Following the landmark judgment delivered by the High Court of the FCT, Jabi (coram Justice Y. Halilu) nullifying the disqualification of Mr. John Unachukwu (also known as John Austin) as the sole candidate for the post of Publicity Secretary of the NBA at the 2016 National Elections, the President of the NBA, A. B. Mahmud, SAN, at the just concluded National Executive Committee Meeting held in Uyo swore in John Austin as the Publicity Secretary of the NBA. The swearing in exercise is coming at a moment when the present administration is already rounding up. Would John Austin round up with the Brave New Bar?
The present fate of John Austin is similar to Peter Obi’s saga. Just like Peter Obi, John Austin has approached the court to successfully reclaim his mandate. Peter Obi did not only win, he also brought clarification to the interpretation of Section 180 (2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended). With the decision of the Supreme Court in Obi V. INEC, it is now settled that no matter when a Governor is elected, his time starts to run the moment he takes the oath of office. That is clear as per the provision of Section 180(2)(a) of the constitution right? Well, it wasn’t that clear before Peter Obi made it an issue.
Back to NBA, Section 8 (1) of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 provides that “The National Officers of the Association shall be elected as provided under this constitution for a single term of two years”. The NBA Constitution unlike the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria didn’t tie the term of the two year tenure to commence from when oath of office is taken. However, Section 19(1) of the Uniform Bye-Law for Branches provides that “… All elected officers shall be deemed to have assumed office immediately after being sworn in”. Where does this leave John Austin?
Would John Austin want to further push his luck in court to confirm when his two years would begin to run? Would John Austin get the support of his primary constituency (Lawyers in the Media) in the second phase of his struggle (if he chooses to fight further)? Is John Austin ready to set another precedent?