Femi Falana SAN
In another lengthy analysis of the crisis rocking the association, Falana alleged that a cabal had seized the body, dictating its affairs as desired, including at branch level. He said, “Regrettably, the house has been turned upside down, once again, as its foundation is under serious attack from a cabal of bar leaders who have institutionalised the biennial imposition of national officers through e-fraud elections. “Even branch elections of the NBA are also manipulated with impunity by the same reactionary forces.
Hence, many branches of the NBA are managed, from time to time, by caretaker committees imposed on them by national officers whose own mandate is questionable. “If the NBA does not arrest the ugly development in a decisive manner, as soon as possible, there is going to be an implosion with dire consequences.
Therefore, the lawyers who are desirous to have a united bar should be prepared to ensure that the elections of the officers of the NBA are conducted in a credible and transparent manner while the affairs of the body are managed in a democratic manner.
“Otherwise, the Balkanisation of the NBA is a matter of time. After all, it has just been confirmed that only 18,000 out of the over 200,000 lawyers on the role of legal practitioners in Nigeria participated in the just concluded controversial 2020 NBA election.”
Falana also commented on the withdrawal of the invitation to the Kaduna State governor to speak at the NBA conference, saying the governor was rightly disinvited by the NBA but “the leaders embarrassed Nigerian lawyers when they allowed other fellow abusers of the rule of law and violators of human rights to address the 60th-anniversary conference of the NBA.”
“On realising the discriminatory treatment meted out to el Rufai, the immediate past president of NBA, Mr Paul Usoro SAN was full of apologies. In principle, the NBA had disinvited Professor Maurice Iwu of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2008.
So, a body may be compelled to disinvite its guest, but the grounds must be solid and not self-serving. “By the way, the NBA could not have disinvited Governor Nyesom Wike, having regards to the investment of his government in the NBA. That was why he was made a life bencher by his friends in the echelon of the NBA. So, the NBA cannot afford to embarrass its own life bencher.
“The NBA is the richest professional body in Nigeria. Yet, it goes around cap in hand, begging governors to sponsor its conferences and other programmes. In the process, the NBA has compromised and traded off its autonomy. “Unfortunately, the New Nigerian Bar Association members are breaking away on a wrong footing. No group of lawyers should dismember the NBA in defence of a man who has a penchant for treating court orders with absolute contempt.
“My firm view is that if the NBA is going to break up, let it be on the basis of serious ideological disagreements over the fact that the body has abandoned its aims and objectives for opportunistic reasons.
“Let the promoters of the Northern Nigerian Bar Association challenge the NBA by defending democracy, human rights and public accountability. Let them undertake to defend people the rights of children to education. Let them be prepared to fight against child marriage.
“Lawyers who want to give the NBA a fight should be ready to join the human rights community in promoting the socio-economic rights of the people through public interest litigation. “However, let the defenders of the “united bar” of fraud continue to defend themselves. They will soon realise that the NNBA members are not alone in the planned Balkanisation of the NBA on the grounds of fraudulent elections, financial malpractice, and dictatorship by a tiny cabal that has privatised the NBA,” he said.
In a telephone conversation with Sunday Tribune, the rights advocate said the revolting Northern lawyers were doing the right thing the wrong way. “They are leaving on a wrong footing. You can’t be protesting for (Governor Nasir) el- Rufai, a man who breaches court orders at will.
And they can’t call it New NBA. It is the Northern Bar, but nobody can force anybody to remain when you keep conducting fraudulent elections. “Three times now, you have conducted fraudulent elections and no law says everybody must belong to one professional association.”