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NBA Crisis: Lawyers describe suspension of Gen Sec laughable

The crisis rocking the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) reached a new crescendo on Sunday as the National Officers of the association  suspended one of their own, the General Secretary, Ms Joyce Oduah from office.

However lawyers watching the whole drama said such suspension is laughable as the national officers lack the powers to suspend another elected officer. Ms Oduah herself seems not perturbed by the news as she said: “Only NBA-NEC  can suspend me.

In a resolution signed by 10 members led by the First Vice President, John Aikpokpo-Martins, the committee, after the suspension, appointed Ms Uchenna Nwadialo as the Acting General Secretary.

The committee had earlier in a notice of an emergency meeting leveled seven allegations against the General Secretary, including lack of proper temperament expected of a General Secretary in the management of secretariat staff, lack of capacity to manage her office, refusal to write letters, and a host of other allegations.

It is unclear however whether the committee has powers to suspend or relieve another elected member of his or her office. The committee claims emergency powers under section 9(6) (d) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) to carry out the suspension. It also referred the case of Ms Oduah to NBA-NEC for appropriate disciplinary measures against her.

The resolution reads:

RESOLUTION OF THE MEETING OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION HELD ON MONDAY 15TH AUGUST 2022

  1. Following the receipt of a letter dated 14th August 2022, from 9 National Officers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) calling on the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata to call an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee, the meeting held on Monday 15th August 2022 by 8am with the following members in attendance:

1)Olumide Akpata – President 

2)John Aikpokpo-Martins – 1st Vice President

3)Debo Adeyemo Kazeem – 2nd Vice President

4)Ombo Victor Frank-Briggs – 3rd Vice President

5)Joyce Oduah – General Secretary

6)Uchenna Nwadialo – Assistant General Secretary

7)Mercy Ijato Agada – Treasurer

8)Raphael Nnamdi Anagor – Financial Secretary

9)Olukunle Edun – Welfare Secretary

10) Rapuluchukwu Nduka – Publicity Secretary

11) Ferdinand Naza – Assistant Publicity Secretary

At war! NBA President, Olumide Akpata, Gen Sec, Joyce Oduah 

  1. The meeting deliberated extensively on the content of the above referenced letter and the weighty allegations against the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah in particular her acts of alleged disobedience to the President, the National Executive Council of the Association (NBA-NEC) and the National Executive Committee.
  1. Owing to the contents of the letters and statements issued by General Secretary and the disclaimer that the President issued, the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata recused himself from the deliberations and handed over to the 1st Vice President, Mr. John Aikpokpo Martins to chair the meeting.
  1. At the end of the deliberations, the National Executive Committee by a unanimous decision, resolved to refer the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah to NBA-NEC for disciplinary action under the provisions of section 20(1) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) and to recommend her removal from office for gross misconduct.
  1. In the meantime, however, in view of the critical importance of the Annual General Meeting which is scheduled to hold on 25th August 2022, and to prevent the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah from imperiling the Annual General Meeting, the Annual General Conference or the succession to the next administration by her unilateral and unauthorised communications purporting to be legitimate communications from the Association, the National Executive Committee has unanimously exercised its emergency powers under section 9(6) (d) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) to suspend Mrs Joyce Oduah from office as the General Secretary of the Association with immediate effect pending the Pre-Conference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21 August, 2022.
  1. The Assistant General Secretary, Ms. Uchenna Nwadialo shall immediately act as the General Secretary pending the PreConference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21st August 2022.
  1. All members of the Association are advised to continue their preparations for the forthcoming Annual General Conference.

Signed

JOHN AIKPOKPO-MARTINS

1st Vice President

UCHENNA NWADIALO

Ag. General Secretary

DEBO ADEYEMO KAZEEM 

2nd Vice President

OMBO VICTOR FRANK-BRIGGS

3rd Vice President

MERCY IJATO AGADA 

Treasurer

RAPHAEL NNAMDI ANAGOR

Financial Secretary

OLUKUNLE EDUN 

Welfare Secretary

RAPULUCHUKWU NDUKA

Publicity Secretary

Ferdinand Naza,

 Assistant Publicity Secretary.

Many members of the association referred to the suspension as a ‘sad development’. Bayo Akinlade, former  Chairman, Ikorodu branch of the association said: “This matter is very embarrassing to even talk about. This exco is handing over next week and they are allowing themselves to be remembered by one of their last acts in office almost covering everything else they achieved before now;

What even bothers me is that what they are quarrelling about is nothing… They won’t be the first excos that didn’t succeed in making these amendments… NBA is continuous and must not be trivialized into which exco achieved what and left the most monies in the bank”, he said.

Another lawyer, Olajide Akinola Abiodun described the suspension as laughable. “If its just the Executive Committee that met and decided to suspend the Gen Sec, then that suspension is laughable. Just as the issue with the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) when it was unilaterally amended and same was flagrantly ignored by the NBA, this exercise of suspension is without due process. An Exco cannot suspend a fellow officer validly elected. It’s turning the law on its head. It is bound to fail”, he said.

Another senior lawyer, SOK Shilings recommended immediate reversal of the suspension to safe the face of the bar. “Unfortunately, the Exco seems to forget that National Executive Committee has replaced, and is equal to the National Executive Council before 2019 amendments. Their body is National Executive Meeting. No more, no less! It does not equate the National Executive Committee. I recommend a retraction of the publication of that resolution and reversal of its purport”.

The lady in the eye of the storm, Ms Oduah in her reply to the suspension says that it is only the NBA-NEC that can suspend her.

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