‘WE’VE SETTLED 15 BRUTALITY CASES AGAINST LAWYERS,’ SAYS GADZAMA
In this Opening Address at the recent “Town Hall Meeting,” Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Security Agencies Relations Committee (NBA-SARC), CHIEF JOE-KYARI GADZAMA SAN says the committee has successfully intervened in over 15 cases involving NBA members. He however notes that all hands must be on deck in the task of bridging the trust gap between lawyers and security operatives
Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN, FNIALS, FICMC, DiplCArb, FNICArb, FCIArb, C.Arb
(Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister/Life Bencher/Certified Mediator/Regulatory Consultant)
Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association – Security Agencies Relations Committee
Sardauna of Uba, Okwulora of Ukpo and Bobajiro of Akure Kingdom,
Founding Principal Partner of J-K Gadzama LLP
THE MAIDEN NBA-SARC TOWNHALL MEETING,
HELD AT THE NBA AUDITORIUM, NATIONAL SECRETARIAT, ABUJA,
ON APRIL 5, 2022.
I once read these golden words from Mark Twain: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Mr. Olumide Akpata has breathed life into these words as I know them. He started. He is ahead. As you may all recall, the Nigerian Bar Association-Security Agencies Relations Committee (NBA-SARC) was constituted at the National Executive Council meeting held on Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and inaugurated by the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, on Friday, January 7, 2022, at the NBA National Secretariat. The need and urgency that propelled the Akpata-led NBA to constitute such a committee as the NBA-SARC, cannot be overemphasized, especially in the face of reoccurring cases of harassment of legal practitioners by security agencies.
To bridge the trust-gap between lawyers and security agencies, the importance of a relations committee cannot be overstretched. Strong relationships of mutual trust between security agencies and the legal community are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Security agencies among other measures rely on the cooperation of legal practitioners in ensuring that the three-way traffic of justice is attained – for the victims, the perpetrators, and society. A lawyer’s willingness to therefore trust any security agency depends on whether they believe that such actions of the security agencies reflect the values, ideals and principles of procedural justice and legitimacy.
It will therefore not be out-of-place to refer to the NBA-SARC as a child of necessity, born to provide succour to the recurring trends of maltreatment of legal practitioners by security operatives whilst these legal practitioners discharge their official duties and obligations to clients. Such was our task, urgent and delicate, with no room for laxity, for time was of the essence and much was/is indeed at stake when the very custodians and ministers in the temple of justice are endangered, harassed, intimidated, and threatened in the course of carrying on their sacred and noble practice of the law. May the day never come when lawyers will cow to such wanton display of impunity.
It is consequent upon the foregoing urgency and delicate mandate of ours that we have set forth legal and diplomatic mechanisms, in a bid to reduce, and possibly eradicate the incessant cases of harassment of legal practitioners across the country.
MANDATE OF THE COMMITTEE
Success demands singleness of purpose, this is even truer for the NBA-SARC in its present drive, where objectives have been narrowed down and concentrated on but a few things at a time. Mr. President has ably notified the NBA – SARC of its terms of reference, which are as hereunder highlighted:
1. Formulate policies to be implemented by the NBA (whether alone or in collaboration with other stakeholders) that will deal holistically with the risk posed to Nigerian lawyers by security agencies.
2. Collaborate with the relevant security agencies to promote and advance a mutually beneficial relationship between the said agencies and lawyers in Nigeria.
3. Develop and promote proper protocols for engagement with security agencies by lawyers, in the course of carrying out their professional duties.
4. Work with the various branches of the NBA to achieve, at the branch level, objectives that are similar to those set out in these terms of reference.
5. Promptly intervene in cases of harassment, unlawful detention, intimidation, etc. of lawyers (in the course of carrying out their professional duties) by security agencies.
6. Carry out any other function that may be assigned to the Committee by the President or the National Executive Council; and
7. Make recommendations to the NBA President as appropriate and carry out such other functions that are consistent with the foregoing or which are necessary to achieve the mandate of the Committee.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. I consider myself supremely fortunate to lead the members of the NBA-SARC who have shown great understanding of the job required of them and the urgency with which to deliver on assignments and tasks. Indeed, I am only as strong as the weakest link in this great team. Imagine how amazed I am to know that I have got you all and your support too. I fondly remember the words of the American scientist, Mr. Jonas Edward Salk, who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines, when he said “the reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” May I on that light note commend that, you all have put in your heart and soul, it is only fair to give you even more work.
Below is also the list of the members of the NBA – SARC, and their telephone contacts:
S/N NAMES DESIGNATION PHONE NUMBER
1 Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, MFR, OFR Chairman 08022231999
2 Alex Muoka Alternate Chairman 08033009242
3 Marian Jones Secretary 08033479752
4 Taiwo Lakanu (DIG Rtd) Member 08037160989
5 Mohammad I. Tsav Member 07035653513
6 Valentine Odili Member 08035047498
7 Adanna Lynda Uba Member 08032925119
8 Chief M. A. O. Iyamanbhor Member 08037204923
9 Julie Ariahu Member 08023411581
10 Salman Alhaji Salman Member 08037252757
11 Nnaemeka Emmanuel Otagburuagu Member 08039566682
12 Peter Chukwunyelu Ikebuaso Member 08033133739
13 John Aikpokpo-Martins Member 08023063841
14 Rabiah A. Hassan Committee Liaison Officer 08063579840
ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMITTEE
After less than 3 calendar months from the NBA-SARC’s inauguration, the Committee has taken giant strides toward achieving its mandate. This is evidenced by the Committee’s plethora of successful interventions and programs. These successes will be briefly but succinctly highlighted hereunder:
I. Our Interventions:
At the risk of seeming immodest, the NBA-SARC has successfully intervened in more than 15 cases involving members of the NBA and security agencies across Nigeria since its inauguration. Permit me to, briefly run through some of these interventions:
a. One of such foremost interventions by the NBA-SARC was the case of Mr. Israel Lagbamue of the NBA Badagry Branch, Lagos State, who sometime in March, 2021, allegedly stood surety for a client in respect of a probate matter which is presently pending in Court. It was gathered that while Mr. Lagbame’s client refused to return to the police station for the continuation of investigation, Mr. Lagbame travelled to Abuja for another matter at the Nigerian Police Force headquarters where he ran into the Investigating Police Officers (IPO) in his client’s investigation, who immediately arrested and brought Mr Lagbame to the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) Area 10, Garki Abuja, where he was detained. The NBA-SARC promptly interfaced with the Nigerian Police Force and through its concerted efforts, Mr. Israel Lagbamue Esq was released.
b. Another laudable intervention of the NBA-SARC is the case of Mr. Ekilikwo Justus, a legal practitioner and member of the NBA from the NBA Idemili branch, who was detained at the IRP Abuja for a case involving a land transaction. Various attempts had been made by the Idemili branch Chairman, to secure his release but these attempts appeared to be futile as security authorities were reluctant. The security operatives were of the view that Mr. Ekilikwo Justus had a case of murder to answer and as such, should not be released from detention. However, the NBA-SARC began interfacing with the Police and other relevant security outfits in order to resolve the case of Mr. Ekilikwo Justus and presently, all discrepancies are being cleared owing to the NBA-SARC’s steadfast efforts in the matter.
c. The NBA-SARC has also intervened in the case of one Yemi Abdulkareem v NPF (LASG/JPI/233/2020. Yemi Abdulkareem was brutalized and killed by a police officer during the EndSARS protest in 2020. In line with this, his family petitioned on his behalf for a sum of 10 Million Naira. Upon the intervention of the NBA-SARC with the Nigerian Police Force and through their continued efforts, the petition was treated under the Police brutality cases. The petition made by the family was found meritorious and the family was awarded the sum of 10 Million Naira by the EndSARS Lagos Judicial Panel.
d. Furthermore, on February 7, 2022, the NBA-SARC, released a statement condemning the abduction of three members of the NBA Warri Branch. The NBA-SARC further urged the Edo State government to work hand-in-hand with the Nigerian Police Force to put in place safety measures to protect legal practitioners and the general public at large. The NBA-SARC is also pleased to announce that the abducted members have been released and are now safe. Legal practitioners, are enjoined, to now, more than ever, be on alert and security conscious.
e. The NBA – SARC has further intervened in the following matters which will be briefly highlighted: the case of one Nyiev Jennifer Mimidoo, then the case of detaining Mr Wale, Vice Chairman, Ota Branch – 18/01/2022, to condemning the Kidnap of members of Warri Branch – 6/02/2022, then the Release of Mr. Ifeanyi Okonkwo and Mr. Paulinus Ezenwaka – 13/02/2022, to the Intervention in the maltreatment of Mr. Kolawole Isaac Abubakar, Esq by Officers of the Nigerian Customs Service – 27/02/2022, followed by the case of assault of Nnamdi Samuel Nwafor, Esq., to the Intervention in the assault of Redzie Jugo, Esq. of NBA Jos Branch and condemning the Arrest of Abubakar Marshall, who is Mr, Omoyele Sowore’s lawyer – 8/03/2022.
II. Our Courtesy Visits to Relevant Security Agencies:
On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, I led the hardworking members of the NBA-SARC on courtesy visits to Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (“ICPC”), and the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(“NDLEA”), Brig. Gen. Muhammad Buba Marwa (Rtd) respectively, and therein discussed the urgent need for partnership and cordial relations between the NBA, its members and officers of each of the security agencies.
On March 2, 2022, the NBA-SARC, also paid a courtesy visit to the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). We are scheduled to visit the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission sometime this month.
III. Townhall Sensitization Webinar:
On Friday, February 4, 2022, The NBA-SARC, in furtherance of its mandate, has also organized a Townhall Sensitization Webinar, to create consciousness of its mandates. This was widely attended, as issues that affect the safety and welfare of legal practitioners were on the front burner of discussions.
IV. Round Table Discussion with Executives of the NBA Branches:
On Saturday, February 19, 2022, the NBA-SARC held a virtual roundtable discussion series with Executives Committee members of all Branches of the NBA to propose ways of seamless interaction between members of the Security Agencies and members of the NBA.
V. Virtual Townhall Sensitization for Young Lawyers:
The NBA-SARC has organized a Townhall Sensitization Webinar, for the Young Lawyers Forum (YLF) of the NBA in a bid to further sensitize on the NBA-SARC mandate and advise on the best ways for seamless interaction with members of the security agencies across the country.
VI. Participation in the CLEEN Foundation Methodology Workshop Ahead of Police Reform Audit in Nigeria:
Further to the directive of the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, the NBA SARC, on February 15, 2022, participated in a methodology workshop, by CLEEN Foundation. The workshop brought together about 22 stakeholders with a focus on police reform in Nigeria to suggest and contribute to the research tools that will be deployed for the nationwide survey on police reform in Nigeria. The presentation of CLEEN Foundation methodology to stakeholders was with the view of incorporating seasoned views and opinions that will result in an effective research exercise and findings. The research was geared toward reestablishing commitment to ensuring accountability, and rights-respecting police service delivery in Nigeria.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MAIDEN HYBRID TOWNHALL MEETING OF THE NBA-SARC:
The significance of this Townhall Meeting cannot be overstated. This Hybrid Townhall Meeting, themed “Lawyers, Security Agencies and the Rule of Law, will host sessions on topical issues such as conflict management between lawyers and security agencies, enhancing rule of law through harmonious collaboration vis-à-vis emerging issues in human rights abuses, amongst a host of other issues.
The Speaker for the Opening Plenary, DCP Simon Lough, SAN, will speak on: HISTORY OF DISPUTES BETWEEN LAWYERS AND SECURITY AGENCIES.
The Speaker for the 1st Session, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom SAN will beam searchlights on the topic: LIKELY REASONS FOR, AND MANAGING CONFLICT BETWEEN LAWYERS AND SECURITY AGENCIES
The Speaker for the 2nd Session, Mr. Mela Nunghe SAN will guide us through the topic: ENHANCING RULE OF LAW THROUGH HARMONIOUS COLLABORATION BETWEEN LAWYERS AND SECURITY AGENCIES: PROSPECTS, CHALLENGES, AND THE WAY FORWARD
Prof. Peter Akper SAN, the Speaker for the 3rd Session will x-ray the concept: THE RULE OF LAW, THE BEDROCK OF MANAGING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LAWYERS AND SECURITY AGENCIES, While the Speaker for the Closing Plenary, Rt. Hon Nkeiruka Onyejiocha will lend her golden voice on the topic: LAWYERS AND SECURITY AGENCIES DICHOTOMY: EMERGING ISSUES IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE.
The overall objective of this Maiden Townhall Meeting of the NBA-SARC is to champion the NBA President’s vision for prime cordial rapport between legal practitioners and security agencies across Nigeria, as well as project the urgent need for lawyers to claim the numerous benefits the NBA-SARC platform presently offers.
The NBA-SARC has also lined up a series of hybrid programs, physical and online, directed at sensitization of both personnel of security agencies and legal practitioners, viz Webinars, Workshops, Courtesy Visits, et al. tailored, ultimately, for an improved efficient and cordial relations with security agencies across the country, focally including the Nigerian Police Force.
We are raising subcommittees of the NBA-SARC at each of the 125 branches of the NBA, comprised of 5 to 15 members of the Young Lawyers’ Forum (YLF), to be headed by the Chairmen of the YLF of each branch, and the National Chairman of the NBA YLF, to be co-opted to our Committee. This will provide a prompt complaint platform, more easily accessible to members of the NBA, at the various branch level. This will also help in the collation of harassment cases and intimidation against lawyers by security agencies, and importantly, the urgency with which they are dealt with.
It is also worthy of note that the YLF provides an arsenal that can be empowered by the NBA to help in the fight against human rights abuses, thereby promoting public interest lawyering.
Let me especially appreciate the NBA President for the prime leadership, vision, and foresight in inaugurating such a committee as the NBA-SARC. Indeed, you have taken the lead in leading the NBA to the promised land of our dreams. You dreamt dreams of a better Bar, we are seeing manifestations of your invigorated drive towards stamping out a passive Bar. We see a revamped and revived NBA, conscious of the plights, yearnings, and needs of the Nigerian lawyers. We see a Bar that works for all. I must appreciate you, personally and on behalf of the NBA-SARC for always being supportive of the strives and strides of the Committee.
I must also appreciate the other National Officers of the NBA, the National Executive Council of the NBA and, the Organizing Committee of this maiden NBA-SARC Hybrid Townhall Meeting. Your collective support has been priceless and is not taken for granted.
As the NBA-SARC passionately persists in carrying out its mandates, which majorly is directed towards ensuring the safety and welfare of all legal practitioners across the country, in line with the vision of the Akpata-led NBA, we urge all members of the Bar and Branch Chairmen/Chairpersons to fully support and indulge us by recommending and reporting cases of maltreatment, harassment, unfair treatment of any legal practitioner to the NBA-SARC. The Committee can only attain its goals if it receives maximum support from all members of the Bar.
You may further reach the Committee through its official social media handles, viz: WhatsApp: NBA-SARC, YouTube Channel: NBA-SARC, Facebook: Nba Sarc, Twitter: @NbaSarc, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: nbasarc, Telegram: NBA-SARC. The Committee is also working on a toll-free helpline.
We cannot overstate the importance of having all hands on deck for the NBA-SARC and the NBA to supersonically take the lead in the safety and welfare of all legal practitioners across the country. Indeed, ours is a passionate commitment to always take prompt steps in liaising with the necessary security agencies to address the needs of all those affected and of interested parties. Long Live the Bar!!
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