#EndSARS Protests: Governors Well Within Their Rights To Set Up Panels Of Enquiry, Says NBA President

NBA president Olumide Akpata. Photo: [email protected] Akpata

 

Governors who have set up panels of enquiry into the activities of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have the right to do so, President of the Nigerian Bar Association Olumide Akpata has said.

Mr Akpata spoke about the panels when he appeared on the latest edition of Sunday Politics.

“I think the governors are well within their rights or the power of the law to set up those panels of enquiry for the purpose of determining whether or not the now-disbanded SARS went beyond their remit; whether or not the claims that we have from various Nigerians as to how they were mistreated or illegally treated by SARS are correct,” he said in response to questions around the legality of the panels.

Governors in many states had set up panels after the #EndSARS protests, which held across the nation and led to the disbandment of SARS and pushed for police reforms.

The NBA President explained that he had not heard any argument against the legality of the panels. Such an argument would be in contradiction to the position of the NBA in any case.

“We are of the view that those panels are well-constituted, and, in some states, members of the Nigerians Bar Association have been invited to be on those panels,” he said.

According to him, in other states where the NBA is not involved, the association’s preferred approach will be to observe proceedings at those panels and ensure that the laws of the land are upheld.

—Binding Decisions?—

As the panels begin their sittings, some have asked about the nature of powers they have; whether their decisions would be binding and if they have the power to punish anyone.

Mr Akpata explained their role. Establish the fact and make recommendations.

“In my understanding of these panels, the way they have been constituted is to say ‘Yes, this happened’ or ‘No, that did not happen’ and recommend to the authorities what they think should be done with regard to those persons who are found to have broken the law or breached any provision of the law,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody has suggested for a second that these particular panels have the power to punish an individual or to jail anybody. That is not my understanding of these panels or what their remit covers.”

He explained that the panels’ recommendations would go to constituted authorities such as the state governments or the Federal Government.

“Those recommendations will go to them regarding what they think should be done or what actions they think should be carried out by the authorities,” he said.

Rules Of Professional Conduct For Lawyers Not Amended – NBA President

NBA President Olumide Akpata. Photo: [email protected] Akpata

 

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Olumide Akpata has said that the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for lawyers has not been amended. 

In a statement released on Sunday on behalf of the Bar, the NBA President urged all lawyers to remain calm and continue to conduct their affairs in the same manner as they did prior to the notice of an instrument alleging the amendment.

His comments come after the legal community was on September 12 confronted with the news of a gazette which purportedly emanated from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on the amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for Legal Practitioners 2007 especially on the requirement of STAMP AND SEAL for lawyers.

The gazette – marked S.I N0.15 of 2020 allegedly issued by the AGF and dated September 3, 2020, reads in part, “In exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act Cap L11, LFN 2004 and of all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and President, General Council of the Bar, make the following rules:

“The Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12, and 13.

“These rules may be cited as the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules, 2020.”

The news of the gazette sent ripples across the legal community with many lawyers wondering where the AGF got the powers to make such amendments.

In its reaction, the NBA notes that the AGF cannot unilaterally amend the rules.

The NBA President further stated that the Bar is consulting with the AGF on the issue and would give further updates in the coming days.

Alleged Money Laundering: Second Judge Disqualifies Self From NBA President’s Trial

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: Second Judge Disqualifies Self NBA President's Trial
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

A Federal High Court judge sitting in Lagos has recused himself from handling the N1.4bn money laundering charge preferred against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro.

At the resumption proceedings on Thursday, Justice Chuka Obiozor said, ” For personal reasons, I hereby disqualify myself from handling the case, I hereby return this case file back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.”

The NBA President was scheduled to be re-arraigned before Justice Obiozor on Thursday after the case was re-assigned to the judge in January.

This followed a request by the NBA President granted by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, for a change of judge.

READ ALSOAGF Asks INEC To Recognise APC Candidates, Postpone Polls In Zamfara

On December 18, 2018, a former President of the Bar and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Wole Olanipekun, who led Mr Usoro’s defence team had drawn the court’s attention to a letter written by his client to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking the transfer of the case from Justice Muslim Hassan, to another judge in Lagos or to any judicial division between Uyo and Abuja.

The NBA President is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 10 counts bordering on fraud.

He was alleged to have conspired with some others to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity.

The offence was allegedly committed in May 2016.

The commission also alleged that Usoro conspired with others, to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.

Also named in the charge is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Mr Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”.

Others charged are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Margaret Ukpe.

The defendants were said to be at large.

Mr Usoro has, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Justice Hassan subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: NBA President’s Trial To Start Afresh

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: NBA President’s Trial To Start Afresh
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

The trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, is to commence afresh at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Mr Usoro would be re-arraigned on February 14 before Justice Chuks Obiozor on charges bordering on alleged money laundering to the tune of N1.4billion.

His planned re-arraignment followed the failure of the case to continue at the court on Tuesday.

Channels Television had reported on January 14 that the case had been re-assigned to Justice Obiozor.

The Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, re-assigned the case from the courtroom of Justice Muslim Hassan after he granted the request of the NBA President for a change of judge.

On December 18, 2018, a former NBA President and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Wole Olanipekun, who led Mr Usoro’s defence team had drawn the court’s attention to a letter written by his client to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking the transfer of the case to another judge in Lagos or to any judicial division between Uyo and Abuja.

READ ALSOBandits Kill Senator Marafa’s Sister, Abduct Others In Zamfara

After the proceedings of that day, the court had adjourned till February 5 for the continuation of the trial.

When journalists approached the court for coverage of the trial today, they observed that the case was not on the case list neither was the judge available.

Justice Obiozor was said to be away on a workshop.

Channels Television, however, gathered that parties agreed to come before the court on Thursday next week.

Mr Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 10 counts bordering on fraud.

He was alleged to have conspired with some others to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity.

The offence was allegedly committed in May 2016.

The commission also alleged that the NBA President conspired with others to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.

Also named in the charge is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Mr Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”.

Others charged are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Margaret Ukpe.

The defendants were said to be at large.

Mr Usoro had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Justice Hassan subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.

Alleged Money Laundering: Chief Judge Re-Assigns NBA President’s Case

Alleged Money Laundering: Chief Judge Re-Assigns NBA President’s Case
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

The trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, on charges of allegedly laundering N1.4 billion has been re-assigned to Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court Lagos.

The Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, re-assigned the case from the courtroom of Justice Muslim Hassan on Monday after he granted the request of the NBA President for a change of judge.

At the last sitting of the court in December 2018, a former president of the NBA and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Wole Olanipekun, who led Mr Usoro’s defence team had drawn the court’s attention to a letter written by his client to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking the transfer of the case to another judge in Lagos or to any judicial division between Uyo and Abuja.

He urged the court to await the decision of the Chief Judge on the issue before proceeding with the arraignment.

But counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed to the move.

He urged the court to go ahead with arraignment which was the issue of the day.

Mr Oyedepo stated that there was no basis for a transfer of the case and urged the court not to allow an administrative duty of the Chief Judge stall the criminal proceedings, especially as there was no response yet from the Chief Judge.

In a ruling on the issue, Justice Muslim Hassan held that going ahead with the arraignment would not preclude the Chief Judge from taking a decision on the letter.

He, thereafter, directed that the charge be read to the defendant.

The NBA President had pleaded not guilty to the 10 counts of alleged conversion of N1.4 billion belonging to the Akwa Ibom State government

After this, his lawyer moved his bail application.

In the absence of any opposition from the EFCC, the judge admitted Mr Usoro to bail in the sum of N250million with one surety in like sum.

The judge also ordered the NBA President to deposit his international passport with the court.

Further proceedings were fixed for February 5.

NBA President Arraigned Over N1.4bn Fraud Allegations, Gets N250m Bail

 

President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN) has been arraigned before the Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos.

He has also been granted bail in the sum of N250million.

The arguments for the bail of the NBA President was taken today after he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Usoro is also to deposit his international passport with the court.

RELATED:

NBA President Appears In Court Over Alleged N1.4bn Fraud

Alleged N1.4bn Fraud: Court Adjourns Arraignment Of NBA President

Before Mr Usoro’s arraignment, Justice Muslim Hassan dismissed arguments from his lawyers who were seeking the transfer of the case to Abuja.

The arrangement of the NBA boss comes few weeks after the EFCC filed a 10-count charge bordering on alleged money laundering of N1.4billion against him.

The NBA boss appeared in court last week before Justice Muslim Hassan but the arraignment could not hold as Mr Usoro, through his defence team, told the court that the charge sheet had not been served on him.

The case was then adjourned till December 18 to enable the EFCC to serve Usoro with the charge sheet for the alleged offences.

Alleged N1.4bn Fraud: Court Adjourns Arraignment Of NBA President

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned the arraignment of President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro.

The NBA boss appeared earlier in court today before Justice Muslim Hassan over N1.4billion fraud allegations filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC).

The arraignment, however, could not hold as the NBA President, through his defence team, told the court charge sheet had not been served on him.

The NBA President was represented by a team of lawyers led by a former president of the NBA, Wole Olanipekun.

EFCC Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the NBA President has been evading service of the charge.

Olanipekun said his client came to court on his own despite not being served with the charge sheet, adding that he was ready to accept the service of the charge sheet in the courtroom.

Olanipekun then urged the judge to direct the EFCC to serve his client the charge sheet. But the EFCC counsel resisted the move. He told the judge that he was not in a position to effect service in court especially as the charge sheet was with the Investigative Police Officer who was absent.

Justice Muslim Hassan, therefore, adjourned till December 18, for the arraignment. Justice Hassan said this is to enable the EFCC to serve Usoro with the charge sheet for the alleged offences.

 RELATED:

NBA President Appears In Court Over Alleged N1.4bn Fraud

Don’t Be Selective In Fighting Corruption, NBA Tells FG

Outside the court premises, operatives of the anti-graft agency moved to arrest Usoro but following the intervention of the EFCC counsel, the NBA President was invited to accompany the EFCC to their Lagos office. He was allowed to ride in his car with some lawyers.

The group then moved to the EFCC office where Usoro is expected to be served with the Charge Sheet.

Last week Wednesday, the EFCC had filed a 10 count of fraudulent conversion of N1.4bn against the President of NBA.

In the first count, the EFCC alleges that Mr Usoro, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State (who currently enjoys constitutional immunity against criminal prosecution), the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for finance, Nsikan Nkan, the Accountant-General, Mfon Udomah,  the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe, all of whom were said to be at large, conspired in 2015 to convert the sum of N1.4billion property of the Akwa Ibom State Government which they ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of crime.

The EFCC Counsel who signed the charge sheet, Mr Oyedepo, said the offences are contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

NBA President Appears In Court Over Alleged N1.4bn Fraud

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), has appeared at the Federal High Court in Lagos for his scheduled arraignment over alleged money laundering.

The NBA President arrived the court at 8.32 a.m. today.

Mr Usoro is being defended by a team of lawyers led by a former president of the NBA, Wole Olanipekun.

The planned arraignment was however stalled as Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned till December 18.

The judge fixed the date to enable Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) serve Usoro with the charge sheet for the alleged offence.

READ ALSO: Don’t Be Selective In Fighting Corruption, NBA Tells FG

The EFCC, last week filed a 10-count charge against Mr Usoro.

Mr Usoro however said on Sunday, December 9, that he is innocent of the N1.4 billion money laundering charges brought against him by EFCC. He said this while fielding questions from reporters after the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.

He said, “I haven’t been served. I expect I will be served but the facts as I know it, I am completely innocent and the facts as I know it, I presented it in the address that was adopted by NEC.”

“Assuming that there was something that was done; except the association itself makes a complaint to the EFCC or any of the other criminal investigating agencies, then they don’t have any basis having to come in into what we are doing.”

Alleged 1.4bn Fraud: NBA President Says He Is ‘Completely Innocent’

Alleged 1.4bn Fraud: NBA President Says He Is 'Completely Innocent'
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro, says he is innocent of the N1.4 billion money laundering charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr Usoro stated this while fielding questions from reporters on Sunday after the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.

He said, “I haven’t been served. I expect I will be served but the facts as I know it, I am completely innocent and the facts as I know it, I presented it in the address that was adopted by NEC.”

“Assuming that there was something that was done; except the association itself makes a complaint to the EFCC or any of the other criminal investigating agencies, then they don’t have any basis having to come in into what we are doing,” Usoro added.

“We are an association of lawyers; we have a way of regulating ourselves.”

The NBA President, however, said he would appear in court.

He further called for a legislation that would prohibit media trial of persons in court.

According to him, the situation if not addressed will lead to maligning of character whether or not one is innocent or guilty of the offence he is charged with.

The EFCC had filed 10 counts of fraudulent conversion of N1.4bn against the NBA President before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

In the first count, the EFCC alleged that Mr Usoro and some persons conspired in 2015 to convert the sum of N1.4bn property of the Akwa Ibom State Government which they ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of crime.

The others accused by the anti-graft agency are Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State (who currently enjoys constitutional immunity against criminal prosecution), as well as the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; the Accountant-General, Mfon Udomah; the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Uwemedimo Nwoko; and Margaret Ukpe.

The EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, who signed the charge sheet said the offences were contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

Five senior advocates – Gboyega Awomolo, Tayo Oyetibo, Theophilus Oyesanya, Onyechi Ikpeazu, and Damian Dodo, have been listed as witnesses along with some bank representatives to give evidence in the matter.

The commission said it would arraign Mr Usoro on Monday, December 10.

EFCC Should Be Stripped Of Prosecution Duties, Says Mahmoud

 EFCC, Prosecutional duties, Mahmoud Abubakar, Investigative Powers,Prosecutional PowersThe newly elected president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, is not softening his stance that the EFCC be stripped of its prosecution powers.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast program, Sunrise Daily, Mr Mahmoud insisted that critical institutions of government must be reformed to confront the problem of corruption in Nigeria, on a sustainable basis.

Following his inaugural speech on Friday, there have been agitations since the NBA president suggested that duties of the EFCC should be restricted to investigation and not prosecution.

In reaction to the statement, the commission said that the suggestion was a cleverly disguised plan by the NBA and groups of people who were against the EFCC’s anti-graft campaign.

The NBA president in response, maintained that the controversy was unnecessary, as the association does not seek to emasculate the EFCC.

To further clarify the issue, he said that “when it comes to prosecution, there are two major powers which are the investigative and [email protected]

According to him, the norm is that separate agencies conduct investigations and prosecutions, but he also said there could be exceptions.

Explaining the duties of the EFCC, he said the commission was only supposed to focus on highly specialised areas, such as financial crimes of certain magnitude.

“You can’t have the EFCC operating broadly and getting into everything without any thresholds.

“The law must define the thresholds and the parameters on the basis of which the EFCC will now wade into those sort of battles,” he added.

Mr Mahmoud stressed that he understood the extent of the prosecution and investigative powers and also the need to regulate them; as they should not be handled solely by one body.

Proper Regulatory Framework

He maintained his position, saying that any decision taken by prosecutors is a very important one and there should always be clear institutional safeguards as well as a proper regulatory framework, to guarantee justice and fairness.

The lawyer further encouraged Nigerians and institutional bodies to debate issues without fear of intimidation.

Giving reasons for his suggestion, Mr Mahmoud further stated that there was no institutional form that should be sacrosanct in any democratic environment.

“Every institution should be scrutinised.

“Its performance and responsibilities should be continually subjective to discussion,” the NBA president added.

Law Weekly: Highlights Of Election Day As Alegeh Emerges President-elect of NBA

This episode of Law Weekly featured the manifesto night, voting and official announcement of Nigerian Bar Association’s new President- elect, in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Mr Austine Alegeh emerged the President elect. This edition highlighted some exclusive pictures and interesting sound bites from the elections and the process.

The manifesto night was one of the major highlights of the election process. It gave the candidates for the elections an opportunity to again sell themselves and their programmes especially to the accredited delegates who were gathered.

Delegates consisted of national officers, past presidents, past general secretaries, senior advocates, benchers; delegates nominated from the 109 branches of the association across the country and then co-opted NEC members; all nominated at the discretion of the President.

Judiciary lacks proper funding –NBA President

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Okey Wali (SAN) has called on the Federal Government to ensure proper funding of the judiciary as it is discovered that the budgetary appropriation for the arm of government has been on the decrease for several years now while that of other arms of government is on the increase.

The national president of the Nigeria bar association pointed this out during the association’s national executive meeting held in Asaba, Delta state to deliberate on issues concerning its internal association as well as other issues affecting the nation.

“To have a modern judiciary for a modern justice delivery system which is very key for a modern society, there must be adequate funds”

In his welcome address, Okey Wali gave a statistics of the downward decline of the budgetary appropriation of the judiciary, that in 2009, the judiciary got 78 billion, 91 billion in 2010,95 billion in 2011,75 billion in 2012 and 67 billion in 2013.

Meanwhile the host of the national executive meeting, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Delta state, Hon Charles Ajuyah (SAN) opined that the association is undoubtedly one that makes a difference in the lives of Nigerians, as legal and social issues will be taken into considerations during his meeting.

Addressing all present, the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan pointed narrated how his administration had been able to tactically reinforce the judicial system by bringing in one of their greatest critic to serve as the legal adviser to the state who has served as a bridge between the government and the legal system.

The meeting was attended by members of the state executive council and other members of the Nigeria Bar Association form various states all over the nation.