Our attention has been drawn to statements issued by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch wherein the Executive Committee demanded that CITY LAWYER “immediately withdraws the publication regarding Ms. Uduak and issue public apology failing which the Executive Committee of NBA may take legal action in defending the reputation of the Branch.”
The Executive Committee has variously described our report as a “misleading statement” and “careless publication.” We firmly reject this characterization.
Following up on its coordinated and frenzied attacks on CITY LAWYER and Mr. Emeka Nwadioke, its President and former award-winning journalist, the Executive Committee unleashed its officers and acolytes to impugn our character and the report.
It is a measure of the leadership diminution within the once hallowed branch that a member of the Executive Committee has been hounding our President via infantile direct messages such as “You are warned to cease and desist from spreading horrible rumours;” “When pride comes, then comes disgrace …;” “The Branch has prevailed over you triumphantly already!” Discerning stakeholders cannot but wonder whether this has become a popularity contest between CITY LAWYER and the Executive Committee or simply a case of whether a news report is factual or otherwise. Other Executive Committee members have chosen to characterize the report as “false” or to read non-existent motives into it.
Consistent with its misguided quest to ‘triumph’ over CITY LAWYER and its President, the Executive Committee, against settled principles, chose to constitute itself into both judge and jury, stating that “City Lawyer did not make any attempt to contact any member of the Executive Committee of NBA Lagos Branch in order to verify the facts before going ahead to publish false statement against the Branch. This, we believe, should not be condoned.
“Consequently, Emeka Nwadioke will be removed from all NBA Lagos related platforms, and City Lawyer posts will now be disallowed going forward.” This premeditated decision has been effected by the Branch leadership. At least one activist-lawyer has offered to legally challenge pro bono this apparently oppressive behaviour.
It is instructive that CITY LAWYER made an effort to interrogate the subject of Ms. Adams’ welfare with a member of the Executive Committee. This ultimately proved abortive.
Though the Branch leadership had publicly stated that “The Executive Committee will liaise with the National Welfare Committee of the NBA to ensure the welfare of Ms. Uduak,” the sad and pathetic tales Ms. Adams told CITY LAWYER amid heart-rending sobs clearly indicated that either nothing was being done in this regard or that sufficient traction was not being gained on such efforts. It was very clear to us that Ms. Adams was in considerable distress and trauma, with a deep-seated feeling that her case was not getting the desired attention and traction. She was unwavering in her assertion that, more than two weeks after the incident, she had not received any financial support from the Nigerian Bar Association (including NBA Lagos Branch) to defray her sundry medical bills.
Ms. Adams painted a vivid picture of a hapless survivor who had been left in the lurch. Notwithstanding the strenuous and orchestrated defence put up by the Branch leadership, it has failed to rebut this assertion. Instead, it was very convenient to attack the messenger! Indeed, in the aftermath of the needless brouhaha that has attended our report, CITY LAWYER has become aware that the survivor escalated her desperate condition to other public-spirited lawyers! However, we shall keep our gunpowder dry.
Equally instructive is that, in the aftermath of the CITY LAWYER report, the Branch leadership had sought to throw Ms. Adams under the bus in a desperate face-saving gambit. While we are unable to provide more details at this stage, we state that the Branch leadership cannot approbate and reprobate. It must walk its talk and follow through on its commitment to “liaise with the National Welfare Committee of the NBA to ensure the welfare of Ms. Uduak.” No amount of ill-advised attempt to muzzle accountability and Free Speech will suffice.
We believe that NBA Lagos Branch, which prides itself as the poster-child of NBA, should manage its media relations function better. Sadly, it chose to deploy a shock-and-awe stratagem instead to muzzle the messenger.
This hugely disappointing conduct notwithstanding, CITY LAWYER has continued to thread a higher moral ground in the circumstances. Given that our report was fundamentally an interview with Ms. Adams, what the Branch is entitled to is a “Right of Reply.” Aligning with global best practice, we have published the rebuttal issued by the Branch leadership, shorn of the litany of ad hominem attacks that have become the common thread in this matter.
It is highly instructive that the Branch leadership had gratuitously labelled our report as “false.” What it has spectacularly failed to do till date is provide any proof to rebut the factual basis of our report. Indeed, Ms. Adams has not denied either granting us an interview or repudiated any scintilla of assertion made in the report. Clearly, playing to the gallery must have limits!
While we concede that the new Branch leadership is still learning the ropes, it must quit its ‘campaign mode’ and quickly settle down to what matters most – members’ welfare. Need we remind the Executive Committee that it, perhaps characteristically, was conspicuously absent at the recent burial of its member, Late Mrs. Ijeoma Chizoma Oparanozie, who died in very tragic circumstances. Again, while other individuals and entities have been very upbeat in trying to seek compensation for her estate vis-à-vis possible medical negligence, the Branch leadership has been ominously silent on the subject. If the leadership turns a new leaf today, it would be doing itself and the Branch members a world of good.
We thank all stakeholders who have called to offer pro bono legal services and to pledge their solidarity with CITY LAWYER. We assure you all that this has buoyed our commitment to the pursuit of probity and lawyers’ welfare.
For the avoidance of any doubt howsoever, we stand by our report.
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