‘We are studying ECNBA’s Revised Time Table,’ Says Osigwe

• Hints at Constitutional Crisis
• INJUNCTION: ‘I’m not Disappointed by September date,’
• Election without Prior NEC Approval Unconstitutional – Ukiri

The last may not have been heard on the much revised election time table rolled out by the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA). This is because some lawyers contend that the new time table is fraught with constitutional challenges, given that the NBA leadership did not obtain an approval of the National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) prior to release of the revised time table.

This hint was also dropped by the embattled former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Afam Osigwe while reacting to today’s adjournment of his lawsuit against the NBA leadership.

Asked about his next move in the light of the adjournment, the disqualified presidential aspirant told CITY LAWYER that he has “no next move,” adding that “I have already submitted my matter to the court.” But he hinted ominously, “We are also studying the legal issues thrown up by today’s publication (of the revised election time table) by ECNBA and the effect.” It is believed that this is in reference to the controversy over the constitutionality of the revised time table.

Osigwe said that he is not bothered by the September date given by the court for the hearing of his application to stop the NBA National Officers Election. He had dragged ECNBA and the NBA leadership to an Nnewi High Court, seeking among other reliefs an injunction to stall the election.

The suit had suffered a setback when the court ordered that the defendants – NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, the ECNBA, and Chairman of Nnewi Branch of the NBA – should be put on notice. However, when the matter came up today, the court again adjourned the matter to September 27, 2018 making academic the motion for injunction to restrain the NBA from proceeding with the election now fixed for August 3 and 4.

Osigwe however told CITY LAWYER that he is not perturbed by the long adjournment, saying: “I am not disappointed at all. It was the parties that agreed that the matter should be adjourned to end-September.

“When we applied for interim injunction, the court hinted that it may not be necessary; that if it finds that the suit has merit, it will nullify the election. So, in the light of that earlier hint, there was no need continuing with the motion for injunction today. Let us prepare to have the entire suit heard and let the court deliver judgement one way or the other.”

Meanwhile, some lawyers have argued that the revised time table cannot stand a test in court since no prior NEC approval was obtained before its publication.

One of the early commentators is former NBA presidential aspirant, Mr. Blessing Ukiri. In a statement he sent to CITY LAWYER, the vocal Bar Leader said: “The election in August 2018 without prior NEC approval, first sought and obtained, is definitely unconstitutional!” Continuing, he queried, “Is this a plot to throw NBA into another leadership crisis/litigation ahead of 2019? We are definitely embarrassing ourselves and NBA! I feel very sad indeed.”

Article 2.3(a) of the Second Schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution provides that “Election of National Officers shall be held in the month of July of the election year of the Association or at such time and place as may be ratified by National Executive Committee.”

However, Section 6(2) of the Constitution enacts that “If at any time, due to unavoidable circumstances or any emergency, an election cannot be held at the appropriate time or the National Executive Committee is incapable of functioning, the General Council of the Bar shall be convened with powers to constitute a 10 member caretaker committee of members of the Association to run the affairs of the Association for not more than the unexpired tenure of the National Officers or until when new National Officers shall be elected.”

Section 1(2) of the Legal Practitioners Act states as follows: “The Bar Council shall consist of – (a) the Attorney-General of the Federation, who shall be the president of the council; (b) the Attorneys-General of the States; and (c) twenty members of the association.” CITY LAWYER gathered that the 20 members as provided by Section 1(2)(c) of the Act were elected at the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the association.

Analysts have argued that the implication of this enactment is that where elections cannot be held in the month of July, the General Council shall take-over the running of the association and apply to NEC for approval to hold elections beyond July. They contend that Section 6(2) is the principal law that cannot be subjugated by Article 2.3(a) of the Second Schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution.

Some however argue that Section 6 implicates a situation of total paralysis of the NBA system as was the case during the 1992 debacle.

It is left to be seen how these contentions will play out in the coming days and weeks.

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