OIL FIRM DEBUNKS HEIST, SAYS UNION BANK OWES 2.56 BN POUNDS

Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd (Petro Union) has debunked an allegation that the Barclays Bank cheque in favour of the oil company is “attempted bank heist,” saying the allegation is “myopic and uninformed.”

In a rejoinder made available to CITY LAWYER titled “REJOINDER: THE LARGEST BANK ROBBERY IN HISTORY – ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN NIGERIA (THE ALVIN REPORT),” the company stated that it “denies the assertions in the said publication as being incorrect and misconceived.”

According to Petro Union, “Such sponsored publications are not completely surprising as some persons having lost at the trial in 2014, at the Court of Appeal in 2018 and unsuccessfully attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court in 2019 and maybe seeing the futility of their further attempt at the Supreme Court, may have become constrained to resort to media trial.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

26th July ,2021

REJOINDER:     THE LARGEST BANK ROBBERY IN HISTORY – ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN NIGERIA (THE ALVIN REPORT)

INTRODUCTION

The attention of our Company – Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd (Petro Union) – has been drawn to a publication captioned “THE LARGEST BANK ROBBERY IN HISTORY – ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN NIGERIA” credited to one Tope Fasua published on 13th July, 2021 in an obscure online platform – The Alvin Report. The Company hereby denies the assertions in the said publication as being incorrect and misconceived.

Our initial reaction was to ignore the said publication as one of those possibly sponsored media and psychological tactics but on a further thought, we deemed it important to react and set the records straight for the umpteenth time at least for the benefit of unsuspecting members of the public who were deliberately targeted to be misled by the said publication. Such sponsored publications are not completely surprising as some persons having lost at the trial in 2014, at the Court of Appeal in 2018 and unsuccessfully attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court in 2019 and maybe seeing the futility of their further attempt at the Supreme Court, may have become constrained to resort to media trial.

BACKGROUND

The Federal High Court delivered Judgment in favour of our Company in suit no. FHC/ABJ/M/104/2012 since 11th March, 2014 which Judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeal on 5th June, 2018 in appeal no. CA/A/258/2014. This Judgment was arrived at based on cogent, compelling and credible evidence adduced by Petro Union. Union Bank was represented at the Court of Appeal by a team of senior lawyers led by Tayo Oyetibo, SAN while CBN was represented by a team led by D. D. Dodo, SAN.

The concurrent subsisting findings of both courts is that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Union Bank PLC are in custody of our Company’s foreign capital in the sum of 2, 556, 000,000 GBP (Two Billion, Five Hundred and Fifty-Six Million Pounds Sterling). As at the time of the Judgment in 2014, the Naira was much stronger and had more value than it does presently and the Judgment sum would not have translated to billions of Naira now that our currency is weak only if the Judgment Debtors promptly complied with the Judgment and honoured their obligation without allowing post-judgment interest to accrue.  

The initial attempt by Union Bank to challenge the Judgment of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court was unsuccessful as the apex Court in its decision of 16th December, 2019 dismissed Union Bank’s application and held that their appeal was incompetent. At this stage, Union Bank’s legal team was led by Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN. Still unwavering, Union Bank subsequently filed yet another application for leave to appeal, through its legal team led this time by Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, which application is currently pending before the Supreme Court. Possibly realizing the futility of a further attempt at challenging the decisions at the Supreme Court, it appears that some persons have resorted to media trial over the matter by sponsoring fallacious and malicious publications, like the Alvin Report publication of 13th July 2021, to whip up public sentiments.

ISSUES RAISED IN THE SPONSORED PUBLICATION ARE AFTER-THOUGHTS, FALSE, NON-EXISTENT, IMPROBABLE AND/OR IRRELEVANT AND WERE NEVER RAISED AT THE TRIAL

Worthy of note is that all the non-existent and/or irrelevant issues/posers raised in the Alvin Report publication were never raised as a defense or even put forward as mere points to dissuade the court at the trial by CBN or Union Bank who both actively participated in the proceedings which culminated into the Federal High Court subsisting Judgment of 11th March, 2014 in favour of Petro Union. This is simply because they are mere afterthoughts. As it is common knowledge, CBN is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament and it is vested with a number of functions, objectives and mandates which include the supervision of commercial banks, like Union Bank, and other banking operations.

Undoubtedly, the CBN with all its statutory powers would have had no difficulty in tracing and obtaining evidence on all the false and misconceived issues raised in the said Alvin Report publication. Because these issues are non-starters and fabricated, they were not raised at the trial which had CBN and Union Bank as Parties.  As stated earlier, both banks were represented by Counsel of their choice, at the trial, who never raised any of these issues which they now claim happened and/or existed as far back as in the 80’s and 90’s. This makes their later day after-thoughts more improbable and incredible.

Put differently, at the trial in suit no. FHC/ABJ/M/104/2012 which commenced in 2012, neither CBN nor Union Bank (who were both Respondents and represented by Counsel), who reasonably ought to have known with due diligence if true, contended and/or raised any of the misconceived issues raised in the Alvin Report publication credited to one attention-seeking Tope Fasua.

MISCONCEIVED COMPARISM AND/OR CATEGORIZATION OF THE JUDGMENTS IN FAVOUR OF PETRO UNION AS BANK HEIST/SCAM

We have also noted with dismay the author’s unfortunate and baseless comparism of the subsisting Judgment (arising from the Company’s foreign capital) in favour of Petro Union with unrelated bank robberies/thefts that have no connection whatsoever. The author, without basis, probably basking in the euphoria of the benefits from his enablers, alludes that the Barclays bank cheque in favour of Petro Union was an attempted bank heist. What a myopic and uninformed position to take? Although the publication is full of the author’s mere opinion, it is clear that the opinions expressed therein are baseless and actuated by ulterior motives although it may have been intended to be ‘ingenious’ as at the time of putting up the misguided publication. No court anywhere in the world has found and/or convicted Petro Union for fraud or misconduct of any kind.

CLEAR SHOW OF DESPERATION

In further demonstration of the desperation and ulterior motives exhibited in the publication, it was falsely alleged that Petro Union in their last statement are now saying that if Union Bank and CBN could ‘apologize’ for what happened they will be okay and probably walk away. This must be a fiction of the author’s imagination.

It is obvious that the author needs to be tutored on certain basics. For instance, in the sponsored publication, he states thus – I have always had issues with some decisions that judges take… Mr. Tope needs to be reminded that we live in a country governed by rules and regulations and as a supposed accountant who has lived in London, he ought to know that the unqualified obligation of all is to obey decisions of Court and any dissatisfaction against that decision has to be by way of an appeal in line with the law. The unfortunate publication goes as far as accusing Judges of being infamous with the ability to send the innocent to the gallows and free dangerous menaces to the society, for the love of money. This attitude and sheer desperation exhibited in the publication is really worrisome, condemnable and ought to be investigated. It does not lie in the mouth of the author to castigate the Judges and/or the subsisting Judgment of the Federal High Court in favour of Petro Union which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal and undisturbed by the Supreme Court.

CONCLUSION

We hereby urge the general public to disregard and discountenance the said publication and other similar publications as being fallacious, malicious and self-serving. They say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and we are indeed hopeful that justice will prevail at last in this matter and the Company will have access to its wrongfully seized foreign capital for its legitimate business.

DATED THIS 26TH DAY OF JULY, 2021

Prince Kingsley Okpala
(Managing Director)
FOR: Petro-Union Oil and Gas Oil Ltd

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GADZAMA VISITS NBA PH, MAIDUGURI, MOURNS RELATIVE

Bar Leaders and young lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Port Harcourt and Maiduguri branches regaled Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN during his visit to the branches.

The visit t to Port Harcourt held at Bougainville Hotel, Abacha Road, Port Harcourt. In attendance were the Head of Civil Service in Rivers State, Mr. R. N. Godwins; Audu Mela Nunghe, SAN; Former Chairman of NBA Port Harcourt Branch, Mr. Emeka Ichoku; Fmr. Secretary of the branch, Mrs. Cordelia Eke; Mr. Kingsley Nyesom Chinda; Fmr. Chairman of NBA Okrika branch, Mr. Golden O. Tamuno; A. F. Dalton; Maureen Samuel, Obinna N. Victor; James A. James and Randolph Boma Fiberesima amongst others.

It was gathered that it was indeed a beautiful evening where the attendees relaxed and had general discussions about the progress of the bar. The attendees showered praises on the Learned Silk who has proven to be a model for all to follow.

In another development, Gadzama last Monday paid a surprise visit to the leadership of NBA Maiduguri at the NBA Bar Center, Maiduguri, Borno State.

Gadzama who visited his home State for a condolence visit to the family of a close relative, Late Mr. Buba Wathanafa Gadzama, deemed it fit to visit and encourage the members of the branch.

At the bar center, he was warmly received by the Chairman NBA Maiduguri branch, Abba Mallam Umate; the Secretary, Mohammed Usman Alibe; some executives and members of the branch. He encouraged them to remain focused and united. He urged them to assist the younger members of the bar at all times and however possible.

The Chairman appreciated the Learned Silk for coming back home. He stated that the Learned Silk is indeed a trailblazer and an inspiration for all and that the branch is proud of him. He mentioned the noteworthy fact that the Learned Silk had started his legal practice and took Silk in Borno as the first Silk from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State and the North-Eastern Region of Nigeria. More so, that one of the offices at the bar center was named after the said learned silk for his laudable accomplishments in the profession of law.

He commended the Learned Silk for keeping his legacy alive in Borno by maintaining a functional office in the State.

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GLITZ, GLAMOUR AND NAIRA RAIN, AS NGIGE TURNS 60

The Chairman of Council of Legal Education (CLE), Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN recently celebrated his 60th birthday anniversary. Organised by his Committee of Friends led by Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN, he used the occasion to launch his pet project, the “Nigerian Law School Support Initiative” aimed to revamp the decaying infrastructure at the Nigerian Law School. The event turned out a naira rain for the initiative, even as Ngige encouraged more donors to commit to the project by paying into the “Council of Legal Education” account on REMITA platform.

CITY LAWYER recalls that among those who felicitated with Ngige, fondly called IKEMBA n’ALOR, were President Muhammadu Buhari; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim T. Muhammad; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN and many of Ngige’s classmates and alumni associations.

The colourful ceremony which was heralded by a Thanksgiving Mass at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Yaba was witnessed by the cream of Nigeria’s political class and Bar and Bench. Below are some of the faces at the events.

 

E-RESULTS: ‘LAW MAKERS AS LAW BREAKERS,’ BY UBANI

In this article, DR. MONDAY UBANI, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) reviews ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act and accuses the lawmakers of “legislative rascality”

The furore in the national assembly over the recent amendment of the electoral bill has not escaped the attention of millions of Nigerians who have been following the said exercise with religious interest.

The process of recruitment of leadership in Nigeria has been a big problem with the country having a fair share of mis-governance as unintended consequence flowing from unfair electoral process over the years. You cannot plant maize and reap mango says an African proverb.

The affliction of bad leadership stems from defective electoral process that is devoid of any iota of fairness. We are beset with electoral manipulations, ballot snatching, result-falsifications and all manner of electoral frauds from desperate politicians and their thugs who pervert the process to ascend to power.

The consequence is that those who emerge and occupy political positions in Nigeria do so fraudulently without any mandate fairly donated by the people, thereby breaching the fundamental term of the famed social contract theory propounded by early philosophers that led to formation of modern society.

For us as a nation, life just like in the beginning, has remained short, nasty and brutish despite being on the historical side of modernity. Is any one in doubt in Nigeria that our leadership has deliberately kept the country retarded, visionless and crisis-ridden since independence? Why, you may ask.

The answer is not far-fetched, you cannot give what you do not have. Leaders who know nothing about governance and the attendant responsibilities attached to it, unfortunately find themselves in corridors of power and have not failed to dish out mediocrity as their valuable asset.

All critical infrastructures are in total decay while our Institutional services are non-existent.

While pursuing my first degree in University of Nigeria, Nsukka I saw British, Americans and some African brothers in my respected Alma Mata either for their first degrees or pursuing their post graduate studies.
As at today, you will not see any of our African brothers or sisters in our universities let alone other students from other continents. Again the reasons are not far-fetched and does not require any elaboration.

The truth remains that we have had enough share of misgovernance, lack of development or progress due to inept leadership and the recruitment process is clearly implicated.

Stakeholders and patriots have diagnosed Nigeria’s sad historical trajectory and agreed amongst other solutions that we need to holistically tinker with our electoral legal framework which needs realignment with modern realities and international best practices.

One of these desired broad electoral reforms involves the deployment of technology in our electoral process.

It is shameful that Nigeria with her size, resources and sophistication are even starting late on this, because other nations smaller in size, resource, sophistication have deployed this system years ago and here we are in the year 2021 debating whether we should deploy technology in the transmission of our electoral results.

I feel humiliated by such scenario playing out in the hallowed Chambers of our National Assembly. Who does that, if I may ask.

The macabre dance over this started in the National Assembly with confirmed allegation that the Bill which passed third reading under the chairmanship of Senator Kabiru Gaya of INEC Committee has been altered to block electronic transfer of election results.

The Senate President called Nigerians every printable names for daring to challenge the alleged alterations. They had to restore the electronic transfer clause, and I am sure, it was done grudgingly.

During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, their treachery could not be hidden any longer as one Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Deputy Senate Whip proposed that the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the National Assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results.

This was promptly countered by Albert Bassey, Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East who insisted that the initial proposal which provides in Section 50(3) that:

“The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” should stay.

After division of the whole house in plenary, the result was 52 in favour of subjecting INEC to undue interference in the performance of their mandatory duty of organising elections in Nigerian by Nigerian Communication Communication and the National Assembly contrary to the express provision of the constitution, while 28 Senators voted for the retention of the original clause that gives INEC discretionary power in carrying out its constitutional responsibility in transmission of results.

The situation in the House of Representatives was not different but more dramatic as the man who presided over the plenary did not hide his disdain to observance of the very rules that guide proceedings in the House. The Deputy Speaker, Hon Ahmed Wase to say the least is a big minus to democracy who does not believe in adherence to rules and procedures of the House. He and his majority leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa are in the world of their own. By their attitude they own Nigeria, House of Representatives and everything in it, to say the least.

WHY THIS AMENDMENT SHOULD NOT SEE THE LIGHT OF THE DAY.
What the National Assembly members did by passing a bill that clearly violates the constitution they swore to uphold is the biggest embarrassment of the century. It is more shocking and depressing to see those who claim to be lawyers amongst them running around all over the place to defend the absurd illegality. Who did this to us as a nation?
How did we get here, many are asking.

A cursory look at the provisions of the constitution will give each observer a clearer view of the sordid absurdity in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on the 16th of July, 2021.

Section 78 of the 1999 constitution as Amended provides:-
“The registration of voters AND CONDUCT of elections shall be subject to the DIRECTION AND SUPERVISION OF INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISION,(INEC).

The same constitution in the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15 provides that: “INEC has power TO ORGANIZE, UNDERTAKE, AND SUPERVISE ALL ELECTIONS”. The constitution further provides that in carrying out the aforementioned responsibilities, “INEC operations SHALL not be SUBJECT TO THE DIRECTION OF ANYBODY OR AUTHORITY”.

The question then, is the so called affirmation of network coverage and its security by NCC and approval of the National Assembly(a party to an election) not an undue interference to INEC’s power to transmit the result of an election which falls squarely under their constitutional power?
How did the members of the National Assembly see their role in approving the issue of network coverage as proper under our constitutional democracy when the role assigned by the constitution to them is LEGISLATION and not EXECUTION of the laws they enact?

I shudder to think that our legislators who are law makers have turned themselves into law breakers.

Prior to now, INEC without any legislative backing have successfully conducted elections with card readers and have transmitted results electronically in several constituencies in Nigeria without any of these “alarmist drawbacks” being trumpeted by these backward-thinking legislators that voted for that provocative amendment. Why are these set of legislators in the 9th Assembly trying to set the hand of our clock backwards? What have come over them?

Nigerians insist and I join them in insisting that INEC be given a fair and less restrictive legal framework to carry out their constitutional duties of organising, undertaking and supervising elections in Nigeria.

The present manipulative treachery to keep us stranded as a nation in our electoral improvements will be resisted with our last strength and we have the final hope placed on the third arm of the government( the judiciary) should these set of legislators persist in their doomed journey of interfering on our progressive electoral journey as a nation.

Nigeria has two years to ensure 100 per cent network coverage in the whole country, after all, the Nation is alleged to have voted over 4 billion naira recently to monitor Nigerians on social media platforms. I see no reason why we cannot vote more billions of naira for development of our key telecommunication infrastructure that will restore our dignity as the biggest country in African continent. #SayNoToLegislativeRascality.

Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani,
Chairman, NBA-Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL).

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. 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.

ABUJA BASED SENIOR ADVOCATE DIES

An Abuja based senior lawyer, Mr. Johnnie Egwuonwu SAN is dead. Announcing his passing, factional Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abuja Branch, Mr. Ikemefuna Onyeka said: “NBA Abuja Branch regrets to announce the demise of her esteemed member J. N. Egwuonwu, SAN who passed on Friday 16th July, 2021 after a brief illness.

“It is our prayer that God will grant him eternal rest; give his immediate family, associates and NBA in general the fortitude to bear this great loss.

“Burial arrangement will be communicated to us as soon as the family announces.”

Among the early mourners were leading arbitrator and Bar Leader, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN who wrote on a social media platform saying: “What a sad piece of news. What a sad day. The learned silk has gone back home. Johnny Egwuonwu SAN worked with us as our Head of Chambers and took silk afterwards. He was a complete gentleman and Bar Leader per excellence. We shall sorely miss him. May his gentle soul rest in the bosom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ until we meet at His feet to part no more. Amen.”

In a terse post on a WhatsApp forum monitored by CITY LAWYER, Mr. Kunle Ogunba SAN wrote: “May his beautiful soul rest in Perfect Peace, AMEN!”

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. 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.

N1.4BN FRAUD CHARGE: COURTS ACQUITS USORO

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has discharged and acquitted the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro SAN.

Usoro had been standing trial on 10 counts of fraud and money laundering made against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence and made a no-case submission, insisting that the anti-graft agency had made no case against him to warrant him to enter a defence.

In his decision on the no-case submission today, trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Usoro.

Justice Aikawa noted that the penal code, under which the former NBA President was charged, is not applicable to the southern states of Lagos and Akwa Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.

“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case. Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Justice Aikawa held.

The EFCC had arraigned Usoro on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan on 10 counts, all of which he pleaded not guilty to.

He was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on charges which alleged that he committed the offence on May 14, 2016.

He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which the court says he ought to have known was part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity

In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer Abdulrahman Arabo, said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Usoro vigorously denied the allegations. On February 25, the former NBA President had filed a no case submission where his counsel, Effiong O. Effiong SAN submitted that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because, according to him, it knew it didn’t have any case against the defendants. He asked the court to allow the no-case submission.

But the EFCC opposed his application and asked the court to dismiss the no-case submission, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence. It also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. 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.

ODINKALU APPOINTED PROFESSOR BY TOP US VARSITY

Vocal human rights activist, Professor Chidi Odinkalu has been appointed a ‘Professor of Practice’ by one of America’s elite universities, Tufts University.

In a press release dated July 14, 2021 the leading university stated that Odinkalu, a former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), “will join Fletcher’s multi-disciplinary faculty focused on preparing tomorrow’s leaders to use the latest legal, political, economic, and business thinking to generate policies and inform decisions that shape global events.”

According to Kelly Sims Gallagher, Academic Dean at The Fletcher School, “Chidi Odinkalu is a renowned human rights activist with a distinguished record of public service who has spent more than three decades working at the front line of human rights law and research, development advocacy, international institutional law and governmental policy.”

The statement added that Odinkalu’s “profound contributions to the advancement of human rights intersect with Fletcher’s mission and core values,” adding that “We are delighted to welcome him to the Fletcher community.”

Tufts University is reputed as a leader in American higher education, distinctive for its success as a moderately sized university that excels at research and providing students with a personal experience. According to the university “Our unique combination of research and liberal arts attracts students, faculty and staff who thrive in our environment of curiosity, creativity and engagement.”

Below is the full text of the press release.

Human Rights Activist Chidi Odinkalu joins The Fletcher School
July 14, 2021

The Fletcher School is pleased to announce the appointment of international human rights law expert Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, PhD to a Professor of Practice faculty position for a three-year term beginning in the Fall of 2021.

He will join Fletcher’s multi-disciplinary faculty focused on preparing tomorrow’s leaders to use the latest legal, political, economic, and business thinking to generate policies and inform decisions that shape global events.

“Chidi Odinkalu is a renowned human rights activist with a distinguished record of public service who has spent more than three decades working at the front line of human rights law and research, development advocacy, international institutional law and governmental policy,” remarked Kelly Sims Gallagher, Academic Dean at The Fletcher School.

“His profound contributions to the advancement of human rights intersect with Fletcher’s mission and core values,” she added. “We are delighted to welcome him to the Fletcher community.”

Odinkalu’s background reflects an extensive record of research, publishing and teaching in the areas of human rights, development law and public policy throughout Africa, Europe and the US.

Most recently, he was part of a three-member team that mediated the readmission of The Gambia into the Commonwealth, where he litigated human rights before national and regional courts as well as in transnational contexts.

From 2011 to 2015, he chaired Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, the country’s lead institution for the protection of human rights and promotion of human rights policy. He also worked within human rights philanthropy.

For 10 years prior, he was involved in drafting the Protocol for the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights through to adoption by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 1998.

In 2004, he led the advocacy effort for its entry into force with the creation of the Coalition for the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. For more than three years, until 1993, Odinkalu was head of legal services for the Civil Liberties Organization in Lagos, where he was responsible for litigation, advocacy and constituent building strategies, as well as managing relationships with the military government and its institutions.

“I am honored to join the Fletcher community and look forward to working with Fletcher’s students, faculty and administration to apply intellectual and strategic innovation to the most pressing challenges in governance and international human rights law,” said Odinkalu.

A native of Nigeria born into internal displacement during the country’s civil war, he received his PhD in law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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‘WHY I SUPPORT CLAMOUR FOR RESTRUCTURING,’ BY GADZAMA

Leading lawyer, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has posited that though there is no consensus on the particular areas to be restructured within the Nigerian polity, “there seems to be a general agreement that the Nigeria structure of governance should be reviewed, and at its epicenter, the CFRN.”

Speaking last Monday at the 2021 Law of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, the foremost arbitrator stated that “a successful review of the CFRN to alter the governance structures and reflect true federalism coupled with religious implementation of the altered structures, will set the foundation for a Nigeria of our dreams; a Nigeria whose dream can be echoed with belief and hope from the rainforest of the South to the windy desert of the North by all Nigerians.”

The theme of the Law Week is “The Nigeria of our dreams.”

Below is the full text of Gadzama’s presentation.

THE NIGERIAN STATE AND THE CALL FOR RESTRUCTURING

Being the Full Text of a Presentation
By

Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN, FNIALS, FICMC, DiplCArb, FCIArb, FNICArb, C.Arb
(Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister/Life Bencher/Certified Mediator/Regulatory Consultant)
Bobajiro of Akure Kingdom.

ON THE OCCASION OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION IKEJA BRANCH LAW WEEK
HELD ON MONDAY, JULY 12, 2021

PROTOCOL

APPRECIATION
I thank the Organizers of this Law Week as well as the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja Branch (the Tiger Branch) for not only inviting me to attend but also to speak at this auspicious occasion. My topic is the Nigerian State and the call for restructuring which shall be discussed within the context of the theme – the Nigeria of our Dreams.

INTRODUCTION
There is a wide gap between dreaming and day-dreaming. Day-dreaming is a quick elusive delink from one’s immediate reality followed by a transition to quixotic ideals. The Freudian Theory posits that dreams are manifestations of one’s deepest desires and anxieties having the tendency to cause occurrence of creative thoughts to the dreamer or give a sense of inspiration . Hence whilst the former can be likened to a mere mirage of fantasies, the latter is a more deeply immersing series of thought processes in one’s sub-consciousness capable of spurring up creative ideas to translate this reality to manifestation. We cannot overstate; dreams are important as they encompass goals and more. Dreams give one’s life purpose, direction, and meaning. They shape life choices, help to build towards the future and create a sense of control and hope. The same can be applied to a nation. A country needs a dream, hopes and a purpose to move on.

I was almost born in Cameroon; in a Nigerian town called Mubi, situate at the Nigerian-Cameroonian border. I am therefore a proud but not an arrogant Nigerian. As a rising chap, I grew up with a curious mind nursed with knowledge from my immediate family and school. I began my primary education in Kainji in old Kwara State but now Niger State, I continued my elementary school at L.E.A. (Methodist) Primary School, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, (Formerly Market Road) Kaduna State, and L.E.A. (St. Michael-Anglican) Primary School, Sabon Gari, Kaduna State where I completed my primary education. Later on, I moved to Teachers’ College, Song, Adamawa State. Thereafter, I attended Borno College of Basic Studies (BOCOBS), Maiduguri now in Bama, and University of Maiduguri, Borno State, where I obtained my Bachelor of Laws degree after which I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos and obtained my Barrister at Law qualification to practise. Throughout all these formative years, as I journeyed through transitional experiences including and or hearing about the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), I harnessed different dreams for myself, my family and my country, Nigeria.

Like me, I know many fellow concerned Nigerians have earnest dreams for our great Nation. However, whether these dreams have found fruition or yielded manifest results remain a recurring rhetoric we must all ponder on. Rhetorically, have these dreams been achieved? Can we say for certain that we live in an ideal Nigeria? Or can we at least say that we are on the right course towards achieving the Nigeria of our dreams? Why are we not living the Nigerian dream? Indeed, who bells the cat for the current predicament of Nigeria? Do we blame the professionals, the technocrats, the scientists, the businessmen or the entrepreneurs? Your guess is as good as mine; certainly not! The questions are endless and the answers are not forthcoming.

The aphorism which says, “A fish rots from the head down” speaks volumes of truth on this subject. Although we may blame non-partisan and apathetic followership as having played a role in the quagmire, the overall and root cause of the problem is lack of quality, devoted and objective leadership born out of true democracy and patriotism. Sadly, leadership in our country has not been motivated by true federalism, fairness, equity, nationhood and good conscience. Rather, we have continued to experience a blatant scene of tribalism, nepotism, favoritism, unfair politicization of government policies, impunity, corruption and insecurity. Despite these setbacks impeding the materialization of our dreams for Nigeria, we must continue to dream.

The idea of developing and sustaining a national dream is to ensure that at every time in the nation’s existence, there are short-term, medium and long-term strategies set up to drive the nation towards living true to its strength and potentials for the benefit of its citizens. These laid down strategies will form the substratum of all the policies of its governments at all levels.

The idea of a national dream cannot be discussed without a reference to the famous “American Dream”. The American Dream which birthed the America we now celebrate, is the core American philosophy; that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their version of success in an egalitarian society. The American Dream is considered as a national ethos for the United States and embedded in it are the ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality which are expected to shape and guide every government in the United States at the Federal, State and County level. The anticipated outcome is that these ideals will provide the environment for everyone to access the opportunity for prosperity and success as well as upward social mobility, so long as they are ready to work hard no matter the barriers. According to James Truslow Adams the American Dream guarantees that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. This essentially forms the foundation of America’s constitutional democracy.

In the case of Nigeria, we can only refer faintly to the lofty dreams and hopes of our foremost nationalists who ensured the birth of Nigeria but not a national dream per se. The closest semblance to a national dream in Nigeria would be the Preamble of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) (CFRN), but that CFRN has often been adjudged to be document not emanating from Nigerians. Hence, the question; shouldn’t Nigeria at 60 years and more of independence be guided by a united purpose encapsulated in a national dream? Who knows, maybe the avenue provided by the NBA-Ikeja Branch during her law week will grow the momentum to have a workable and realizable Nigerian Dream.

THE CALL FOR RESTRUCTURING: A GUIDE TO THE NIGERIA OF OUR DREAMS

Given the opportunity as one of the speakers to speak at this auspicious occasion, permit me to be part of the people proffering workable solutions in line with the dictates of our callings to always provide solutions to legal issues as can be seen infra.

There is no doubt that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) (CFRN) makes bold statements as to the system of governance the Nigerian State is to practise. The system professed without a doubt is Federalism . Federalism connotes a system of governance built on the strengths of a nation’s federating units. However, the provisions of the CFRN make the practicability of federalism a herculean task or even an impossible feat. I firmly believe curing some of these provisions might just be the flame that spark-kindles and sets ablaze Nigeria’s prosperity to create a Nigeria we all love and enjoy living in. In the quest to realizing a Nigeria of our dream, the practicability of federalism I believe, is the linchpin.

The not so fulfilling provisions of the CFRN especially regarding the practice of federalism, now popularly described in Nigeria as “true federalism” has continued to generate agitations for the review and further review of the CFRN. Some even advocate for a complete repeal of the CFRN. This outcry has found the umbrella name of ‘restructuring’. Though there is no consensus on the particular issues to be restructured, there seems to be a general agreement that the Nigeria structure of governance should be reviewed, and at its epicenter, the CFRN.

I share this sentiment and honestly believe that a successful review of the CFRN to alter the governance structures and reflect true federalism coupled with religious implementation of the altered structures, will set the foundation for a Nigeria of our dreams; a Nigeria whose dream can be echoed with belief and hope from the rainforest of the South to the windy desert of the North by all Nigerians. To this end, below are some of the key areas I sincerely believe the CFRN should be amended to reflect the structure that can birth a Nigeria of our dreams:-

1. The Preamble of the CFRN

The preamble is often the first content any reader of a statute comes across. It sets the tone and shapes the mind of the reader on his/her expectation of all the provisions contained in the statute. The Preamble of the CFRN houses the mission and vision of the Constitution. As such, it plays a pivotal role in defining to the mind of everyone reading it and the aspirations of Nigeria as a country. Unfortunately, the Preamble to the CFRN rather than narrate the dreams of Nigerians for us as a nation, breaths an air that lends affinal to the military regime. Notwithstanding that the Preamble is merely cosmetic and that the CFRN was handed down by the military regime, I believe that having had some years of civil rule coupled with the consistent progress of altering the Constitution to suit the new reality, it is desirable to alter the Preamble to reflect the dreams of the Nigerian people.

2. Local Government Administration and Autonomy

The current structure for the administration of the local governments under the CFRN sits on the fence between the federal system – which the Constitution was intended to profess – and the unitary system of governance. At best, the local government system has remained an idea in search of relevance. The local government administration system still breaths an air of the centralization model introduced under military rule and thus, betraying the ideals of federalism which we profess to practise under the CFRN. The ultimate goal for the creation of the local government administration system under the CFRN was to bring the government closer to the people at the grassroots. It was also to accelerate development and enable the local population to participate and hold those in power accountable for their governance roles. Unfortunately, the current provisions for local government as the third tier of government under the CFRN have failed to establish a viable structure to attain the aforementioned goals.

Section 7 (1) of the CFRN provides that “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.” The constitution assumes that the law and framework regulating the local government administration would be made by the State Houses of Assembly. Hence, the constitutional legal framework does not see or recognize the local government as the third tier of government, but merely as an appendage of the state government where the states enjoy absolute discretion over the local governments’ operations. This does not reflect the ideals of federalism.

Furthermore, the introduction of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) provided for under Section 162(6) of the CFRN has thwarted in essence the financial structure of the local governments. This provision ensures that all finances of local governments are appropriated by the State at its pleasure. This is so despite the provisions of section 162(3) which captures a disbursement of the amount of credit in the Federation Account to the Federal, State and Local Governments respectively.

The above queries show how the provision of section 2(2) of the CFRN is undermined by provisions within the same Constitution. I believe that in making progress, the Local Government should be unambiguously established under the CFRN as an autonomous unit of government with its administrative structure and functions as in Chapter V, Parts I and II for the Federal and State Governments respectively. The above provision should override the pretence expressed in section 7 of the CFRN. Also, the SJLGA regime should be jettisoned from the CFRN and replaced by a new regime of fiscal federalism where Local Governments will access their funds directly and be accountable for all that is allotted to them.

3. Federal Structure and Power Devolution
It has been said that the centralized nature of powers of government under the Nigerian federal system is the major bulwark standing against equal and progressive development of states and local government areas. It also stands against the effective exploration of the resources in Nigeria for development purposes. I believe that the need to devolve some of the powers vested at the centre will also serve the interest of the government in providing Nigerians with the opportunity to succeed.

I believe that to have a viable federation with the effective exploration of resources for development and bring dividends of governance closer to the people, certain items must be moved from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. Furthermore, a list of items to be undertaken solely by the local government should be introduced by the Constitution to be called the ‘residual list’. This will mean that the general legislative limitation for the Local Government provided in Section 4(7)(a) of the CFRN should be deleted.

To be more specific, I propose that items 28 on fingerprints, identification and criminal records and 46 on posts, telegraphs and telephones should be moved to the concurrent legislative list as well as the residual legislative list. Furthermore, items 33 on insurance, 43 on patents, trademarks, industrial designs & merchandise marks, 45 on policing & other security services, 48 on prisons, 54 on quarantine, 55 on railways, 58 on stamp duty and 39 on mines, minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological survey and natural gas, should be moved from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.

4. Nigerian Police and Nigerian Security ArchitectureSection 214 of the CFRN provides for the establishment of the Police Force for the federation. This section displays a system whereby the police is under the management and control of the Federal Government at the expense of the federating units – the State Government. However, this arrangement has so far not favoured the country. The Police have been faced with an avalanche of problems, these issues include the accountability of the Police Force, and the high surge of crimes in different states of the country. The inability of the Police under exclusive Federal control to curb them poses a huge flaw to the federal arrangement. I believe that when policing is closer to the society of its jurisdiction, it enables the police to easily detect and uproot crimes. Where there is a common language known and understood by the police, there would be a free flow of communication and understanding between the police and the people. I believe that the creation of State Police will provide appreciable solutions to the current security challenges and enhance the effectiveness of the police in ending criminality in the country.

Effective security is a pivotal component of the Nigeria of our dreams. I believe every Nigerian agrees with me on this point.
To this end, I will be proposing the moving of item 28 on fingerprints, identification and criminal records, item 45 on police and other government security services and item 48 on prisons from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list to allow states to fashion out their respective internal security architecture. This will enable genuine, beneficial and effective collaborations between police forces of each state to the other and the federal police. I believe this reform is long overdue. Each chief security officer of the state should appoint its head, or in the alternative, each state should be given the constitutional leeway to determine how such issues should be handled.

Nigeria must not only profess federalism but be seen to practise its tenets as well. I believe that our resolve to practise ‘true federalism’ will unlock our potentials and make this country a land where Nigeria of our dream can be realised.

5. Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation
In Nigeria today, the resources of the country belong to the federal government, and the fund to be generated is kept in the federation account and is shared monthly among the three tiers of government: the federal, state and local government. This is a misnomer. Federating units are supposed to tap their resources to generate revenue and pay an agreed percentage as tax to the centre or the federal government. This makes the states to be inferior and subservient to the centre. Many activists have been agitating for true federalism to enable the states to control their resources. As observed by Professor Ohwona, there is nothing like true federalism. Either it is Federalism or Unitary. Concentrating the wealth of the country at the centre is an outstanding feature of a Unitary Government. Why is it that some sections of Nigeria are agitating for fiscal federalism in a country that claims to be a federation? The principles of federalism should affect everything. For example, in the US, the federating units manage their resources and pay taxes to the central government. There has never been such agitation. Under the regional government in the first republic, Nigeria made remarkable progress with the three and later four regions using the resources at their disposal to make life meaningful for their citizens.

As highlighted earlier, fiscal federalism must not be a lip service by the CFRN. Revenue allocation must reflect the tenets of fiscal federalism. Every federating unit must understand what resources are within their grasp that can create wealth for them and be allowed to explore it subject to remitting taxes. Access to the exploration of natural resources must be open and decentralized as much as possible, if there is a desire to have a Nigeria we all can declare it as one of our dreams.

6. Residency and Indigene Debate
Indigeneship has become one of the most contested subjects in the country, given its implications for political and economic opportunities. In Nigeria, a person has to be ‘indigene’ to access certain economic and political opportunities at the federal as well as state and local government levels. However, what makes a person indigenous is not formally defined in the CFRN.

The CFRN recognizes indigeneship in some sections. Section 147(1,2 &3) in providing for the appointment of Minister of the Federal Government recognizes the principle of Federal Character under section 14(3). Similarly, section 171 (5) of the CFRN makes it mandatory that the President shall comply with the federal character principle in the appointment of other key public officers of the Government of the Federation including the ambassadors, high commissioners and permanent secretaries or heads of any extra-ministerial departments of the government of the federation.

Despite the indigeneship principle, political and economic imbalances still exist amongst the various states or ethnic groups that make up Nigeria and this is as a result of its implementation. The inclusion of the federal character principle in Chapter II Constitution which is ordinarily non-justiciable hinders its smooth implementation and enforcement because it deprives citizens of the locus to approach the court to enforce the principle of federal character. This incites the Government to disregard the principle of federal character in the composition of the Government of the Federation and its agencies.

To flourish as a nation, Nigeria must decide whether to stick with the federal character provisions of the CFRN or jettison the idea completely. If the practice is maintained, then failure to adhere to it must be made justiciable with monumental consequences, otherwise, the provision should be done away with.

Let us have a Christian from Calabar who grew up in Sokoto and govern the State as a Nigerian, and likewise, a Kanuri Muslim who grew in Port Harcourt should enjoy the same privilege. This is by no means an easy path, but the path is a must if Nigeria desires the type of progress that makes it resonate as the dreams of its people. We can do this by providing for residency for a period of say five or ten years.

7. Irreconcilable Provisions in the Constitution
Section 315(5)(d) of the Constitution made the Land Use Act of 1978 a part of the Constitution. Section 2 of the Land Use Act provides thus:

2. (1) As from the commencement of this Act-
(a) all land in urban areas shall be under the control and management of the Governor of each State; and

(b) all other land shall, subject to this Act, be under the control and management of the Local Government within the area of jurisdiction of which the land is situated.

Despite this provision, section 44(3) of the Constitution provides that the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly. This is reinforced by Item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List. A true federal structure requires that Item 39 should be moved to the Concurrent List and section 44(3) amended.

Another irreconcilable difference – Items 27-29 in the Concurrent Legislative List. The Items give powers to the National and State Assemblies to establish institutions for the purpose of university, technological or professional education. Yet the Federal Government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to regulate admissions into tertiary institutions and the National Universities Commission to regulate these institutions. In consequence, we need to re-visit section 4(5) of the Constitution that provides that if any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. Why should the federal law prevail over matters in the Concurrent List where the State Assemblies can validly make laws? In other words, we should re-visit the ‘doctrine of covering the field’. This doctrine is inconsistent with the federal principle. States should be allowed to establish and regulate tertiary education in their States. States should be allowed to develop at their own pace.

CONCLUDING REMARKS
As I conclude, it is not lost on me that there has been many lofty written and spoken recommendations in the past, some have even gone ahead to develop a national dream for Nigeria, however, we as a nation seemed to have stepped on chameleon feaces, hence stagnant. No doubt, a dream is important so is the path to its realization. I believe that the growing awareness of this discussion in Nigeria is gradually bringing us to a point of unison, where we all can together re-design a Nigeria of our dreams.

As the process for alteration of the CFRN is ongoing, we must continue to speak to our elected representatives at the National Assembly to critically consider, for the sake of national cohesion, integration and prosperity of the country, various workable proposals already submitted in the course of public hearing recently conducted. The era of standing aloof watching our legislators to do as it pleased them is over, now it is time to get involved. Edmund Burke once emphasized thus,

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

I am here today, reiterating this statement and encouraging everyone of us to get involved. Do not be a spectator, onlooker or bystander, be an active participant so that this process will not be another jamboree but one that brings workable solutions at addressing some of the challenges facing us as a country – please ensure you count and you are counted. We must dust the files now.

Agitations on this discussion were the basis of the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference, the National Political Reform Conference convened by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and the National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. These conferences made laudable recommendations that can come to aid in our attempt at re-designing the Nigeria of our dreams.

MY POETIC DREAM FOR NIGERIA
Before I take my seat, please permit to share my poetic dream for Nigeria with you:

I dream of a country that rewards hard work and excellence, irrespective of a person’s social status, cultural belief, faith, tongue, gender chauvinism and circumstances of birth;

I dream of a Nigeria with purposeful, visionary and exemplary leadership which extols national interests above individual and sectional interests;

I dream of a day Nigerians will have leaders that are unifying figures and who command moral authority;

I dream of a Nigeria with free, fair, transparent and credible national elections;

I dream of a Nigeria where humanity is our race, our language is one and indigenship is true to all citizens regardless of residency in any State. I dream of a Nigeria where unity binds all peoples both at home and in diaspora.

I dream of a Nigeria where a nobody can become somebody and a somebody is treated as equal with someone regarded as a nobody in the eyes of the law – where the rule of law is worshipped and the sacredness of justice is not corrupted. I dream of a Nigeria where equity, fairness, transparency and justice thrive above all intents and aspirations of persons.

I dream of a Nigeria inspiring the African continent and the black race to her pride of place in the world;

I dream of a Nigeria where the legal profession and the Bar play a pivotal role in nation-building since we are the primus inter pares.

I dream, I dream and I dream of a better Nigeria where everyone mutually co-exists and lives peacefully with a wide range opportunity to thrive and succeed in any lawful profession, trade or vocation anywhere he or she resides. I dream of a brighter future for our Children and children’s children. I pray that all Nigerians work to make these dreams come to pass in the not too distant future.

Thank you for your attention.

REFERENCES
1. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
2. Proposal for Further Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) by J-K Gadzama LLP, 2021.
3. Mark Abrahams, PhD, LMHC, National Board Certified Fellow in Clinical Hypnotherapy – https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-dreaming-and-day-dreaming
4. Sir James Porter’s publications on the Religion, Law, Government, and Manners of the Turks, 1768.
5. Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, 1931.
6. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, 1891.
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell, 1945.
8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, 1937.
9. https://www.britannica.com/topic/federalism

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MAKURDI ASSAULT: EFCC CHAIR SHUNS PARLEY, NBA MAY SUE

  • GBAGIR BRIEFS AKPATA

  • NBA MAY SUE EFCC

The Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has boycotted a meeting initiated by the commission to resolve the furore over alleged assault on Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir.

In an “update” on the assault made available to CITY LAWYER by Gbagir, he stated that though Benue State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State, Mr. Michael Gusa had contacted him to intimate him of a plan by the EFCC helmsman to meet him and the Attorney-General in Makurdi, Bawa never showed up for the meeting as scheduled. His words: “As at the time of going to press around 10pm of 8th July, 2021, I am not aware that the EFCC Chairman has come to Makurdi as hitherto promised.”

Indicating that he has briefed NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata on the development, Gbagir called on “all those who were willing to offer one form of support for this course in one way or the other that the time is now. We cannot move with EFCC at their own space (sic) and convenience.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that barring last-minute rapprochement, Gbagir may in collaboration with the NBA soon press charges against the EFCC operatives.

The full text of the update is below.

UPDATE ON THE ASSAULTS ON THE NBA CHAIRMAN, MAKURDI BRANCH JUSTIN GBAGIR, ESQ. BY THE OPERATIVES OF THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) ON THE 8TH JUNE, 2021
On the 8th June, 2021, I was brutally assaulted by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at their Zonal Office in Makurdi, Benue State. In the early hours of 9th June, 2021, I made a report to the President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata from my hospital bed at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi and made the said report available on some social media platforms.

The NBA President immediately reach out to the Chairman of EFCC who promised to send a special investigator from Abuja to Makurdi for an investigation with a further commitment to ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act are brought to book and adequately punished. While the President was awaiting the outcome of the investigation, EFCC through Wilson Uwujaren, Head, Media and Publicity issued a statement denying the assault on me and further alleged that I was the aggressor who “led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office of the EFCC in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC”. The statement further accused me of “resorting to social media blackmail, posing in hospital bed and concocting a fantastic story of an imaginary assault by the EFCC.” The statement also alleged that my action was “indecorous and unbecoming of the leader of the bar” and that I “demonstrated embarrassing insensitivity to the delicate security situation of the state, and should be remorseful for my misguided action and not spew untruths in pliable sections of the media.”

Sequel to the said press release by the spoke person of the EFCC, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Publicity Secretary of NBA issued a statement on behalf of the NBA President and the entire Bar wherein he stated the resolve of the Nigerian Bar Association to get to the root of the matter and ensure that the officers behind such brazen acts of inhumanity are brought to justice and that abhorrent acts do not reoccur.

The President of NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata in a letter to the Chairman of the EFCC dated 10th June, 2021 and made available to the media on the 15th June, 2021 raised sundry issues regarding harassment of lawyers and the general high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment which EFCC have exhibited, and continue to exhibit at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country. The said letter which was titled “Assault of Official(s) of the Nigerian Bar Association by the Operatives of the EFCC and Related Incidents of Unprofessionalism against Lawyers: Demand for Investigation, Immediate Action and Cessation” concluded that “while I look forward to an expeditious investigation of the unjust treatment of Mr. Gbagir and a general refocusing of the approach of the EFCC in its dealings with lawyers, please accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration”. At the time of going to press, the EFCC Chairman to the best of my knowledge has not responded to this letter.

Suffice to state that on the 11th June, 2021 the NBA Makurdi Branch also issued a press statement wherein they stated that “we take very serious exception to the denigration of the legal profession by the EFCC and further contend that, this is one attack too many by the commission on legal practitioners and we shall vehemently and strongly stem and resist their excesses using all civil and legal means at our disposal.” The statement concluded that “…this matter without doubt shall be followed to its rightful, proper and judicious conclusion. The maxim is Úbi jus, ubi remedium’, which means that ‘where law has established a right, there should be a corresponding remedy.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Internal Affairs at the headquarters of EFCC was in Makurdi on the 10th and 11th June, 2021 where he took my oral and written statement at the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice at the Ministry of Justice Headquarters, Makurdi. The Director of Internal Affairs who earlier in the interaction denied knowledge of the press release by the Head of Media and Publicity however, assured that after his report to the Chairman of EFCC, appropriate measures would be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.

At the end of the quarterly National Executive Committee meeting of the NBA which held in Abuja on the 24th June, 2021, NEC resolved amongst others that “NEC reviles the circumstances leading to the brutalization of the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 8th June, 2021.” NEC commended the efforts taken by the NBA President thus far, and further directed that the NBA President should take the opportunity of the unfortunate Makurdi incident to finally put an end to the epidemic of brutalization and harassment of legal practitioners by law enforcement agencies in the discharge of the lawyer’s professional duties.

Several other human rights organization also issued separate press statements in condemnation of the assault by the EFCC. One of such statement is from Legal Defence and Assistance Project, based in Lagos. They condemned the assault and urged “the EFCC to publish an apology to the victim, and demanded that the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) should prosecute the errant officers and further urged the EFCC to henceforth treat all lawyers with respect in all legal dealings with them”.

On the 30th June, 2021, the learned Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State, Mr Michael Gusa called to intimate me that the Director of Internal Affairs at the EFCC headquarters called him and indicated that the Chairman of the EFCC would like to meet with me and him this week, and Thursday, 8th June, 2021 was tentatively scheduled for the meeting. On Tuesday, 6th July, when I sought to know from the Attorney-General when specifically we were meeting with the EFCC Chairman, he promised to revert back to me after further consultation with the Director of Internal Affairs. The Attorney-General later in the evening of Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 called to intimate me that the Director of Internal Affairs told him that the Chairman of the EFCC preferred to visit Benue State to meet with us on the 8th July, 2021 instead of us going to Abuja. As at the time of going to press around 10pm of 8th July, 2021, I am not aware that the EFCC Chairman has come to Makurdi as hitherto promised.

Meanwhile, after my discharge from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital on the 9th June, 2021, I was booked to attend a check-up on the 5th July, 2021. As a result of the challenges I was having to see with my left eye and challenges to hear with my left ear, I decided to attend the Nigerian Air force Base Hospital, Makurdi also to seek further medical attention. On the 5th of July, 2021, I attended the BSUTH Makurdi as was requested to do and was examined but requested to come back for further check up on the 26th July, 2021. I am still having challenges with my left eye and left ear.

This evening, I sought leave from the NBA President to issue this press statement to provide an update and to mark one month Anniversary of the assault and brutalization by operatives of the EFCC, and Mr President graciously granted me leave.

I wish to use this opportunity to appreciate the NBA President and all members of the Bar and the general public for standing with me on this issue. The President has assured me and I am confident that this fight is not mine but that of the entire Bar. I am not the victim, it is the entire Bar that is the victim. Members of the Bar have demonstrated that an injury for one is actually an injury to all.

In the circumstances of the foregoing, I wish to request all those who were willing to offer one form of support for this course in one way or the other that the time is now. We cannot move with EFCC at their own space and convenience. In any case, they have serially exhibited conduct that they cannot be trusted. If after the assault, they have the audacity to deny and attempt to change the narrative to favour them, they are capable of doing anything.

In further consultation with the NBA President, we shall be coming up with our next line of action without further delay.

Thank you all and God bless.
Justin Gbagir, Esq.
Chairman, NBA Makurdi Branch

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UWANNA, EKPIKEN SET TO WIN NBA LAGOS POLL

  • APATA HAS CALLED TO CONGRATULATE ME

Barring any last-minute upset, there are strong indications that leading corporate lawyer, Mr. Ikechukwu Uwanna will clinch today’s election for the chairmanship of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch. He may have polled over 500 votes as against his closest rival who polled 100 plus votes.

Uwanna told CITY LAWYER that “(Anthony) Atata has called me to congratulate me.”

Also, Ms. Nta Ekpiken, largely viewed as the ‘new kid on the block,’ is coasting home as the new branch Secretary, going by feelers from impeccable sources.

Meanwhile, the election is being conducted on the Vote-Now.com LLC voting portal, confirming CITY LAWYER’s report that the firm would be contracted by the Electoral Committee as its ICT Partner.

There are strong indications that Mr. Anthony Atata will take the second position for the chairmanship race while Mr. Seth Amaefule may bring up the rear. For the position of secretary, Mr. Shola Abiloye will take the second slot while Mr. James Sonde may place a distant third.

The poll took off smoothly today at 8 o’clock and is scheduled to end by 6 pm. Many branch members who voted early said the exercise was seamless, and hoped it would be devoid of rigging.

A key stakeholder who spoke to CITY LAWYER said both Uwanna and Ekpiken may have clinched the posts due to the gap between the candidates.

When CITY LAWYER spoke with Amaefule at around 5 pm today, he said: “I have been in court all day. I got a Hearing Notice for a Ruling late last night. I just received a call from someone saying, ‘Congratulations for a good outing.’ I am not in touch with my agent, as the agents are not allowed to go into the Situation Room with their phones.’

The Electoral Committee had set up a voting centre at the MUSON CENTRE, Lagos for eligible voters who may experience connectivity and other challenges during the exercise.