An Injustice to One is an Injustice to All – Afam Osigwe Reacts to His Disqualification

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Mazi Afam Osigwe has indicated that he has taken a decision to challenge the decision of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) disqualifying him from running for the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar in the forthcoming election.

Mazi revealed this  a press release which  he titled  “ECNBA: HOW NOT TO PROMOTE THE RULE OF LAW” issues in this regard. He further urged his supporters to remain calm as he is unshaken by what he calls an “unjust disqualification.”

Around 12:23 p.m today (July 2, 2018), I received, via e-mail, a letter from the ECNBA conveying its decision on the appeal I lodged against my unlawful disqualification or exclusion from contesting in the forthcoming NBA national elections fixed for 27th and 28th July, 2018. The letter is dated 29th June, 2018. Why it took the Committee charged with the responsibility of organizing or conducting such serious business as the elections of national officers of arguably the leading professional body in Nigeria five(5) days before mailing out the letter speaks stridently about the integrity of the ECNBA/the persons who make up the Committee. From this singular act, it is clear that the intention of the ECNBA against me, my candidature and the future of the NBA is accentuated by a predetermined force of malice and mischief!

In its extant letter, the ECNBA stated inter alia thus:

“Following your appeal and revised appeal dated 14th June, 2018 against the decision of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) contained in our letter of 14th June, 2018, we regret to inform you that the Committee finds no merit in your appeal. 

Consequently, take notice that you are hereby disqualified from contesting for the office of the President of the NBA at  the 2018 NBA Elections slated for the 28th July, 2018 by virtue of non-compliance with Section 8(3)(a)(i) and Article 4 of the Third Schedule, NBA Constitution 2015.” 

From the foregoing, it is now indubitably clear that the ECNBA has finally delivered on the mandate given to it by a clique, which is to exclude or disqualify me from taking part as a candidate in the election. Prior to this time and in a boisterous tone, I had sounded the alarm that the ECNBA has been given the ‘marching order’ to carry out a hatchet job against me. This decision, therefore, has not come to me and my supporters as a surprise.

For the avoidance of any doubt, let me state that this decision is not only arbitrary, it is high-handed, unfounded, unwarranted, unlawful, unconscionable, illegal, unconstitutional, capricious, null and void and of no effect whatsoever. It is a decision concocted and disingenuously honed by enemies of the Bar who are averse to progressive ideas. They are prepared to stop at nothing to ensure that the NBA remains perpetually under their manipulative control.  

The ECNBA purportedly hinged my disqualification on the provision of Section 3(a)(i) of the NBA Constitution, 2015. For the record, such a section only exist in the Constitution known only to and operated by the ECNBA. It is, therefore, not difficult to appreciate why in the rush to do the bidding of its masters and perpetrate injustice, the Committee carelessly but recklessly relied on a non-exiting provision in our Constitution to ground me.   

The other provision relied upon by the ECNBA is “Article 4” (sic)[correctly cited as Paragraph] of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution. By it, the Committee questions my “good standing” as a member of the Nnewi Branch of the NBA. In my earlier appeal to the ECNBA, I had impeached the decision of the body to disqualify me based on what it described as “no satisfactory proof of my relocation to Nnewi branch…” Again for the record, I had submitted along with my nomination form, the following documents in proof of my membership of the Nnewi Branch of the NBA: a letter of good standing” signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Nnewi branch, receipt of payment of dues to Nnewi branch, teller evidencing payment of Annual Practice Fee as a member of Nnewi branch and voter’s list sent to the ECNBA by the Nnewi branch with my name clearly captured as No. 86 therein.

Indeed, in what is clearly a palpable admission of my membership of the Nnewi branch, the ECNBA captured my name as No. 23518 in the final voters’ list published in the evening of 01.07.18. How the ECNBA still failed to see proof of my membership of Nnewi Brach is a matter that is beyond human comprehension. In any event, I have repeatedly maintained that by virtue of the provision of Section 9(2) of the NBA Constitution, the provisions of the Third Schedule have no relevance in the determination of the qualification or non-qualification of a person to contest election into a national office of the NBA.     

For the avoidance of doubt, I hereby state in clear and unequivocal terms that this unpopular, unlawful and reprehensible decision of the ECNBA is unacceptable to me and my teeming supporters. I reject it wholly and entirely. The decision has occasioned grave injustice on me and it clearly represents a miscarriage of justice. The image of the Association is now gradually being torn to shreds by the Electoral Committee. But as a social engineer and true democrat, I will leave no stone unturned and no turn unstoned in order to ensure that the right thing is done by the ECNBA and this horrendous decision is reversed.

The ECNBA has by series of mis-steps and perverse decisions also shown it lacks the competence and integrity to be entrusted with the conduct of the election. The Committee made rules not founded on the NBA Constitution, clearly betraying the fact of its being tele-guided by the General Secretary of the NBA and his cronies. All the Committee did were in tandem with boasts made by the General Secretary, Chief of Staff to NBA President and many others. No better proof of ECNBA’s incompetence can be given than of the manner it manipulates the Voters register to remove persons whose names appeared as voters in the Preliminary Voters’ list, exclusion of persons related to me or known to be supporting me, duplication of names as well as gross failure to apply the law. Most frightening of the litany of incompetence by ECNBA is the implied reliance by it on ‘protests’ by branches to exclude names of lawyers who duly paid their BPF and Branch dues. We have never had it this bad.

Less than twenty eight (28) days to the election, the electoral platform is not known neither is the procedure for voting known. We are watching. Posterity will surely remember this Committee as the worst that acted with so much impunity, scant regard for law and subject to control by a person who has no legal authority over them.

Since the earlier decision of the Committee on 14.06.18 and today’s confirmation, I have been inundated with telephone calls, text messages and personal visitations by professional colleagues, associates, friends, supporters and other well-wishers who have shown unquestionable solidarity and expressed disappointment at the state of affairs in the NBA. I thank everyone for this exceptional show of love and hereby assure you all that I will not waver in my commitment to justice and fair play. My resolve remains unshaken by this unjust decision and in the next few hours, I shall be submitting my grievance of this impunity to a court of competent jurisdiction for adjudication.

In the meantime, I appeal to my supporters and all others who love and cherish the ideals of our great Association and are understandably peeved by this injustice to remain calm and go about their normal daily activities.

An injustice to one is an injustice to all.

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