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.

INTERNET VOTING VIOLATES NBA CONSTITUTION, SAYS GADZAMA

  • SEEKS INCLUSION OF YOUNG LAWYERS IN STANDING COMMITTEES

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has warned that a reform of the association’s electoral process has become “urgent,” adding that the NBA Constitution does not envisage internet voting as currently used for past NBA elections.

In a memorandum to the NBA Constitution Review Committee, Gadzama argued that “It is my humble but firm personal view that the electronic voting envisaged in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Constitution is voting without the use of internet. Indeed, the universal suffrage stipulated by NBA Constitution is a welcome development and can be achieved transparently with strict adherence to electronic voting.”

According to the leading litigator and arbitrator, “Electronic voting will entail voting at all the branches of the NBA at their respective election centers and in the presence of the agents of the various candidates, through the use of dedicated computers or electronic voting machines for members to cast their votes. Upon casting of votes, there could be a paper backup to enhance the accountability, transparency and auditability of the election. Significantly, all these are not obtainable with internet voting. This electronic system has been adopted and used in the past by the NBA Abuja branch for its branch elections.”

Gadzama noted that current NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata “expressed initial concerns over the 2020 electoral process shortly before the election,” adding that “Mr. Dele Adesina, SAN who was a Presidential contestant at the said election rejected the outcome of the election which rejection almost tore the Bar apart but for the intervention of eminent members of our noble profession.”

Below is the full text of the memorandum.

MEMORANDUM TO THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) CONSTITUTION REVIEW COMMITTEE

BY

JOE-KYARI GADZAMA, OFR, MFR, SAN, FNIALS, FICMC, FCIArb, Chartered Arbitrator.
Chairman, Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers
Formerly: Pioneer Chairman, NBA – SPIDEL; Vice Chairman, NBA – SLP; Council Member, NBA – SBL & Chairman, NBA Abuja Branch.

1.0 INTRODUCTION:

1.1 This memorandum is in response to the call by the NBA Constitution Review Committee for submission of memoranda on further amendments to the provisions of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended). As a major stakeholder in the process, having contested the 2016 NBA National Officers’ election, this memorandum is my modest contribution to this genuine reform process. In the light of the foregoing; I hereby recommend some Constitutional amendments and other proposed reforms outlined hereunder for consideration by the Committee in line with your terms of reference.

2.0 YOUNG LAWYERS’ REPRESENTATION AT NEC:

2.1 It is my view that young lawyers ought to have constitutional representatives at the NEC meetings in order for them to feel a sense of responsibility and belonging in this noble profession and for them to realize that their interests are being protected. Section 7 (1) only provides for National Officers, All past Presidents and General secretaries, all chairmen and secretaries or registered branches, one other representative of each branch, chairmen and secretaries of sections and other deserving members of the Association which include Senior Advocates of Nigeria, senior members who are over 25 years post-call and special interest groups/active members who are over 10 years post-call.

2.2 It is my humble recommendation that the affairs of young lawyers can be statutorily represented at the NEC meetings by amendment of Section 7 (1) by the introduction of a new Section 7 (1) (f) to specifically list at least the Chairman of Young Lawyers’ Forum as statutory member of NEC. The current 7 (1) (f) can now be the new Section 7 (1) (g).

3.0 YOUNG LAWYERS’ MEMBERSHIPS AT STANDING COMMITTEES

3.1 By the interpretation of Section 12 (3) (b) under the membership of standing committees and Section 10 (10) of the third schedule of the Constitution, it states that the Chairman of each committee shall be a member of not less than 10 years post-call while the Secretary shall be a member of not less than 5 years post-call. There is no explicit involvement of young lawyers in the make-up and representation of the members in the standing committees.

3.2 It is my view that Young Lawyers can be statutorily represented in these committees by drafting them in various committees and thereby making sure that they are actively involved in the affairs of the NBA. Therefore there can be new Sections 12 (3) (c) & Section 10 (10) (c) of the third schedule of the Constitution which explicitly mention the involvement/representation of young lawyers from 0- 7 years post call in various standing committees. The current Sections 12 (3) (d) can now be 12 (3) (e) and Section 10 (10) (f) of the third schedule of the Constitution be changed to Section 10 (10) (g).

4.0 VOTING METHOD UNDER THE NBA CONSTITUTION:

4.1 It is my humble but firm personal view that the electronic voting envisaged in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Constitution is voting without the use of internet. Indeed, the universal suffrage stipulated by NBA Constitution is a welcome development and can be achieved transparently with strict adherence to electronic voting. This view is fortified by the express provision of section 9(4) of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution which states thus:

“Section 9(4) – Election into National Offices shall be by universal suffrage and electronic voting as set out in Second Schedule.”(Emphasis ours)
Paragraph 2.4(a) of the said Second Schedule of the NBA Constitution provides that;
“Voting at the election shall be by electronic means (E-voting).”(Emphasis mine)

4.2 The true intention of the Constitution, I humbly submit, for conduct of elections electronically without the use of the internet can further be discerned from paragraph 2.4 (c) of the second schedule which provides for verification of voters, place, time and platform to be utilized for electronic voting for each particular election year taking into consideration the state of available technology and information technology infrastructure of the branches in order to afford all registered voters the opportunity to vote.

4.3 Voting over the internet has proven to be non-transparent and problematic which has led to the challenge in Court of the outcome of the 2016 and 2018 NBA elections conducted using internet voting. The system of voting over the internet is highly susceptible to manipulations and experience has also shown that genuine cases of disenfranchisement of eligible voters keep recurring. Recall that the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, expressed initial concerns over the 2020 electoral process shortly before the election while Mr. Dele Adesina, SAN who was a Presidential contestant at the said election rejected the outcome of the election which rejection almost tore the Bar apart but for the intervention of eminent members of our noble profession. This dissatisfaction was a result of some of the inevitable challenges associated with internet voting.

4.4 As stated earlier, the electronic voting envisaged under the NBA Constitution is different from internet voting which was used to conduct the 2016, 2018 and 2020 NBA National Officers’ election as a result of the misinterpretation of the relevant sections. Internet by definition is a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols. Electronic, on the other hand, can be said to be a device having or operating with components such as microchips and transistors that control and direct electric currents.

4.5 It is clear that while internet voting requires the use of electronics, electronic voting does not require the use of internet. I-voting (which has been used over time by NBA at the National level) relies totally on the use of the internet, whereas E-voting, envisaged under the NBA Constitution, does not require the internet. E-voting envisages a situation where all the branches of the NBA at their respective election centers and in the presence of the monitoring agents of the various candidates, will use dedicated computers or electronic voting machines to cast their votes.

4.6 Electronic voting will entail voting at all the branches of the NBA at their respective election centers and in the presence of the agents of the various candidates, through the use of dedicated computers or electronic voting machines for members to cast their votes. Upon casting of votes, there could be a paper backup to enhance the accountability, transparency and auditability of the election. Significantly, all these are not obtainable with internet voting. This electronic system has been adopted and used in the past by the NBA Abuja branch for its branch elections.

5.0 POSSIBLE AMENDMENT OF NBA CONSTITUTION:

5.1 Although it is my interpretation that the NBA Constitution envisages electronic voting (without use of internet), we can still continue with internet voting considering that it is more convenient and in line with the global trend. For these reasons, I will also be inclined towards internet voting provided that the vote of each voter is revealed instantly to show who the voter casts his ballot for. After all, we are all members of the same professional family of lawyers. Indeed, this will make the system more transparent and any result that it produces will be generally acceptable by the majority. In that case, it would be ideal to amend section 9(4) of the NBA Constitution and paragraph 2.4 of the schedule to eliminate any ambiguity and to bring it in line with the adopted electronic voting system.

6.0 OPEN BALLOT SYSTEM:

6.1 As stated earlier, if internet voting is to be adopted for future elections which appears to be the preference due to convenience and the fact that it is in line with the global trend, it will therefore be my strong recommendation that there should be full real-time disclosure of the names of voters and who they cast their votes for. This is akin to the Option A4 voting system in conventional elections. Display of the votes as they are being cast, showing the choice of voters, will indeed enhance accountability and transparency of the process.

6.2 I understand that some persons may prefer that their votes remain anonymous, if this is the position adopted by the NBA, then the choice of the voters may be kept hidden whilst the real-time tally is revealed to everyone. Furthermore, there should be a hidden trail to show who a voter opted for which would only be revealed in the instance of a dispute as to the result or credibility of the election.

7.0 EARLY SET-UP OF ELECTORAL COMMITTEE:

7.1 The responsibility of conducting the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers’ election rests squarely with the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA). It is my fervent recommendation that this important committee should be set up early enough to begin preparations for the election in every election year in good time. Since the deadline for payment of Bar Practicing Fees is end of March in every given year, we should consider setting up the ECNBA in April so that they can commence work in good time and possibly release guidelines in May of the election year. This will go a long way in ensuring that adequate preparations are made in advance for every NBA elections.

8.0 INVOLVEMENT OF SITTING NBA PRESIDENT IN THE PROCESS:

8.1 Another issue that has to be addressed frontally is the involvement of the sitting NBA President and indeed the sitting NBA EXCO in the election process which sometimes confers an undue advantage on any candidate ‘anointed’ by the incumbent NBA President. In 2016, the then incumbent President was openly partisan and he engaged in open campaigns and endorsements of my opponent at that time and these contributed to the absence of a level playing field for all candidates in that election. Another worrisome trend is the appointment of all ECNBA Chairmen from the zone of the sitting President. In 2016, Mr. Ken Mozia, SAN who is from the same zone with the then sitting President – Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN was the ECNBA Chairman. In 2018, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu was the ECNBA Chairman and was from the same zone as the then NBA President, Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, SAN. In 2020, Mr. Tawo Tawo, SAN from the same zone with the then NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, was appointed as the ECNBA Chairman. No doubt, all three former NBA Presidents did their best to uplift the Bar during their tenure and all the ECNBA Chairmen appointed during their respective regimes are respectable and reputable senior members of the Bar, but that is not the issue. The issue here is the perception of the majority of members of the Bar. Could this be a coincidence or a deliberate ploy, as assumed by many, to ensure that only those supposedly very close to the NBA President are appointed as ECNBA Chairman? I believe that deliberate efforts should be made to discourage a pattern whereby only someone from the same zone with the sitting NBA President is appointed as ECNBA Chairman. No doubt, this will go a long way in building confidence in the process. By all means, the ECNBA should be able to maintain sufficient independence from the NBA leadership, particularly the President.

9.0 REAL TIME MONITORING OF VOTES & AUTOMATIC COLLATION OF RESULTS

9.1 The votes as they are being cast should be displayed real time in a transparent manner accessible to all members of the Association. Collation of votes should also be automatic after the last ballot is cast unlike what we had in 2016 when there was a delay of over one hour and twenty minutes before releasing the results on the display screen after the close of polls at 12 midnight on Sunday, 31st July 2016.

10.0 DUE PROCESS FOR ENGAGEMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICE PROVIDER

10.1 For future elections, there should be clear yardsticks, objective basis and/or set parameters for engagement of any IT service provider that will provide any IT infrastructure and/or support for the NBA elections. Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that only qualified, experienced and competent IT Companies without interest in the outcome of the election are engaged. Due diligence must be conducted on any prospective IT Company before engagement. As I stated earlier in an interview, it should be a Company that has no real interest in who emerges as winners of the election other than a reflection of the wishes of the majority of members of the Bar. Importantly, the selection and/or appointment of IT Company should not be done or influenced by the NBA President; rather it should be done independently by the ECNBA with the active involvement of the candidates (especially the Presidential candidates). Candidates should also be allowed to audit the infrastructures of the IT Company before it deploys its facilities.

11.0 SEAMLESS VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS

11.1 Voter registration is an integral aspect of any election. It is a pre-condition for voting in NBA election as stipulated in paragraph 2.2(f) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution. The NBA electoral process should be configured in such a way that all eligible voters, who have paid their Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) by 31st March of every given year, are allowed and given the opportunity to vote seamlessly for candidates of their choice. The list of financially up-to-date members should be automatically collated and made public shortly after the deadline for payment of BPF. In the past, there have been genuine and verified complaints of the inability of some of our eligible members to register for the voting process. To my mind, the registration process should be stress-free and transparent without any impediments.

11.2 Another pre-condition for voting in the NBA election as stipulated in paragraph 2.3 (d) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution is that the full list of all legal practitioners qualified to vote shall be published at least 28 days before the date of the election. This provision can be reviewed and the time frame changed to at least 60 days to enable those whose names may have been inadvertently left out of the register to have ample time for same to be rectified. This would solve the issue of eligible voters claiming that they have been disenfranchised. It would be ideal to create a longer time between publication of the names and the date of the election given what had transpired in the past elections.

12.0 INVOLVEMENT OF NBA SECRETARIAT IN THE PROCESS

12.1 The NBA Constitution currently vests the responsibility of conducting National Officers’ elections on the ECNBA. However, there is still some level of involvement of the NBA National Secretariat in the process and since the secretariat is also manned by NBA Staff (some of whom are lawyers), the issue of partisanship cannot be overruled. See paragraph 2.3 (d) of the second schedule to the Constitution which gives the National Secretariat the responsibility, in conjunction with the ECNBA, to publish the full list of all eligible legal practitioners. This committee should consider a mechanism or system that will result in reduced involvement of the NBA Secretariat in the system. Currently, paragraph 2.1 (d) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution provides that completed forms received in respect of the elections shall be forwarded to the NBA Secretariat and thereafter referred to the Electoral Committee. To reduce and/or check any possible interference by the NBA Secretariat, it is desirable to amend the referenced provision to constitutionally allow completed forms to be submitted directly to the ECNBA. Furthermore, the feasibility of the ECNBA liaising directly with the NBA Branches for data should also be looked into. In conclusion, there must be a level playing field in any NBA elections and all candidates must be given access to interrogate every stage of the electoral process. It should be a fair contest.

13.0 CONCLUSION
13.1 The urgent need for the reform of the NBA electoral system cannot be overemphasized. It is indeed a collective responsibility of all of us to meaningfully & timely contribute to this electoral reform process in our little way. It is my fervent hope, genuine desire and humble prayer that these proposals will be duly considered in the overall interest of the entire Bar and towards minimizing the spate of disputes arising from future NBA elections so that together we can earn our deserved respect in the eyes of Nigerian politicians and Nigerians generally.

Thank you.
Dated 19th April, 2021.

MEMO_GADZAMA

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.

RPC: 6,000 LAWYERS SIGN PETITION TO STRIP MALAMI OF SAN RANK

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

No less than 6,072 persons have so far signed a petition seeking to strip the nation’s chief law officer, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN of the coveted rank of “Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”

Malami, Nigeria’s Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, made the headlines recently following media reports stating that he had issued “Statutory Instrument No. 15 of 2020” amending the 2007 Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (RPC). The instrument provides that “the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.”

Started barely eight days ago by one Izu Aniagu, the petition which is still trending on www.change.org, the petition is titled “Sign to strip Nigeria’s AGF, Abubakar Malami the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.” The tagline states that “Izu Aniagu started this petition to Lawyers in Nigeria and 5 others.” The “Decision makers” listed on the petition are “Lawyers in Nigeria, Nigeria Bar Association, LEGAL PRACTITIONERS DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE, THE LEGAL PRACTITIONERS PRIVILEGE COMMITTEE, THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL and The Bar Council.”

The petition states that “Since assumption of office, the Attorney General of the Federation has continued to go rogue, from his disobedience to court order, to his lackluster prosecution, to his outright failure to prosecute, to allegations of corruption and bias against his person, to usurpation of office, to shielding of suspects, to his general dereliction of duty.

“This time, the AGF has decided to take his imprudence (sic) to top notch by unilaterally deleting the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct which provide for stamp and seal as well as bar practicing fee for government lawyers. The AGF does not have such power. Section 12 (4) of the LPA gives the General Council of the Bar power to make any such amendment and make other decisions concerning the NBA.

“There is no record of any meeting convened by the The (sic) Attorney General of the Federation who is the president of The Bar Council. The AGF took the decision alone and his actions constitute a threat to the rule of law. His action is totally shameful and is underserving (sic) of a lawyer in the rank of a Senio (sic) Advocate, let alone a Chief Law Officer of the federation.”

One of the signatories, Ogholaja Onesiosan gave the reason for signing the petition as follows: “The AGF has abused the rule of law and has not conducted himself in a manner that is expected of him.” CITY LAWYER could not confirm at press time that all the signatories are lawyers.

The amendment of the RPC has annulled the power of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to issue stamps to eligible legal practitioners, a practice that has been validated by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. This comes against the backdrop of a clamour for dismemberment of the NBA, leading to the formation of the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA) by some lawyers.

Following a meeting with Malami in his office, NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata had in a letter to the chief law officer dated September 15, 2020 demanded rescission of the amendment “immediately.”

He noted that “I have been duly informed, by NBA representatives on the Bar Council and other members of the Bar Council who have reached out to me, that to the best of their knowledge no meeting of the Bar Council was convened to discuss any amendments to the RPC or to approve the instrument. It, therefore, appears that the instrument was enacted without proper authority.”

Former NBA Second Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani had also dragged Malami to the Federal High Court seeking among others a determination whether the AGF has the power to “unilaterally, alter, amend and or make any rules of professional conduct, without a proper meeting of the general council of the bar, duly convened, and notices thereof, issued to other members of the general council of the bar.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee had stripped some senior advocates of the rank following their conviction for criminal breaches or successful petitions against them.

However, one Fred Ogundu-Osondu argues that the online petition against Malami is dead on arrival, saying: “If his actions can be interpreted as an abuse of the powers vested in him as Attorney-General of the Federation, then an actual petition can be lodged against him before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee. If the LPDC finds him guilty of professional misconduct, then the LEGAL PRACTITIONERS PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE may withdraw the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria from him. This was clearly stated in No. 5 of the GUIDELINES FOR THE CONFERMENT OF THE RANK OF SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA, 2007. However, let us keep it in mind that the HAGF is the Chairman of the LPDC. The only other ground is if he is convicted for any offence that in the opinion of the LPPC is incompatible with the honour and dignity of the holder of the rank of SAN as an offence relating to breach of trust, theft or other offence involving fraud or dishonesty. Again, the HAGF is the Chief Law Officer of the federation, and may not allow such prosecution to see the light of day, as he is clothed with the constitutional powers of nolle prosequi.”

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 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.

‘You Have Not Been Fair to Us,’ Olanipekun Tells Mahmoud

Early signs that the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will be explosive emerged yesterday as former NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun warned the Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN-led NBA to shelve any plan to amend the association’s controversial constitution.

In a letter dripping with angst and discomfiture, the go-to lawyer expressed disappointment at the situation, adding that the NBA President had “not been fair” to the past NBA presidents and secretaries who admonished him to shelve the constitutional amendment project.

Below is the full text of the statement:

2nd August, 2018

Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, SAN
The President,
Nigerian Bar Association,
NBA House,
Plot 1101, Muhammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
F.C.T. Abuja.

Dear Mr. President,

RE: AMENDMENT TO THE NBA CONSTITUTION
First and foremost, may I extend my professional and brotherly courtesies to you as our/my President.
You would recall that at the last meeting of past Presidents and Secretaries of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) called at your instance at Fraser Suites, Abuja on Friday, 20th July, 2018, you brought up, amongst others, your proposed amendments to the NBA constitution and apprised us of the far-reaching amendments being proposed by you on the eve of your departure, as the President of the foremost professional association in Nigeria. After a very extensive discussion on your proposals, and considering the depth and implications of such amendments, the meeting advised that you should shelve and/or put the proposals on hold, and allow your successor-in-office do further consultations on them, both at the National Executive Committee (NEC) and general levels and platforms, in order to adequately weigh the pros and cons of the proposed amendments before passing same. It was on this note that the meeting closed, and you did not disagree with the wise counsel.

Surprisingly, a notice or plan/intention to amend our constitution, as proposed and tabled by you at the meeting has now been sent out, and I must confess, I am in receipt of same, to the effect that the proposed amendments will be presented at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NBA. I am taken aback by this development, and I kept on wondering why you ever brought up the topic at our meeting of Friday, 20th July,2018, if you knew you would not respect our opinion. Mr. President, you have not been fair to us, to put it mildly. As a person, I protest this attitude and action of yours. Needless reminding you, Mr President that the same meeting resolved a lot of burning issues to your advantage and satisfaction.

As agreed at the said meeting Mr. President, may I again advise and counsel that you put on hold the proposed constitutional amendments. No one possesses the monopoly of wisdom, and it is only courteous that you also respect the objections raised to some of your amendments at the meeting, despite the fact that some of us saw the proposals for the first time just at the meeting. No leader, however brilliant, industrious, good-intentioned or pragmatic can ever resolve all the problems of his association, society or country in his life time or within his tenure. You cannot be an exemption. Please let us learn from history; and be reminded that amendments to the NBA constitution should no longer be randomly done. I dare say that the proposed amendments, in some material particulars, will turn out to be an ill-wind, which will bring or blow in no fresh breath. You are advised not to force the amendments on our beloved Association at the AGM, which, with much respect, might be constituted in such a way that the attendees would not readily understand or appreciate the unending conundrum we will be plunged into if the amendments sail through. And in case you insist on going ahead to present the amendments at the AGM, can you be gracious enough, as a lawyer and leader, to circulate this letter of mine to the AGM.

Allow me to copy this letter to the past Presidents and Secretaries of the NBA.
Once again, Mr. President, accept my high regards.

I remain,

Your colleague and predecessor-in-office,

Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN, LL.D, FCIArb., FNIALS.

CC:
Chief Richard Akinjide, CON, SAN
Chief (Mrs) Priscilla Kuye
Chief T.J.O. Okpoko, OON, SAN
C.J. Okocha, SAN
Chief Bayo Ojo, CON, SAN
Prince Lanke Odogiyan
Olisa Agbakoba, SAN
Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN
Joseph Bodunrin Daudu, SAN
Okechukwu Wali, SAN
Augustine Alegeh, SAN
Dele Adesina, SAN
Chief Isiaka Olagunju, Esq

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