There are concerns within legal circles as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Branch Elections Appeal Committee (East) have barred a chairmanship candidate from tomorrow’s election at NBA Aba Branch over a withdrawn petition.

Documents obtained by CITY LAWYER show that though the Appeal Committee conceded that the petition against the candidacy of Mr. Chinonye Onwere, a chairmanship candidate who was cleared by the Branch Electoral Committee, was withdrawn, the committee went ahead to decide the petition.

Onwere is the Secretary of the ‘Representatives of the NBA to the General Council of the Bar’ which is at loggerheads with NBA President Yakubu Maikyau SAN following their representation of the association at the council.

Wrote the committee: Our Committee is now saddled with hearing and determining the petitions and complaints
brought before us from various Branches this year, 2024, including four petitions from NBA, Aba Branch plus one (+1). The “plus one (+1) is used advisedly by us because the Appeal was purportedly withdrawn albeit under “duress”.

Describing the petition as “tricky,” the committee wrote: This case is tricky as the appellant by a letter dated 24 /05/24 purports to withdraw the appeal citing his “deference” to representations made to him by senior members of the branch. The “appeal” raises some grave issues that cannot be glossed over, particularly for the very important office of a Branch Chairman.

The substance of the Appeal is that Chinonye Onwere, Esq “is not qualified to stand election as one of his Nominator, E. E. Agwulonu, Esq. who has held two elective offices within the last five 5 years is not qualified to stand election for the same office and as such not eligible to nominate any body for any elective office of the branch”. “furthermore, the said Victor Chinonye Onwere, Esq. is equally not qualified to contest the said election having held two elective positions which he is still holding one presently. He was elected the Vice Chairman of NBA Aba branch in 2020 to 2022 and was equally elected as a member of the General Council of the Bar which election took place in July 2022 and which office he is still occupying till date to expire in July 2024.

Unlike in the other decisions where the committee dissected the issues and provided copious findings, the committee merely wrote: The Committee considered the backdrop of this ” appeal ” and even though the “appellant” has sheated (sic) his sword to allow peace to reign in the Branch and has purported to have withdrawn his appeal, our Committee cannot give our blessing to the qualification of a member that is not qualified especially where the said disqualification stems from violation of Uniform Bye-Law for Branches as contained in the Constitution of NBA 2015 as amended in 2021. We therefore hereby direct the Election Committee to remove the name of the said Victor Chinonye Onwere, Esq. in the list of aspirants for the forthcoming election of the Branch and for the position of Chairman of the Branch.

CITY LAWYER had in a report noted the controversy trailing the appointment of Mr. Dennis Okwakpam as the Alternate Chairman of the committee, as some stakeholders alleged that Okwakpam is a Leader of the influential Integrity Group which is openly backing some candidates in the June 27 NBA Port Harcourt Election.

Contesting his disqualification in a letter to the Appeal Committee, Onwere wrote:

My name is Victor Chinonye Onweremadu. I am a legal practitioner based in Aba.

On the 3rd day of April, 2024 at 3.52pm l submitted my nomination form to the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, Aba branch, for the post of the chairman of the NBA, Aba branch.

On the 9th day of May, 2024 the Electoral Committee by a notice, dated the 7th day of May, 2024 posted on the official platform of the NBA, Aba branch notified me and several others that I had been cleared as a candidate in accordance with my nomination.

It must be placed on record that there was no petition against my candidacy before the Electoral Committee.

Following my clearance to contest as chairman, my campaign team articulated a manifesto that captured the hearts and souls of the majority of the members of the NBA, Aba branch.

On the 29th day of May 2024, the Electoral Committee lifted the ban on campaigns.

In accordance with the best form of political campaigns, we started canvassing for votes. We did so well to the effect that it became clear that I was coasting home to victory.

However, what I did not know was that some persons were determined by hook or crook to abort my emergence as the lawfully elected chairman of NBA, Aba branch.

On Tuesday, the 18th day of June 2024, during an extraordinary general meeting of the NBA, Aba branch, the chairman of NBA, Aba branch, I. O. Egwu paused the proceedings and announced that he received communications from the NBA Branch Election Appeal Committee (East) and that it was important to read out the communications.

The Chairman then announced that the said Appeal Committee decided that I wasn’t qualified to contest the election based on an Appeal/Petition against me. I was stunned and I left the meeting immediately.

Then, hours later, I read the report of the Appeal Committee, and therein it was stated that there was an appeal against my clearance to contest the election.

It is tragic that the Appeal Committee did not serve me with any petition/complaint against my candidacy and did not afford me any opportunity to be heard.

Also, the Electoral Committee of the NBA Aba branch did not know that there was an appeal against its decision.

Furthermore, the Appeal Committee acknowledged in its report that the appeal/ petition against me was withdrawn by the Appellant. There are several other manifest absurdities.

After a consideration of the manifest fundamental affront on my right to be heard, my campaign team and I, in obedience to our conscience and abiding faith in the inevitability of the triumph of good over evil, decided to mount a robust challenge to the decision of the Appeal Committee. That process is in full gear, and we thank all the highly respected lawyers across Nigeria who have expressed revulsion against the decision of the Appeal Committee. We shall not let you down.

On this note, I respectfully, call on the body of lawyers to join us to ensure that the decision of the Appeal is upended as one that has no place among the civilzed (sic) and well-meaning members of the Nigerian Bar Association. I urge us to stand up for truth, fair play, and respect for the rule of law.

Long live Nigerian Bar Association.
Long live NBA, Aba branch.
God bless the Nigerian Bar Association.

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