Stephen O. Kanu writes ECNBA, appeals Non-Clearance to Contest Election

Stephen Kanu: I am qualified to vote and be voted for at any election of the Association— Young Lawyers Forum, branch as well as in national elections.

Mr Stephen Kanu Esq of the Nigerian Bar Association Ibadan branch, has written a detailed letter to the Electoral Committee of Nigerian Bar Association, ECNBA, appealing his disqualification. 

Kanu was ”not cleared” to contest for the national office of the assistant publicity secretary in the forthcoming NBA elections.

The letter to ECNBA reads: 

20th June, 2018

The Chairman,
Electoral committee of the Nigerian bar association (ECNBA)
PLOT 1101 Muhammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,

RE: Appeal On Non-clearance To Contest For The National Office Of Assistant Publicity Secretary Of The Nigerian Bar Association [Kanu, O. Stephen, Esq]Pursuant To Article 2.7 To The Second Schedule To The Nba Constitution, 2015.

I hereby acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 14th of June, 2018 wherein you communicated to me that my screening the eligibility to contest for the national office of the assistant publicity secretary in the forthcoming NBA national election returned unsuccessful for the simple reason that there is no evidence of my service in any capacity at the branch level contrary to section 8 (3) (c) (iii) of the Constitution of the NBA, 2015.

1. I wish to first of all express my sincere gratitude to the Committee for promptly communicating its decision to me so as to enable me respond accordingly if I so desire and to this end, I hereby respond as follows:

2. Section 4 of the NBA Constitution provides for two categories of membership of the NBA viz: honorary membership and full membership and prescribes rights and privileges of each member.

For the avoidance of doubt, Section 4 (1) (a) provides :
i. A full member of the association shall be any person duly enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a legal practitioner and registered with a branch of the Association.
ii. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 4 (a) (i), any member who fails or neglects to pay the prescribed annual practicing fees before the end of March in each year shall, for as long as he/she remains in default, has no right:
a. of audience in any court in Nigeria;
b. to prepare, authenticate or frank any legal documents including Memorandum and article of Association;
c. to hold any office whatsoever by virtue of his/her qualification as a legal practitioner;
d. to vote and be voted for at any election of the Association.

3. The pertinent questions that arise from the provisions of the constitution above reproduced are:
– Am I qualified as a full member of the NBA?
– If the answer is in the affirmative, it will automatically generate another question viz: am I registered with a branch of the Association?
– And lastly have I paid my practicing fee as at when due such as to be entitled to vote or be voted for at any (including national) election of the Association.

4. I stated in my nomination form that I was enrolled by the Supreme Court of Nigeria to practice as barrister and Solicitor upon my completion of my one year compulsory training at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja Campus in 2013, to which nomination form I also attached my call to bar certificate and other relevant documents. The obvious answer to the first question is therefore in the affirmative as I am by virtue of my enrolment qualified as a full member of the Nigerian Bar Association.

5. Upon my enrolment to practice in 2013, I registered with the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch to which I still belong and under whose platform I expressed my desire to contest for the position of Assistant Publicity Secretary of the Association (my Association). In compliance with section 4 (1) (a) (ii), I attached to my nomination form; evidence of my payment of my practicing fee not only for the last 3 years as stipulated in the nomination form, but from the time I was admitted to practice, showing that I have religiously and meticulously fulfilled my obligations, not only to my branch but also to the Association to which I proudly belong.

6. Apart from my having consistently paid my annual practicing fee; national and local as at when due, I have participated in almost all the activities of my branch, both at the Level of the Young Lawyers Forum and at the level of the parent body. I have also attended the last three NBA National Conferences as well as the recently concluded Young Lawyers Summit in Lagos as a demonstration of my belief and commitment to the NBA. I have also voted in every single election organised by my branch since I was enrolled to practice by virtue of my qualification to vote, and of course I also voted in the last NBA national election in 2016. I do not intend to bore you sir, with unnecessary details but to show my devotion to this Association, our Association to which I am immensely proud and privileged to be a member and it was for this pride and desire to serve this great Association that I expressed my desire to run for the national office of the Assistant Publicity Secretary.

7. In the light of the foregoing, the question then is: am I entitled to vote and be voted for by the evidence of my consistent payment of the prescribed practicing fees both local and nation as at when due? Section 4 of the NBA constitution answers that question in the affirmative, that yes, I am qualified to vote and be voted for at any election of the Association, including at the level of the Young Lawyers Forum, local as well as at national elections. What I understand that section of the constitution of the NBA 2015 as saying is that being a financial member of the NBA should ordinarily, without more, entitle me to vote and be voted for in any election of the Association. It will therefore be inappropriate to subject a financial member of the Association to any further disability (s) to seek and hold any office of the Association. It is therefore my humble view that NBA cannot impose an obligation on me; receive my money as a member by way of payment of dues as an obligation of a full member of the Association and thereafter take away my corresponding rights to be voted for as to do so will certainly be contrary to natural justice, equity and good conscience, and in fact, contrary to the principle of the universal suffrage which is the right to vote and be voted for, a principle with a respectable antiquity.

8. Article 2.6 to the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the NBA 2015 provides grounds upon which a member of the Association may be ineligible to contest as a National Officer as follows:
(a) He/she is not a citizen of Nigeria;
(b) He/she is a member of a political party in Nigeria;
(c) He/she has been adjudged bankrupt or has made a composition or arrangement with his creditor;
(d) He/she is adjudged mentally unfit to take up position by a competent medical authority;
(e) He/she has been convicted of a crime or has been indicted by the disciplinary committee for an alleged offence or professional impropriety.

9. Humbly sir, I do not fall within any of the categories of persons listed above who are ineligible to contest as a national officer of this great Association. I am not a member of any political party in Nigeria (at least not yet), I am a citizen of Nigeria from Nenwe, in Aninri Local Government in Enugu State, I have neither been adjudged bankrupt or mentally unfit nor have I been convicted of any offence or professional misconduct whatsoever. Consequently, it is my humble submission that I am qualified to contest any office of this Association; the NBA to which I am proudly, not just a member but a full financial member with all obligations, rights and privileges accruing therefrom.

10. Having said so and without any prejudice to my submissions above, let me now address specifically the point raised in your said letter dated 14th of June, 2018 thus:
“There is no evidence of your service in any capacity at the Branch level contrary to Section 8 (3) (c) (iii) of the Constitution of the NBA, 2015 AS amended”

11. I state in response to your reason above that I fully complied with the extant provisions of the above cited section of the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended. Attached to my nomination form was a letter from the Chairman of the NBA-Young Lawyers Forum, Ibadan branch, which certified that I served as the Secretary of the NBA-Younger Lawyers Symposium Committee, Ibadan branch, a position which I currently occupy. I have also attached herein a letter of confirmation of service from the Chairman of my NBA branch.

12. The NBA-YLF Symposium Committee is a standing committee which was inaugurated by the current leadership of the NBA-Young Lawyers Forum, Ibadan branch under the Chairmanship of Mr. Eigbe Alright (who incidentally is my seconder). The Committee is charged with the responsibility of organising continuing legal education programmes for the Young Lawyers of Ibadan branch, with the full awareness and support of the NBA Ibadan branch executive. The Committee under my secretary-ship successfully organised a world class one day symposium on the 24th of May, 2018 with the theme “LAW BEYOND THE COURTROOM”, at which programme I received an award for my outstanding contribution to the success of the programme and my service to the YLF and to the NBA Ibadan Branch.

13. I am therefore of the humble view that the fact of my function as the Secretary of that standing Committee should qualify as ‘SERVICE IN ANY CAPACITY” at the branch as interpreted by the Electoral Committee, except of course that the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) does not consider the Young Lawyers Forum and by extension, the Young Lawyers in general as part of the NBA system which position would be erroneous and unfortunate.

14. The NBA constitution, 2015 as amended fully recognises the Young Lawyers Forum. Reference to “Forum” in Article ii and several other Articles to the Ninth Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended is reference to the Young Lawyers Forum. The fact that there is currently a Governing Council of the Young Lawyers Forum (YLF) lends credence to my submission that the Young Lawyers Forum is part of the NBA system. It will not be appropriate therefore to hold that service at the level of the Governing Council of the Young Lawyers Forum does not qualify as service to the NBA.
15. It must be observed here that it is for the purpose of ensuring that young lawyers are given sense of belonging in the Affairs of the Association that the drafters of our present constitution made provisions for certain offices to be contested for by young lawyers within the requisite age bracket, as a necessary preparatory ground for the eventual leadership of the bar. I am therefore of the humble view that applying a purposive interpretation to the provisions of Section 8 (3) (c) (iii) of the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended relied upon by the ECNBA, my membership of the committee of the YLF must be regarded as service in a capacity to the NBA.

16. Any other interpretation, Sir, would mean that many a young lawyer who are within five years of practice and have not held positions as members of the executive at the branch level would be disenfranchised from contesting election at the national level which is outside the contemplation of Section 4 of the NBA Constitution. To invoke the provisions of Section 8 (3) (c) (iii) as to disqualify me from contesting for the national office of the Assistant Publicity Secretary of this great Association, will be to say the least an attempt at disenfranchising me in particular and the young lawyers in general, who constitute over 60 per cent of the voting population of the NBA from taking part in the affairs of the Association and that will be unjust.

17. Furthermore, I am also of the humble view that it will be totally against the principle of universal suffrage for a system to donate you with right to vote for others but in another breath deny you the right to be voted for. It must be noted that the success of the electronic voting system by the NBA is largely hinged on the participation of young lawyers as was evident during the 2016 National election of the NBA. The ECNBA must therefore resist the temptation to do otherwise than to grant me full clearances to enable me commence preparation for the election in earnest.

18. Be that as it may, for the love of this honoured and honourable profession of law, I hereby restate my commitment to legal profession and to the Nigerian Bar Association regardless of the outcome of this appeal.

Long live the legal profession,

long live the Nigerian Bar Association,

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Kanu, O. Stephen, Esq.
Olujinmi & Akeredolu,
The Law Hub, 9, Ring Road,
Oyo State.

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