Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Is there fire on the mountain of the Nigerian Bar Association?
The correct answer is an emphatic 'Yes'
For quite sometime now, a crisis of confidence has been brewing between the president of the Association, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu S.A.N and the next most prominent officer of the association, Ibrahim Eddy Mark, the General Secretary.
The conflict between the two officers, has polarized the 14 man Executive Committee into two groups. It is doubtful where there is any neutral-minded officer.
Those officers perceived to be prominent in the camp of the president are IkeAkaraiwe 1st Vice-president, Adekunle Ojo 2nd Vice-President, Oladimeji Abdul-Rasheed Publicity Secretary and Tess Morris Okeke Treasurer.
In the camp of the General Secretary are the following:- Barth Okoye-Aniche 3rd Vice-President, Ganny Ajape Welfare Officer and Steve Onyechi Ononye Assistant Financial Secretary.
Interestingly the captains of these warring campus are products of political allied forces, the trio of ossified conservative and tribal/regional irredentist bar political groups, the Egbe Amofin Yoruba, the Eastern Caucus and the Northern Caucus.
How Akeredolu became the President of the NBA without electoral contest is an open secret. Suffice to say that once the champions of rotational presidency in the forms of the three afore mentioned groups, had their way and had the presidency zoned to the west between 2008 and 2010, the Egbe Amofin, noisily touting the advantages of having a 'consensus' candidate initimidated all possible opponents to Akeredolu in the region out of the race.
As for Ibrahim Mark a last minute horse-trading amongst the Egbe Amofin Yoruba, the Northern Caucus (sponsor of Ibrahim Mark) and top leaders of the Eastern Caucus (sponsor of Okey Ohwonda) saw the Egbe Amofin which had seemed to be in support of the Okey Ohwonda's candidacy suddenly switched to the support of Ibrahim, on the sole ground (now ironic) that he would a better team player with Akeredolu then Ohwonda who was termed a strong-willed too independent-minded personality.
Why did the two men fall out with themselves then? Informed observers give about three strong reasons.
The first is partisan politics. The ruling party (Peoples Democratic Party) considers wrongly or rightly that the critical attitude of the NBA under Akeredolu to the government of the day is because the president of the bar, Akeredolu is either an Action Congress Party member or an unabashed sympathizer and friend of the leading opposition party.
On the other hand, the General Secretary is believed to be a Peoples Democratic Party member being used by his party particularly through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to checkmate or otherwise neutralize the perceived moves of the NBA president to use the association as an attack dog on the government.
The second and insiders say the most crucial reason for the dispute, border on money-the use and allocation of the funds of the association.
While the president's camp accuses the Secretary of demanding and collecting #500,000:00 monthly imprest and allowance until same was stopped by the president, and holding on to some donations to the association and a particular 20,000 dollars given to him by the President in Madrid (during the IBA conference) to organize a party for Nigerian lawyers, the secretary's camp has accused the president of awarding a multi-million contract to his family company AKT VENTURES LTD as well as pocketing a total of 8 million naira donated to the NBA from both the Akwa-Ibom and Niger State Government (please see cover story exhibits).
Expectedly no side in the dispute has admitted any guilt or liability, each dismissing the allegation of the other side as baseless and malicious.
Another view of the dispute is that the major combatants are bound to clash in the long run because while the president is reportedly and arbitrary, domineering, prudent-bordering-on-tight-fistedness personality the secretary is reportedly a happy-go-lucky free-spending and entertainment prone personality.
As things stand, there are notions on the ground for the impeachment of the two leaders of the bar from their offices.
It is now a matter of general discussions and debates in the bar on how the dispute would end.
However it would appear that there is more sympathy for the case of the president's camp than that of the General Secretary's in the bar.
For example, observers believe that the General Secretary is on thin grounds as regarding proving the accusation that the president converted an 8 million naira donation to the NBA, while the otherwise strong allegation that the president awarded contract to his own company lost its potent sting upon the revelation that the company that got the contract participated in a competitive bid and presented the most attractive changes and had been working for the NBA since 1993.
On the other hand, the charge against the secretary and three other officers of the ‘exco’ of rendering an “unauthorized” apology to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (on a communication between the NBA president and the C.J.N on the controversial call by some lawyers for the scrapping of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria title) and denouncing the president, who from all intent and purposes appear to act in good faith, is not washing away.
The action of the G.4 on this specific issue appears not to go down well with the majority of active bar men, as it appears to be done in bad faith and capable of undermining the integrity of the entire bar.
However if history is any thing to by, it is doubtful whether any of those accused of misdeeds would get any punishment or sanctions, beyond admonitions and preachments, if any.
The tradition in the bar, at least at the national level, when acrimonious disputes and struggles arise, is for “well meaning” elders and senior counsel to intervene in such a way that sanctifying purges are avoided and “sinners” are given soft-landing and exit routes away from sanctions all in the name of “protecting the camaraderie of the bar”.
In the event, the few individuals demanding for probity and sanctions are isolated and demonized as extremists and trouble-makers.
The Squib has learnt that a body of peace-makers (past presidents and elders of the bar) has been scrambled up to mediate between the warring parties and that the mediation is not doing too badly.
If the NBA keeps to its tradition of treating scandals like the proverbial “pindipi” family affair, it is doubtful then that the December 10 2009 NEC meeting of the bar coming up in Enugu will record any causality.
But then, one never knows with politicians, so let's wait and see. And, for those who care, watch and pray!

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