PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION: Usoro, Obi Okafor Camps in Cat and Mouse Game

* Inauguration Venue Uncertain

* ‘We will not storm the venue’ – Okutepa

* Defendants May be Cited for Contempt of Court

There are strong indications that the camp of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN may have engaged in a hirewire cat-and-mouse game to forestall any last-ditch moves by defeated NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN to truncate the inauguration ceremony scheduled for today.

Though CITY LAWYER gathered from an impeccable source that the inauguration is scheduled to hold by 10 am at NBA HOUSE, key members of the Usoro camp yesterday posted notices on several online platforms indicating a change of venue for the ceremony.

A notice posted by a close confidant of the president-elect on one of the chatrooms reads:

Please kindly note that the venue for the Swearing-in of our President Paul Usoro, SAN tomorrow is ICC by 9am Prompt. Please give this notice the wide publication it deserves.

– Aguda’ Ememobong.”

However, when CITY LAWYER enquired from a top source who is familiar with the process, he seemed ignorant of any change of venue for the inauguration, stating that the event will hold at NBA HOUSE by 10 am.

It is recalled that Okafor had dragged NBA and Usoro among others to court, seeking an order of court compelling the Electoral Committee of the NBA to conduct a post-election audit before declaring the results of the elections.

In a letter to the outgoing NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, the Lead Counsel to Okafor, Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu SAN had notified him of the pending suit.

Mahmoud had however insisted that the inauguration ceremony would proceed as scheduled, even as he assured that the audit would be carried out.

ECNBA Chairman, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu had also told CITY LAWYER in an exclusive interview that the audit would be done, though he stated that it would not upturn the election results already declared by his committee. Okafor had filed his action immediately afterwards.

It was unclear at press time whether the purported change in view is a ploy to outwit the Okafor camp from frustrating the inauguration ceremony.

However, a ranking member of the legal team, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN told CITY LAWYER today that though the Mahmoud Administration ought to suspend the inauguration exercise, the legal team “will not storm” the inauguration venue.

His words: “If we as lawyers do not respect the rule of law and legal process then we have lost the moral and legal right to complain about violation of the rule of law by other persons.

“The outgoing president is aware of the pending suit and the reliefs sought, that post-election audit be ordered by the court and this post-election audit should be handled by independent experts which should be participatory.

“How can they ignore court processes and do swearing of Mr Paul Usoro SAN. There is 1stVP to lead the Bar pending the determination of the issues in court.

“As law-abiding citizens and lawyers, we in the Legal team will not storm the venue. That will amount to self-help. They are the ones ignoring the rule of law.

“We will wait for the court to decide. We will not storm the venue. We shall draw the attention of court to it.”