No Legal Requirement for Permission to Leave One NBA Branch for Another – Afam Osigwe

Mazi Afam Osigwe

I read with great amusement views expressed in a piece published by a blog by certain individuals who passed themselves off as Leaders of the Unity Bar claiming that I was still a member of the branch. The write up was so hilarious I had to read it a second time to comprehend the frail attempt by these individuals to express self-serving opinions masqueraded as truth. I had to reread the piece to see what law they would cite to support their assertion but alas it was bereft of any law. I was however worried lawyers will express views that suggest that a person’s right to relocate to another branch is dependent on being “released’ by a branch before he can join another.

I was NBA Abuja Chairman for two years and in those years we received members who relocated from other branches. These lawyers never submitted any letter of release from their former branch neither did they ever apply in writing to join Unity Bar. Some of our members also relocated to other branches without ever applying to be allowed to go to other branches.

The persons who granted interviews suggesting otherwise must be talking about another branch other than the one I belonged to and led. On second thought, I believe they were referring to a branch of an association other than NBA. You can now understand why in Abimbola Kayode’s over two decades’ membership of Unity Bar he can only remember one instance when a person (Chief Uye Ogedengbe) gave notice of ‘retirement’.

The point has to be made that these individuals are members of the Abuja campaign team of one of the “cleared” aspirants in the forthcoming election and in fact have been accompanying him everywhere. So you can understand why I am unable to take their self-serving views seriously. If they are not self-serving, one Kola Omotinugbon (who now pretends to be a leader in Unity Bar) would not use such words as  “fraudulent act’, ‘desperate’ and ‘embarrassing’ in referring to my decision to change branch. I am glad we can now see the relationship between the cause of the crisis in NBA Abuja and the attempt to unlawfully disqualify me from contesting in this election. It is nothing but impunity and scant regard for the law.

I am glad these individual are coming out to justify the same impunity which they benefitted from in Unity Bar. If you recall, I have always insisted that the problem in Unity Bar is a clear case of unlawfully excluding a person from an election he ought not to be excluded from while including persons who ought not to be included on account of non-qualification and that is the bane of Abuja NBA politics where some people play “God” because according to them, you can only become something if they allow you. You can understand why these beneficiaries of impunity are falling all over themselves to justify of lack of adherence to law.

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How did these individuals know since September 2017 that a yet-to-be constituted Electoral Committee will require all aspirants to mandatorily obtain Letter of Good Standing from their branches? How did the Electoral Committee end up requiring aspirants to do so eight months after as boasted by these individuals? What gave these individuals the confidence to openly boast for months that I was wasting my time as I would never be allowed to contest in this election?

Cry beloved Nigerian Bar Association!

We will recall that this impunity and flagrant disregard for law and democratic tenets played out in the Abuja Election where the cabal of these ‘emergency Unity Bar Leaders” boasted in the same manner and followed through their boasts by disqualifying Ezenwa Anumnu because the Committee claimed that one of his nominators was not qualified to contest in the election on account of having been in the Exco more than once. The committee made this decision even though the nominator met all the grounds for qualification to contest for election which is required of a person nominating a candidate for Chairmanship.

The same Committee which disqualified Ezenwa Anumnu on this flimsy ground, qualified Prince Adesotoye who was called in 2009, when he was seven years post call to run for an office in 2016, which required a person to attain at least 8-years post call.

The committee also qualified Victor Abasi-akam-Ekim to run for chairman when he attended only three meeting out of the five (5) required by the NBA constitution. The published minutes of the branch in this regard is available but they later claimed that in the minutes book held by the then Secretary, Kola Omotinugbon (who openly campaigned for Victor), he made 5 (five) attendance. How low can we sink!

In that same election, after they had disqualified Rilwan Sadiq from running for Secretary, they suddenly introduced Chinedu Obienu who never picked nomination form up to the close of nomination as a candidate for the same office, instead of returning Lawrence Erewele as unopposed. Suddenly he became a candidate in the election. So like now they were manipulating the electoral process to suit themselves. If you are their person and you are qualified and maybe unopposed you are okay but if you are not wanted by them, they smuggle in persons like Chinedu Obienu for you and if you are a favoured person like Adesotoye, who was not up to legal minimum  age to run for the election, you are allowed to stand. And this is an association of lawyers where our motto is “promoting the Rule of Law” and where we have laws guiding the election.

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It is so shameful that the Bar has become a place where some people look at the law and feel they can bend it to suit them or act as if the law does not count. As long as this continues we will keep on having problems in NBA especially branches. If we refuse to act as a people ruled by law and will not respect the law, we will not be able to move forward. And when people think that they have listening ears either at the National Secretariat or somewhere who can say ” Do it, nothing will happen”, and nothing actually happens when they do it, then this crisis will continue.

There is everything wrong with the Electoral Committee introducing a requirement which is not provided by the law simply because they want to disqualify persons like me who they do not want. Kola Omotinugbon who now parades himself as a leader in Unity Bar has together with a high ranking officer of NBA for many months been boasting that I will be disqualified from contesting the election because the leadership of Unity Bar recognized by NBA National leadership will NEVER issue me with a Letter of Good Standing. The boasts were made even though Letter of Good Standing has never been a legal requirement. I should know I ran for General Secretary in 2014.

In fact, days before the Nominations were opened, Kola in a devil-may-care manner was boasting with great audacity that I had already been disqualified. What manner of leader is that? How brazen and undemocratic can we get at the Bar? At the appropriate time, I will mention the names of NBA National Officers and many others like Kola Omotinugbon (including an aspirant for the exalted position of NBA President) who since last year have been shamelessly boasting that I will NEVER be allowed to contest in the election.

The speed with which these individuals have rushed to heap insults on me as well as suggesting I ran from Abuja because I  knew I would not get Letter of Good Standing from NBA Abuja clearly lends credence to all I have been saying about their boasting of it many months before the Call for Nominations was made by ECNBA.  The NBA is sadly becoming populated by people who feel that they can play God with people’s aspirations and determine who can run for office and who will not run. Who will be shot down before he/she attempted to run. Well, the bad news for them is that I have chosen not to be cowed by them.

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For the avoidance of doubt I will like to ask these emergency ‘leaders’ of Unity Bar the following questions:

  1. What section of the NBA Constitution of NBA and or the Uniform Bylaws requires me to ‘resign’ from one branch before joining another?
  2. Whether NBA Abuja branch is not factionalized?
  3. Whether the NBA Leadership has not consistently violated court orders in respect of the leadership of the branch?
  4. Whether they can point to any section of the NBA Constitution which justifies their claim to the leadership of NBA Abuja?
  5. Whether the person who purportedly handed over to Abimbola Kayode as Chairman of Unity could rightly be appointed Care-Taker Committee Chairman of Unity Bar in the light of Paragraph 11(1) of the Uniform Bylaws which stipulates that a Caretaker Committee will comprise only three past Chairmen of the Branch?
  6. Whether the two factions in NBA Abuja have not been holding parallel meetings, events and even elections?
  7. Whether I ever attended any meeting or event convened by them?
  8. Whether they have ever extended to me the courtesy of inviting me to any event in my capacity as a past General Secretary, a Bencher or even “a leader and a Past Chairman of the Branch”?
  9. Whether apart from Uye Ogegegbe who notified their faction of Unity Bar of his retirement whether any other person has ever written such a letter to the branch
  10. Whether a lawyer can be compelled to remain a member of a branch he no longer wants to belong to?
  11. Whether I paid 2018 branch Dues or Annual Practicing Fee to Abuja branch?

 These individuals do not have to like me or support to know that democracy dies when we subvert the lawful aspirations of others. How do we fight violations of the law when we feast on disrespect for law. I could go and on but that would be a waste of precious time. We must join hands to say NO to impunity at the Bar. This Bar belongs to all of us, we must not allow undemocratic forces to hijack it for their self-serving purposes.


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