Like its mother association, Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), the Law Students Association of Nigeria(LAWSAN) comprising of all students in Faculties of Law in all Nigerian universities is currently enmeshed in an election mess that has seen 15 chapters breakaway from the association. The association was formed in 2016.
This is an outcome of its Annual General Conference with held in Abuja between September 9-12, 2020. On the last day of the conference, an election to the national executive offices of the association took place and produced Blessing Agbonmere of BASE University, Abuja as President-Elect.
However, this did not go down well with some chapters of the association which claimed that the laws of the association was flagrantly flouted in the conduct of the election. Besides, money was alleged to have played a role in the outcome of the election. For instance, the election allegedly took place at 4.00am in the last day. Electoral form for the office of the President was said to have been sold for N50,000 while contestants were given only one hour to purchase the forms before election took place.
Mr. Isiaka Danlawan, the Chapter President of the Ahmadu Bello University(ABU), and spokesperson for the aggrieved Chapters expressed their grievances, stating that the affected chapters had unanimously decided to leave LAWSAN until the issues raised are addressed and settled.
Danlawan made this known at a press conference which took place at the venue of the convention. He said: “Having met today at around 9am, we have decided to stand against the sheer and brut injustice that has been happening in our very hallowed association, LAWSAN. The blatant and sheer disregard for the Law and structures under LAWSAN particularly section 16(2)(a) of the LAWSAN constitution which provides a fundamental requirement that a candidate vying for the position of President must be from the penultimate class. That is, he/she must be a 400-level student and must show his third-year results”.
He further stated that a flagrant disregard for this rules by “an association which should actually set the pace in following the law and providing adequate respect for the law” was totally wrong. We are lawyers in equity and we do not joke with the law!” he affirmed.
Danlawan was backed by the University of Abuja Chapter President who noted that LAWSAN was still too immature to “face such brutality and display of disorderliness”. She described the convention as “a public display of charades” because a Presidential aspirant acted as the Chairman of the same convention which was to usher in the new administration.
It was therefore not too surprising to see that this same aspirant was elected as the New President. In her words, “he used that office as a medium of selling himself to men and women of the congress. That is not just it. When we went for the summit at the NBA Secretariat, we saw bags of his pictures arranged everywhere in the hall.” She viewed this as a default in law and further noted that even before the ban on campaigns were lifted, he had started campaigning.
The chapters that broke away includes Bauchi State University, Lagos State University, Nasarawa State University, University of Jos, Yobe State University, Usman Danfodio University, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Abuja and some others that were not mentioned.
Danlawan said further; “Our concerns have been discussed and we have passed the following resolutions, that from today, 12th September, 2020, we the 15 Chapter Presidents of various faculties of Law across regions of the country have unanimously agreed that we are breaking out of the Law Students Association of Nigeria. This is a very painful and decisive decision for us to make.”
However, the immediate past president of the association, Mr. Emmanuel Nwobodo re-affirmed that the unity of LAWSAN is non-negotiable. “Let me start by saying that LAWSAN is for all. It is not for the minority, not for the majority, but for all and the unity of our Association cannot be negotiated. It is an association that has always stood for unity.”
He also debunked the issue of alleged malpractice and described the election as “the most credible election ever conducted in LAWSAN.” ”
He said further: “I know Lawsanites are happy because for the first time, the credibility of this association was put to test and we have proven beyond reasonable doubt that we can stand the test when shaken or brought to test.”
Nwobodo further stated that the laws of the association were complied with strictly and that for the first time in the history of the association, the list for the Electoral Committee members was sent to the Senate which comprises of all Chapter Presidents, making the selection subject to their approval. This according to him, further “evidences credibility and independence of purpose”
When asked about the way forward particularly for the chapters that decided to break away, he said that the same issue occurred when he was elected. “The responsibility vested upon me at the time was to ensure that we get other chapters involved. I went to the extent of taking the risk to visit my opponent’s chapter.” He therefore stated that it is the responsibility of the President-elect, Mr. Blessing Agbonmere who won with 115 votes, to ensure that the unity of the Association remains in place.