalted role that he sat in judgement on former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. He was unsparing, at all times projecting himself as an epitome of good conduct and morality. Perhaps with hindsight, he was rather combative in dealing with the counsel that appeared before the tribunal.

What is more, in finding Justice Onnoghen guilty of non-declaration of assets, Mr. Umar based the tribunal’s judgement on the “admission by the defendant in his own handwriting ….,” adjudging same as “a partial confession.” He further held that “hard facts” had been adduced by the prosecution to establish its case. There is no gainsaying that aside from Mr. Umar’s admission of “being drawn into responding to the situation,” the “hard facts” in the public domain compel a guilty verdict against him.

It is recalled that Mr. Umar was on February 2, 2018 slammed with a two-count charge of corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged receipt of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) bribe from one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service sometime in 2012 for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to a pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) and contrary to Section 12(1)(a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003. The charges were however dropped.

We strongly deprecate the ethnic slurs prevalent in the statement authorized by Mr. Umar which border on xenophobia, contrary to section 26 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 and punishable with 5 years imprisonment and/or a minimum N10 million fine. Also, to classify some Nigerians as “low personalities” is just as appalling and unacceptable. It raises the poser whether these categories of persons can ever obtain justice in Mr. Umar’s court.

It is apparent that the only ‘offence’ committed by the security guard is that, in the words of Mr. Umar, “I was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there.” For a jurist who was acclaimed in the CCT’s statement to have frequented the Plaza for about 18 years, he must be aware of the presence of police operatives on the premises. That he opted to literally take matters into his own hands instead of order the arrest of the security guard to answer to any misfeasance is highly inappropriate and condemnable. It does grave injustice to the NJC’s Code of Conduct which especially admonishes propriety in all circumstances. Clearly, Mr. Umar performs adjudicatory and quasi-judicial functions. It is therefore immaterial that Mr. Umar is answerable to Nigeria’s President, and may only be removed by him upon endorsement by the National Assembly.

Mr. Umar has brought palpable odium to his high office. We call on Mr. Umar to immediately resign from office. It is the only path of honour to redeem whatever is left of his honour. In the event that he fails or refuses to do so, President Muhammadu Buhari should promptly activate the process for his removal by transmitting a letter to that effect to the National Assembly.

We commend the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for its resolve to prosecute Mr. Umar at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) if a prima facie case is established against him, and urge the lawyers’ association not to relent in this regard.

Finally, we urge the Nigeria Police to thoroughly investigate the incident – including the xenophobic slurs – with a view to bring any culprit to justice and ensure closure especially for Citizen Sargwak.

 

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