The internal crisis rocking the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) took a new turn on Monday with the suspension of its National Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah, by the National Executive Committee of the association.
A resolution after an emergency meeting predicated the NBA decision on her alleged insubordination to NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, and the NEC.
Oduah’s deputy, Ms Uchenna Nwadialo, was named to replace her until 21st August, 2022.
The resolution signed by a majority of NEC members reads:
“Following the receipt of a letter dated 14th August 2022, from 9 National Officers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) calling on the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata to call an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee, the meeting held on Monday 15th August 2022 by 8 a.m. with the following members in attendance:
1)Olumide Akpata – President
2)John Aikpokpo-Martins – 1st Vice President
3)Debo Adeyemo Kazeem – 2nd Vice President
4)Ombo Victor Frank-Briggs – 3rd Vice President
5)Joyce Oduah – General Secretary
6)Uchenna Nwadialo – Assistant General Secretary
7)Mercy Ijato Agada – Treasurer
8)Raphael Nnamdi Anagor – Financial Secretary
9)Olukunle Edun – Welfare Secretary
10)Rapuluchukwu Nduka – Publicity Secretary
11)Ferdinand Naza – Assistant Publicity Secretary
“The meeting deliberated extensively on the content of the above referenced letter and the weighty allegations against the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah, in particular her acts of alleged disobedience to the President, the National Executive Council of the Association (NBA-NEC) and the National Executive Committee.
“Owing to the contents of the letters and statements issued by General Secretary and the disclaimer that the President issued, the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, recused himself from the deliberations and handed over to the 1st Vice President, Mr. John Aikpokpo Martins to chair the meeting.
“At the end of the deliberations, the National Executive Committee by a unanimous decision, resolved to refer the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah to NBA-NEC for disciplinary action under the provisions of section 20(1) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) and to recommend her removal from office for gross misconduct.
“In the meantime, however, in view of the critical importance of the Annual General Meeting which is scheduled to hold on 25th August 2022, and to prevent the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah from imperiling the Annual General Meeting, the Annual General Conference or the succession to the next administration by her unilateral and unauthorised communications purporting to be legitimate communications from the Association, the National Executive Committee has unanimously exercised its emergency powers under section 9(6) (d) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) to suspend Mrs Joyce Oduah from office as the General Secretary of the Association with immediate effect pending the Pre-Conference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21st August 2022.
“The Assistant General Secretary, Ms. Uchenna Nwadialo, shall immediately act as the General Secretary pending the PreConference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21st August 2022.
“All members of the Association are advised to continue their preparations for the forthcoming Annual General Conference.
Recall that a crisis erupted within the leadership of the association, which led an exchange and counter-exchange of memos, leading to conflicting signals of its conference.
Early on Saturday, the General Secretary sent out a mail asking members to disregard early notices on the annual general meeting of the association sent by her and the Assistant General Secretary, Uche Nwadialo.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled to hold during the annual general conference is the last AGM of the Akpata administration.
According to Channels Television yhe email by the general secretary was titled “Withdrawal of Notice of Proposed Amendment, Notice of AGM & Minutes of AGM of Oct, 2021.”
The mail informed members of a “Revised Notice of Annual General Meeting” and also attached “Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on the 28th of October, 2021 in preparation for the Annual General Meeting of 25th August, 2021 in Lagos.”
Hours after the mail was sent out to NBA members, the President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata issued a disclaimer to the effect that “the notice of withdrawal sent out by Mrs. Oduah was done without any approval and consultation with the National Bar leadership and as such, the earlier notices of the amendment sent out by both the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary remain valid until a decision is reached at the NBA Annual General Meeting”.
The disclaimer which was personally signed by Akpata is contained in a statement titled “RE: Disclaimer of Notice of Withdrawal of Proposed Constitutional Amendments (NBA AGM 2022)”.
“I am writing to disclaim that withdrawal as unauthorised by me or any of the National Officers, and to request that you regard the two notices circulated on 27th July 2022 by (i) firstly, Mrs. Oduah; and (ii) secondly, by the Assistant General Secretary as subsisting. The reasons for this request are as follows:
The NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC) had at its last meeting in Ilorin Kwara State on 9th June 2022 resolved that some amendments be made to the NBA Constitution. On that basis, the NBA Constitution Drafting Committee under the leadership of Asamah Kadiri, SAN proposed certain amendments for consideration by National Officers and subsequent circulation to all our members for consideration at the forthcoming AGM.
The National Officers duly considered the said amendments proposed by the Constitution Drafting Committee and we all resolved that the proposed amendments are in the best interest of the Association, and approved that they be shared with our members alongside the Notice of the AGM where the amendments will be deliberated upon.
For clarity, most of the proposed amendments are aimed at institutionalising some of the initiatives of the current administration and ensuring inter-alia that:
(i) the NBA Stabilisation Fund is properly ringfenced and protected from the risk of easy dissipation in the future by any President or National Officer as those funds have been earmarked for key welfare and developmental programmes;
(ii) the amount of Bar Practicing Fees that we remit to the branches for their programmes is increased from 10% to 20% as authorised by a longstanding resolution of NBA NEC;
(iii) any member of the Association who has held elective office as a National Officer for two (2) terms is barred from contesting for a national office for at least ten (10) years after his/her last term of office; and
(iv) government interference in affairs of the NBA is constitutionally limited.
Admittedly, some of the amendments proposed by the Constitution Drafting Committee may not be acceptable to all, albeit the view of the National Officers (except Mrs. Oduah) is that the decision as to whether or not such provisions can stand is purely that of the AGM while voting on the proposed amendments.
Unfortunately, and for reasons that are not exactly clear, in spite of the approval of the proposed amendments by 10 of the 11 National Officers, Mrs. Oduah not only delayed in issuing the required Notice until the eve of the cut-off date, but also refused to issue a Notice of the AGM that contained all the proposed amendments. When the Notice was eventually issued, it had been unilaterally altered by Mrs. Oduah to exclude most of the proposed amendments highlighted in paragraph 3 above. It was on this basis that all National Officers (except Mrs. Oduah) authorised the Assistant General Secretary (Ms. Uche Nwadialo) to issue a second notice of AGM that contains all the proposed constitutional amendments.
Considering that two separate and apparently conflicting notices had been issued, the National Officers agreed that the contents of the notices and the fact of their conflict will be presented to the AGM (as the highest decision-making body of the NBA) for a resolution on which, if any, of the notices should be discussed at the meeting. In essence, the conflict between the two notices was to be resolved by the AGM.
It was during this interval, that the withdrawal notice which you most likely received a couple of hours ago was unilaterally sent by Mrs. Oduah. To be sure, no meeting or other deliberations were held, and no authorisation was given for any of the previously issued notices to be withdrawn or amended as Mrs. Oduah purported to do in her most recent email.
It is on the basis of the foregoing that I invite you to disregard the withdrawal and amendment notices that you might have received at midnight today and treat the separate notices circulated by both Mrs. Oduah and the Assistant General Secretary on 27th of July 2022 as subsisting pending a decision by the AGM.
It is regrettable that we have had to bring this matter to your attention, but it is important to set the records straight and to provide clarity on a subject which, I am sure, has left you and others befuddled over the last two weeks.
I thank you for your attention.
In an earlier notice to lawyers, the NBA General Secretary, Oduah had withdrawn the earlier sent notices of proposed constitutional amendments.
According to the statement dated 12th August, there’s no motion for the amendment of the 2015 constitution as amended in 2021.
This is in consideration of the observation, comments, objections, advisors, responses by the members of the Association.
The notice of 27th July, issued, signed and circulated by the General Secretary is hereby withdrawn for non compliance with the 30 days Notice to be given to members, required by S.15(1) of the Constitution.
And also the Notice of proposed amendment dated 27th July, issued, signed and circulated by the Assistant General Secretary, on 28th July, is also withdrawn for being unconstitutional, ultra vires, nullified and void.
Consequently, the agenda stated in the notice for the AGM for the amendment of the 2015 Constitution as amended 2021 are all withdrawn, removed and deleted from the agenda.