* Defends Tinubu opening conference
*Laments infighting robbed gains of conference
*Says N50m spent on national exco could place 3,000 lawyers on NHIS
Alex Enumah and Wale Ajimotokan in Abuja
President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, yesterday, shed more light on the crisis within the association, saying the reason some of his colleagues were against him was because of his “commitment to protect and be frugal with the funds of the Nigerian Bar Association. No more, no less.”
Some national officers of the NBA had been at loggerhead with Maikyau, over the manner he was alleged to have been piloting the affairs of the umbrella body for lawyers in the country.
Specifically, Maikyau was being accused of running a one-man-show, impunity, disregard for colleagues and corruption amongst others.
Unfortunately, the rift in the national executive degenerated and resulted in the opening of cans of worms, which was neither in the interest of the legal profession nor the nation, especially, when the theme of the conference was tagged: ‘Getting it Right: Charting the Course for Nigeria’s Nation Building.’
Speaking on the Arise News Channel’s ‘THISDAYLIVE’ yesterday, the NBA president, who described the entire episode as “sad”, lamented that irrespective of the issues of national interest to which solutions were proferred, “what Nigerians are concentrating about…are the fact that some people are fighting… we brought Portable.”
Dismissing insinuations that the conduct of the lawyers ran contrary to claims that it was only the legal profession that could fix the country, Maikyau disclosed that the grievances of some members of the exco related to his, “commitment to protect and be frugal with the funds of the Nigerian Bar Association. No more, no less.”
According to him, some national officers wanted to live on the Lawyers Practice Fees, but said he remained adamant, adding that the sum of N50 million was spent on the national officers between October last year and August this year.
Maikyau, who queried why the association should be having a bloated national executive, argued that the NBA could restructure itself so as to spend less on national officers and apply whatever it would save to members of the association, adding that, the “N50 million spent on national officers would give 3,000 of our colleagues on the NHIS.”
He further disclosed that he had objected to the lodging of the executive who came for the conference at the Trancorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, “because we will pay N78 million to N79 million. That is the estimate if we have to sponsor them. And all these are from the Bar Practicing Fees and I am saying no, we should not do that.”
He also faulted the AGM for rejecting the proposed constitutional amendment, noting that those behind the rejection and those who rejected did not even know the content of the new constitution.
According to him, the amendment provided for an increase of remittance to members of the Bar Practicing Fees from 10 per cent to 20 per cent, beside the provisions of a stabilisation fund targeted at helping young lawyers amongst others.
This, nonetheless, Maikyau also said, he invited President Bola Tinubu to declare the conference open because by law, he was the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, adding that his presidency was a function of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022.
“What I have done is simply to recognise the provisions of the law,” he said, pointing out that those who declared Tinubu as winner of the presidential election were vested with such powers by the law.
He asked: “Does INEC chairman have the authority to make the declaration that he did? Yes. When he declared that Tinubu won the election there is a presumption that enured in favour of Tinubu at that time as the candidate of APC, that all that is needed to be satisfied for him to be declared president has been satisfied.
“Who else would I invite, should I not recognise the provisions of the law and the law has provided, are we without president because there is a pending petition? No.
“Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the president of this country and I invited him because I defer to the law, not to the whims and caprices of any lawyers. If these lawyers say that there is no such presumption under the law, let me know,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
He, however, pointed out that his position was not without prejudice to what the court was going to determine in the petitions.
The crisis rocking the leadership of the NBA deepened further last Thursday, at the body’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja, when those who were supposed to be working closely with Maikyau, accused him of running a one-man show.
Shortly after the commencement of the 2023 Annual General Conference, it emerged that all was not well with the NBA leadership, following report that members were demanding explanation on how Maikyau allegedly spent a whopping N700 million on conference bags used at the Annual General Conference.
According to report, the NBA’s Annual General Conference Planning Committee (AGCCPC) had entered into an agreement to procure over 18,000 conference bags at a cost of about N334,800,000 (nearly $372,000) but the sum of N700 million was said to have been spent.
Before that settled down, another report had it that Maikyau in turn had accused his predecessor, Mr. Olumide Apkata of fraud over the launch of the NBA portal.
He was said to have made the allegations in response to allegations of nepotism and breaching of protocol in the appointment of his nephew as IT Manager of the NBA portal.
A clearer picture of the entire scenario, however, played out during the body’s AGM, with the 2nd, 3rd vice-presidents and the NBA’s national treasurer taking turns to accuse Maikyau of not carrying them along in the running of the affairs of the association.
The 2nd Vice President, Mr. Chukwuemeka Ugo, while presenting his annual report to lawyers, accused Maikyau of not carrying him along, sidelining his office and undermining his constitutional duties.
He said, “I have not been carried along in everything the president is doing,” just as he called on the AGM to look into his plight and empower him to function the way he ought to, adding also that, “if the President and 1st Vice President are not available, I am to represent this Association and I can’t represent the Association adequately if I am not carried along on events.”
Similarly, the 3rd Vice President, Mandy Asagba, also accused the NBA President of disregard to her office, with the aim of making the office redundant.
Asagba, in an emotion-laden voice, narrated how the NBA president had allegedly disrespected and sabotaged her office.
According to her, “The Whole Annual General Meeting and AGC was done without the knowledge of National Officers.”
On her part, the NBA National Treasurer, Caroline Anze-Bishop, disowned the financial statement as not coming from her and accused the NBA President of sidelining her office.
Anze-Bishop also narrated how she was never consulted or involved in the preparation of treasurer’s report and accordingly refused to adopt it.
“The report was put together, arrived at without my singular involvement, without consultation with my office. I am not going to disrespect and stand here and give a report that did not originate from me. I respect you too much to do that,” she had said.
While disclosing that the 10 per cent remittance was given without her knowledge, the Treasure disclosed that she had earlier complained about the president’s alleged impunity at an exco meeting held on August 15, where the president openly stated that, “he does not require to consult or get the consent of my office before he can run the financial affairs of the association.”
Attempts by former NBA President, O.C.J. Okocha to control the situation by suggesting that the issues be dealt with by an Elders Committee was overruled by Maikyau, who insisted that he must respond to the allegations.
The accusation and counter accusation subsequently led to an abrupt end of the meeting.
The spirit of discordant did not spare the unbarred session of the conference as some members, in protest, staged a walk-out, owing to the alleged character of one of the artists, Portable, invited to play at the night event.