Details have emerged on the reasons given by the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) for disqualifying many aspirants for the forthcoming NBA Elections.

Among those who ECNBA hammer fell on are former NBA General Secretary Joyce Oduah; incumbent NBA Treasruer Caroline Anze-Bishop; former NBA Bwari Branch Chairman, Mohammed Tsav; fiery legal bogger, Felix Ashimole and returnee aspirants Ede Asenoguan, Sabastine Anyia and Chukwuemeka Mbamala among others.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that Oduah was disqualified on the basis that she is yet to serve out the 10-year bar between holding two national offices.

CITY LAWYER had predicted last November in its Special Report on the elections that this bar may be a clog on Oduah’s march towards NBA Presidency.

A close associate of the aspirant told CITY LAWYER that ECNBA also queried Oduah for attaching an “invoice” instead of a branch receipt, even as she was said to have explained that that was how NBA Lagos Branch receipt is depicted.

For Anze-Bishop, who CITY LAWYER also predicted may be hobbled by the “private legal practice” requirement for aspirants for the position of NBA General Secretary, the ECNBA stated that she stood disqualified “as your application and nomination failed to meet the constitutional requirements to contest for the position under the NBA Constitution 2015 (As Amended in 2021) herein after referred to as the Constitution.”

The electoral committee stated that the fiery National Officer failed to convince it during a hearing on a petition by one Musa Tijjani that she was in private legal practice, saying: “Your Annexure 1 is a letter from NSCDC which confirms you as a staff of NSCDC, but granted leave of absence for 4 years to serve the NBA and practice law as a private legal practitioner among other things. It however did not terminate your status as a public servant in the employment of the NSCDC who remain your primary employer and which employment relationship defines your primary status as a public servant”

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that some aspirants were caught by the saga of attaching “receipts” from digital payment platforms – especially FLUTTERWAVE which handled the 2024 Bar Practising Fee (BPF) payment – instead of the Supreme Court receipt. Returnee aspirants Mbamala and Anyia as well as Ashimole were caught in this web. Ashimole was also said to have paid his BPF for 2024 on 24th December, 2023.

ECNBA argued that they could not verify the payee as such “receipts” do not bear the name of the payee. Efforts by aspirants to persuade the electoral committee to access the NBA database for confirmation of payment or to argue that the parameters on the Flutterwave notices tallied with the Supreme Court receipts which they later provided were unsuccessful.

Another issue was the attaching of ‘Stamp and Seal’ receipt as against the BPF receipt by some aspirants. Aspirants who fell under this hammer include Oduah whose nominator was said to have attached a Stamp receipt for the third year instead of a BPF receipt. Also caught under this umbrella were Ede Asenoguan and Mohammed Tsav. 

Multiple aspirants told CITY LAWYER that their attempts to remedy the issue were rebuffed by the electoral committee which argued that it was not permitted to “take fresh evidence” at the screening stage.

Returnee aspirant Dhikrullah Adewale Balogun, who is gunning for one of the 20 slots at the General Council of the Bar (GCB), was among the four aspirants disqualified for that race. He had his nomination rejected on the ground that he and his nominator did not attach branch due receipts for 2022.

Many of the aspirants told CITY LAWYER that they or their nominators had processed NBA stamps based on the documents presented to ECNBA, adding that the database for BPF also resides with the NBA.

They wondered why mere attachment of the receipts should be an issue against whether the aspirant or his nominator actually paid the BPF or not, adding that the screening exercise was futile if aspirants could not remedy such irregularities.

All the aspirants told CITY LAWYER that they would appeal the ECNBA decisions. It remains to be seen how the National Officers’ Election Appeal Committee will deal with the impending petitions.

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