My attention has been drawn to a statement making the rounds by the Chairman of Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association purportedly suspending the Chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum in the Branch. In my personal capacity being an Executive of the Young Lawyers Forum and as major witness to all the historical facts leading to this tragic scenario, I have undertaken to make a public statement thereto. It was Amilcar Cabral, foremost African revolutionary that stated thus: “tell no lies, claim no easy victory”.
It is worthy of note that the incidents leading to the suspension of the Ikeja Branch YLF Chairman dates back to the early days of the Oloke led administration who has always seen the YLF as a remnant of the Ogunlana led Administration and has been looking for the slightest opportunity to justify any attack on the Young Lawyers Forum of the branch.
The issue of financial probity is a mere cover to perpetrate another intent of oppression being carried on day in day out by the NBA and its seniors against Young lawyers Generally.
Firstly at the very first monthly meeting of the branch by the Branch current Administration, a member of the YLF who contested against the current YLF Chairman and lost was hurriedly appointed by the Chairman as a liaison officer between the branch Executive and the Young Lawyers Forum and saddled with the responsibility of advising the Executive on the issues concerning Young Lawyers.
The reason given for the decision was that the YLF constituted a fact finding committee when a video of a policeman slapping a Young Lawyer from the Lagos branch of the NBA went viral. The Chairman after giving authority to the committee set up by the YLF at an Extraordinary General meeting to address the issue turned back to the Monthly meeting, denied giving any authority for fact finding and condemned the steps taken by the YLF Ikeja Executive and used it as a ground to impose a Liaison Officer over and above the duly elected Leadership of the Young Lawyers Forum.
Secondly, In June 2019 while the Executives of the Young Lawyers Forum were running helter skelter to gather funds for refreshment, materials and other necessaries for the Young Lawyers Forum monthly CLE Seminar that usually hold after the YLF meetings, The Chairman of the branch called Mr. Bodunde Ezekiel, the Chairman of the Young Lawyers Forum IKEJA and imposed the following conditions on the Young Lawyers Forum.
That the monthly meeting of the YLF IKEJA be moved to the morning of every first Monday of every month and be held before the Branch Monthly meeting.
That the Continuous Legal Education Seminar which follows the Young Lawyers Forum Monthly Meetings should no longer be held inside the bar center but outside the premises of the Bar Centre and that the YLF should be renting a tent for the CLE Seminar because the Young Lawyers did not contribute to the building of the Bar Centre.
From the onset, there was a clear indication of the agenda of the NBA Ikeja Chairman calculated at completely disbanding the YLF Ikeja and render it inoperative. We went ahead with the CLE Seminar which was successfully held with a theme on taxation and a guest speaker from the FIRS.
It is worthy of note that the YLF has several independent committees among which is the Continuous Legal Education [CLE] committee which is tasked with the responsibility of organizing CLE Seminars at each of the YLF monthly meetings. In the spirit of improving its standard and raising the bar, the CLE committee sought to organize a seminar with a registration token fee of N1000 [One thousand naira] participation fees for materials and refreshments for the CLE Seminar which was billed to hold on the 12th day of September 2019.
The fixing of a fee for the seminar is a decision that was taken at the August 2019 meeting of the YLF upon a motion that was moved and duly passed by members present at the meeting. The said decision was necessary due to the financial suffocation of the YLF by the Branch Executives, who have not given out a kobo from the imaginary Young Lawyers account to support any of the activities of the YLF including the Continuous Legal Education Seminars. The intention was in the better interest of accommodating all interested participants as we all know the struggle to host and have young lawyers attend our YLF programmes.
The annual CLE Seminar of the YLF held last year, in November 2018 was almost flopped due to the fact that monies raised by the Organizing committee from outside donors and partners was paid into the said YLF account but could only be accessed until after the event had passed and the Executive borrowed money to finance the program. This is how the YLF has been passing through serious executive sabotage in the hand of the NBA Ikeja Branch chairman and his Co-Executives.
The arguments of transparency and financial propriety raised by the Chairman are merely speculative and designed to justify the deliberate attack on the Young Lawyers of the branch, and the suspension of the Young Lawyers’ Executives which is a purely political move.
A Executive that spent 66 million in a year but did not earmark even one thousand naira for the activities of Young Lawyers should not be the one to condemn the Leadership of the YLF for sourcing fund to finance their projects and activities themselves.
The Branch Chairman should now tell us how a decision that was agreed upon and contained in the YLF minutes of meeting be offensive to the extent that the only solution available would be to destroy the already struggling YLF and suspend it activities that will impact so much knowledge on members of the branch, after failing to organize even one single Continuous Legal education Seminar for the younger ones at the bar since the inception of its administration.
Furthermore the Executive does not have any moral capacity to preach transparency in Ikeja branch, after spending over ₦40,000,000 [fourty million naira] to complete the bar centre that was completely built and is still unable to finalize and deliver the building of the Bar Centre to now talk of furnishing same. These same people who are busy pursuing criminal cases in court against members of past administrations of the NBA Ikeja.
The YLF is not a sub-committee of the branch but a creation of the NBA constitution and its members in Ikeja are duly elected by its members and represent the interests of their electorate.
The Branch Chairman should publish the statement of account of the YLF account he mentioned in his suspension whatsapp post. Mr. Bodunde Ezekiel is the Chairman of the YLF and so remains till the next YLF Elections. As the entire executive of the NBA Ikeja branch are yet to point out to any provision of the NBA Constitution of the uniform bye laws that was breached by members of the YLF Ikeja in arriving at a decision to contribute money for their own programs.
Banners and souvenirs have been printed with dates, part payment made for logistics, feeding among many others. Wouldn’t it have been a better decision/resolution if the NBA Ikeja Excos having considered the spirit, purports and potential positive impacts of the programme on young Lawyers, hereby directs that the programme holds as scheduled but payments at the venue be made via POS, transfers or any other electronic means to the designated account? In my own opinion, It would be better and would ordinarily attract the commendation of all rather than pitching us against each other.
The purported suspension of the YLF chairman and the CLE seminar two days to the programme is unfortunate, a bad precedence and as a result of the malice towards the Young Lawyers of the Branch. Suspending the programme at this quarter hour is nothing but an abortion of an 8 months 3 weeks old pregnancy. And we call on all members of the YLF Ikeja to disregard any such purported suspension and carry out their Forum activities with full zeal. The chairman does not have any constitutionally recognized powers to suspend the YLF Chairman and any such purported suspension is ultra vires his powers, completely null and void and should be disregarded by all the members of the YLF and their excos.
We shall Conquer.
Written by a concerned member of the NBA YLF Ikeja branch