Mr. Olasupo Ojo has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen to constitute a Caretaker Committee to immediately takeover the administration and management of the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) pending the election of new officers for the association.
Ojo had brought an action urging the court to declare as null and void the amended NBA Constitution, noting that it was not duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Delivering judgement on the case brought against the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja held that the amended constitution breached sections 597 and 598 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), especially as it relates to its registration. He further held that the effect of the non registration of the constitution was to render it void, pursuant to Section 600 of CAMA.
Meanwhile, documents obtained show that Ojo has also written to Access Bank Plc requesting for suspension of operations on NBA accounts pending the takeover of the administration and management of the affairs of the association by the Caretaker Committee to be set up by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Dated Thursday, March 30, 2017 and written by his solicitor, Mr. A. C. Ozioko, the letter reads in part: “We are Solicitors to the Plaintiff in the above matter before Justice John Tsoho of Court 3, Federal High Court, Abuja in which judgment was delivered and all reliefs sought by the Plaintiff granted on March 30, 2017. The Court in its judgment voided the 2015 amended Constitution of the NBA for noncompliance with mandatory provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). Also voided were all actions howsoever described taken under the said constitution, amongst other reliefs.”
Continuing, Ojo said: “Sir, worthy of note is the fact that the Defendant herein did not file any counter affidavit in opposition to the Plaintiff’s suit, rather they filed frivolous preliminary objections which were all dismissed by the Court.
“For the sake of emphasis, we will like to point out that the reliefs granted by the Court as contained in the Judgment are declaratory in nature and as such, they take immediate effect as they cannot be stayed.
We also wish to note that there is currently no appeal against the instant judgment and even if the Defendant subsequently files one, the law is now settled that a stay of execution cannot operate against declaratory judgments such as the instant one. This position has been given judicial imprimatur in the case of SPDC Nigeria Limited V. Amadi & Ors (2011) 14 NWLR (1266) 157 at 190 EF where the apex court held that an appeal does not operate as a stay and a stay of execution is not granted against a declaratory judgment (just like the instant judgment).
The Supreme Court in a plethora of cases has also held that a declaratory judgment is a final order which declares the rights of the parties and that such judgments cannot be stayed. The decision in TUKUR V. GONGOLA STATE 1989 4 NWLR pt. 117 pg. 592 is also instructive here.
“In the circumstance Sir, we hereby urge the General Council of the Bar which you head by virtue of section 2 (1) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) to step in and take over the immediate administration and management of the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association in line with section 1(1) of the LPA which provides as follows;
“There shall be a body to be known as the General Council of the Bar (in this Act referred to as “the Bar Council”) which shall be charged with the general management of the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association (subject to any limitations for the time being provided by the Constitution of the Association) and with any functions conferred on the Council by this Act or that Constitution.”
“The 2001 NBA Constitution adopted at the Delegates Conference held in Calabar on August 31, 2001 is also apt here as it is now the extant constitution of the NBA in line with the judgment of Tsoho J., particularly relief 1 granted by the Court.
“Section 8 (c) of the said Constitution on the powers of the General Council of the Bar provides as follows;
“Without prejudice to Article 8 (b) above, if at any time due to unavoidable circumstances or any emergency, an election cannot be held at the appropriate time in the biennial General Conference or the National Executive Committee is incapable, of functioning, the General Council of the Bar shall be convened with powers to constitute a 10 member caretaker of members of the Association for not more than the unexpired tenure of the National officers or until the next Annual General Conference (whichever is shorter), where new National Officers shall be elected.” (Underlined for emphasis)
“Sir, it is not in doubt that the current ‘National Executive Committee’ of the NBA whose election has been nullified and voided by the Court, is now incapable of functioning as a result thereof. To this end, as earlier stated above, we urge you in the overall interest of the Bar and the profession, as well as to forestall a breakdown of law and order to give immediate effect to the Judgment of the Federal High Court in the instant suit and to exercise your powers under the Legal Practitioners Act and the 2001 NBA Constitution as highlighted above. We have also enclosed herein, a Certified True Copy of the 2001 NBA Constitution.
“We are also conscious of the fact that the public, the nation at large and the international community are watching us and as the professional body of lawyers, our conduct must always be above board. Also of concern is that the Bar may lose its respect and moral rectitude to criticise the government and other persons for noncompliance with the rule of law and disobedience to court orders, if we do not immediately give effect to the instant judgment.”
The suit was instituted by originating summons filed on July 27, 2016 seeking the following reliefs which were all granted by the Court: “A declaration that ‘Exhibit C’ the Amended Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association adopted at the Delegates Conference held in Calabar on August, 31, 2001 as registered with and approved by the Corporate Affairs Commission in compliance with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004 is the extant and valid constitution of the Defendant.
“A declaration that by the provision of section 600 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004, ‘Exhibit B’ the amended Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association purportedly amended and adopted at the Annual General Meeting held in Abuja on August 27, 2015 and pursuant to which the administration of and affairs of the defendant has been and is being conducted is void.
“A declaration that all actions, decisions and activities howsoever described, already taken or intended/planned to be taken and/or carried out by the defendant, her officers, staff, organs, committees, branches, members, representatives and/or any other person acting on behalf of or in the name of the Nigerian Bar Association in any manner whatsoever including but not limited to the conduct of elections in branches of the Nigerian Bar Association and the plan/program/notice for the election into the national offices of the defendant pursuant to “Exhibit B” , the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association purportedly amended and adopted at the Annual General Meeting held in Abuja on August 27, 2015 are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency with “Exhibit C”, the Amended Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association adopted at the Delegates Conference held in Calabar on August 31, 2001 as registered with and approved by the Corporate Affairs Commission in compliance with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, her officers, staff, organs, committees, branches, members, representatives and/or any other person acting on behalf of or in the name of the Nigerian Bar Association in any manner howsoever described jointly and severally from conducting and/or purporting to conduct the affairs of the Defendant on the basis of “ Exhibit B”, the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association purportedly amended and adopted at the Annual General Meeting held in Abuja on August 27, 2015.
In the letter to Access Bank, Ojo traced the history and fallout of his lawsuit against NBA, adding: “We refer you to a letter dated Thursday, March 30, 2017, addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, (SAN), wherein the issues surrounding the administration and management of the Nigerian Bar Association have been highlighted as well as the request to takeover the affairs of the Association by the General Council of the Bar until a time when fresh national elections would be conducted.
“Interestingly, the Attorney General of the Federation is the President of the General Council of the Nigerian Bar Association and as such, the funds in custody of the bank would be directed to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation or any member of the General Council of the Bar for the time being, as the General Council would be in control of the affairs of the Association.
“A copy of this letter dated Thursday, 30th March 30, 2017 to the Attorney General of the Federation is hereby attached for your perusal. A Certified True Copy of the enrolled order has been obtained and same is attached for your perusal”.
However, in a statement by NBA General Secretary, Mr. Isiaka Olagunju, the association said though it had been briefed by the counsel who represented the defendants, the order had not been served on the NBA President, NBA National Officers or branches. It therefore urged all its officers “to continue to discharge their responsibilities.”
Source: City Lawyer
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