• April 13, 2021

Shame Of A Bar


By Yinka Odumakin

CHIEF John Nwodo, the President Ohanaeze Ndigbo is a lawyer with a gift of the gab. I saw him on television when he was running for president. After summarising the Nigerian affliction, he concluded that “when it is spoilt, Yoruba would say: O ti ra(it is messed up) and when it is irredeemably bad they would say: O ti sedin (it is eaten by maggots). That was original and deep Yoruba by a proper Ibadan boy.

That diagnosis remains valid till date as there is no redemptive factor in Nigeria anymore. There is no salvation anywhere in the country again. Men of God are not different from common criminals. I can’t yet get over the pastor who was accused of laundering almost one billion. The man claimed his church is both for Christians and Muslims.

Lawyers are my issue his week before I begin to hear “touch not my anointing” and other scaremongering.

When we were young, we used to walk with trepidation around lawyers like special creatures. It was as if they possessed some special moral continent from the rest of us.

Corrupt political system

But when the Nigerian Bar Association held its election recently, its image came down to that of APC or PDP or any of the political parties in our corrupt political system. Shortly after the results were announced, one of the contestants, Mr. Dele Adesina fired a petition detailing the following allegations:

Attention: Mr Tawo E. Tawo SAN

My dear Learned Brother Silk,

Re: The Nigerian Bar Association 2020 national officers election: Petition against the management of the electoral process.

The above-mentioned subject matter refers. I am one of the presidential candidates for the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in the on-going National Officers’ Elections and I forward this petition in this regard.

Upon the receipt of the Verified Voters List published about five hours to the commencement of the election, my team and I after a painstaking perusal of the list observed that the list contained grave errors of omission and commission, including but not limited to the following:

Names of purported lawyers without branches ascribed to them from serial number 25171 to 29635;

Names of lawyers under the subheading “International Diaspora” from serial number 12182 to 12268. A clear violation of the provisions of the Constitution of the NBA; Page 1 of 4

Inflation of the list of some branches. For instance, Obollo-Afor branch on the final list for verification had only 39 names on the list from serial number 30424 to 30462. Strangely, this increased to 662 on the verified list;

Deletion of names of members removed from the final list;
Many members names found their way to branches other than their own branch

I took this matter up in a telephone discussion with the other two presidential candidates, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, and Olumide Akpata Esq., and a preferred suggestion was made that the matter be taken up informally with the Committee Members in the interest of the integrity of the Association. In furtherance of this, I raised the above issues with the president of the NBA and a member of the Electoral Committee.

Some explanations were made though unsatisfactory by which time voting had actually started. The Electoral Committee admitted this error in their Statement No. 019 when they said among other things that “the situation is regretted but arose because members in the course of verification did not fully update information on their current branches and/ or sex”. Yet, nothing was done to rectify the situation.

In addition to the above, several observations and protests have been made by different members of our association which questions the integrity of the process as well as the result of the process.

Some of the protests received from different branches are as follows:

Very many members, particularly from the branches in the West, like Ibadan and Ado-Ekiti, did not receive the link to vote and some of those who received the link could not vote. The same protest came from several branches in the North, like Gombe, Katsina, Birnin-Kebbi, Yobe, and Kaduna.
The same complaint was lodged vehemently by members of NBA Enugu Branch.

Several cases of reported disenfranchisement by members whose names were not on the list. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria who contacted the helpline line to lodge his complaint was told that it is because he did not have his SAN’s number.

Query! Is SAN’s number a requirement? Page 2 of 4
Issues were also raised on the security of the NBA Membership Portal. On July 9, 2020, a letter was forwarded to the Chairman of the Electoral Committee raising several issues on the need for a credible voters list and the need to know the service provider with a view to interrogate the process. This letter was flagrantly ignored by the Committee.

As at the time of writing this statement,… addition of votes recorded plus notices yet undelivered amounted to 29,820 which is 185 votes over and above the total number of voters on the voters register.

It is also significant to note that the system used for this election was said to have been registered the very day the election was to start and MoU was signed on that same day. This was done all alone by the President of the NBA. There was no opportunity to interrogate the system before the commencement of the election in order to determine its vulnerability, security and capacity.

The inability to deliver 14,000 notices to prospective voters 13 hours after the commencement of the election is not only evidence of lack of capacity on the part of the system but also a clear disenfranchisement of these prospective voters.

I call on you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, to cancel this sham election. It is needless to say that if the process is bad, the product cannot be good.

Thank you. Yours faithfully,

Mr. Julius Oladele Adesina, SAN”

My investigation shows that the Board of the NBA is in a serious dilemma at the moment as to how to handle this as there are large merits in the allegations. But how would the bar own up that its elections were not foolproof?

FEEDBACK

Re: Kashamu and the fears of epithets

Dear Yinka,

THANKS for your write-up on the above subject. It revealed a lot about the late senator. Ours is a country where people commit crimes and the law looks the other way most of the time. It is a country where criminals are applauded, worshipped, given titles and are either elected or appointed to sensitive public positions.

Ours is a country where criminals use their ill-gotten wealth to thwart the justice system. One lesson criminals and their hangers-on knowingly forget is that crime does not pay. The main reason for this is because criminals are not shamed in Nigeria. This sad situation has resulted in many Nigerian youths taking to crimes in recent times. The way things are going in the country has not helped matters. I sometimes attribute our country’s support for criminals and criminality to high levels of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, quest for easy wealth, ineffective laws and our extreme state of anomie. Something must be done urgently if our democracy must survive the pollution some persons have injected into our politics. The law must go after these criminals. When criminals are shamed, others desiring to take to crimes will think twice.

Unlike the Nigerian legal system that creates loopholes for criminals to escape justice the American system has no hiding place for criminals. There is a day of reckoning for criminals in America no matter how long it takes.

—John Ekwe

Dear Yinka,

I JUST finished reading your piece on the subject. I am grateful to God that this country still has people like you who are not praise-singers. I believe in telling the truth about anybody whether the person is alive or dead.

I wish others of your ilk will be like you and say it like it is without minding whose ox is gored. I think it will make people to be cautious about the way they live their lives. Please keep up the good work.

—Martin I. Oparah.


Agenda Watchdog

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