STATEMENT OF THE CHAIRMAN, LAGOS BRANCH OF THE NBA ON THE ATTEMPT BY THE NIGERIAN POLICE TO ARREST MR. ADESHINA OGUNLANA
Yesterday evening, I read about the disturbing news of an attempt by men of the Nigerian Police to arrest Mr. Adeshina Ogunlana, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch over a planned protest on Thursday, 29 March 2018 against the recent increase in Land Use Charge in Lagos State.
I immediately called Mr. Ogunalna to ascertain what was going on. His phone rang several times unanswered and I reckoned that the prevailing circumstances at the time did not permit him to answer his calls. I then called the Secretary of Ikeja Branch who also did not answer her calls. I eventually spoke to a senior member of Ikeja Branch who assured me that the situation was under control.
I was only able to speak to Mr. Ogunlana late this morning. He assured me that he is well and confirmed that police officers from the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja had indeed come to his office at the Ikeja Branch Bar Centre with instructions to bring him to the Police Headquarters in Ikeja. He informed me that he declined to go with them and that the prompt intervention of members of his Branch who had responded to the news of his attempted arrest ensured that he was not taken away.
I condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious and provocative conduct of the Nigerian Police Force. Peaceful public demonstrations are an acceptable way of expressing discontent. This attempt by the Nigerian Police Force to intimidate and muzzle opposing views is unlawful and should not be considered acceptable.
Following extensive discussions at the meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Branch which held on Monday, 12 March 2018, it was resolved that the Lagos Branch would liaise with the other NBA Branches in Lagos State and, with a view to jointly seeking to engage with the Lagos State Government regarding the increase in Land Use Charge by the Lagos State government. It was also resolved that a team of lawyers should be assembled to review the Land Use Charge Law to determine if there is any legal basis for challenging it in court. While the Lagos Branch did not resolve to engage in public protests at this time, many of our members recognize the right of our colleagues in the Ikeja Bar to adopt whatever lawful means they choose in expressing their opposition to the increase in Land Use Charge.
In furtherance of the resolution to explore the possibility of challenging the Land Use Charge Law, we have assembled a team of lawyers led by a well-respected Senior Advocate member of our Branch. This team of lawyers is currently studying the Land Use Charge Law together with the proposed amendments with a view to identifying possible grounds for challenging it.
In furtherance of the resolution of the Branch to engage the Lagos State Government, I represented the Branch at a meeting with the Honourable Attorney-General, and the Commissioner of Finance of Lagos State on Tuesday, 13 March 2018. The Chairmen of Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry branches of the NBA were in attendance at the meeting as were Messrs. Dele Adesina, SAN and Femi Falana, SAN among other Bar leaders. The Bar leaders at the meeting all spoke strongly against various aspects of the Land Use Charge Law following which the Honourable Attorney-General promised to take our concerns to the Governor.
I also represented the Branch at the Public Hearing organized by the Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday, 27 March 2018 on the proposed amendments to the Land Use Charge Law. The Public Hearing was well attended and very important feedback was provided by stakeholders on the Land Use Charge Law. The Lagos Branch of the NBA is working on a detailed memorandum to be submitted to the Lagos State House of Assembly since we were not able to submit one at the Public Hearing given the shortness of the notice.
On the same day, I also convened a meeting of the NBA Branch Chairmen in Lagos State. The meeting held at Mr. Ogunlana’s office in Ikeja and was attended by Mr. Ogunlana, the Chairmen of Ikorodu and Badagry Branches and myself. At the meeting, the Chairmen of Ikorodu and Badagry Branches stated that a majority of their members were in support of engaging with the Government rather than embarking on public protests at this time. It was then resolved that a letter be written jointly by all the five Branches of the NBA in Lagos requesting a meeting with the Governor on this issue.
I wish to assure members of our noble profession that the leadership of the Branch will continue to do all that is required within the law and noble traditions of our profession to fight against any laws, policies and measures of Government that are oppressive and anti-people.
Chukwuka Ikwuazom, Esq.
Chairman, NBA Lagos Branch