On 18th May, 2020, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN purportedly issued a notice of Unified Elections in Abuja Branch elections coming up in June 2020.
The NBA Abuja Branch had on the 13th of May 2020, set up its electoral committee to conduct elections into the executive offices of the branch.
However, the branch has rejected the President’s decision concerning the upcoming elections.
Below is the branch’s response to the said notice of Unified Elections in the Abuja branch:
20th May 2020
Nigerian Bar Association,
NBA National Secretariat,
Re: NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION ABUJA BRANCH 2020 UNIFIED ELECTIONS
I bring you greetings from my humble self, the Executive committee and the entire members of the Nigerian Bar Association Abuja Branch (Unity Bar).
This letter is in response to the Notice dated 18th May, 2020 purportedly emanating from the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association titled “NBA ABUJA BRANCH 2020 UNIFIED ELECTIONS”.
Mr. President, permit me to begin by saying that I received a phone call from your good self in the afternoon of 14th May, 2020 suggesting to me your desire to conduct a Unified elections for NBA Abuja Branch. In our said conversation, you intimated me that the reason for your suggestion was as a result of the fractionalization of the Branch to which I promptly informed you that we have no factions at the Branch.
Mr. President, you will recall that I did inform you that I would have to consult widely with my Executive Committee Members, past Chairmen and Bar Leaders of the Branch on the issues raised by you and revert back to you since I am not an Emperor.
I was therefore surprised and taken aback when the entire social media was agog on 18th May, 2020 with a Notice purportedly emanating from your office suggesting that I had conceded to you conducting a Unified Elections for NBA Abuja Branch even without the benefit of my response after my wide consultation.
Mr. President, after extensive consultation with the Executive Committee members, Bar Leaders and Past Chairmen of the Branch in respect of the said Notice, it is the consensus that the proposed Unified Elections will rather than solve any problem, resurrect and exacerbate problems which have long been resolved in the NBA Abuja Branch (Unity Bar).
Mr. President further to the above, you have been in office for over 21 months now and it begs the question; when did you become aware of any faction in Abuja? How did you become aware of the faction given that the branch has since your administration been fully represented at NEC?, who constitutes this faction that you now alluded to and on the basis of which you have proposed this Unified Elections?
Mr. President, permit me to make some observations with respect to your proposal in order to bring clarity and focus to the issues given that a lot of members in the branch have interpreted this step as a subversion of the Bye Laws of the Branch and by extension a design to manipulate the National Elections of the Association scheduled to hold in the month of July 2020.
Mr President, let me with respect avail you the following salient points;
i. I have been the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Abuja Branch (Unity Bar) since June 2018.
ii. During your campaign for the office of the president of our dear Association, you attended our Branch meeting of 6th July, 2018 which I chaired to solicit for our branch’s support in your quest at that time, to be our president.
iii. Prior to this period and in compliance with Section 7( c & d) of the NBA Constitution, 2015, the trio of Abimbola Kayode (Chairman); Chidi Ezenwafor (Secretary) and Mrs Ozioma Izuora (NEC Representative) had been inaugurated as members of NBA NEC in the capacity of Chairman, Secretary and NEC, Rep of NBA Abuja Branch respectively in the National Executive Committee of our Association.
iv. Upon assumption of office as the President of our Association, your administration reached out to me as the Chairman of the Branch through the General Secretary requesting the NBA Abuja Branch to host the Lunch at the first National Executive Committee Meeting of the NBA under your administration which was held in Abuja on 6th December, 2018, and which the NBA Abuja Branch (Unity Bar) hosted.
v. In the past 21 months of your administration, Myself (Chairman) Chidi Ezenwafor (Secretary) and Mrs Ozioma Izuora (NEC REP) have been members of NEC on behalf of NBA Abuja Branch as borne out from the list of attendees in the minutes of meeting of all your NEC Reports.
vi. Mr President Sir, throughout your administration and up to this point correspondences, emails, interactions etc from the NBA National have always been directed to me as Chairman or the Secretary (Chidi Ezenwafor).
vii. The Recommendation for the appointment of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2019 was written and co-signed by myself and the branch Secretary and acted upon by the NBA National administration which you head as the President.
Perhaps, Mr President, it is against this background that I was surprised and taken aback at your suggestion of a “Unified Elections” which to me is a clear indictment on myself and members of the Executive Committee of the Branch.
Can Mr President in all honesty and seriousness maintain or insist that all the above was carried out by a faction of NBA when I attended all your NEC meetings in my capacity as Chairman of the Branch. I respectfully think not. Surely and certainly, I do not think the NBA Constitution/Bye Laws 2015 as amended in 2019 recognises factional chairmen.
Mr. President Sir, the question begging for answer against the above background and the notice of 18th May, 2020 is “ARE THERE TWO BRANCHES OF THE NBA ABUJA (UNITY BAR)”? to necessitate your suggestion to organise a Unified Elections for NBA Abuja Branch (Unity Bar) and your selection of the Electoral Committee Members.
Mr. President, from the detailed analysis I have given above, I have no hesitation in answering the above question in the negative. The fact that the NBA National is aware of the antecedents of some group of persons who have continued to parade themselves as a parallel group and the NBA National Administration under your Leadership had refused to call them to order should not create a mistaken perception of the situation in Abuja leading to your suggestion of a “Unified Elections”.
Mr. President Sir, permit me to exhibit my ignorance by requesting yet again in this letter to know when it became apparent to your Excellency that Abuja was factionalized. May I also be permitted to know when the National Executive Committee of NBA decided or took the decision to conduct a Unified Election for Abuja Branch or whether it was a decision of the Executive Committee of the NBA National ably led by your good self.
From my discussions with the Executive Committee, the past Chairmen and Bar Leaders of the branch, our electoral process is open to any one who is a bona fide member of NBA Abuja Branch who must have paid his/her bar practice fees and Branch dues as at when due in addition to other qualification as stated in the NBA Bye Laws.
Mr. President, as a follow up, permit me to observe that;
• By the provisions of Section 8 (5) (a) of the NBA Constitution 2015 as amended in 2019, it would seem to me that the President does not have the powers to interfere in branch elections; either by a suggestion of a unified election or otherwise.
• The conduct of election of branch officers by the provisions of Section 13 (9) is the business of branches and not that of the NBA National Secretariat.
• By the provisions of Section 10 (3), and (10) (a) of the Third Schedule part 1 of the NBA Constitution 2015 as amended, the constitution of the electoral committee of the branch is the business of the branch which said committee has since been constituted.
• The suggested unified elections by Mr. President is at variance with; and a subversion with the greatest respect of the provisions of Section 22 of the Third Schedule part 1 of the NBA constitution 2015 as amended relating to the supremacy of the bye-laws with respect to branch activities and thus to my mind, unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void. Moreso, when Mr. president has sworn to uphold the Constitution of our association.
• The Branch election is open to all members of the Branch who have paid their branch dues and Bar Practising Fees for 2020 as at when due.
• We believe that the Branch Electoral Committee will ensure compliance with the provisions of Section 4(b)(iv), Section 13(15) as well as Section 3 of the Third Schedule Part 1 of the Uniform bye-laws as it relates to the application of the Uniform Bye-Laws to branches of the NBA, attendance at meetings and payment of branch dues to be eligible to contest and to vote in an election.
Mr. President in closing, we have read the NBA Constitution of 2015 as amended in 2019 and as much as we respect your office as the President of the Association, we believe respectfully that you do not possess the powers to embark on this path, as you will be acting utra vires the provisions of the Constitution which you swore to uphold. Mr President is however free to personally attend and observe or send delegates to observe the election.
I believe that with the above facts now at your disposal you will not hesitate in reconsidering your suggested proposal on holding the “Unified Elections” in Abuja and umpiring same.
I thank you my President and humbly await your further continued engagement on this issue, as peace is supreme and we shall all in history play our roles to bring about peace within a structured and legal environment.
Remain blessed my President.
Abimbola Kayode, Esq. FCIMC, FCIArb(UK)
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