The leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch has confirmed CITY LAWYER exclusive report that the immediate past branch administration is being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

CITY LAWYER had reported that the anti-graft agency had launched an unprecedented probe into the activities of the immediate past branch administration headed by senior lawyer, Mr. Yemi Akangbe.

Unimpeachable sources also told CITY LAWYER that three of the branch executives including the Branch Chairman, Mr. Ikechukwu Uwanna; Secretary, Ms. Nta Ekpiken and Treasurer, Mrs. Carol Obi had been grilled by EFCC operatives who demanded documentation on the previous regime’s activities following an anonymous petition against the administration.

Confirming the probe in a statement, Uwanna stated that the branch Executive Committee “is aware of an ongoing investigation by the EFCC regarding alleged procurement irregularities by the immediate past Branch Administration based on an anonymous petition.”

He also confirmed that the anti-graft agency had demanded documents relating to some transactions by the previous administration, saying: “Upon the EFCC’s request, we have made the records regarding all relevant procurement issues available to the EFCC.” He added that “We will continue to update members as events unfold.”

In a dramatic twist, the statement however described the CITY LAWYER report as “sensational,” adding that “the headline of the news report is misleading and casts aspersions on the image of the NBA Lagos Branch – an image that many have laboured so hard to build for over 60 years.”

A source within the Branch Executive Committee told CITY LAWYER that the grouse of the branch was that the report allegedly drew the current branch leadership into the debacle instead of singling out the immediate past regime as the administration on which EFCC’s searchlight is being beamed.

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The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch has debunked claims that it has a frosty relationship with the Lagos State Judiciary.

Reacting to a CITY LAWYER report on the matter, the Branch described the report as “false and misleading,” saying it “does not represent a true record of the deliberations at our last meeting, as falsely reported.”

In an online post to branch members titled “POINT OF INFORMATION!!!” and signed by the Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe, he stated that the branch has written to the Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba “in reaction to the said publication.”

Former Financial Secretary and Treasurer Emeritus of the branch, Mr. Phillip Njeteneh had while reacting to the CITY LAWYER report, said: “At the last Branch meeting the Exco, learned seniors & members generally expressed their frustration at the cold shoulders given the Branch by the Lagos CJ over the offer to help and overtures of the Premier Branch over the recent destruction of courts & court facilities.”

It is recalled that the Chief Judge had also debunked any frosty relations between the judiciary and the branch, saying that he has been unable to receive the branch leadership due to overarching schedules.

Below is the full text of the chairman’s statement:

Dear Seniors/ Respected Members,

I hope this note finds you well.

You must have read with concern, a recent publication of an alleged “FROSTY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OUR BRANCH AND THE LAGOS STATE JUDICIARY” authored by City Lawyer, a blog said to be published by Mr. Emeka Nwadioke who happens to be a member of our Branch. I believe everyone present at the last Meeting of the Branch will attest to the fact that the report was inaccurate and misleading.

It is important to mention that whilst non members are permitted by us, if considered appropriate, upon request, to attend our meetings, our Branch meetings are exclusive to our members and deliberations at our meetings are privileged. A measure of confidentiality should therefore be associated with the meetings. Further the duly adopted minutes of our meetings are the only recognized record of deliberations at our meetings. Press coverage of our meetings should only be at our instance and not otherwise. We ask that City Lawyer and all other bloggers should respect the privacy associated with our meetings.

For your information, please see below, a letter to the C.J, in reaction to the said publication.

January 20, 2021

The Hon. Justice K. O. Alogba
The Chief Judge of Lagos State,
Chief Jusge’s (sic) Chambers,
High Court Complex, Ikeja,
Lagos State.

My Lord,

We have read, with astonishment and amazement, the report of the allegedly ‘frosty relationship’ between the NBA Lagos Branch and the Bench in Lagos State, especially your good self.

We write to inform you that the report by “City Lawyer blog” is false and misleading and does not represent a true record of the deliberations at our last meeting, as falsely reported.

In reporting to the Branch on the progress of collaboration between the Branch and the Bench regarding the unfortunate incidents that occurred at the High Court complex in Igbosere, we made the point that we had made proposals to your office offering assistance and had requested a meeting, but had so far been unable to secure an appointment.

Further to the above, we find the report of the existence of a ‘frosty relationship’ between the NBA Lagos Branch and the Bench to be driven by a desire for sensationalism on the part of the authors.

We anticipate that the report may have caused unnecessary embarrassment and we consider this unfortunate and regrettable.

Do please accept the assurance of our highest regards and respect, as we continue to await an opportunity to meet with you.

Yours faithfully,
Yemi Akangbe
NBA, Lagos Chairman.

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There is palpable excitement among members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch as the first-ever branch elections via electronic voting climaxed with the election of leading corporate lawyer, Mr. Yemi Akangbe as the new branch Chairman. Akangbe, a partner at the law firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore, polled 440 (56.8%) of the 774 votes to beat his closest rival, Mr. Adebola Lema who garnered 311 votes or 40.2%. Bolatumi Animashaun came a distant third with 23 votes or 3%.

In the traditional show of sportsmanship that the branch has become accustomed to, some candidates have been calling to congratulate their opponents who won. The branch elections have often been rancour-free over the years.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that, LLC, the Jacksonville, USA based ICT Partner for the elections may receive about $2300 or N703,000 for their efforts. Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN, Chairman of the Election Committee told CITY LAWYER in an interview that “The service provider will be paid at the conclusion of the election, depending on the total number of voters registered. Their fees are estimated at about $2300 but we will have a final figure at the conclusion of the election.”

It has also been encomiums galore for the Akintunde-led committee which once again delivered rancour-free polls. Akintunde had during an interview with CITY LAWYER said: “I want to assure members of the NBA Lagos Branch, candidates, eligible voters and stakeholders that with their cooperation and support, the 2019 election by e-voting will be seamless. At the end of it all, we will all congratulate ourselves.” He has been involved in branch election management since 2009, three times as Secretary to the Election Committee. He is piloting the elections as Chairman for the second consecutive term.

Some members have taunted the national body, saying the NBA National Officers Elections should henceforth be conducted by the Akintunde-led committee. While Ngozi Onwuka said that “The voting process is so easy and stress free, unlike the national election,” Queeneth Hogan said: “I must say, the convenience of this process should be emulated by our National body. Very transparent process. Kudos to the Electoral Committee. Very well done.”

Another Bar Leader, Chukwuma Ezeala said: “May I use this opportunity to congratulate the Premier Bar for their commitment to excellence. I salute in particular our Chairman, Chukwuka Ikwuazom for visionary leadership, our Electoral Committee for their hard work. The contestants were great, our friend Lema and others with laudable projects who would not serve us now. To our Chairman Elect Yemi and other officers Elect congratulations and put on your seatbelts as you must surpass where our current Chairman has taken us to. The Premier Bar must lead and others follow. Finally I say bravo to our President, Paul Usoro SAN for his leadership at the National level and request him to recommend our system to other Branches to reduce the rancorous system in most Branches.”

Okey Ilofulunwa garnered 295 or 39.6 votes to become the Vice Chairman-elect, while Chuks Nwana polled 246 or 33.0 votes and Bode Omoboriowo brought the rear with 204 or 27.4% votes. Incumbent Publicity Secretary, Mr. Moshood Abiola polled 470 or 63.7% to clinch the coveted post of Secretary, beating Tochukwu Chukwumerije and Obinna Okereke who got 208 (28.2%) and 60 (8.1%) votes.

The post of Social Secretary went to Ngozi Egeonu with 406 or 54.7% votes while her opponent Adefowoke Ayo-Ponle polled 336 or 45.3% votes. Harry Ukaejiofor got 331 or 45.8% votes to beat his closest rival, Ben Ihesiulo who polled 245 or 33.9%. Dumgbara Torbari trailed the duo with 147 or 20.3% votes. Ifeoma Ben fought a hard battle to dust two of her rivals, polling 367 or 49.5%. Elo Adhekpukoli and Hammed Bakare got 260 or 35% and 115 or 15.5% votes respectively.

Other candidates whose nominations were not opposed were returned elected. These include Foluke Akinmoladun, Treasurer; Chinenye Oragwu, Financial Secretary; Anthonia Enitan Eke, Welfare Secretary; James Sonde, Publicity Secretary and Florence Chijioke-Duru, Provost.

Both Lema and Animashuan have congratulated Akangbe on his victory. Some other candidates have also congratulated their victorious opponents. In a whatsapp post barely an hour after close of polls, Lema wrote: “Good evening learned Seniors and Colleagues. Permit me to inform you that the result of the NBA, Lagos Branch 2019 Election has just been released by the Election Committee. The result showed Mr. Yemi Akangbe scored 440 votes as against Mr. Adebola Olarotimi LEMA who scored 311 votes. Mr. Yemi Akangbe has therefore been returned Chairman-elect of the Branch and l have called to congratulate him on his victory. I thank all members of our great Branch for your time, effort, energy, commitment and support. God bless NBA Lagos Branch. Adebola Olarotimi Lema.”

On her part, Animashaun wrote: “Congratulations to you, my brother, Yemi Akangbe! I wish you a successful tenure. Well done to our Electoral Committee for a job well done. Thank you all for your cooperation.”

A similar gesture was extended to Ilofulunwa when his opponent, Chuks Nwana wrote: “Well done to the electoral committee, it was a seamless process. To the winners Congratulations. Okey my brother special congratulations to you. It’s our Bar. Long live the Premier Branch.” On his part, defeated Assiatant Secretary candidate, Elo Adhekpukoli wrote: “I just called Ifeoma Ben to congratulate her.”

Members have commended the Election Committee for organizing a seamless and transparent exercise. Other members of the committee are HRM Chief E. A. Otokhina, Mrs. Sola Adegbonmire, Mr. Geff Eze and Mrs. Obosa Akpata, Secretary of the Committee.

At least one Bar Leader has commended the losing candidates for their show of sportsmanship. In a post seen by CITY LAWYER, former NBA presidential candidate and Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE), Chief Emeka Ngige SAN gave Lema a pat on the back, saying: “Well done, Lema! A gallant fighter and true sportsman! It is well!”

On his part, senior lawyer, Chief Adewale Adeniji said: “Congratulations, Yemi. I am sure you will reach out to your co-contestants, if you’ve not done so already. I wish you well in your task of following a class Act that Chairman Chukwuka has been.”

Members have also commended the foresight of the Chukwuka Ikwuazom-led Executive Committee in initiating the electronic voting system in the branch. Fiery Bar commentator, Gerty Ben-Iloegbunam wrote: “I’m most grateful to God for the Spirit that entered and controlled Chukwuka Ikwuazom to appoint this Electoral Committee headed by the Learned Silk! His uncommon integrity has brought joy and acceptance of the outcome of this just concluded election. I’m most grateful to Almighty God. Thanks once more to the outgoing Exco, while I sincerely pray and hope that the New Exco will surpass in their duty. Congratulations all.”

Senior Partner at Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), Victor Nwakasi added his voice to the encomiums when he said: “Chukwuka Ikwuazom! Character and strength are better proven. Thanks for being a great leader, truly proven by this process.”

Many branch members contend that Ikwuazom has raised the stakes in Bar governance, adding that the incoming regime has a tough task of taking the branch a notch higher.

Congratulating the winners on their victories, Ikwuazom wrote: “I congratulate Mr. Yemi Akangbe on his emergence as Chairman Elect of the great Premier Bar. I congratulate all the successful candidates in the election. To those who did not realize their ambitions in this election, I congratulate you as well for the good fight you all fought. To my dear brother Lema, I congratulate you for being such a good sport. You are a good man and an astute bar man. On behalf of the branch, I want to thank the Chairman and members of the Electoral Committee. I know the amount of work that you put in to give us a flawless election. God bless you all. We have demonstrated by this election that we are the Premier Bar and chart the course for other branches to follow. Long live the Premier Bar! Long live the NBA.”

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