In this report, CHIDI NWACHUKWU looks at the succession crisis in the Abuja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the accusation and counter-accusation from members.
Few hours to the election for the post of Chairman and Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja branch, the crisis rocking the professional body has continued unabated. Some aggrieved members of the body in Abuja, known as the Unity Bar have accused the leadership of the national body of the association of not living up to their responsibilities in putting an end to the crisis.
The splinter group restrained by an Order of FCT High Court of the 9th day of March 2017, seems determined to continue to flout the Order of the Court which specifically restrains their action of going ahead with the purported election slated for June, 30 2017, according to their released guidelines for election and campaign timetable.
According to the aggrived members of the Abuja Branch, the present crisis is as a result of the failure. leadership of the association to take a firm stand on certain issues.
The members accused the President of Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A B Mahmoud, SAN, of not abiding by the decision of the NBA’s Annual General Meeting, the highest decision making body of the Bar. According to them, this has also fueled leadership tussle in the Branch. It is however instructive to note that the AGM decision being flouted, is the same AGM that was sworn in A B Mahmoud as President.
The President has purportedly set up a three man caretaker committee to conduct elections in the Branch, having banned current Branch Chairman, Ezenwa Anumnu and Lawrence Erewele from contesting for any position.
According to them, the illegal caretaker committee is purportedly led by Caleb Danjan of NBA, Jos Branch and the current 1st Vice President of the NBA. Other members of the committee are Mr. Mustapha Abubarkar past Chairman, Zaria Branch and A. Y. Musa, Past Chairman, Kaduna Branch; all in clear contravention of the NBA constitution.
They also accused the Administration of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, of assisting the NBA to perpetrate illegality by making the Court premises, particularly the Ceremonial Court room, available after a restraining order by the Judge of the same Court.
This action seems to have further plunged the branch into crisis. Most lawyers wonder why a professional body like the NBA will refuse to follow the rule of law that they are supposed to upheld.
The lawyers also wonder why some persons will want to bring down Ezenwa Anumnu, who is leading the branch on the right path.
They said it is a notorious fact that the NBA, whose motor has been “Promoting the rule of law” has taken a dangerous turn in the last few years.
According to them, the NBA which ought to be at the vanguard of the promotion of the rule of law in the country, has taken the opposite direction with the way the crisis rocking the association is being handled. by the present administratio.
You will recall that even while a motion seeking to restrain the action of Mr Mahmoud was still pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, he led the National Executive Meeting on the 2nd of March 2017 to purportedly remove Mr. Ezenwa Anumnu and Lawrence Erewele as Branch Chairman and Secretary respectively and then purportedly set up the Caleb Danjan led committee; which, inevitably, became dead on arrival, due to the unconstitutionality of such an action.
In the first place, Ezenwa Anumnu’s leadership was ratified by the same Annual General Meeting of August 2016 that brought in the AB Mahmoud Administration.
It is also on record that it was same Ezenwa Anumnu, who moved the motion at the meeting for the emergence of AB Mahmoud.
Furthermore, the constitution and bye-laws of the NBA stipulates that caretaker committee members should be past Chairmen and/or Secretaries of the Branch, a vital condition, which Caleb Danjan and all members of his illegal Committee did not meet.
Secondly, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, incensed by disobedience of its order restraining the action of the National Executive Committee, has ordered the National Secretary, Mr. Isiaka Olagunju to appear before it on the 29th day of June 2017; to show cause why the Order of the Court should be flagrantly disobeyed by setting up timetable for elections.
Members now wonder the role of the Administration of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, in giving the Ceremonial Court of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory as venue for the purported election as an accomplice in disobedience of Court Orders made by the same Court; a fitting case of a man who in an attempt to spite his face, cut off his nose.
To this end, some interest group call on the Chief Judge of Federal Capital Territory, who they still believe to be unaware of these set of facts, to use his good offices to swiftly arrest the desecration of the Judiciary and take this opportunity to act as a neutral party in the crisis, with a view to having an unbiased platform of resolution of the crisis by the court before whom it’s pending.
Recall that Mr. Anumnu who emerged Chairman of the branch sometime in June 2016, was sworn-in on June 13, 2016. In fact, the National Executive Committee Meeting held in Benin, Edo state on 16, 2016 acknowledged and gave legitimacy to Anumnu leadership and this was ratified by the Annual General Meeting in August of the same year in line with the constitution of the NBA.
It is unclear as to what is the genesis of the crisis, but findings reveal that a handful of senior lawyers who had sponsored candidates against Anumnu for the June 2016 election, are bent on ensuring his ouster, having lost out in the contest, to their chagrin.
These individuals have conveniently proceeded under the toga of elders of the Branch and have continued to alienate the real elders of the Branch. Their grouse against Anumnu, is not unconnected with his alleged unwillingness to allow them access to the branch’s resources, as they hitherto had; and the agenda of opening up practice areas for lawyers, which seems to reduce their influence on younger lawyers, who are now Anumnu’s strong forte.
Investigations further reveal that the electoral committee that midwifed the emergence of Anumnu suddenly yielded to pressure from these external forces to turn the tide against him. Ordinarily, Anumnu ought not to suffer any headache having been the only qualified candidate in the 2016 election. What began like a rumour, suddenly metamorphosed into an onslaught against the young Anumnu by this group of lawyers during the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting held in Aba, Abia state.
These lawyers, to the consternation of other legal luminaries present, and despite wise counsel to the contrary, urged that the Anumnu led executive be dissolved and banned, relying on what they termed leadership crisis bedeviling the Abuja branch. Anumnu, out of respect for law and order, had approached a court of competent jurisdiction to stop the crusade of injustice against his administration and the sinister plan to illegally unseat him, and after due consideration, the court granted an order restraining the splinter group and their sponsors.
It is clear that there is no crisis in Abuja NBA, since Anumnu has, in the last 12 months, despite the distractions, outperformed the previous administration in instituting far reaching programs aimed at Human Capacity Development and Competitiveness for lawyers.
Regrettably, the illegal caretaker committee backed by Mr. Mahmoud and the Administration of the FCT High Court, is now more determined than ever, to disobey the court order, just as they had continuously disregarded the Annual General Meeting of the entire Association; as well as the clear provisions of the NBA constitution.
Nevertheless, it is only the President and his caretaker committee that can explain the reason they chose to brazenly disobey court orders, even when they are often the first to condemn politicians for doing same. Or is this the case of Animal Farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than other?