The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has urged the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Amendment bill.
The NBA had issued this statement a few days before Mr Buhari in a letter to the National Assembly on Tuesday, declined assent to the bill.
The bill contains novel provisions such as direct primaries for political parties and electronic transmission of election results.
But Mr Buhari cited “logistical, security and funding issues”, among others as his basis for rejecting mandatory direct primaries, which is just a part of the amendments.
But earlier, rising from its National Executive Committee (NEC) held in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on December 16, the NBA had advised Mr Buhari to sign the bill into law.
The body just released the communique on Wednesday.
“NEC called on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to speedily sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law before the timeline expires and where he fails to do so, charged the National Assembly to exercise its powers under the Constitution by overriding the presidential veto,” the NEC resolution issued on Wednesday by Olumide Akpata, NBA’s national president read.
Deteriorating security situation
In its response to the widespread security crises in Nigeria, the umbrella body of lawyers called on the “Federal Government and security agencies to carry out their primary constitutional duty to ensure the safety of life and property.”
The NBA expressed “deep sadness over the deteriorating of national security,” referencing “the precarious security situation in Zamfara State,” which it said had become a “real threat to legal practice in the State.”
A couple of days ago, armed bandits killed over 40 farmers in Nasarawa State, a North-central state adjoining the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Tackles Malami over rules of professional conduct
As part of its resolution, the NEC took umbrage at the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, over his denial of an amendment to the rules of professional conduct of the NBA.
The amendment which took place at the National Assembly, purports to cede control of the NBA to the Body of Benchers in the event of a crisis in the association.
“NEC expressed deep concern at the remarks of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami SAN, in a recent television interview, to the effect that he was not privy to the purported amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) which was alleged to have been effected on the 3rd of September, 2020.
“NEC takes the view that the statement of the AGF is rather curious considering that the purported amendment, which bears his signature, is contained in a federal gazzette which has been in circulation and in the public domain for over one year.”
The NEC also expressed worry that the AGF has repeadly denied knowledge of the Task Force allegedly working under him and who are alleged to have laid siege to the residence of Mary Peter, a Justice of the Supreme Court, last October.
Mrs Odili’s Maitama residence in Abuja was invaded by armed security operatives on October 29, purporting to be executing a search warrant the task force obtained from a magistrate court in Abuja.
State of the Bar
The NEC passed a vote of confidence in the NBA President, Mr Apata for his “excellent, proactive and purposeful leadership of the association.”
It, however, frowned on Adegboyega Awomolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, over his “unwarranted attack on the President of the NBA,” adding that “Mr Apata enjoys the support of all members of the association in the discharge of their collective mandate.”
The association resolved to suspend physical meetings for the time being, and to resort to virtual meetings due to the surge in the Omicron variant of COVID-19 virus and the security concerns in the country.
The NEC expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of some of its members representing the NBA in statutory bodies.
It resolved that “all members of the Bar that are representatives of the Bar in agencies, committees and other bodies must henceforth appear at NEC meetings to give periodic reports of their activities.”
The NBA reiterated its commitment to taking legal action against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over the attack on the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA, Justin Gbagir, by operatives of the anti-graft agency in Makurdi.
NBA to petition NJC over judge’s ‘maltreatment’ of lawyer
The NBA says it will write the National Judicial Council (NJC) concerning the alleged maltreatment of a lawyer by Okon Abang, a federal judge in Warri, Delta State.
The NEC said it received “the humiliating treatment” meted out to the senior lawyer by Mr Abang of the Warri Division of the Federal High Court who is alleged to have directed the said lawyer, Andrew Ubido, in open court, “to stand and face the wall for making anoise in the court registry.”
“NEC resolved to write to the National Judicial Council to formally complain about this unfortunate episode.”
On payment of Bar Practising Fees, the NEC “resolved that with effect from 1st January 2022, payment of Bar Practising Fees (BPF) byawyers shall be done online.”
Conflicting court orders
On the issue of conflicting orders emanating from courts of coordinate jurisdiction, the NBA said it would report its members who appeared to have been “complicit in these unfortunate episodes, to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to serve as a deterrence to others.”
Recently, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, sanctioned three judges of the Rivers, Kebbi and Cross River States High Court over the trio’s issuing out of conflicting orders on similar matters that came before them.
The judges had ruled on the leadership crisis that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ex-Chairman, Uche Secondus, which threw the party into a quandary.
Mr Muhammad had warned that the “nonsense” of issuing conflicting orders by judges must stop.
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