The reported ambition of two leading contenders for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidency may be in jeopardy as a senior lawyer has demanded interpretation of the NBA Constitution from the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA).
According to a letter obtained by CITY LAWYER and dated January 25, 2022, former Secretary of the NBA Constitution Review Committee, Mr. Olasupo Ojo has asked the recently inaugurated committee to interpret especially Section 9(3) of the recently amended NBA Constitution.
Meanwhile, Ojo confirmed to CITY LAWYER that he has delivered the letter to the committee, saying: “Yes. It is already delivered to the Chairman and some members. They acknowledged.” On his part, ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN also told CITY LAWYER that the committee is in receipt of the letter, adding that it would respond in due course.
In the letter addressed to ECNBA Chairman and marked “URGENT” with reference number OO/ECNBA/ABJ/ECNBA/02/22, Ojo wrote: “In the main, I write to formally seek the attention of the ECNBA, for the proper interpretation of the mandatory provisions of section 9(3) of the NBA Constitution as well as paragraphs 2.2(b) and 2.2(d) of the second schedule in light of the forthcoming 2022 NBA National Officers’ election.”
Continuing, the fiery senior lawyer said: “Pursuant to the dictates of section 9(3) of NBA Constitution and paragraphs 2.2(b) and 2.2(d) of the second schedule, the rotation of the candidacy for the office of the presidency amongst different groups/sections in the geographical zones created by the NBA Constitution has been and is an intrinsic provision of the NBA Constitution; which has since been endorsed by the 2020 Electoral Reform and Audit Committee which recommended inter alia that same;
“…should be strictly adhered to in order to ensure that no group and/or section in a geographical zone is marginalized and the unity of the bar is preserved.”
“This report and recommendation was also given imprimatur by its subsequent adoption by the NBA NEC as contained in the communiqué issued by the President and General Secretary of the Association on March 18, 2021. Kindly find attached the relevant pages of the report, NEC minutes of meeting and communiqué for ease of reference.”
He noted that section 9(3) of the NBA Constitution provides that the country shall be divided into three zones as set out in the Second Schedule for the purposes of election into national offices.
Quoting Paragraph 2.2(b) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution, Ojo identified the geographical zones as Northern, Eastern and Western Zones, adding that “what constitutes different groups or sections in the NBA Constitution is akin to the geopolitical zones within the geographical zones.”
Ojo noted that Paragraph 2.2(d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution provides that “Where a position is zoned to any particular geographical zone, the position shall be rotated and held in turn by the different groups and/or sections in the geographical zone.”
According to Ojo, “Having due regard to paragraph 2.2(d) of the second schedule to the NBA Constitution reproduced above, an aspirant to the Office of the Presidency of the NBA has to be from a section/geo-political zone in the geographical zone where the Presidency is zoned, in this case the North for 2022 NBA election, in compliance with the constitutional rotation requirement. This rotation within the geographical zones also applies to the positions of 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, 3rd Vice President and General Secretary which have all been zoned to specific geographical zones for the purposes of the 2022 NBA elections as pointed out above. That is to say that within the Western zone, the rotational principle will apply in view of the different sections/groups which are mid-west and south-west while in the Eastern Zone; rotation is to be between the south-south and south-east. In the same vein, the rotation is to be amongst the North-Central, North-West and North-East geopolitical zones within the Northern zone.”
He noted that following the build-up to the 2022 NBA election which has been zoned to the North, “there are several prospective aspirants for the position of the NBA President from the Northern Zone, many of whom have consulted me in respect thereof.
“I seek the clarification and/or confirmation of the ECNBA as to the import of section 9(3) of the NBA Constitution and paragraph 2.2(d) of the second schedule of the NBA Constitution on the 2022 NBA general election in the determination of the issue as to the eligibility status of aspirants emerging from the sub-zones from the North, West and East geopolitical zones respectively with respect to the offices zoned to them.. In my humble view the need for this clarification now is germane to the transparency and fairness of the electoral process and clearly represents the clear and mandatory provision of the just amended NBA Constitution and should ideally therefore be expressly indicated in the guidelines that will be issued and published by the ECNBA in due course.”
Concluding, Ojo wrote: “In the circumstances, I seek the required clarification as it relates to the rotation amongst the various sections/groups within the respective zones that are to produce the next NBA President, General Secretary and Vice Presidents in order to be properly guided as a voter and key stakeholder of the Bar. This is more so as consultations are ongoing and I intend to possibly contest or play key roles in the electioneering process at the appropriate time. I humbly entreat you to treat this matter with utmost fairness, transparency, justice and strict adherence to the rule of law as it is a sensitive issue touching on the future of the Nigerian Bar. I await your prompt response on this matter so that I can be guided accordingly.”
Watchers of NBA politics believe that the petition may affect the political fortunes of two leading contenders for the NBA Presidency, namely Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN and immediate past NBA General Secretary, Mr. Jonathan Taidi, leaving the coast clear for another strong contender, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN.
While Maikyau is from Kebbi State in the North West Zone, Taidi is from Niger State in the North Central Zone. Gadzama is from Borno State in the North East. It is believed that while the North Central has produced former NBA presidents, Chief Bayo Ojo SAN and Mr. Joseph Daudu SAN both from Kogi State, the North West has produced former NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN from Kano State. On the other hand, the North East is yet to produce an NBA President.
It is unclear at press time whether the two leading aspirants are aware of the letter to ECNBA, as they are yet to react to the development.
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