Traditionally, it is an annual event for lawyers to converge at a state capital for conference to review activities, occurrences in the country and other issues. And every two years, before their conference, members of the association elect new executives of members and their body, to steer the mantle of leadership. This was done in order not to distract members from attending seminars and other pressing matters affecting the association.
IN July this year members of the NBA elected national officers to run the affairs of the association for the next two years. These include the President, 1st Vice-President, 2nd Vice-President, General Secretary, Assistant-General Secretary, Treasurer, Welfare Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Assistant Publicity Secretary and 20 General Council of the Bar members.
THE election and conference had gone, but the exercise has since generated controversies. For example the recently concluded national conference was conducted in a tardy manner with epileptic arrangement. The conference that was to provide a level playing ground for all the presidential aspirants was skewed in favour of a presidential candidate. The national leadership of the association was accused of being nepotic leading to poor and shady handling of the conference.
PRIOR to the conference, the association was enmeshed in many controversy ranging from the mishandling of issue involving Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN’s law firm, the purported illegal suspension of immediate past Secretary General of the association, Mrs Joke Odua, which led to Federal High Court lampooning the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NBA for the shoddy manner it handled the matter. It climaxed to the very high ugly incident of lawyers-on-rampage during the conference, portraying the noble profession in bad light before the public.
THE election was also said to be marred with various electoral malpractices, coupled with allegations that the election was compromised, including the use of substandard materials during the conference and vandalism. It was further alleged that 26,000 NBA members were not able to vote after being accredited. At the election in which about 60,000 lawyers were accredited to vote, 34,000 votes were cast. . Yakubu garnered 22,342, Joe-KyariGadzama, SAN got 10,842 and Jonathan Taidi received 380 votes.
ALSO, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, alledged that some lawyers who attended the just concluded Annual General Conference (AGC) of the association held in Lagos stole phones among others.
AKPATA buttressed his claims that there was video evidence of lawyers who stole phones of other learned colleagues at the conference that went rowdy over distribution of materials to participants. Akpata affirmed that NBA authority would get experts to watch the videos to expose the perpetrators of the dastardly act. He assured that anyone found culpable of embarrassing the association and nation would be sanctioned.
ALSO, Gadzama, one of the presidential candidates had filed a petition to the Electoral Committee Chairman, entitled: Complaints against Fundamental National Election Irregularities and Non-Compliance in the NBA National Election, and demanded a forensic audit of the election result logs. Gadzama, in the petition by his sole agent at the election, Mr. Andrew Agbo-Madaki, who is an ICT expert, alleged that the voting system and the result portal were not tested before the exercise, a situation he said, led to many glitches and made the website susceptible to manipulations.
BASED on the general assessment of the 2022 election of the NBA, our concern is that the association, which ought to have shown some decency and decorum, threw caution into the winds and exhibited jankara style of conduct. This clearly shows that members of NBA are typical Nigerians and means a lot for Nigeria as a nation. It is quite worrisome and thus raises the question of whether Nigerians can ever be civil in their approach to things.
WE clearly condemn this action which is disgraceful to the Bar going by the allegations of electoral malpractices at the conference. Obviously, they have shown litigants, who look up to them and engage them for representation at the Election Petition Tribunals that they are as good as them in circumventing the electoral process.
TO make matters worse, the invitation of presidential candidates and honouring one of them, in the person of Mr Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, at the conference was a grave mistake on the part of the NBA. The award was presented to Mr Obi by the incoming president of NBA. The Hope frowns at this act, which we believe has sent a clear signal to other candidates that the association has taken sides in the 2023 election.
AS we advise the aggrieved parties to seek redress in a matured and civilized manner, we equally call on the NBA to put its house in order and work towards preventing future reoccurrence of the ugly trend witnessed at this year’s conference, for the sake of nobility and integrity of the legal profession.