The embattled Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) has won a unanimous confidence vote from its members over the ban on its activities by NBA President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN.

SPIDEL members passed a unanimous vote of confidence on the Executive Committee at a virtual Extra-ordinary General Meeting (EGM) last weekend following a motion by fiery human rights activist, Mr. Inibehe Effiong.

CITY LAWYER recalls that Maikyau had in a searing letter to SPIDEL Chairman and former NBA 1st Vice President, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins, stated that the SPIDEL leadership was “undermining” his authority through its activities.

The NBA President directed SPIDEL to pause all its ongoing activities, saying: “I further direct that you suspend all actions presently being undertaken by SPIDEL, particularly the matters stated above, until the scheduled meeting and further directives as may be approved by the National Executive Council. Also, henceforth, you shall not undertake any engagement with any third party without prior consultation and permission from me as President with the approval of the National Executive Council of the NBA.”

But SPIDEL members thumped down the directive, arguing that Maikyau lacked the power to stall SPIDEL activities.

Moving the motion, Effiong argued that Maikyau was attempting to usurp the powers of the NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC). He stated that the NBA President “is not defending public interest,” adding that instead of condemning invasion of the Federal High Court by Directorate of State Services (DSS) operatives during the arraignment of former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, “he strangely labeled it as two fighting.

“The Bar under his leadership has lost its voice. Now he also wants SPIDEL to lose its voice. How many cases has he filed to defend public interest? We must not allow the NBA President to scandalize the public interest efforts of SPIDEL.”

Seconding the motion, former NBA Obollo-Afor Chairman, Dr. Gerald Abonyi said that “I would have told YC Maikyau to his face that SPIDEL’s gains are his gains,” adding that SPIDEL is only accountable to NBA-NEC.

On his part, Mr. George Nwabunike urged the SPIDEL leadership to “be specific in telling Maikyau that he does not have the power to suspend SPIDEL’s activities. He is protecting his friends in government. We must not allow that.”

While some members feared that Maikyau may teleguide NBA-NEC meeting to cement his clampdown on SPIDEL, urging the leadership to sue the NBA President, others argued that the section cannot fight its parent body. They stated that while Maikyau must not be allowed to micro-manage SPIDEL, there is need to close ranks, as the crisis may be due to lack of proper understanding of the provisions of the NBA Constitution.

In the absence of any counter-motion, the members unanimously passed a confidence vote on the Executive Committee, as none of the nearly 70 members who attended the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting dissented. They also urged the Executive Committee to present a “robust” response to the letter by the NBA President to the section.

While SPIDEL has initiated a flurry of activities, one of the most recent was the lawsuit against broadcaster Kenny Ogungbe and Culture Minister Hannatu Musawa over NYSC Certificate, Maikyau had berated the leadership, saying that “your actions are clearly beyond the mandate of SPIDEL, and that you have proceeded.”

Arguing that he must approve all SPIDEL’s activities before they are undertaken, Maikyau wrote: “This morning, 31 January 2024, I was greeted with yet another social media post titled “NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION CHALLENGES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S VEHICLE OWNERSHIP LEVY”. Like the previous posts, I did not know about this and there was no approval for it, and those other actions being taken by SPIDEL.”

He hinted that SPIDEL’s activities “may not be bad in themselves,” but warned that “SPIDEL, as a section of the NBA, cannot continue along this trajectory, ignoring our Rules and Procedure of dealing with matters of this nature.”

Following a meeting between Maikyau and the SPIDEL leadership, it was resolved that the SPIDEL leadership should provide a comprehensive response to Maikyau concerns as contained in his letter, even as the legal community waits with bated breath for the NBA-NEC Meeting holding on February 28 in Jos where the fate of SPIDEL’s leadership may be decided.

NBA watchers have argued that given that NBA presidents have the capacity to railroad NEC meetings towards their desired outcomes, Maikyau should recuse himself when the SPIDEL matter is discussed.

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