At the NEC Meeting held in Jos on February 18, 2016, NEC set up NBA Branches Election Monitoring Group/Committee with powers to monitor, supervise and entertain petitions arising from the conduct of elections in branches.
This Committee was set up in the exercise of its power to under Section 13(4) of the NBA Constitution to “constitute Committees other than the Standing Committees to deal with such issues and matters as circumstances may dictate; and the Committees so constituted shall have such powers and exercise such functions as the National Executive Committee may determine.
In the exercise of its powers the Committees issued Uniform guidelines to Branches for t he conduct of elections and also entertained petitions against the actions and decisions of branch electoral Committees. Some of the thorny issues dealt with the Committee were in regard to the refusal of some branch electoral committee to disqualify candidates who were ineligible to contest for positions as a result of Clause 6(3) of the Uniform Byelaws as well as wrongful disqualification or qualification of candidates.
Some branches like Ikeja and Abuja defied the Committee’s directives, arguing that the Committee lacked powers to gives directives to them or reverse the decision of their electoral Committees because Clause 15(5) of the Uniform Byelaws makes their decisions final. Good evening Clifford. It is trite that the decision of an Electoral Committee can only be final if its decision is arrived at in accordance with law and fact. An Electoral Committee cannot rely on Clause 15(5) of the Uniform Byelaws to perpetrate illegality. Their decision can therefore only be ‘final’ if they are arrived at in accordance with law. Once their decisions are shown to be unlawful or contrary to a resolution of NEC, the Committee would reverse them. Even when the President directly gave such directives, these branches still defied them. This should not be allowed to stand. Actions must have consequences.
Section 13(110 of the NBA Constitution stipulates that “every Branch shall carry out the directives of the General Meetings or the National Executive Committee of the Association or the President. The powers give to the President and or NEC (either acting directly or through a committee) are without qualification.
Ikeja Branch refused all directives of the Committee disqualifying Adesina Ogunlana from contesting for the Chairmanship of the branch and elected him Chairman notwithstanding that he was not qualified to run for the office as a result of Clause 6(3) of the Uniform Byelaws. Such a person should never be accorded recognition by NEC.
In the case of Abuja branch, the electoral Committee defied the directive of the Committee which reversed the disqualification of Ezenwa Anumnu and proceeded to conduct election for candidates who were disqualified from contesting election. Particularly the Committee disqualified Victor Ekim for not having attended up to the mandatory five meetings, Izy Nwaiwu because those who nominated him did not attend up to five meetings, Chinedu Obienu because he did not pick nominations as the time nominations closed and yet was smuggled in by the electoral committee and Prince Adesotoye who was called to the bar in 2009 for not meeting the minimum age qualification to run for office.
In a brazen show of defiance the NBA Abuja Electoral Committee openly aided by Elachi Agada, then Chairman of the Branch issued the following public notice after receiving the directive from the Election Monitoring Committee: “Gentlemen of the Unity Bar, our election still holds tomorrow from 9am. Nothing changes that and nothing has changed. All those qualified to vote should as earlier stated, come with a valid identity card. All candidates CLEARED BY THE BRANCH ELECTION COMMITTEE should are to produce one agent to stand in for monitoring purposes. We are are committed to the Bar. God bless us all” emphasis supplied.
In continuation of the disrespect and defiance of the Monitoring Committee, the NBA Abuja Electoral Committee proceeded to conduct election whereat the following disqualified persons were “elected” Victor Ekim (Chairman), Chinedu Obienu (Secretary) and Prince Adesotoye (Social Secretary). The Electoral Committee proceeded to publicly declare them officers of the branch.It is believed that Mr Abdul Ibrahim took over the Chairmanship of the Electoral Committee after Ola Olanipekun resigned as Chairman of the committee after the other members (Abdul Ibrahim, Pauline Tarfa, Nobert Onyemechalu and Steve Emelieze) insisted that they will never obey the directives of the Branch Election Monitoring Committee.
It is quite interesting that Abdul Ibrahim who was still served with a copy of the letter conveying the directive prior to the commencement of the election insisted that it was either a forgery or an illegal directive. He was encouraged in this action by Elachi Agada who went around boasting that he swore to obey the Byelaws of the branch and that the byelaws had no place for such directives to be given to the branch electoral committee.
The outright show of disrespect and defiance of clear lawful directives by these branches and any other branch found to be guilty of same should not be allowed to stand. They portend grave danger to discipline in the management of the affairs of the Association. They will particularly undermine the powers of the NBA President contained in Section 5(a)(iii) & (iv) of NBA Constitution to coordinate the activities of all Branches of the Association and providing direction and leadership to all Committees of the Association.
These brazen acts of defiance must have consequences.
Above image: First Africa Bar Leaders Conference, April 2016