The suit filed at the High Court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja by Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) seeking to remove Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president suffered yet another set back on Friday as the court failed to hear a motion filed by the Plaintiff.
At the resumed hearing on the matter, the presiding judge, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi noted that he would return the case file to the Chief Judge for re-assignment since the vacation period has come to an end. Justice Adeniyi, a vacation judge, had taken over the matter from Justice M. E. Anenih.
The court however granted the plaintiff’s motion for accelerated hearing of the suit, even as Lead Counsel for the plaintiff, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) told the court that the bailiff sent to serve the plaintiff’s motion on the NBA was manhandled by persons suspected to be staff of the association. Today’s proceedings lasted barely 30 minutes.
All parties were represented in court by counsel, including the 15 defendants. While Ngige led Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN) among others for the plaintiff, Mr. Muyiwa Akinboro (SAN) stood in for the 1st to 6th defendants. Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN) was counsel for the 7th defendant while Mr. Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) held the brief of Mr. Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) for the 8th to 12th defendants. Okutepa was also the counsel for the 13th defendant. Mr. A. A. Malik was counsel for the 14th defendant while Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN) represented Mahmoud, the 15th defendant.
Mahmoud was declared winner of the controversial NBA election with total 3055 votes while Gadzama polled 2384 votes. But Gadzama rejected the result.
In a 102-paragraph Statement of Claim, Gadzama is urging the court to declare that “the Defendants jointly and/or severally are bound by the provisions of the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association amended and adopted in August 2015 and must in all matters relating to, connected with the business and or affairs of the Association obey and give effect to the provisions thereof.”
He also claimed that “contrary to the result declared by the 8th Defendant, at the close of voting, at 12:00 midnight on Sunday, 31st July, 2016, the result of the 2016 Nigerian Bar Association Election as it relates to the office/position of the President, as collated from and contained on the official voting domain/platform was as follows: Joe-Kyari Gadzama – 2,963; Abubakar B. Mahmoud -2,465.” This was as deduced by his ICT experts who conducted forensic audit of the poll.
The defendants in the suit are NBA trustees including Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN) CON, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) OFR, Chief Thompson Joseph Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) OON, Chief (Mrs.) Priscilla Kuye, Alhaji Murtala Aminu OFR and Chief Anthony O. Mogboh (SAN). They are listed as 1st to 6th Defendants while The Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Bar Association is the 7th Defendant. Mr. Kenneth Mozia (SAN), Chairman of the ECNBA is the 8th Defendant while Mr. Oluwaseun Ajoba who doubles as the Secretary of the committee is the 9th Defendant.
Others are Hajia Safiya Balarabe, Mrs. Amaka Ezeno, and Mrs. Eucharia Pepple – all members of the Electoral Committee – as 10th, 11th and 12th Defendants while NBA’s ICT Partner, Grace Infotech Limited is the 13th Defendant. Mr. Augustine O. Alegeh (SAN), former NBA President, is the 14th defendant while Mahmoud is the 15th Defendant.
In a Motion on Notice filed by the Plaintiff and brought pursuant to Order 46 Rule 1 of the FCT High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004 and Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Gadzama is seeking an order of court “nullifying and setting aside all steps taken by the 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th Defendants/Respondents during the pendency of the Plaintiff’s Motion on Notice No. M/9508/16 for the interlocutory injunction against the swearing-in of the 15th Defendant/Respondent as the President of Nigerian Bar Association, etc dated 18th day of August 2016 which actions and steps have the effect of defeating the said pending application and or foisting a fait accompli on the court and parties herein.
“Alternatively to prayer 1 above, an order of this Honourable Court restoring the parties to the status quo ante belum as at 25th of August 2016.”
The plaintiff is also seeking an order of interlocutory injunction “restraining the 15th Defendant/Respondent from holding himself out or howsoever parading himself as the President of the 7th Defendant/Respondent until the final determination of the substantive suit.
“Pursuant to prayer 3 above, AN ORDER directing the 1st Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association to take over and perform the functions and duties of the President of the Association pending the hearing and determining (sic) of the substantive suit.
“AN ORDER directing the accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.”
The 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th Defendants/Respondents are the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, Mozia, Alegeh and Mahmoud respectively. It is recalled that Gadzama’s attempt to stop Mahmoud’s inauguration as NBA President was aborted, as the court failed to hear the motion due to non-service of the application on the 13th defendant (Grace Infotech Limited).
Meanwhile, Mahmoud has filed a preliminary objection asking the court to strike out Gadzama’s suit, arguing that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
In another development, Gadzama has dragged Alegeh to the Nigerian Law School Class of ’86, alleging “injurious conduct” by the former NBA president. Both Gadzama and Alegeh are members of the group, having been admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1986.
In a petition dated September 1, 2016 and titled “Complaint of wrongful and injurious conduct by Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN,” Gadzama stated: “I write to formally complain about the treatment I suffered at the hands of the above named person in his capacity as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, with regards to my bid to run for president of the NBA.”
Continuing, Gadzama alleged that Alegeh’s conduct “was calculated to unfairly prejudice” his quest to lead the NBA “as the attached documents will plainly show.” He further stated that “You may also recall that our Class of 86 Annual General Meeting of 2015 jointly agreed that everyone in the Class of 86 would encourage and facilitate the goals and ambitions that any class member has; and anyone who frustrates or acts prejudicially towards another would be sanctioned. Flowing from the foregoing, I hereby make this complaint against the above named person
“The attached documents speak for themselves and the extent to which Augustine Alegeh, SAN is in breach of our Union’s Agreement.” The petition which was marked “URGENT”was accompanied by 42 attachments.
In a swift reaction, the leadership of the class has written to Alegeh asking him to respond to the complaint. In a letter dated 3rd September, 2016, the secretary of the group, Mr. Mohammed Monguno referred to the complaint by Gadzama and stated: “Pursuant to the objective of promoting unity and amicable relationship among members of the Class, EXCO has decided to forward a copy of the complaint to you for your kind response within SEVEN DAYS in order to decide on how best to resolve the matters raised in the complaint.”
It is recalled that the NBA leadership had at the recent pre-National Executive Committee Meeting in Port Harcourt set up a 5-member committee to reach out to Gadzama towards amicable resolution of the electoral debacle. Members of the committee are Chief Onomigbo Okpoko, SAN (Chairman); former NBA presidents Chief O. C. J. Okocha, SAN and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Yinka Fayokun and Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Mbanugo Udenze who will double as Secretary of the committee.
These moves by Gadzama has cast doubts on whether the Reconciliation Committee set up by the NBA to resolve the crisis thrown up by the controversial election will achieve its set objectives.