The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata, has called for better ways to hold erring police personnel accountable for their actions in the country.
He made the call on Thursday during his appearance on a Police Reform Townhall organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), in collaboration with Channels Television.
Akpata believes while the efforts to pass and sign the Police Act 2020 into law are commendable, the Act lacks some vital components.
“In this new Act, there does not appear to be a clearly laid out accountability framework, and that for me is a major concern.
“The Act is full of prescriptions; it is loaded with prescriptions as to what standard operating procedures should be regarding policing,” he said.
The NBA president added, “There are no consequences for bad behaviours and rules that govern how a policeman will be held accountable for their actions.”
He stressed the need for grassroots policing, saying it was important for the police to gain the trust of the citizen who they protect.
Akpata advised the police authorities to lead the enlightenment campaign aimed at educating the people as to what their rights were, as contained in the Act.
He stated that this was important in gaining the people’s trust, as the implementation strategies for the Police Act 2020 would determine its success.
The legal practitioner said, “The ever-widening trust deficit between the police and the citizens that they are meant to be protecting; speaking as a lawyer, I also know that this cynicism is a function of even just the relationship between the police and lawyer, you will be shocked to find out how abysmal that relationship is at the moment.”
“The trust between the police and even the lawyers has broken down, not to talk about police and the citizen.
“I am hoping that if we get those implementation strategies right, we should be able to arrive at our promise land,” he added.
Ahead of Monday’s interview by the National Judicial Council (NJC) Committee for the appointment of a Chief Judge for the Gombe State Judiciary, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata has declared that he “expects the NJC to do the right thing”.
Akpata made the declaration in a telephone interview with Channels Television on Sunday,
Akpata was reacting to news reports that the Gombe State Government had excluded the name of the most senior judge in the state, Justice Beatrice Illiya from the list of names forwarded to the NJC for consideration as appointment for Chief Judge.
Justice Illiya herself had written a petition to the NJC to complain about this exclusion and had copied the NBA in the petition.
In her petition, the most senior judge said that after the retirement of Hon Justice Hakila Herman, she was appointed as the Acting Chief Judge of Gombe State but after the mandatory 3 months provided by the constitution, Governor Inuwa Yahaya refused to extend her tenure.
Instead, another judge of the State, Justice Muazu Pindiga was appointed and his three months tenure as acting Chief Judge has been renewed for the fourth time because the executive has refused to do the right thing.
In August 2020, when the NJC directed the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to re-submit the names of the nominees for appointment as substantive Chief Judge of Gombe State by doing the right thing and including the name of the most senior judge, Justice Beatrice Illiya, the State JSC defied the directive, arguing that seniority is not a factor to be considered in the appointment of a Chief Judge of a State.
Justice Beatrice Illiya says she is being discriminated against because she is female and Christian.
The NBA President who was copied in the petition has however declared that the NJC at its meeting on Monday would do the right thing and insist on the appointment of the most senior judge of the state.
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.
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.
The Nigeria Bar Association has called for the respect of the rights of Nigerians arrested on suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses among others.
This was contained in a statement issued on Friday by NBA President, Olumide Akpata.
He argued that the 1999 Constitution “presumes all suspects and defendants innocent until proven guilty; prohibit the detention of citizens beyond 24-48 hours; forbid the subjection of Nigerian citizens to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, and mandates the Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring such persons to court within 24-48 hours.”
While noting that the association condemns acts of violence, vandalism or destruction of properties, Akpata asked the authorities to respect the rights of the suspects, especially their right to the presumption of innocence.
SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE
#ENDSARS PROTESTS – A CALL FOR THE RESPECT OF THE LEGAL AND
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF NIGERIAN CITIZENS
I have in the past 24 hours received several calls and complaints from Lawyers and Nigerians generally, about the recent public parade of hundreds of persons arrested and detained by the Nigerian Police on the suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses and/or for contravening the curfew declared by various State Governors in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that unfortunately turned violent.
As I have continuously maintained, the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) is completely opposed to any act of arson, vandalism, destruction of public or private assets, or other forms of force or violence. However, the legal rights of citizens who are arrested on account of such allegations must be respected, especially their right to the presumption of innocence.
In many, if not most of these cases, these people, who it must be noted are first and foremost Nigerian citizens, have been held incommunicado for days without access to their families or legal practitioners of their choice and under inhumane or deplorable conditions in brazen breach of the express provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which presumes all suspects and defendants innocent until proven guilty; prohibit the detention of citizens beyond 24-48 hours; forbid the subjection of Nigerian citizens to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; and mandates the Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring such persons to court within 24-48 hours.
It beggars belief that this conduct by the Nigerian Police is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests which were precipitated by the historical abuse of citizens by men and officers of the Nigerian Police especially those of the now-defunct Special AntiRobbery Squad (SARS), and the aftermath of which is yet to fully die down.
It is highly regrettable that the Police in particular continues to carry on business as usual despite being in the eye of the storm in recent times and in disregard of the wide outpouring of condemnation by Nigerians at home and abroad as well as foreign nationals and international organisations about the misconduct of some of their officers.
This gives the indication that the Police hierarchy has failed to get the message and/or is paying lip service to the calls for holistic Police reforms.
The NBA once again calls on the Nigerian Police and the Attorneys General of the various States to immediately charge the suspects before courts of competent jurisdiction in accordance with contemporary requirements of the law, or to release them unconditionally. The wanton destruction of public buildings and private businesses witnessed in the past week is highly regrettable. However, the cure for illegality cannot be illegality.
I have asked the Chairpersons of NBA Branches across the country to immediately monitor Police Stations within their jurisdictions to ascertain the extent of compliance of the Police with the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution to enable us take or facilitate adequate enforcement actions.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the use of live ammunition by the Nigeria Police in the ongoing protests against police brutality in the country.
Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja, NBA President, Olumide Akpata, said the use of live bullet will only aggravate the already tensed situation in the country.
“Under no circumstances should the use of live ammunition against peaceful and lawful protesters be tolerated,” he said.
“Those found culpable must be apprehended and made examples of in the wake of the protests that have resurrected the consciousness of the Nigerian society and indeed the international community to these very important and systemic issues.
“The NBA is convinced that the disbandment of SARS or any other unit by whatever name called, reposting or transferring officers of any disbanded unit and other reactions will only scratch the surface and not offer long-lasting solutions to the endemic issues bedevilling the Nigeria Police as currently constituted.”
Speaking further, Akpata called on the Federal Government and state governments to protect the rights of citizens participating in peaceful protests across the country.
In doing this, the NBA leader wants security agencies to be warned against “assaulting, attacking, abusing or otherwise harassing or otherwise using force against citizens who seek to have their voices heard through the peaceful protests.”
No Spill Of Blood
Meanwhile, ex-President has broken his silence on the protest against police brutality in the country, warning that no Nigerian’s blood should be spilled.
Taking to Twitter, Jonathan who described the protest as peaceful said the move would advance the cause of Nigeria.
“No Nigerian blood needs to be spilled or life lost during a peaceful protest that seeks to advance our country,” he said.
“We may hold different views on national issues, but there is no doubt that most people desire the same thing for Nigeria: a place where we can all live out the full potential of our God-given abilities. I implore everyone to exercise restraint as we walk through these challenging times.”
Jonathan’s remarks followed the series of protests by thousands of youths have been protesting against police brutality, harassment and killings by policemen across major cities since last week.
No Nigerian blood needs to be spilled or life lost during a peaceful protest that seeks to advance our country. We may hold different views on national issues, but there is no doubt that most people desire the same thing for Nigeria:
As part of measures to reform the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered all personnel of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to report to the force headquarters in Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination.
While the time-frame for the medical evaluation has not been disclosed, the IGP said that the officers are expected to undergo the process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), has set up a Committee to audit the national elections of the Nigerian Bar Association for the years 2016, 2018 and 2020.
The BOSAN meeting which held over the weekend was presided over by the first female Senior Advocate, Mrs Folake Solanke.
At his inaugural address, the President of the Bar, Olumide Akpata had announced the setting up of an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee to audit the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms to guide future elections.
But there are those who believe that this procedure is wrong as it should have been the decision of the National Executive Committee of the NBA especially as Mr Akpata is the beneficiary of the flawed elections.
Channels Television gathered that BOSAN feels equally concerned about the outcome of the last three elections and wants the committee to embark on a fact-finding mission to unravel what happened so that the NBA can have credible elections going forward.
Some negative reactions have, however, trailed the move. A statement by a group, Open Bar Initiative insists that BOSAN’s move to audit the elections is only because a non-SAN emerged as President of the Bar.
In the statement signed by the convener, Silas Onu, the group called on the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) to desist from its attempt to audit the 2020 NBA Elections as it amounts to an attempt to supervise, meddle and undermine the NBA.
The statement further says that “the entire membership of BOSAN is less than 600 and as such, they aren’t in any position to act or speak for the over 120,000 lawyers in Nigeria.
The Open Bar Initiative concluded by saying that it is set to take BOSAN to court if it insists on acting unilaterally in ways that undermine the core purpose and responsibilities of the Nigerian Bar Association.
In a swift reaction, a member of the BOSAN Audit Committee, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), debunked insinuations that the BOSAN committee was set up to rival the audit committee set up by the President of the Bar, Olumide Akpata.
Adegboruwa said the setting up of the BOSAN commuter was a unanimous decision of the body with no ill motive or foul play in mind.
According to him: “the insinuation of alleged foul play is totally unwarranted, being a deliberate attempt to twist the narrative of the BOSAN meeting, with the sole aim of blackmailing the noble men and women of the Inner Bar, into silence.
He also said all stakeholders in the legal profession are working towards a solution to the perennial complaints following the experiences with electronic voting and it is, therefore, not outside BOSAB’s mandate as lawyers to help the Bar to chart a way forward in this regard, in collaboration with the NBA and other relevant stakeholders.
See the full responses of the Open Bar Initiative and Ebun Adegboruwa’s response below:
Our attention has been drawn to the sinister activity of a group known and referred to as the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), an independent incorporated trustee, with no connection to the NBA whatsoever, as it constitutes itself into a supervising body of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Today, they plan to announce a committee of that body to audit the just-concluded NBA Election. It is evident that many Senior Advocates who personally felt defeated by a non-SAN are now working overtime to supplant the Nigerian Bar Association with a group formed only for the SANs.
This is not the only overbearing activity embarked upon by the group without any authority from Nigerian Lawyers.
They have also constituted themselves into the drafters of the proposed amendment to the Legal Practitioner’s Act and therein attempting to give the body a statutory flavour.
This attempts to undermine the Nigerian Bar Association simply because a Non-SAN is the current President by promoting another platform that will speak for and on behalf of lawyers is unfortunate and hereby condemned.
It cannot stand and must be resisted by all well-meaning Nigerian lawyers.
Senior Advocates, like Young Lawyers, have the right to come together under a forum that is subject to the Nigerian Bar Association. However, incorporating an independent body with the aim of surreptitiously taking over the core responsibilities of the Nigerian Bar Association is, sadly, demonstrative of the rot that some of these Seniors have brought to this profession.
The only reason for such a body is to show a distinction between “ordinary” lawyers and the “extraordinary” Senior Advocates, who have now surpassed the level of being called lawyers, or so we imagine.
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, being an independent incorporated trustee has no business whatsoever in meddling with NBA Election under any guise and should discontinue any attempt to so interfere forthwith. They can organise an election for their preferred candidates to lead their own body and it won’t be our business at all.
Also, the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria is not known to the legal practitioner’s Act and has no place in the proposed amendment of the said Act. If they have any input to make, it should be routed through the recognized body of lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association. They cannot constitute themselves as a body acting for or on behalf of lawyers.
Their entire membership is less than 600 and as such, they aren’t in any position to act or speak for the over 120, 000 lawyers in Nigeria. They are to desist from further usurpation of responsibilities that does not fall within their purview.
We are resolved to drag that body to court if it insists on acting unilaterally in ways that undermine the core purpose and responsibilities of the Nigerian Bar Association.
We know that not all Senior Advocates subscribe to the objectives of this body and therefore call on the very respected Senior Advocates of Nigeria, properly so-called, to dissociate themselves from this attempt to undermine the Nigerian Bar Association simply because a Non-SAN is presently the President.
Silas Joseph Onu, MCIArb Past Publicity Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch. & Convener, Open Bar Initiative.
COMMITTEE TO AUDIT NBA ELECTIONS
My attention has been drawn to a news item currently circulating, to the effect that the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, has set up a parallel Committee to audit the national elections of the Nigerian Bar Association for the year 2016, 2018 and 2020. The said report suggests that BOSAN may have done this in order to undermine the Committee set up by the NBA for the same purpose.
I attended the meeting of BOSAN held on September 5, 2020, as a bona fide member of the said organization, which is duly registered under the relevant laws of Nigeria for the protection of the interests of its members, as permitted under section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
I was nominated along with other distinguished members of BOSAN, for a national assignment, as a patriotic member of the legal profession in Nigeria. It was a unanimous decision of BOSAN, with no ill motive or foul play in mind. The meeting was presided over by the first female Senior Advocate, Mrs. Folake Solanke, who sacrificed her time for the said meeting that lasted well over four hours, at well over 80 years of age, for the common good of all.
All stakeholders in the legal profession are working towards a solution to the perennial complaints following our experiences with electronic voting, it is therefore not outside our mandate as lawyers to help the Bar to chart a way forward in this regard, in collaboration with the NBA and other relevant stakeholders.
The insinuation of alleged foul play is totally unwarranted, being a deliberate attempt to twist the narrative of the BOSAN meeting, with the sole aim of blackmailing the noble men and women of the Inner Bar, into silence.
Personally, I am embarrassed that a meeting held to discuss the progress of the Bar and indeed Nigeria, is being bandied as a gang up, even when no official statement or communique has been issued by the executive council of BOSAN.
I verily believe that those spreading this falsehood are enemies of the Bar, who are out on a sadistic mission to pit the NBA against BOSAN, without any justification whatsoever, given that both bodies exist to complement each other.
I’m concerned that the good reputation of patriotic Bar leaders is being maligned recklessly on the altar of Bar politics, or else I cannot fathom the reason why anyone should lose sleep over attempts to build a united, strong and virile Bar.
From available history, BOSAN has never been in rivalry with any NBA Exco; it has been in existence before the new Exco assumed office and it will continue to partner with all NBA Excos for the progress of the Bar and Nigeria at large.
Personally, I offer to work with all stakeholders within the Bar, including the present leadership of the NBA, for the common good of the legal profession and our country, Nigeria, as I do in other national issues.
President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, has described the formation of a parallel NBA as unfortunate, calling for a united body at a time when the country needs them the most.
Mr Akpata who was sworn in as NBA’s 30th President, while giving his inaugural speech on Friday, faulted the move to establish a regional bar.
“I am not unaware of very recent events and agitations that have tended to divide our Bar along regional and religious lines. This is rather unfortunate for an egalitarian Association like ours. The Bar that I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength. I plead with all Nigerian lawyers to bear this philosophy of unity in mind as we commence a new journey together today.
“This enormous task cannot be achieved if we continue to fan the embers of division at a time when we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice. We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful, and sensitive in our words and actions, as doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.”
Following the withdrawal of the invitation extended by the Bar to the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, some lawyers had alleged discrimination against the governor.
Two lawyers based in Kaduna, Nuhu Ibrahim and Abdulbasit Suleiman, describing themselves as Convener 1 and 2, on Thursday, announced that they and others of like minds had formed a ‘New Nigerian Bar Association’ NNBA.
In a statement released on social media, the lawyers said: “The New Nigerian Bar Association members feel that their interests are no longer taken into consideration in major decisions of the NBA hence the formation of this Association.
According to them, membership of the NBA is not mandatory, adding that Section 40 of the Constitution permits freedom of association.
The new NBA members said they were in consultations with “very Senior Lawyers of Northern Nigeria extraction and those practicing therein with a view to constituting the Trustees and for purposes of fixing a date for the formal inauguration of the Association.”
The NNBA also claimed that the NBA offices were lopsided against Northern lawyers.
“A cursory chronicle of the membership composition of major organs of the NBA would reveal lopsided representation despite having large numbers of Lawyers from all parts of the country and especially Northern Nigeria who have diligently paid their Bar practicing fees and have distinguished themselves in the legal profession.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association feels that Lawyers, as professionals like Doctors and Accountants should have more than one Association regulated by the General Council of the Bar.”
Senior Lawyers Fault Move, Call For Caution
The news of a parallel body of the Nigerian Bar Association has elicited mixed reactions from lawyers across the country.
While some are opposed to the move, others say it is within the rights of the conveners to do the same.
Mike Ozekhome, SAN, who spoke at the handover ceremony of the NBA leadership on Friday, advised aggrieved members against forming an alternative association.
Ozekhome said, “drop all these issues of trying to form an alternative Bar, whether you call it new NBA or progressive NBA, it’s not going to work.
“The reason is that when you begin to create a different Bar, calling it, for example, Northern Bar or new Bar, then people, very soon, are going to start calling for Southern Nigerian Army, Southern Nigerian Navy, Western Nigerian Air Force, Eastern Nigeria Tax Authority, etc; where are we heading to? That is nothing but balkanisation of Nigeria and God forbid.”
Meanwhile, another senior lawyer, Yusuf Ali SAN, said, “Nobody has contacted me about the formation of any parallel organisation. I’ve not been consulted, I’ve not been contacted, but I want to advise caution on all the sides.
“Our elders have a saying that beheading is not the answer for headache. We are better off with our numbers and diversity of the Association.”
He also said that if in the future such a split becomes necessary, “it shouldn’t be borne out of disagreement. It should be something that comes because our numbers have become so huge and that there are needs. It should also be a pan-Nigerian thing.
“So, for me, this is just an event; it is quite unfortunate, but I think it is a matter that we should address at a conference table.
“I don’t think we should join Nigerian politicians to behave the way they normally do; you’re dissatisfied, form your own party. I’m dissatisfied, I form my own party. That’s not the best way to go, and as leaders in the country, by virtue of our training, we should show a good example and provide leadership to others to emulate us. We should not because we have issues within ourselves, balkanise our association.
“Some of us have our reservations about the decision of the NBA excluding Mallam El-Rufai, from the conference, but, that notwithstanding, we should still keep our heads and take rational decisions in the interest of our Association, our profession, and our country. I ask for understanding and caution.”
In his own reaction, Jibrin Okutepa SAN said the New NBA’s move was not surprising considering recent happenings in the Bar.
He argued that many honest lawyers were disenchanted because the NBA had lost its values, and the New NBA members had the constitutional right to form another association.
“If you have read me in several papers – myself, Femi Falana and several others – we have spoken sufficiently to the Constitutional iniquities of making Nigerian lawyers be members of the NBA, particularly that the NBA has lost it value. “So, if any lawyer feels aggrieved that he wants to form a new association, what stops them from doing so?
That is within their rights under Section 49 of the Constitution. So, I do not share the views of those who say you must be forced to be a member of the NBA. I don’t share that view. We have chosen to be members of the NBA because we believe that the NBA will live up to the standard of its motto, which is promoting the rule of law.
“But in the past years have you seen NBA promoting rule of law? Or the rule of personal aggrandisement?, he asked.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sworn in its 30th President, Mr Olumide Akpata.
He was sworn-in at a short ceremony held at the NBA National Secretariat in Abuja.
The ceremony which was streamed live online marked the end of the tenure of the Paul Usoro administration.
Mr. Akpata immediately thanked the past executive for ensuring that the Association was held together after which he swore in members of his executives.
In his inaugural address after his swearing-in, Mr Akpata called on lawyers to unite as the work ahead of the Association is enormous
Akpata, said he considers it a great honour and privilege on the epochal 60th anniversary of the NBA, “to be sworn in as the 30th President of the foremost professional membership association in Nigeria and the most influential network of legal practitioners in Africa.”
Akpata who was declared the winner of the keenly contested poll by NBA Electoral Committee on July 31, will lead the Affairs of the bar for the next two years.
The inaugural speech reads in part:
“It is apposite to begin the formal part of the address by tackling two major issues arising from the 2020 NBA election – the seeds of discord that were sown during the election campaigns and the issues pertaining to the election process itself.
The Need for Unity at the Bar
“I am not oblivious of the cleavages that emerged during the campaign and the attempt to pitch senior members of the bar against their younger counterparts. We were all witnesses to the widespread agitations against the holders of the enviable rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria to the extent that some people were eagerly anticipating a revolution. In some ways, this was understandable, having regard to the issues that characterised the election and the uniqueness of my candidacy, being the first non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria to win an election as NBA President in thirty years. However, the elections are now over, and we must, of necessity, retrace our steps.
“One of the cardinal pillars of my campaign and on the basis of which I made myself available to run for this high office, was the promise to run an all-inclusive Bar. There is no gainsaying the fact that this necessarily includes giving due recognition and deference to the senior members of the Bar who are the builders of, and significant contributors to, our noble Association. Even as a candidate, I never saw myself as a harbinger of division between senior and young members of the Bar, but as bridge candidate to build better rapport between young and senior lawyers. This is a role I will approach will all seriousness.
“One of the first things I did after the result declaration was to call on my supporters to desist from joining issues or otherwise attacking other lawyers, especially senior members of the Bar, but instead to be magnanimous in victory. Permit me to repeat what I said in that publication. Ours is a noble profession that prides itself on a high sense of discipline, learning, respect for seniority and character for which its members are reputed. Let us therefore join hands to move the NBA forward. The mandate that I have from Nigerian lawyers is to work for all members of the Bar irrespective of who they voted for. There is so much work to be done to revitalise our Bar and make it work for everyone without discrimination.
“I am also not unaware of very recent events and agitations that have tended to divide our Bar along regional and religious lines. This is rather unfortunate for an egalitarian Association like ours. The Bar that I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength. I plead with all Nigerian lawyers to bear this philosophy of unity in mind as we commence a new journey together today.
“This enormous task cannot be achieved if we continue to fan the embers of division at a time when we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice. We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful, and sensitive in our words and actions, as doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.
“It is pertinent to state categorically that, in my view, the 2020 Election – the voting and result of which were monitored live by a significant proportion of Nigerian lawyers and non-lawyers alike – was ultimately free and fair, and the result was, by all estimation, truly reflective of the will of Nigerian lawyers. The above notwithstanding, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there were several glitches in the build up to the Election. As Nigeria’s foremost professional Association, our electoral process ought to be the standard for others to follow and should, to the extent humanly possible, be devoid of the glitches that we witnessed. It was with this in mind that I personally wrote two separate letters to the ECNBA Chairman on 20th July 2020 and 29th July 2020 to highlight the issues that threatened the conduct of a credible election and to recommend measures to immediately address those concerns.
“The consensus is that there is need to urgently review the 2020 elections and to institute urgent reforms of our electoral systems. Indeed, the Board of Trustees of the NBA in their letter of 19 August 2020 to Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN called for a major transformation of our electoral process and framework. Let me repeat what I said to the Board of Trustees in my letter to them in response to the petition of Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN; “as an Association that prides itself as Nigeria’s foremost and oldest professional membership organisation, we need to manage our electoral processes better. I pledged during the electioneering period to introduce an efficient data management system for the NBA and to follow that up with other institutional and structural reforms that would enable NBA to serve the benefit of its members and the Society. In the wake of the criticisms that trailed the Election, this is now a top priority issue for me.”
“One major complaint about the last election was the issue of the database of lawyers and resultant difficulties in coming up with a credible voters’ register. To address this, my administration will improve upon the membership portal introduced by the President Paul Usoro administration. Additionally, I am immediately constituting an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee, comprising distinguished practitioners of the highest standards to audit our 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for our electoral systems and processes.
But reacting to the outcome, Adesina called on the Chairman of NBA Board of Trustees, Olisa Agbakoba to “rise up and save the Association by cancelling the elections and conducting a fresh one.”
Adesina said he was one of the builders of the association and his call was driven by the members’ interest.
He cited some pre-election concerns and agitations which were studiedly neglected and disregarded by the electoral committee and alleged among other things that the Voters’ Register used in the 2020 Election was a sham, illegal, doctored and manipulated.
The candidate also alleged that the data in the election results monitoring site was programmed to produce a premeditated result and many voters were also disenfranchised.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday felicitated with the newly elected President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata.
Mr. Akpata was, on Friday, announced the winner of the NBA election, which was conducted via electronic voting and began at 11 pm on Wednesday and ended by 11 pm on Thursday.
The President wishes “him every success in the new position of leading Nigerian lawyers to chart a path of professional development and fulfilment,” a statement by Presidency spokesman, Femi Adesina said.
“As a lawyer of over two decades who has held several strategic positions in the legal association, President Buhari trusts that Mr Akpata’s vast knowledge and experience in litigation, corporate world and engaging with government at different levels, will greatly benefit the Bar and indeed all Nigerians, who look up to the learned fellows as crucial stakeholders in a modern democracy.
“President Buhari assures the new leadership of the NBA of the continued cooperation of his administration in addressing the broad range of challenges and opportunities facing the legal profession and the country.”
A former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Section on Business Law, Olumide Akpata, has been declared the president-elect of the Association.
The Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the NBA, Tawo Tawo (SAN), who made the declaration around 12:52 am on Friday says, Akpata scored the highest number of votes cast and satisfied the provisions of the NBA constitution.
“I, Tawo Tawo, the Chairman, Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA), as the electoral officer for the 2020 National Officers’ Election, hereby declare Akpata Olumide Anthony, having scored the highest number of votes cast and satisfied the provisions of the constitution of the NBA 2015 (as amended), the winner of the election into the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association,” Tawo said.
The election which were conducted via electronic voting began at 11 pm on Wednesday and ended by 11 pm on Thursday.
Akpata scored 9,891 votes out of a total of 18,256 voters who participated in the elections, representing 54.3% of the votes.
He defeated Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN) who scored 4,328 and Dele Adesina (SAN) who scored 3,982.
Other winners who emerged in the elections are: John O Aikpokpo-Martins as the first Vice President with 6,010 votes, and Adeyemo Kazeem Debo as second Vice President with 8,794.
Others are Joyce Oduah as General Secretary; Nwadialo Esther Uchenna, Assistant Secretary; Mercy Ijato Agada, Treasurer; and Edun Olukunle, Welfare Secretary.
Anagor Raphael Nnamdi emerged as Financial Secretary; Nduka Rapuluchukwu Ernest (PhD) as Publicity Secretary; and Naza Ferdinand Afam as Assistant Publicity Secretary.
The new officers of the association are expected to be sworn in at the forthcoming 60th annual general conference of the NBA holding virtually from the 26th to the 29th of August.
In a swift reaction to his victory at the polls, Mr. Olumide Akpata thanked his supporters and assured them that by the grace of God, transformational leadership would be witnessed in his administration.
In his words, “In 2 years from now, we would look back to this day with gratitude. We would say thank God that Olu became President. We would never regret this day. We would transform our association and the Bar will work for all”.
A contestant in the Nigerian Bar Association elections, Mr Babatunde Ajibade, has congratulated Mr Olumide Akpata who emerged as the 30th President of association.
In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Ajibade said he was proud of the level of debate and the quality of ideas that were brought forth during the elections which held on July 29 and 30, for the improvement of the association, the welfare of its members and the good of the society.
He, however, pointed out that the build-up to the elections and the elections were not been devoid of controversy, and expressed hope that the challenges of conducting free and fair elections in the association will be resolved.
“It is unfortunate that the process leading up to and during the election itself have, once again, not been devoid of controversy. It is my fervent hope that we will get over these repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections into the leadership positions in the association.
“I remain resolute in my belief that we cannot succeed in addressing the challenges confronting our profession unless we unite and I urge the incoming President and his executive to take deliberate and proactive steps to unite the Bar,” Ajibade said.
Speaking further, he thanked all those who supported his aspiration to be elected President of the association, noting that although they did not achieve the desired goal, the experience was rewarding and fulfilling.
“I say a heartfelt thank you to all the persons too numerous to mention, who supported my aspiration to be elected President of the Nigerian Bar Association.
“Though we did not get the result we wanted, the experience has been rewarding and fulfilling. I have met and established lasting bonds of friendship with colleagues from different parts of our great country Nigeria who share my values and aspirations for a better, stronger and united legal profession.
“To all those who sacrificed their time and resources, both material and otherwise, I owe a lasting debt of gratitude. I pray that God will reward each and every one of you.
“Thank you and God bless,” the statement read in part.