By Innocent Anaba
These are not the best of times for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as some national officers of the association,Â have called on its National Executive Committee (NEC), to order the President of the association, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), to step down, pending investigations into allegation of impropriety in the printing of the associationâ€™s Bar Perspective and Bar Voice, brought against him.
The Enugu NEC meeting of the association coming up in December, may decide the way forward, with regards to the crisis rocking the national leadership of the NBA. The NEC meeting will also decide on what to make of the motion by some national officers against Akeredolu.
The national officers, Mr. Barth Okoye-Aniche, Chief Ganny Ajape and Steve Ononye, 3rd Vice President, Welfare Secretary and Assistant Financial Secretary, respectively, had by a letter dated September 4, 2009Â requested Akeredolu to respond to allegations of impropriety brought against him, which they claim he refused to do.
Similarly, the 2rd Vice President, Mr Adekunle Ojo has been petitioned for accepting appointment as a judicial officer, contrary to Section 11(1)(iv) of the NBA constitution. The petition, a complaint of professional misconduct, was brought against him by some national officers of the association, who accused him of soliciting and accepting appointment as a member of the Census Tribunal.
The national officer in a motion addressed to the Secretary of the association, calling for Akeredolu to step down,Â said â€œwe, the underlisted national officers of the NBA, do hereby bring this motion before the National Executive Committee meeting, praying that the President of the association, Mr. Akeredolu (SAN) be removed as he is not a fit and proper person to continue to occupy the office of the President of our great associationâ€.
The grounds for the motion, according to them,Â includes that â€œhe awarded a contract to AKT Ventures Ltd, a company which himself, his wife, son and brother are Directors and Subscribers to the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
â€œThe said contract vide a memo from the Publicity Secretary, dated July 29, 2009 and approved on the same date is for the sum of N3.32million, a sum that is not provided for in the budget of the association. The cheque for theÂ sumÂ of N3.32million was issued in favour of one Mr. Amos( a staff of the NBA), who cashed same and paid it into the account of AKT Ventures Ltd in both Zenith Bank and UBA Plc.
â€œReceiving monies from some state governments in the name of the association without disclosure and converting same to personal use/benefits.
â€œThat by a letter dated September 4, 2009, the above grounds were brought to the attention of Mr President, who refused, failed and neglected to react to same despite a reminder dated 23/10/09 equally sent to himâ€, the motion said.
According to them, â€œwe further pray that he ceases forthwith to act as the President of the association, pending the investigation of NEC with respect to the content of this motion and appropriate disciplinary measure be meted out if the content of this motion is adjudge meritoriousâ€.
The national officers had by their first petition said, â€œit has come to our notice that you awarded and approved contract for the printing of the Bar Perspective and Voice of the Bar to a company, AKT Venture Ltd, which said company you are a Director and approved and signedÂ a cheque for N3.32million and paid into the said companyâ€™s account in two installmentsâ€.
According to them,Â â€œthe said amount was not provided for in the NEC approved budgetary allocation for the year, having approved N1million, instead of the N900,000 provided for publication in the budgetary allocation for the year. Secondly, from the approval memo to you from the Publicity Secretary, dated July 29, 2009,Â wherein you approved on the same date, the release of N2m to him, it is crystal clear that the General Secretary, raised objections as regards your approval of same withÂ a valid/written reasons in the memoâ€.
But reacting to the motion, NBA National Publicity Secretary, Muritala Abdul-Rasheed, said â€œthey are comedians, because they know that the NBA as an association of lawyers, has a constitution. There is no where in the constitution where the procedure for impeachment of any officer is provided, let alone the President of the association.
â€œSo what I am saying is that what they ought to have done, if there is any need for that, is to send a petition to NEC and NEC will set up a committee to investigate the matter and report back to NEC. In essence, if you accused anybody of alleged fraud, NEC will look into it, that is after you have reported to NEC and NEC will take a decision on the report of the committee, but in their case, they are the petitioners, the judge and jury. That is why I said that are comedians and are just entertaining people.
â€œBut they know that what they are doing has no legality. What they are doing is not backed by any law and I am sure that NEC will take a decisive decision on the matterâ€, he added.
Meanwhile, in the case of Ojo, he had replied to the query served on him by the Secretary of the association,Â saying â€œbe informed that I will neither respond to the complaint to which you requested me to reply within 21 days nor to your said request because the petitioners and yourself breached the mandatory provisions of the Legal Practitioners (Disciplinary Committee) Rules.
â€œBe further informed that you, as Secretary General of the NBA, do not have the powers to receive a complaint by any person against a legal practitioner. In addition, the Secretary of the NBA is not entitled to receive responses of any legal practitioner to a compliant made against him to the Disciplinary Committee of the associationâ€, he added.