BY BRIGHT JACOB
Ahead of the forthcoming annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, a crisis has erupted within the leadership of the association.
In the early hours of Saturday, NBA General Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Oduah sent out a letter asking members to disregard early notices on the Annual General Meeting sent by her and the Assistant General Secretary, Uche Nwadialo.
The AGM, which is scheduled to be held during the annual general conference, is the last by the Olumide Akpata administration.
The mail had informed members of a “Revised Notice of Annual General Meeting” and also attached “Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on the 28th of October, 2021 in preparation for the Annual General Meeting of 25th August, 2022 in Lagos.”
Hours after the mail was sent out to NBA members, the President, Akpata issued a disclaimer to the effect that “the notice of withdrawal sent out by Mrs. Oduah was done without any approval and consultation with the National Bar leadership and as such, the earlier notices of the amendment sent out by both the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary remain valid until a decision is reached at the NBA Annual General Meeting”.
The disclaimer, which was personally signed by Akpata, is contained in a statement titled “RE: Disclaimer of Notice of Withdrawal of Proposed Constitutional Amendments (NBA AGM 2022)”.
Akpata wrote: “I am writing to disclaim that withdrawal as unauthorised by me or any of the National Officers, and to request that you regard the two notices circulated on 27th July 2022 by firstly, Mrs. Oduah; and secondly, by the Assistant General Secretary as subsisting. The reasons for this request are as follows:
“The NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC) had at its last meeting in Ilorin Kwara State on 9th June 2022 resolved that some amendments be made to the NBA Constitution. On that basis, the NBA Constitution Drafting Committee under the leadership of Asamah Kadiri, SAN proposed certain amendments for consideration by National Officers and subsequent circulation to all our members for consideration at the forthcoming AGM.
“The National Officers duly considered the said amendments proposed by the Constitution Drafting Committee and we all resolved that the proposed amendments are in the best interest of the Association, and approved that they be shared with our members alongside the Notice of the AGM where the amendments will be deliberated upon.
“For clarity, most of the proposed amendments are aimed at institutionalising some of the initiatives of the current administration and ensuring inter-alia that:
“(i) the NBA Stabilisation Fund is properly ringfenced and protected from the risk of easy dissipation in the future by any President or National Officer as those funds have been earmarked for key welfare and developmental programmes;
“(ii) the amount of Bar Practicing Fees that we remit to the branches for their programmes is increased from 10% to 20 percent as authorised by a longstanding resolution of NBA NEC;
“(iii) any member of the Association who has held elective office as a National Officer for two (2) terms is barred from contesting for a national office for at least ten (10) years after his/her last term of office; and
“(iv) government interference in affairs of the NBA is constitutionally limited.
“Admittedly, some of the amendments proposed by the Constitution Drafting Committee may not be acceptable to all, albeit the view of the National Officers (except Mrs. Oduah) is that the decision as to whether or not such provisions can stand is purely that of the AGM while voting on the proposed amendments.
“Unfortunately, and for reasons that are not exactly clear, in spite of the approval of the proposed amendments by 10 of the 11 National Officers, Mrs. Oduah not only delayed in issuing the required Notice until the eve of the cut-off date, but also refused to issue a Notice of the AGM that contained all the proposed amendments. When the Notice was eventually issued, it had been unilaterally altered by Mrs. Oduah to exclude most of the proposed amendments highlighted in paragraph 3 above. It was on this basis that all National Officers (except Mrs Oduah) authorised the Assistant General Secretary (Ms Uche Nwadialo) to issue a second notice of AGM that contains all the proposed constitutional amendments.
“Considering that two separate and apparently conflicting notices had been issued, the National Officers agreed that the contents of the notices and the fact of their conflict will be presented to the AGM (as the highest decision-making body of the NBA) for a resolution on which, if any, of the notices should be discussed at the meeting. In essence, the conflict between the two notices was to be resolved by the AGM.
“It was during this interval, that the withdrawal notice which you most likely received a couple of hours ago was unilaterally sent by Mrs. Oduah. To be sure, no meeting or other deliberations were held, and no authorisation was given for any of the previously issued notices to be withdrawn or amended as Mrs Oduah purported to do in her most recent email.
“It is on the basis of the foregoing that I invite you to disregard the withdrawal and amendment notices that you might have received at midnight today and treat the separate notices circulated by both Mrs. Oduah and the Assistant General Secretary on 27th of July 2022 as subsisting pending a decision by the AGM.
“It is regrettable that we have had to bring this matter to your attention, but it is important to set the records straight and to provide clarity on a subject which, I am sure, has left you and others befuddled over the last two weeks.
“I thank you for your attention”.
The NBA elected Yakubu Maikyau, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, as President on 17 July, along with new executives.