N1.4BN FRAUD CHARGE: COURTS ACQUITS USORO

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has discharged and acquitted the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro SAN.

Usoro had been standing trial on 10 counts of fraud and money laundering made against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence and made a no-case submission, insisting that the anti-graft agency had made no case against him to warrant him to enter a defence.

In his decision on the no-case submission today, trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Usoro.

Justice Aikawa noted that the penal code, under which the former NBA President was charged, is not applicable to the southern states of Lagos and Akwa Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.

“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case. Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Justice Aikawa held.

The EFCC had arraigned Usoro on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan on 10 counts, all of which he pleaded not guilty to.

He was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on charges which alleged that he committed the offence on May 14, 2016.

He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which the court says he ought to have known was part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity

In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer Abdulrahman Arabo, said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Usoro vigorously denied the allegations. On February 25, the former NBA President had filed a no case submission where his counsel, Effiong O. Effiong SAN submitted that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because, according to him, it knew it didn’t have any case against the defendants. He asked the court to allow the no-case submission.

But the EFCC opposed his application and asked the court to dismiss the no-case submission, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence. It also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence.

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.

MAKURDI ASSAULT: EFCC CHAIR SHUNS PARLEY, NBA MAY SUE

  • GBAGIR BRIEFS AKPATA

  • NBA MAY SUE EFCC

The Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has boycotted a meeting initiated by the commission to resolve the furore over alleged assault on Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir.

In an “update” on the assault made available to CITY LAWYER by Gbagir, he stated that though Benue State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State, Mr. Michael Gusa had contacted him to intimate him of a plan by the EFCC helmsman to meet him and the Attorney-General in Makurdi, Bawa never showed up for the meeting as scheduled. His words: “As at the time of going to press around 10pm of 8th July, 2021, I am not aware that the EFCC Chairman has come to Makurdi as hitherto promised.”

Indicating that he has briefed NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata on the development, Gbagir called on “all those who were willing to offer one form of support for this course in one way or the other that the time is now. We cannot move with EFCC at their own space (sic) and convenience.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that barring last-minute rapprochement, Gbagir may in collaboration with the NBA soon press charges against the EFCC operatives.

The full text of the update is below.

UPDATE ON THE ASSAULTS ON THE NBA CHAIRMAN, MAKURDI BRANCH JUSTIN GBAGIR, ESQ. BY THE OPERATIVES OF THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) ON THE 8TH JUNE, 2021
On the 8th June, 2021, I was brutally assaulted by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at their Zonal Office in Makurdi, Benue State. In the early hours of 9th June, 2021, I made a report to the President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata from my hospital bed at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi and made the said report available on some social media platforms.

The NBA President immediately reach out to the Chairman of EFCC who promised to send a special investigator from Abuja to Makurdi for an investigation with a further commitment to ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act are brought to book and adequately punished. While the President was awaiting the outcome of the investigation, EFCC through Wilson Uwujaren, Head, Media and Publicity issued a statement denying the assault on me and further alleged that I was the aggressor who “led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office of the EFCC in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC”. The statement further accused me of “resorting to social media blackmail, posing in hospital bed and concocting a fantastic story of an imaginary assault by the EFCC.” The statement also alleged that my action was “indecorous and unbecoming of the leader of the bar” and that I “demonstrated embarrassing insensitivity to the delicate security situation of the state, and should be remorseful for my misguided action and not spew untruths in pliable sections of the media.”

Sequel to the said press release by the spoke person of the EFCC, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Publicity Secretary of NBA issued a statement on behalf of the NBA President and the entire Bar wherein he stated the resolve of the Nigerian Bar Association to get to the root of the matter and ensure that the officers behind such brazen acts of inhumanity are brought to justice and that abhorrent acts do not reoccur.

The President of NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata in a letter to the Chairman of the EFCC dated 10th June, 2021 and made available to the media on the 15th June, 2021 raised sundry issues regarding harassment of lawyers and the general high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment which EFCC have exhibited, and continue to exhibit at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country. The said letter which was titled “Assault of Official(s) of the Nigerian Bar Association by the Operatives of the EFCC and Related Incidents of Unprofessionalism against Lawyers: Demand for Investigation, Immediate Action and Cessation” concluded that “while I look forward to an expeditious investigation of the unjust treatment of Mr. Gbagir and a general refocusing of the approach of the EFCC in its dealings with lawyers, please accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration”. At the time of going to press, the EFCC Chairman to the best of my knowledge has not responded to this letter.

Suffice to state that on the 11th June, 2021 the NBA Makurdi Branch also issued a press statement wherein they stated that “we take very serious exception to the denigration of the legal profession by the EFCC and further contend that, this is one attack too many by the commission on legal practitioners and we shall vehemently and strongly stem and resist their excesses using all civil and legal means at our disposal.” The statement concluded that “…this matter without doubt shall be followed to its rightful, proper and judicious conclusion. The maxim is Úbi jus, ubi remedium’, which means that ‘where law has established a right, there should be a corresponding remedy.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Internal Affairs at the headquarters of EFCC was in Makurdi on the 10th and 11th June, 2021 where he took my oral and written statement at the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice at the Ministry of Justice Headquarters, Makurdi. The Director of Internal Affairs who earlier in the interaction denied knowledge of the press release by the Head of Media and Publicity however, assured that after his report to the Chairman of EFCC, appropriate measures would be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.

At the end of the quarterly National Executive Committee meeting of the NBA which held in Abuja on the 24th June, 2021, NEC resolved amongst others that “NEC reviles the circumstances leading to the brutalization of the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 8th June, 2021.” NEC commended the efforts taken by the NBA President thus far, and further directed that the NBA President should take the opportunity of the unfortunate Makurdi incident to finally put an end to the epidemic of brutalization and harassment of legal practitioners by law enforcement agencies in the discharge of the lawyer’s professional duties.

Several other human rights organization also issued separate press statements in condemnation of the assault by the EFCC. One of such statement is from Legal Defence and Assistance Project, based in Lagos. They condemned the assault and urged “the EFCC to publish an apology to the victim, and demanded that the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) should prosecute the errant officers and further urged the EFCC to henceforth treat all lawyers with respect in all legal dealings with them”.

On the 30th June, 2021, the learned Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State, Mr Michael Gusa called to intimate me that the Director of Internal Affairs at the EFCC headquarters called him and indicated that the Chairman of the EFCC would like to meet with me and him this week, and Thursday, 8th June, 2021 was tentatively scheduled for the meeting. On Tuesday, 6th July, when I sought to know from the Attorney-General when specifically we were meeting with the EFCC Chairman, he promised to revert back to me after further consultation with the Director of Internal Affairs. The Attorney-General later in the evening of Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 called to intimate me that the Director of Internal Affairs told him that the Chairman of the EFCC preferred to visit Benue State to meet with us on the 8th July, 2021 instead of us going to Abuja. As at the time of going to press around 10pm of 8th July, 2021, I am not aware that the EFCC Chairman has come to Makurdi as hitherto promised.

Meanwhile, after my discharge from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital on the 9th June, 2021, I was booked to attend a check-up on the 5th July, 2021. As a result of the challenges I was having to see with my left eye and challenges to hear with my left ear, I decided to attend the Nigerian Air force Base Hospital, Makurdi also to seek further medical attention. On the 5th of July, 2021, I attended the BSUTH Makurdi as was requested to do and was examined but requested to come back for further check up on the 26th July, 2021. I am still having challenges with my left eye and left ear.

This evening, I sought leave from the NBA President to issue this press statement to provide an update and to mark one month Anniversary of the assault and brutalization by operatives of the EFCC, and Mr President graciously granted me leave.

I wish to use this opportunity to appreciate the NBA President and all members of the Bar and the general public for standing with me on this issue. The President has assured me and I am confident that this fight is not mine but that of the entire Bar. I am not the victim, it is the entire Bar that is the victim. Members of the Bar have demonstrated that an injury for one is actually an injury to all.

In the circumstances of the foregoing, I wish to request all those who were willing to offer one form of support for this course in one way or the other that the time is now. We cannot move with EFCC at their own space and convenience. In any case, they have serially exhibited conduct that they cannot be trusted. If after the assault, they have the audacity to deny and attempt to change the narrative to favour them, they are capable of doing anything.

In further consultation with the NBA President, we shall be coming up with our next line of action without further delay.

Thank you all and God bless.
Justin Gbagir, Esq.
Chairman, NBA Makurdi Branch

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.

LEDAP KNOCKS EFCC OVER ATTACK ON NBA BRANCH CHAIR

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged attack by its operatives on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Makurdi Branch, Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir.

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER and signed by LEDAP National Coordinator, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN), the group stated that the action of the operatives violates the fundamental rights of the Bar Leader as entrenched in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.

The group noted that from a series of events which occurred on June 8, 2021, it was apparent that Gbagir went to the EFCC Makurdi Branch Office to facilitate bail for Miss Aver Shima, a lawyer with the Benue Sate Ministry of Justice.

Said LEDAP: “From our understanding, Ms. Shima was remanded following an allegation of a legal advice she gave the Chairman of the Universal Basic Education Board and as such is currently undergoing investigation.

“Following this incident, Mr. Gbagir, in the company of other members of the Ministry of Justice visited the EFCC office in Makurdi, but was refused entry into the premises and subjected to humiliation and degrading treatment by the security operatives at the gate; on the allegation that they are ‘agitators’ who have come to protest.

“It took the intervention of the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor, Attorney General of the state and Solicitor General of the state before the delegation was allowed entry into the building.

“Also, we understand that when Mr. Gbagir was introduced to the EFCC Chairman, as the Chairman of the NBA Makurdi branch, he was denied all courtesy. This infuriated Mr. Gbagir and as a result, sought to leave the premises. However, he was swarmed and assaulted by operatives of EFCC, the actions of which were approved by the silent conduct of the EFCC Chairman.”

LEDAP stated that the action of the EFCC operatives not only undermined the position of the NBA chairman, but also of all lawyers. It viewed the action as a mockery of lawyers’ constitutional role as members of the third arm of government.

LEDAP pointed out that the EFCC security operatives were ALSO in breach of Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution on the right to dignity and right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.

LEDAP urged the EFCC to publish an apology to the victim, and demanded that the Attorney General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) should prosecute the errant officers, adding: “Henceforth, the EFCC is demanded to treat all lawyers with respect in all legal dealings with them.”

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.

HARASSMENT: AKPATA WRITES EFCC CHAIR, ISSUES ‘CEASE AND DESIST’ DEMAND

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has again risen in defence of Nigerian lawyers through a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the searing letter obtained by CITY LAWYER and titled “ASSAULT OF OFFICIAL(S) OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BY OPERATIVES OF THE EFCC AND RELATED INCIDENTS OF UNPROFESSIONALISM AGAINST LAWYERS: A DEMAND FOR INVESTIGATION, IMMEDIATE ACTION AND CESSATION,” Akpata stated that he was “constrained” to write the anti-graft Chairman over the alleged assault on NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir and “the recurring unwholesome and unprofessional conducts by officers and operatives of the EFCC against members of the legal profession in Nigeria who are lawfully discharging their professional responsibilities.” The letter was copied to Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN.

In the 15-paragraph long letter dated June 10, 2021 but received by the EFCC on 15th June, 2021, the NBA President noted that he was “credibly informed that Mr. Gbagir visited the Makurdi office of the EFCC on 8th June 2021 to facilitate the release of one Ms. Aver Shima (“Ms. Shima”), who is a law officer in the employ of the Benue State Ministry of Justice. Ms. Shima had apparently been detained by the EFCC on an allegation that she gave legal advice to the Chairman of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board that allegedly culminated in the latter signing a document which is reportedly the subject of investigation by the EFCC. Since the merits of the detention of Ms. Shima for providing legal advice is now, as I understand it, already the subject of independent investigation, I shall refrain from commenting on Ms. Shima’s treatment.”

Turning to the alleged manhandling of Gbagir by EFCC operatives, Akpata said: “Infuriated by this turn of events, the Honorable Attorney-General, the Solicitor General and the Special Adviser to the Governor who had all come to intervene in the detention of Ms. Shima left the premises. Suffice to state that Mr. Gbagir who suffered severe hurt and sustained various degrees of injury had to be hospitalized at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.”

In a damning indictment of the EFCC operatives, the NBA President described their conduct as “uncultured,” saying: “I assume that you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that if this level of uncultured behaviour could be exhibited by EFCC operatives in the presence of the strong delegation accompanying Mr. Gbagir, who in his own right is a Bar Leader, then the potential fate of other lawyers and citizens who interface with the EFCC in that zone is better imagined than experienced.”

Also in a veiled displeasure over the conduct of the EFCC leadership and its controversial press statement over the assault, Akpata said: “When we both spoke about this incident on 9th June 2021, you understandably expressed shock at this development and promised to investigate same. I have no cause yet to believe that you would personally renege on that promise. However, I have seen certain reports in the media credited to the EFCC Media and Publicity team which denied and largely distorted the facts. In fidelity to honesty and good order, I trust that you and I can agree that the statement credited to the EFCC media head, to the extent that it represents the official position of the EFCC, is premature and antithetic to your pledge to investigate the issue.

“It is pertinent to add that both before and after reading the EFCC statement, I spoke to the Attorney-General of Benue State and other well-meaning senior lawyers who witnessed the incident, and their narrative is entirely consistent with the position of Mr. Gbagir. I have no reason to doubt or disbelieve their narrative and it now behooves on the EFCC to show that it can rise above board and properly investigate the excesses of its own staff.

Turning to the issue of harassment of lawyers by EFCC operatives, Akpata lampooned the operatives for “the high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment” which they “have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country.” According to him, “Verifiable instances abound of lawyers who have been, or are being, harassed, arrested, and detained for either providing legal advice to, or preparing transaction documents for, their clients. There are also other instances, where lawyers are simply denied access to their clients in custody or continuously maltreated, frustrated, intimidated and demeaned by EFCC operatives. The NBA is more than willing to make further representations to you and provide proof of such unsavory developments including recent instances where we have had to intervene on behalf of our members who were unjustly harassed or detained by the EFCC.”

Noting however that this state of affairs precedes the current EFCC leadership, Akpata warned that the situation “is totally unacceptable and, if not checked, will increasingly paint the Commission in a negative light, raise serious concerns about the modus operandi of the Commission and undermine her relationship with critical stakeholders.”

He noted that “the current state of the relationship between lawyers and the Commission, which ordinarily ought to be harmonious, collaborative and symbiotic, is unhealthy and continues to deteriorate. For inexplicable reasons, the relationship is characterised by the wanton harassment and assault of members of the legal profession who, by their calling, are mandated to provide legal advisory and support services to suspects in the custody of the Commission or those who are otherwise under investigation.” Akpata then warned that “This debasing treatment must cease forthwith.”

In a three-point demand, the NBA President wrote: “It is in view of the foregoing that I therefore formally request you to use your good offices to investigate this complaint expeditiously and thoroughly in the interest of justice and ensure that all operatives complicit in the very unfortunate incident are disciplined in line with extant service rules and applicable laws. The NBA will be constantly following up with you in this respect, as we will no longer endure or tolerate the incessant harassment of our members by EFCC operatives while such lawyers are lawfully discharging their duties.

“You may recall that one of the cardinal pillars of your mandate upon your assumption of office was to reposition the Commission and make it a reputable anti-corruption agency that boasts of the finest of personnel. I dare say that achieving this laudable objective would necessarily include weaning the Commission of officers and personnel whose conduct, taken individually or in the aggregate, are bound to undermine the image of the Commission.

“As you continue to settle into office, I urge you to look into these issues carefully with a view to resolving them holistically and avoiding a recurrence. We are indeed expectant that there will be no repeat of incidences such as those complained about in this letter. Lawyers dealing with the Commission must and should be accorded the respect and dignity that they deserve when acting on behalf of their clients. Under your leadership, you must intervene and take steps to ensure that this is the case at all offices of the Commission across the country.”

Below is the full text of the letter:

10th June 2021

The Executive Chairman
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
EFCC Headquarters
Plot 301/302, Institution and Research Cadastral District
Jabi, Abuja

Attention: Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa

Dear Sir,

ASSAULT OF OFFICIAL(S) OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BY OPERATIVES OF THE EFCC AND RELATED INCIDENTS OF UNPROFESSIONALISM AGAINST LAWYERS: A DEMAND FOR INVESTIGATION, IMMEDIATE ACTION AND CESSATION

  1. I am constrained to write to you over (a) an unfortunate incident which occurred on 8th June 2021 involving some operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the “EFCC” or the “Commission”) at its Makurdi Zonal office, and Mr. Justin Gbagir (“Mr. Gbagir”), a senior member of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) who is also the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of NBA; and (b) the recuring unwholesome and unprofessional conducts by officers and operatives of the EFCC against members of the legal profession in Nigeria who are lawfully discharging their professional responsibilities.

The Unfortunate Makurdi Incident

  1. I have been credibly informed that Mr. Gbagir visited the Makurdi office of the EFCC on 8th June 2021 to facilitate the release of one Ms. Aver Shima (“ Shima”), who is a law officer in the employ of the Benue State Ministry of Justice. Ms. Shima had apparently been detained by the EFCC on an allegation that she gave legal advice to the Chairman of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board that allegedly culminated in the latter signing a document which is reportedly the subject of investigation by the EFCC.   Since the merits of the detention of Ms. Shima for providing legal advice is now, as I understand it, already the subject of independent investigation, I shall refrain from commenting on Ms. Shima’s treatment.
  1. As we understand from the sequence of events, when Mr. Gbagir arrived at the EFCC zonal office in the company of other senior members of the Benue State Ministry of Justice, including the State Director of Public Prosecution, the delegation was refused entry into the offices of the EFCC and was subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment by the security operatives manning the gate of the EFCC on the rather specious ground that they were “agitators” who had come to protest. It took the intervention of the Senior Special Assistant to the State Governor and the arrival of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of the State before the delegation was allowed access into the facility.
  1. It is our further understanding that when Mr. Gbagir was introduced to the EFCC zonal head (Mr. Kazeem Oseni) by the Solicitor-General of the State as the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA, Mr. Gbagir was denied all courtesies on the ground that he was an “agitator”. Perplexed and embarrassed, Mr. Gbagir sought to excuse himself from the office of the zonal head only to be swarmed by an army of operatives of the EFCC, who brutally manhandled Mr. Gbagir and pushed him out of the premises. Of particular note and concern is the fact that eyewitness accounts confirm that the actions of the EFCC operatives were carried out with the tacit consent of the zonal head, at best, or based on his express instructions, at worst.
  1. Infuriated by this turn of events, the Honorable Attorney-General, the Solicitor General and the Special Adviser to the Governor who had all come to intervene in the detention of Ms. Shima left the premises. Suffice to state that Mr. Gbagir who suffered severe hurt and sustained various degrees of injury had to be hospitalized at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.
  1. I assume that you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that if this level of uncultured behaviour could be exhibited by EFCC operatives in the presence of the strong delegation accompanying Mr. Gbagir, who in his own right is a Bar Leader, then the potential fate of other lawyers and citizens who interface with the EFCC in that zone is better imagined than experienced. 
  1. When we both spoke about this incident on 9th June 2021, you understandably expressed shock at this development and promised to investigate same. I have no cause yet to believe that you would personally renege on that promise. However, I have seen certain reports in the media credited to the EFCC Media and Publicity team which denied and largely distorted the facts.  In fidelity to honesty and good order, I trust that you and I can agree that the statement credited to the EFCC media head, to the extent that it represents the official position of the EFCC, is premature and antithetic to your pledge to investigate the issue.
  1. It is pertinent to add that both before and after reading the EFCC statement, I spoke to the Attorney-General of Benue State and other well-meaning senior lawyers who witnessed the incident, and their narrative is entirely consistent with the position of Mr. Gbagir. I have no reason to doubt or disbelieve their narrative and it now behooves on the EFCC to show that it can rise above board and properly investigate the excesses of its own staff.

Other egregious conducts of EFCC operatives against legal practitioners  

  1. Chairman, whilst the above represents the isolated experience of Mr. Gbagir, it is an opportune time to bring to your attention the high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment that operatives of the EFCC have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country. Verifiable instances abound of lawyers who have been, or are being, harassed, arrested, and detained for either providing legal advice to, or preparing transaction documents for, their clients. There are also other instances, where lawyers are simply denied access to their clients in custody or continuously maltreated, frustrated, intimidated and demeaned by EFCC operatives. The NBA is more than willing to make further representations to you and provide proof of such unsavory developments including recent instances where we have had to intervene on behalf of our members who were unjustly harassed or detained by the EFCC.
  1. This state of affairs, which admittedly precedes your appointment to superintend the EFCC, is totally unacceptable and, if not checked, will increasingly paint the Commission in a negative light, raise serious concerns about the modus operandi of the Commission and undermine her relationship with critical stakeholders. As you know, the role of lawyers is critical to the actualisation of the Commission’s foundational objectives. As a law enforcement agency that is established to be responsible and accountable to the citizenry, one would expect that lawyers will continue to be your partners in progress who should feel welcome and accommodated by the Commission and its operatives.
  1. Regrettably, the current state of the relationship between lawyers and the Commission, which ordinarily ought to be harmonious, collaborative and symbiotic, is unhealthy and continues to deteriorate. For inexplicable reasons, the relationship is characterised by the wanton harassment and assault of members of the legal profession who, by their calling, are mandated to provide legal advisory and support services to suspects in the custody of the Commission or those who are otherwise under investigation. This debasing treatment must cease forthwith.

Conclusion

  1. It is in view of the foregoing that I therefore formally request you to use your good offices to investigate this complaint expeditiously and thoroughly in the interest of justice and ensure that all operatives complicit in the very unfortunate incident are disciplined in line with extant service rules and applicable laws. The NBA will be constantly following up with you in this respect, as we will no longer endure or tolerate the incessant harassment of our members by EFCC operatives while such lawyers are lawfully discharging their duties. 
  1. You may recall that one of the cardinal pillars of your mandate upon your assumption of office was to reposition the Commission and make it a reputable anti-corruption agency that boasts of the finest of personnel. I dare say that achieving this laudable objective would necessarily include weaning the Commission of officers and personnel whose conduct, taken individually or in the aggregate, are bound to undermine the image of the Commission.
  2. As you continue to settle into office, I urge you to look into these issues carefully with a view to resolving them holistically and avoiding a recurrence. We are indeed expectant that there will be no repeat of incidences such as those complained about in this letter.  Lawyers dealing with the Commission must and should be accorded the respect and dignity that they deserve when acting on behalf of their clients.  Under your leadership, you must intervene and take steps to ensure that this is the case at all offices of the Commission across the country.
  1. While I look forward to an expeditious investigation of the unjust treatment of Mr. Gbagir and a general refocusing of the approach of the EFCC in its dealings with lawyers, please accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours faithfully,

OLUMIDE AKPATA

President

Nigerian Bar Association

Cc:       The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation

Federal Ministry of Justice

Abuja

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.

BENUE ASSAULT: EFCC CHIEF INVESTIGATOR GRILLS NBA CHAIR, A-G WADES IN

  • BENUE A-G DEMANDS CCTV FOOTAGE FROM EFCC

  • I’M SHOCKED, SCANDALIZED BY EFCC’S DENIAL

  • I CAN’T SEE, HEAR WELL AGAIN

  • I WILL PRESS CHARGES IF ….

Embattled Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch, Mr. Justin Gbagir has been grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief investigator on his allegation of assault by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, Gbagir said that the interview by the Director of Intelligence Unit at the EFCC which started yesterday at the office of the Benue State Attorney-General was concluded today when he wrote a formal statement on what transpired at the Makurdi Office of the EFCC last Tuesday.

Gbagir said that aside from the impairment to his left eye, he has started experiencing hearing challenges due to the alleged beating by the EFCC operatives. He warned that “I told them that I have other options to seek redress” if the perpetrators are not brought to justice.

Below is the full text of the interview.

“I am Justin Gbagir, Chairman of NBA Makurdi Branch who was assaulted and beaten by the operatives of the EFCC on Tuesday, the 8th of June, 2021.

“It is unfortunate that EFCC which claims to operate within civic norms will come out to blatantly deny that they did not assault and beat me up.

“The beating was so severe that I was admitted at Benue State University Teaching Hospital and administered some drugs and injections. As a result of the beating, I also sustained injury in my left eye. As I speak with you, I cannot see very well with my left eye.

“Yesterday again, I started experiencing problem with my hearing. So I am also currently having hearing challenges. I am yet to go for medical check-up to sustain (sic) the level of damage that might have been done to my ears.

“But yesterday someone came from Directorate of Intelligence – which he said is like Military Police in the Army – to listen to us from the headquarters. We met at the office of the Honourable the Attorney General of Benue State and we took turns to narrate what happened. So when we finished, he specifically requested me to put my statement in writing and because it was already dark we agreed to reconvene at 8.30 this morning, which we did. And I put my statement in writing.

“I am actually shocked, scandalized and embarrassed with the allegations that EFCC have made in their Press Release that I went there with thugs to forcefully release a detainee. I want to say it in very clear terms that all the lawyers that were there with me – including the Honourable the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and Director of Public Prosecution and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Legal Matters – we were just nine, including myself, 10. And all the people that were there – except the Director of Finance and Administration in the State Ministry of Justice who was also there, who is not a lawyer – the rest of us were lawyers. I don’t see how colleagues who went to EFCC Office to facilitate the release of their colleague will be called thugs.

“Today, the AG also requested the person that came from Abuja to request for CCTV footage from their (EFCC) office. This happened directly within their compound and their CCTV footage must have captured what happened. So if they fail to produce their CCTV footage, I think it will also be another way of trying to deny or hide the facts.

“By and large, I think the EFCC are not being truthful; their denial of all the allegations is baseless. I think we are not going to leave the matter like that. In my statement which I wrote today, I told them that I have other options to seek redress. But I am giving them an opportunity for them to sort out this issue, punish the perpetrators, and then we discuss further on whatever demands that I might have.

“At the moment, I don’t want to make demand yet; I am yet to fully ascertain the level of damage they have done to my eye, to my ears and other general health conditions. So when that is ascertained by medical experts, I will also know what demands I will be making for compensation. At the moment, I don’t want to say that because I am yet to get the proper medical report in that regard.

“Today again, the NBA Makurdi Branch insisted on making a Press Statement particularly in view of the statement by EFCC. After they (EFCC) had reached out to our (NBA) President with a view that they would investigate the matter, they went ahead to issue a statement denying the facts. So the Press Conference just finished a while ago and I think in a very short it will also be in the public domain on the position of NBA Makurdi Branch.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that Gbagir had alleged that he was manhandled at the instance of the EFCC Makurdi Zonal Head. Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises. “Outside the premises, they threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating,” he said.

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.

BENUE ASSAULT: AKPATA TACKLES BAWA, EFCC DENIES CHARGE

  • AG, SOLICITOR-GENERAL CONFIRMED ASSAULT – SPIDEL CHAIR

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa over the battered NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir, even as the anti-graft agency has denied that its operatives manhandled the Bar Leader.

Impeccable sources told CITY LAWYER that Akpata had engaged with the EFCC Chairman over the matter. Bawa was said to have requested time to investigate the matter and take necessary action.

The EFCC has now issued a statement denying the alleged assault. The anti-graft agency said that it was the Makurdi Branch Chairman who “was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.”

The statement added that the Bar Leader allegedly failed to identify himself and that “the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.”

But fiery NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Chairman, Mr. Monday Ubani said that several sources confirmed the assault to him, even as the under-fire Zonal Head denied the allegation. His words: “I have spoken to the Chairman of Makurdi who confirmed the beating. He is back to hospital. I have also spoken to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Legal Matters who confirmed the incident. I eventually got the President of the Bar who affirmed that the AG confirmed the beating. Our President has spoken to the Chairman of EFCC who requested for time to investigate and take action.”

He however said the Zonal Head denied “that he never touched nor directed any of his operatives to touch our member. He denied the beating.” 

Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises.

“Outside the premises, the threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating.”

Below is the full text of the EFCC statement.

EFCC Press Release

EFCC Denies Assaulting NBA Chairman

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC wishes to inform the public that claims by one Justin Gbagir, Chairman Makurdi Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, that he was assaulted and brutalized by operatives of the Makurdi Zonal Office of the Commission on June 8, 2021, leading to his being hospitalized at BUSTH is false, and orchestrated to portray the Commission as draconian and uncivil.

Contrary to the false narrative being promoted in the social media by Gbagir, he was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.

The standard procedure for effecting the release of suspects in detention is known to even rookie lawyers. But rather than follow due process, Gbagir opted for force, recruited thugs and stormed the EFCC office.

In spite of the provocation, operatives of the Commission handled him with restraint, bent backward by allowing him to meet with the Zonal Head. But rather than reciprocate, he still refused to identify himself, against all norms of civility. In the circumstance, the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.

Regrettably, the seasoned lawyer resorted to social media blackmail, posing in hospital bed and concocting a fantastic story of an imaginary assault by EFCC operatives.

His action is to say the least indecorous and unbecoming of the leader of the bar in a state like Benue. He demonstrated embarrassing insensitivity to the delicate security situation of the state.

Gbagir should be remorseful for his misguided action and not spew untruths in pliable sections of the media.

Wilson Uwujaren
Head, Media & Publicity
9 June, 2021

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.

OLEJEME SAGA: MAGU’S EFCC WAS LAWLESS, CLUELESS – UBANI

Former Nigerian Bar Association Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has taken a swipe at disgraced former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, describing his tenure at the anti-graft agency as “lawless, clueless and brash!”

The Bar Leader in a statement made available to CITY LAWYER also revealed that he prayed “dangerous” prayers for Magu to be humiliated out of office for detaining him for 23 days due to failure of his then client and former Chairman of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme to honour subsequent invitations by the commission.

His words: “The truth of the matter is that I did not breach any rule of professional conduct of NBA in the first instance, as the said Rule is only applicable to a lawyer who is defending an accused in court and stands surety for the same client in the court. The matter at hand then was not yet before any court; it was an administrative bail by the Agency pending formal charge before any court. That was how EFCC under Magu operated; lawless, clueless and brash!”

Ubani stated that Magu criminalized a civil matter when his client jumped bail, warning succeeding chairmen of the commission not to play God but to operate in line with the law and international best practice. He said: “Let everyone accused of crime in Nigeria be given fair trial and let those who are guilty be jailed, while those who are innocent be discharged and acquitted. That is how it is done in every civilized clime.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

GOD JUSTIFIES THE RIGHTEOUS ALWAYS.

About four years ago or thereabout a woman by name Dr Mrs Ngozi Olejeme sought my legal representation over an allegation that she converted about N69 billion of Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) to herself while she held sway as the chairman during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan. She was declared wanted by EFCC after she refused to honour their invitation because she was abroad and according to her, was undergoing critical medical treatment over her ill health.

I inquired from her if she committed the crime as alleged and she denied the veracity. Secondly, she opined that her medical condition made it impossible for her to honour their previous invitations, however she was prepared to honour them if she can be guaranteed fair trial without illegal detention.

I demanded her medical reports which she graciously provided, and straightaway I sent a letter to the then EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu attaching the medical papers and informing him that I have advised my client to come down to respond to the allegations against her. My client naturally was afraid having been abreast of the antecedent of EFCC under Magu but I assured her that she will get a fair trial as we were not under a Banana Republic.

On the date we agreed, she returned from abroad and on the following Monday morning I took her to the office of EFCC in Abuja. They were shocked to see her because several persons like former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke SAN and former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Deziani Allison Madueke whom EFCC had declared wanted did not respond to them let alone coming down to face their trial.

Her interrogation on the first day lasted about eight hours after which they told me politely that they will not allow her to go home that day, but because of my personality and previous explanation about her health condition, she will be taken to a hospital of her choice and be under their watch so that her subsequent interviews will proceed without unnecessary interjections. My team of lawyers and I raised objection because the bail conditions they gave her were complied with but the Head of the Investigating Unit, overruled and insisted on his position. We obliged, and got a good hospital in Abuja for her under the watch of about two security personnel of the Agency.

Her detention that we all thought will be short later entered the ninth day. I convinced my client that we should sue for the enforcement of her fundamental human rights as her long detention was contrary to the provisions of the constitution as regards investigation and detention. She agreed and we filed the court process and served EFCC. In response, they attached a court order granting EFCC power to detain her for 14 days. It was shocking for me as we were not aware of this secret court order that was never served.

On the date slated for the hearing of the application, the court did not sit but the EFCC prosecuting counsel wrote and convinced the then Acting Chairman to release the woman on administrative bail.

We provided two senior civil servants of grade level 14 and 15 as sureties as required by their condition of bail and presented to them. When the application was presented before Magu, he blatantly refused to approve, insisting that the sureties must be ‘Elder Statesmen’, contrary to the bail condition. We were wondering who these elder statesmen should be. The Unit head then quipped that the chairman will not mind if I will stand surety for her since I was the one that convinced her to come down for her case. My client heard him clearly that my suretyship will grant her freedom to go home. At that point I had a moral burden to get her out of detention having been denied that opportunity after returning from abroad for 14 days.

Secondly, her health was deteriorating due to staying in one place for that long, and thirdly she was complaining of not taking proper bath for those days due to the condition of her health. Finally, she was under severe psychological stress by virtue of her ugly situation. Despite my assurances that she will get fair treatment and trial, she felt that her coming back to Nigeria to respond to the allegations has not been reciprocated by the EFCC by virtue of her long detention. She was very distraught!

When that window of opportunity was given that my suretyship will let her go home and get her prepared for trial, I felt mutually obliged to be of assistance to a woman who honoured my word when I promised the Agency that she will come down for her trial. She did come down as agreed. If I had refused to stand for her at that point, she has every right to conclude that I was in league with EFCC to bring her down to humiliate and embarrass her person. That would not have been the truth and I needed to prove that point to her. For me, I desired her to come down in order to respond to the myriads of allegation that was not good for her reputation.

On the path of EFCC, I also desired them to prove and convict the woman if she was liable or discharge and acquit her if she was innocent. On the basis of the two desires, I provided the link for both parties to satisfy their need.

To cut a long story short, Mrs Olejeme was granted administrative bail that night (at about 9pm) by virtue of my singular signature despite that the condition of bail was that they needed two sureties. The second surety, Hon Christopher Enai, came to sign his own papers two days later after her release to fulfill all righteousness.

After her release, Mrs. Olejeme was honouring their invitations except one or two occasions when she was ill and which she explained in writing through her solicitors. I ensured that whenever she had interview sessions with them that I will be there physically in accordance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and I was doing this regularly coming from Lagos to Abuja.

In course of the investigation, two things happened that startled me. One was that EFCC’s investigation was anchored only on one witness whose evidence was mere hearsay and uncorroborated. It was the witness’s words against the accused and secondly, EFCC was more interested in the properties of the woman more than the facts of the case that will secure her conviction. I was wondering how EFCC will forfeit the property of an accused person facing trial without first securing her conviction except that can happen in a country run by the likes of Ibrahim Magu.

From December to April the following year, the EFCC that published to the whole world how Olejeme stole N69 billion remained static and was not able and keen to prefer any charge against her. However, something strange happened one morning in April 2018. EFCC operatives numbering over 18 from Enugu invaded the home of Mrs Olejeme over a matter that was purely civil and stayed in the woman’s house searching her for over 10 hours. They blocked every entrance and exit on the street. Having failed to convince her to follow them to Enugu, they left her for another assignment according to them. My client fearing for her life escaped from her home and was not heard or seen until this Thursday April 15, 2021 when I heard that SHE IS BACK TO NIGERIA AND HAS REPORTED TO EFCC, possibly to face her trial.

When she escaped and went abroad due to the treatment she got from EFCC, I was called upon by the same EFCC to produce her. I felt that it was very wicked of the Agency to drive the woman back abroad and still have the audacity to request that I produce her. I felt outraged but as patriot I went after the woman through INTERPOL and finally got her placed on RED ALERT by Interpol headquarters in France. That piece of good news got Magu infuriated as he needed unwarranted evidence to embarrass himself and not me. In his clueless fury, he ordered my arrest and detention.

If an accused person jumps bail, the surety certainly has not committed any offence under our law. It is a civil matter which is to the effect that the surety forfeits the bail bond. It is only when the surety is unable to pay the stated sum in the bail bond that he or she will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC read their own law upside down and criminalised a purely civil matter. I even over heard that they said I breached the Rules of Professional Conduct of NBA. When did EFCC start to enforce Rules of Professional Conduct for NBA?

The truth of the matter is that I did not breach any rule of professional conduct of NBA in the first instance, as the said Rule is only applicable to a lawyer who is defending an accused in court and stands surety for the same client in the court. The matter at hand then was not yet before any court; it was an administrative bail by the Agency pending formal charge before any court. That was how EFCC under Magu operated; lawless, clueless and brash!

I immediately instructed my lawyers to enforce my fundamental human rights before the court, and quickly process was filed and served. The court ordered my release or a formal charge if I have committed any offence. Ibrahim Magu disobeyed the court order and kept me in detention for 23 days contrary to the order of the court. My lawyers commenced contempt proceedings and with avalanche of criticisms from all quarters including the harshest from NBA, CLASFON, OTU OKA IWU (Lawyers), Femi Falana SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN and several NGOs and well-meaning Nigerians, Ibrahim Magu was dazed as he ordered my release by 11:00PM. I refused his release by that ungodly hour and remained in detention till the following morning to be sure of my safety.

I prayed two “dangerous” prayers while in and out of detention. Yes you heard me right. One, is that as long as Ibrahim Magu has refused to see the wrong he has committed against me and several others and has not apologised including making peace, that God should disgrace him out of office. Those who are close to me and those inmates with me at the EFCC facility in Abuja remembered this prayer point when it was answered. I am not rejoicing at Magu’s fall but how I wish that men in power both in Nigeria and elsewhere will know and understand that POWER IS TRANSIENT AND EPHEMERAL.
In his glory, Ibrahim Magu felt he has become “God”. God will never share his glory with anyone. His rise and fall is a story for another day.

The second prayer I prayed was that Mrs Olejeme will never have peace of mind wherever she is on planet earth until she comes back to answer to her charges and prove to the world that I neither wronged her nor Nigeria.

Just this Thursday, the 15th of April, two years after I was wrongly detained by Magu’s EFCC, I got a call from Hon Enai, my Co-surety that Mrs Olejeme is back to the country and has dutifully reported herself to EFCC.

To say the least, I was elated and grateful to God for answered prayers. Since she escaped, she has intentionally refused to call or speak with me. She has her reasons, it may be out of fear or for some other reasons best known to her. For now it is no longer my headache. I have my plans. She is back to face her case and the ONUS IS ON EFCC TO PROVE THE THEFT OF N69 Billion against her. Newspaper and public trial characterisation of Magu era is gone, perhaps for good.

Let everyone accused of crime in Nigeria be given fair trial and let those who are guilty be jailed, while those who are innocent be discharged and acquitted. That is how it is done in every civilized clime. I further plead that let everyone note “that anyone ACCUSED OF CRIME, NO MATTER HOW GRIEVOUS, that person is ENTITLED TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION”. It becomes even compulsory under the law if the crime is grievous and carries death penalty. On no account should public opinion be used to scare any diligent lawyer from defending any accused person especially if the accused story is contrary to the “spurious” allegations by the Prosecutor. In saying this, I am not pronouncing Mrs Olejeme innocent but from what I saw during her interview sessions, the spurious figure of N69 billion is not only ridiculous, it is downright stupid to market that kind of figure to the public when the evidence on ground is nothing near that!

While we await the trial proceedings or whatever EFCC wants to do with her, my ultimate joy is that I have been vindicated as I have no hand in her escape. I never knew her while she was the chairman of NSITF. I only played the role of a patriot in bringing her back and I am here giving glory to God for vindicating me that I did not commit any crime in doing that or while doing that.

I have applied and withdrawn my suretyship of the woman from EFCC. The letter to that effect was written and acknowledged on the 16th of April, 2021.

All in all, “the just shall live by faith”, the word of God says so. It further says “Say to the righteous and it shall be well with him”. “No weapon fashioned against any Child of God shall prosper”. My trust is on God, and He alone will continue to direct my path.

My profound gratitude goes to my comrades, friends, senior friends and colleagues, family members and workers including silent and distant admirers who stood with me at those trying period. They shall make heaven, Amen.

God shall also bless my haters and unknown enemies. They may have their reasons since I am not perfect and never claim to be. We all need God’s forgiveness and Grace on this planet earth.

To God be all the glory, honour and praise for honouring His name. I am wantonly grateful to this awesome God!

M. O. Ubani Esq. (MOU).
Barrister & Solicitor

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.

‘LAWYERS WILL GET ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING RULES SOON,’ SAYS AKPATA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is set to roll out anti-money laundering guidelines for lawyers across the country. This was disclosed by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata while receiving a delegation from the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur.

In a statement by NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Akpata said the guidelines had become imperative to ensure that lawyers are not conduits for money laundering activities. According to the statement which was made available to CITY LAWYER, “The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.”

It is recalled that NBA has been in a face-off with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over implementation of Section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 which mandated lawyers to report certain financial transactions by their clients to the anti-graft body through the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML). SCUML, the forerunner to NFIU, was originally under the supervision of the EFCC.

In an Originating Summons dated March 15, 2013 and taken out on behalf of the Registered Trustees of the NBA by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Messrs Babajide Ogundipe, Emeka Nwadioke and Davison Oturu, the NBA asked the court to declare that the provisions of section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, insofar as they purport to apply to legal practitioners, were invalid, null and void.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and SCUML from enforcing the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 against legal practitioners. The judgement was CBN-VS-NBA_CA on appeal by a full panel of the Court of Appeal. CITY LAWYER gathered that a final appeal may be pending at the Supreme Court.

Below is the full text of the statement.

ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR: NATIONAL FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT MEETS WITH NBA LEADERSHIP; SEEKS NBA’S COOPERATION IN COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING AND OTHER CORRUPT PRACTICES.

Dear Colleagues,

The National Financial Intelligence Unit (“NFIU”) paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) on the 17th day of February 2021.

During the course of the engagement, the NFIU team led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur, highlighted the critical role of the NBA and its members in fighting corruption, as the nature of their work places them in a privileged position of requesting disclosure of sources of funds, investigation of funds, checkmating money laundering and other corrupt practices.

The NFIU boss also reiterated that NBA’s role as a Self-Regulatory Organization, imposes a moral responsibility on the NBA and her members to ensure that there are ethical rules that modulate their relationship with clients and members of the society at large.

Against the above background, the NFIU team recommended to the Association as follows, that:

I. The NBA sets up a dedicated Self-Regulatory desk officer at the NBA Secretariat.

II. The NBA sets up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee to collaborate with the NFIU on its anti-corruption mandate.

III. The NBA trains legal practitioners on their roles in fighting money laundering and related corrupt practices.

IV. The NBA partners with NFIU at large.

In response, the NBA President pledged the commitment of the NBA to work with existing government agencies in ensuring that legal profession in Nigeria is practised in line with global best practice so that legal practitioners are not seen to be enablers, or facilitators of corrupt practices.

The NBA President, further assured the NFIU of the Association’s desire to collaborate with the Unit, in building the capacity of legal practitioners by educating them on anti-money laundering, investigation of sources of funds, disclosure of origin of illegal funds, etc, in a manner that does not compromise their professional obligations to their clients.

The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.

Dr. Rapulu Nduka
Publicity Secretary,
Nigerian Bar Association.

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.

EFCC SET TO ARRAIGN TWO LAWYERS OVER USORO’S ELECTION

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

  • CONFIRMS CITY LAWYER REPORT

Echoes of the election that brought outgoing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has reverberated as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may soon arraign suspects in the controversial election.

Filed as Suit no FHC/L/118c/2020, the EFCC is, according to GAVEL INTERNATIONAL accusing the duo of Sarah Omeigha Ajibola, and John Ozovehe Demide of allegedly rigging the August 2018 NBA Elections in favour of Usoro .

The charge confirms CITY LAWYER exclusive report that “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have swooped on senior lawyer and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) administrative lynchpin, Sarah Ajijola over an alleged cash payment received from one of the presidential candidates in the last elections.

“An impeccable source who is familiar with the EFCC investigations told CITY LAWYER that Ajijola, NBA’s Director of Membership & Bar Services, was pulled in by the anti-graft agency for questioning over a N25,000 inflow into her bank account in the run-up to the controversial 2018 NBA Elections.

“The EFCC is investigating the outcome of the elections following an alleged petition by Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure who was an agent to Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, one of the presidential candidates in the elections. Olowokure is now deceased.”

According to latest report, the charge has been filed at the Federal High Court, though the arraignment has been stalled by the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

The charges were reportedly filed on May 5, 2020 and signed by EFCC prosecutors led by Mr Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa and including Bilikisu Buhari Bala, Usman Umar Buhari, Mohammed Abbas Omeiza, Suleiman I. Suleiman, and Kufre Uduak on behalf of the Executive Chairman of EFCC.

Below are the charges:
COUNT-1

That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime in August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to knowingly alter the email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 (One Thousand and Four) eligible voters of the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 elections with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election and you think thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) of the Cybercrime ( Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015 and punishable under Section 13 of the same Act.

COUNT-2

That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime in August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of the Honourable Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: to knowingly alter the email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004(One Thousand and Four) eligible voters of the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 National elections with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b)of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 and punishable under Section 13 of the same Act

COUNT-3
That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime in August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court knowingly altered the email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 (One Thousand and Four) eligible voters of the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 National elections with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 13 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act,2015.

COUNT-4

That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court fraudulently used the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN043280 of one Gabriel Abijo Oladipo to vote as the same Gabriel Abijo Oladipo through your Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015 under the same section.

COUNT-5

That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: fraudulently using the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN043280 of one Gabriel Abijo Oladipo to vote as the same Gabriel Abijo Oladipo through the Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with the intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association National elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the Cybercrime ( Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

COUNT-6

That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court fraudulently impersonated one Gabriel Abijo Oladipo with Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN043280 by voting as such through your Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with the intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association National elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the Cybercrime ( Prohibition, Prevention etc ) Act, 2015.

COUNT-7

That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime on 19th August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: fraudulently use the unique identification features such Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN088449 of one Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun to vote as the same Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun through the Smile Modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act,2015

COUNT-8
That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on 19th August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court fraudulently impersonated one Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun with Suu preme Court Enrolment Number SCN088449 by voting as such through your Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (3) of yhe cybercrime ( Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

COUNT-9

That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: fraudulently using the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN015233 of one David Anakor through the Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the Cybercrime ( Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

COUNT-10
That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court fraudulently impersonated one David Anakor with Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN015233 by voting as such through your Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act,2015

COUNT-11
That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 20th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: fraudulently using the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN114439 of one Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu to vote as the same Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu through the Smile modem on IP address 197.210.216.226 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association National elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

COUNT-12
That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 20th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court fraudulently impersonated one Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu with Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN114439 by voting as such through your Smile modem on IP address 197.210.216.226 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (3) of the cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

COUNT-13
That you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 20th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court aided the commission of an offence to wit: fraudulently using the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN024643 of one Bankole Isaac Toyin to vote as the same Bankole Isaac Toyin through the Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association National elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) and punishable under Section 22 (2) of the cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act,2015.

COUNT-14
That you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 20th day of August 2018, within the Jurisdiction of this Court fraudulently impersonated one Bankole Isaac Toyin to vote as the same Bankole Isaac Toyin with Supreme Court Enrolment Number SCN024643 by voting as such through your Smile modem on IP address 169.159.65.190 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (3) of the cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015.

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.

EXCLUSIVE: NBA ELECTIONS – WHY EFCC QUIZED NBA CHIEFTAIN

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have swooped on senior lawyer and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) administrative lynchpin, Sarah Ajijola over an alleged cash payment received from one of the presidential candidates in the last elections.

An impeccable source who is familiar with the EFCC investigations told CITY LAWYER that Ajijola, NBA’s Director of Membership & Bar Services, was pulled in by the anti-graft agency for questioning over a N25,000 inflow into her bank account in the run-up to the controversial 2018 NBA Elections.

The EFCC is investigating the outcome of the elections following an alleged petition by Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure who was an agent to Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, one of the presidential candidates in the elections. Olowokure is now deceased.

As the overseer of the NBA database, Ajijola worked closely with the Professor Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) in generating a register of voters for the elections. Reputed as highly knowledgeable in NBA affairs, Ajijola was quizzed for several days over the inflow. It was however unclear at press time whether the anti-graft agency was able to make a headway in its investigations into the elections following this latest effort to track those who allegedly rigged the Bar elections.

CITY LAWYER sent whatsapp messages to Ajijola requesting her response on the subject. When CITY LAWYER noticed that the messages remained unread, CITY LAWYER alerted Ajijola via SMS. Though there was compelling evidence that the whatsapp messages were read, Ajijola however did not respond to the enquiries even after CITY LAWYER made another request for a feedback.

CITY LAWYER gathered that Ajijola was released when NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN dispatched NBA Legal Adviser, Mr. Innocent Eze to Lagos to secure her release. It was gathered that Eze was able to persuade the anti-graft agency to let the NBA top officer off the hook. He was said to have processed the administrative bail granted Ajijola, leading to her release from EFCC custody.

Though some lawyers had frowned on Ajijola’s prolonged detention, there are strong indications that this may not be unconnected with the fact that key NBA chieftains were heading to Seoul, South Korea to attend the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference barely a few days after she was picked up by EFCC operatives and whisked away to their Lagos Office.

Usoro was declared winner of the election, having polled 4,509 votes to beat Okafor and former Nigerian Law School Deputy Director General, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN. While Okafor garnered 4,423 votes, Ojukwu polled 3,313 votes to place third.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. 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.