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.

INEC: NBA ASKS SENATE TO DUMP BUHARI’S NOMINEE

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has urged Nigeria’s Senate not to confirm Ms. Lauretta Onochie as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner.

In a statement by the Chairman of the Governing Council of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani, the lawyers’ body said that “Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.”

The Senate leadership had recently directed its Committee on INEC to screen Onochie for possible confirmation.

Below is the full text of the statement.

Distinguished Senator Kabiru Gaya
Chairman Senate Committee on INEC
National Assembly Complex,
F.CT,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

OBJECTION FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF LAURETTA ONOCHIE AS INEC COMMISSIONER.

I write this letter of objection to your sir at this critical and turbulent times in our Nation’s history, and I strongly believe that the Senate as a democratic institution of this great Country, has what it takes at this trying times to save and preserve Nigeria from heckling down to hell.

Sometime in October 2020, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as an INEC Commissioner. Mrs Lauretta Onochie, who until her nomination by the President, served as the President’s Personal Assistant and was an unapologetic member of the ruling Party the All Progressive Congress (APC) hence, her nomination by the President as INEC Commissioner, a position that the law prescribes the holder of same should be non-partisan, is ultra-vires and unconstitutional.

Recently her name came up for confirmation by the senate after an initial set back, therefore, as a concerned Citizen of this great Country, and as a Constitutional Legal Practitioner with grave concern for the preservation and sustainability of our very fragile democracy, I hereby strongly object to the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie by the President and her intended confirmation of her nomination by the Senate.

Distinguished Senate Chairman, considering the reality of Nigeria today, with the high level of insecurity, ethnic tensions and mistrust among Citizens, the decline in trust and confidence by the Citizens in their elected officials and democratic institutions to mention a few, it is very important, that as the next election draws closer, whoever is to be nominated by the President to serve as INEC Commissioner, Chairman or as an unbiased Umpire for National elections must be in compliance with the law and must be persons that, the general public view as not being partisan or compromised in any form or manner.

Sir, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that. “no person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or Poll Clerk”. Therefore, the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.

For emphasis;

As a card carrying member of the ruling party or any other party for that matter, she is unfit for the position she is nominated. I also doubt that Section 154 (3) of the constitution was complied with, which prescribe that the President nominates INEC Commissioner in consultation with the Council of State. Paragraphs B of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the constitution provides that the Council of State shall have power to advise the President in the exercise of his power with respect to (iv) the INEC including the appointment of members of the Commission. When was this Section and paragraph complied with? If I may ask.

Most importantly paragraph 14 of part I of the third schedule of the constitution as amended in Section 30 No. 1 of 2020, a member of INEC should be “non partisan”, can Mrs. Lauretta Onochie be regarded by anyone in Nigeria, knowing her antecedent as the Special Assistant to the President as “non partisan” under the Nigerian context? The right answer is No.

I therefore, on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association urge that her nomination be rejected and her confirmation be denied forthwith.

Thanking you in advance for the positive consideration of my request.

Dr. Monday O. Ubani, Esq.
Chairman
NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law.

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.

NBA BWARI HONOURS GADZAMA, OTHERS

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bwari Branch has honoured the pioner Chairman of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN and others during its 2021 Law Week.

Themed “Post COVID Realities for Nigerian Lawyers; Curbing Insecurity Challenges and Fostering National Development,” the event was held at Gadis Event Center, Dutse, Abuja on June 1 and 2, 2021

Among those who delivered goodwill messages were Gadzama, the Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi (represented by Justice O. A. Musa); Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Ciroma SAN, and NBA General Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Oduah.

The Chairman of the branch, Mr. Clement Chukwuemeka thanked Gadzama “for his unwavering fatherly support to the branch” and urged all lawyers to be steadfast. The Le and diligent. The branch also unveiled the second edition of its journal.

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.

CAC ACCREDITATION: NBA MAKES U-TURN, ASKS LAWYERS TO COMPLY

  • SETS UP JOINT HELP DESK FOR CAC COMPLAINTS

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reversed its hard stance on the ongoing re-accreditation exercise by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), asking lawyers to comply with the directive. It has also set up a joint help desk with the CAC to address lawyers’ complaints.

In a press statement signed by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association stated that “The CAC and the NBA have agreed that rather than require lawyers and accredited agents to pay the accreditation fee on an annual basis, the payment will be a one-off fee.”

The statement added that “The CAC and the NBA have also agreed that the payment and reaccreditation will not apply to lawyers who paid or were accredited by the CAC between 1st January 2020 and the date of the initial reaccreditation notice from the CAC in March 2021. The portion of the reminder notice from the CAC dated 1st June 2021 which exempted only those who procured their accreditation after 31st December 2020 was an error which will be withdrawn or clarified by the CAC.”

This is a sharp departure from the position of the lawyers’ body which had in a press statement on March 12, 2021 chided the corporate registry agency for the revalidation exercise, saying that “it is both insensitive and smacks of utter bad faith on the part of the CAC to proceed with this policy without due consultation with the NBA whose members make up over 80% of the customer base of the CAC.”

The NBA had also reasoned that “it is possible to achieve a clean database of accredited agents by requiring those who had been previously accredited by the CAC to simply update and revalidate their records on the CAC portal (at no cost) or lose their accreditation by the new deadline,” adding that “The obligatory charge imposed by the CAC should not apply to existing users but only to those customers who have never been accredited by the CAC and who now seek to be part of the system.”

The lawyers’ body had also based its opposition to the payment of the N10,000 revalidation fee on the harsh economic climate, saying: “The NBA strongly urges the CAC to reconsider its position with respect to the payment of the revalidation fee by existing users, and more importantly to continue to work assiduously towards improving customer experience by resolving the several complaints by users of the system and enhancing efficiency.” 

It was unclear at press time whether the NBA has secured any major shift from the CAC prior to altering its position on the issue, moreso as the CAC had since March 12, 2021 clarified in a tweet that the payment is a one-off. It had stated thus: “Dear esteemed Customers, please be informed that payment for re-validation of accreditation is one-off. And accreditation is not renewable annually. Furthermore, the timeline for re-validation of accreditation has been extended to June, 10 2021.”

Aside from merely stating that “The CAC maintains that the revalidation exercise is important to it for a proper administration of the CAC database especially as the CAC migrates to a process where most or all activities at, or dealings with, the CAC will be concluded on its online portal,” the NBA leadership has not provided any justification for its new stance on the revalidation fee.  

Below is the full text of the NBA statement.

3rd June 2021

To all Lawyers in Nigeria

CAC DIRECTIVE ON RE-VALIDATION OF ACCREDITED AGENTS: UPDATE FROM THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

Members of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) would have seen a notice dated 1st June 2021 from the Corporate Affairs Commission (“CAC”) reminding accredited agents of the CAC to revalidate their status as agents with the CAC. Accredited agents are required to pay for such revalidation on or before 10th June 2021 or risk a suspension of their accounts.

Kindly recall that when the news of this revalidation first broke out in March 2021, the NBA had issued a statement dated 12th March 2021 informing Nigerian lawyers that the NBA was engaging with the CAC on this process. Following the engagements, we wish to provide the update below:

1. The CAC maintains that the revalidation exercise is important to it for a proper administration of the CAC database especially as the CAC migrates to a process where most or all activities at, or dealings with, the CAC will be concluded on its online portal.

2. The CAC and the NBA have agreed that rather than require lawyers and accredited agents to pay the accreditation fee on an annual basis, the payment will be a one-off fee.

3. The CAC and the NBA have also agreed that the payment and reaccreditation will not apply to lawyers who paid or were accredited by the CAC between 1st January 2020 and the date of the initial reaccreditation notice from the CAC in March 2021. The portion of the reminder notice from the CAC dated 1st June 2021 which exempted only those who procured their accreditation after 31st December 2020 was an error which will be withdrawn or clarified by the CAC.

4. The CAC and the NBA have agreed that in order to enhance efficiency at the CAC and deal with service level complaints from lawyers who use the services of the CAC, an NBA help/support desk (manned by the NBA-CAC Task Force) will be set up at the CAC. Lawyers who have applications at the CAC that are not attended to within the designated timelines may escalate their complaints to the NBA support team which will liaise with the CAC with a view to resolving the issues. Such complaints should be sent to nbacac@nigerianbar.org.ng. Kindly note that only correspondence relating to delays and service inefficiency at the CAC will be entertained by this help/support desk.

5. The NBA is not oblivious of the challenges that lawyers have had to face with their clients on account of delayed processing of applications, and other service-related issues at the CAC. Accordingly, the NBA will continue to work with the CAC towards enhancing efficiency at the CAC and generally improving on the experience of our members when dealing with the CAC.

Yours sincerely,

OLUMIDE AKPATA
NBA President

NBA_CAC

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.

 

NBA BWARI KICKS OFF LAW WEEK

The Annual Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bwari Branch (“Capital Bar”) kicked off today with much fanfare. 

Confirming this to CITY LAWYER, the Branch Chairman, Mr. Clement Chukwuemeka Ugo said Day-One of the Law Week went as planned.

Below is the full schedule for the Law Week.

PROGRAMME OF EVENTS FOR NBA BWARI LAW WEEK 2021

Register: https://lawweek.capitalbarlawyers.com.ng

Venue: GADIS Event Centre, Opposite, Girls’ Secondary School, Dutse.

DAY 1: TUESDAY 1ST JUNE 2021
SESSION 1: The Opening Ceremony of NBA BWARI BRANCH LAW WEEK – 2021: TIME: 10.AM -11.55.AM

THEME: Post Covid Realities for the Nigerian Lawyer; Curbing Insecurity Challenges and Fostering National Development.

TEA BREAK: 11.40.AM -11.55.AM

Session 2

EVENT: DISCOURSE 1: (a) Providing Legal Aid to the Victims of Sexual Gender Based Violence (b)Sentencing Guidelines and Plea Bargaining- 12.PM – 1.55.PM

EVENT: DISCOURSE II – Examining the Operation of the Doctrine of Separation of Power in Modern Day Nigeria.
TIME: 2.PM -4.PM

DAY 2: WEDNESDAY 2ND JUNE 2021

SESSION 1:
EVENT: DISCOURSE 1: Creating a Niche in the Legal Profession, Future of Nigerian Legal Profession and Specialization in the Legal Practice: Where lies the Perfect Blend?

TIME: 10.AM – 12.PM

SESSION 2:

EVENT: DISCOURSE 2: CAMA 2020: The Pains and Gains.
TIME: 2.PM – 3.PM

SESSION 3:
EVENT: DISCOURSE 3: Ethical Compliance in Post Covid 19: Where are the Nigerian Lawyers?
TIME: 4.PM-6.PM

DINNER: 4P.M – 6.PM

COMPLETE EVENT PROGRAMME: https://cutt.ly/OnsAMd2

ZOOM MEETING: https://cutt.ly/zkUftuk
MEETING ID: 860 7640 1685
PASSCODE: NBA2021LW

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.

JUSUN STRIKE: ANXIETY, AS NBA IKEJA BOYCOTTS LAGOS BRANCHES’ PARLEY WITH SANWO-OLU TOMORROW

  • LAGOS, BADAGRY, EPE AND IKORODU BRANCHES TO ATTEND

  • CONFUSION OVER PARTICIPATION OF BRANCH MEMBERS

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch has vowed to boycott a meeting of all Lagos branches with Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu scheduled for “Lagos House,” Marina tomorrow.

In a telephone interview with CITY LAWYER, NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Batholomew Aguegbodo said: “I can tell you for free that I will not be there. We complied with the NBA President’s directive by embarking on our protest march today in line with our tradition as Tiger Branch. I tried to move the other branches to join us today but they gave sundry reasons on why it is impossible for them to do so. I respect their position. We shall return to the streets on Monday if by then the State Governors had not complied with JUSUN’s demand.”

However, the four other branches comprising Lagos, Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu will meet with the Governor tomorrow by 10:30 am. CITY LAWYER gathered that the branch chairmen may have agreed to converge on “Lagos House” by 10 am prior to the meeting with the Sanwo-Olu. The meeting is being facilitated by former Bar Leader and Lagos State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN.

While it was gathered that only three members from each branch would be permitted to go into the meeting with the Governor, it was unclear at press time whether branch members would be allowed to mass around the premises. This comes against the backdrop of conflicting signals from the branches regarding the level of participation of their members.

While Lagos Branch may have restricted participation to the official three-man delegation and very senior lawyers who may insist on attending, Epe and Ikorodu branch chairmen told CITY LAWYER that all their members who wish to attend have been fully mobilized to storm “Lagos House” in their numbers.

According to Mr. Ademola Koko, NBA Epe Branch Chairman, “Everybody is coming. We have mobilized all our members. We are coming in three buses which we have hired.”

This was echoed by NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Abimbola Ojedokun who told CITY LAWYER that “We are going with our members. All those who are available will accompany us on the visit.”

The branches may have however conceded to shun display of placards so as not to “embarrass” the Governor. A source told CITY LAWYER that while Epe Branch has agreed to display its banners at the Epe High Court, Badagry Branch may have directed its members to display their banners at the Lagos High Court, Igbosere.

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association had at the weekend asked all NBA branches “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

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.

‘OUR STAND ON JUSUN STRIKE,’ BY 5 LAGOS BRANCH CHAIRMEN

The five branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos State held a virtual meeting yesterday to deliberate on the ongoing strike by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the directive by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata relating to the strike.

Below is the text of the communique made available to CITY LAWYER as issued by the Committee of Chairmen after the meeting.

COMMUNIQUE ON THE DIRECTIVE OF THE PRESIDENT BY THE FIVE CHAIRMEN OF NBA BRANCHES IN LAGOS STATE ON THE ONGOING JUSUN STRIKE:

AGENDA:
1. The Chairmen of NBA Lagos, Ikeja, Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry held a meeting today 18th April, 2021 to fine tune the modalities to be jointly adopted by the Branches in effectively executing the mandate of Mr. President. The following issues were discussed:

A) Execution of the joint mandate for maximum impact in line with the mandate. After the submission of the Chairman, Ikeja Branch that all arrangements have been put in place against tomorrow by the Branch for their peaceful protest. Other Chairmen pleaded for Branches to jointly carry out the mandate as dictated in the president’s directive. The Chairman of Ikeja promised to try and convince his members against Tuesday now granted by the president for Lagos State Branches.

B) The directive dated 16th April, 2021 and personally signed by the president chronicled efforts made by our National Body and the negative effects on our members, hence, our involvement as critical Stakeholders.

C) The president’s directive enjoins NBA Branches”” to visit their state governors and demand compliance with the provisions of 1999 constitution…”

D) page 2 paragraph 1 of the directive enjoins Chairmen to effectively mobilize their members “and pay visits” to their respective state government houses on Monday 19th April, 2021 to press home the demand…”
“..at the visit, NBA Branches in each state are to present a joint written demand to their state governors”

E) At page 2 paragraph 2 of the directive which states ” The Chairmen of the NBA Branches are further requested to ensure that these visits are embarked upon every subsequent Monday until..”

The above premises formed the following resolutions:
A) That consequent upon the president’s approval for the visit on Tuesday and with the hope of Ikeja Branch joining, the Branches shall proceed with the visit to the Governor with Branches mobilising their members who shall be dressed in their official black and white.

B) Members shall converge at the Government house between 11 am and 12 pm with placards showing solidarity pursuant to our mandate. No abusive placards please.

C) Visits on subsequent Mondays shall follow the same pattern

Signed by the Chairmen of NBA, Lagos, Ikeja, Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry Branches.

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.

JUSUN STRIKE SPLITS LAGOS NBA BRANCHES, AKPATA WADES IN

• Ikeja Branch insists on protest march today
• Akpata Gives Nod to 4 branches to visit tomorrow
• Schism on interpretation of NBA’s directive

The directive by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata to NBA branches to pay a “visit” to Governors’ offices today and deliver letters to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary has split the five branches in Lagos State.

While Ikeja Branch insists on holding a “protest march” today in support of the ongoing strike by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the four other branches yesterday agreed to “visit” the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu tomorrow to deliver their joint letter.

At least two branch chairmen told CITY LAWYER that efforts made to persuade Ikeja Branch, otherwise called the “Tiger Branch,” to join other branches in the visit tomorrow met a brick wall, as the branch insisted that it had resolved at its last monthly meeting to embark on a “protest march,” even before Akpata’s directive.

NBA Ikorodu Branch Chairman, Mr. Abimbola Ojedokun told CITY LAWYER that all the branch chairmen met via whatsapp call yesterday to agree on the modalities for the visit, noting that aside from Ikeja Branch, the other branch chairman resolved to deliver a joint letter to the Governor tomorrow.

“We agreed to gather at Alausa Secretariat between 11 am and 12 noon and proceed to the Governor’s Office to meet with the Governor and deliver a joint letter to him on the issue,” said Ojedokun. “We set the time to enable members from far-flung branches like Epe and Badagry to join the group.”

Ojedokun said that the branches were mandated to mobilize their members for the visit, adding that while NBA Lagos Branch would alert its members of the decision at its monthly meeting holding today, the three other branches have scheduled emergency general meetings today to work out modalities for tomorrow’s visit.

Confirming Ojedokun’s stance, the Chairman of NBA Epe Branch, Mr. Ademola Koko told CITY LAWYER that the during the virtual meeting, Ikeja Branch stated that its plan to proceed on a protest march was 99 percent complete, adding that it could not resile from the resolve of its members.

“After the meeting, we issued a communiqué for each branch to convene an extra-ordinary general meeting to inform its members of the resolution to visit the Governor tomorrow. The meeting considered the fact the Mr. President’s directive was issued on Friday, leaving limited time to plan for the visit.

“Mr. President’s directive was for a joint visit to the Governor to deliver a jointly signed letter by all the branches in each state. That way, the letter will carry more weight. I am glad to tell you that Mr. President gave approval to the four branches to proceed with the visit tomorrow. We have just ended our own EGM. We are already mobilizing our members.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe was mandated by the other three chairmen to write the letter, to be endorsed by other branch chairmen prior to delivery to the Governor.

When CITY LAWYER telephoned NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Bartholomew Aguegbodo, he did not pick the call. However, a former Secretary of the Branch, Mr. Chinedu Ifezue told CITY LAWYER that the branch was holding an extra-ordinary general meeting where the chairman was presiding.

He said the EGM had again endorsed the earlier resolution to proceed with a protest march today, adding that “it is strictly in compliance with the NBA President’s directive. In fact, not to conduct the visit today is the real breach of the directive.”

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association asked all NBA branches to march to their respective State Governors on Monday “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

Noting that the demand for financial autonomy “is legitimate, constitutional and is in the best interest of the Judiciary as it is one of the key parameters for enthroning independence of the Judiciary and fostering democracy,” the NBA also directed the branch chairmen “to ensure that these visits are embarked upon, every subsequent Monday, until there is full compliance with this demand that is aimed at strengthening our democracy and the dispensation of justice. We trust that our members will give the leadership of their respective branches all the support that they require to achieve this much needed victory for our justice system.”

The move is coming on the heels of stalled efforts to amicably resolve the impasse, a situation bemoaned by the lawyers’ association which stated that “With these developments and the recent actions and utterances of officials of some of the State Governments, it has become apparent that most of the State Governments are not ready or willing to implement the constitutional provisions which grant financial autonomy to the

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.

JUSUN STRIKE: LAWYERS SET TO STORM GOVS’ OFFICES TOMORROW

Nigerian lawyers are poised to storm Governors’ offices tomorrow in compliance with the directive by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary. The move is in apparent solidarity with the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) which embarked on a nationwide strike to ensure financial autonomy for the judiciary.

In a press statement personally signed by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the association asked all NBA branches “to effectively mobilize their members and pay visits to their respective State Governors at the Government Houses on Monday, 19th April 2021 to press home the demand for implementation of financial autonomy for the Judiciary. At the visit, NBA Branches in each State are to present a joint written demand to their State Governor requesting full compliance with existing legislative instruments and court judgments on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.”

Noting that the demand for financial autonomy “is legitimate, constitutional and is in the best interest of the Judiciary as it is one of the key parameters for enthroning independence of the Judiciary and fostering democracy,” the NBA also directed the branch chairmen “to ensure that these visits are embarked upon, every subsequent Monday, until there is full compliance with this demand that is aimed at strengthening our democracy and the dispensation of justice. We trust that our members will give the leadership of their respective branches all the support that they require to achieve this much needed victory for our justice system.”

The move is coming on the heels of stalled efforts to amicably resolve the impasse, a situation bemoaned by the lawyers’ association which stated that “With these developments and the recent actions and utterances of officials of some of the State Governments, it has become apparent that most of the State Governments are not ready or willing to implement the constitutional provisions which grant financial autonomy to the Judiciary.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

JUSUN Strike – NBA Directive to Branches

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.