Mazi Afam Osigwe replies ECNBA, gives reasons why his unlawful disqualification cannot stand
14th June, 2018
Electoral Committee of NBA (ECNBA)
Nigerian Bar Association
Plot 1101 Muhammadu Buhari Way
Central Business District
RE: DETERMINATION ON QUALIFICATION TO CONTEST FOR NATIONAL OFFICE
I am in receipt of your letter dated June 14, 2014 wherein you informed me that my screening for qualification to contest for the national office of President was unsuccessful for the following reasons stated hereunder:
1. There is no evidence before the Committee to show that you have paid your Annual Dues and other financial obligations to Nnewi Branch as and when due for at least 3 years immediately preceding this years’ election.
2. That there is no satisfactory proof of your relocation to Nnewi Branch to accommodate you within the window of exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended.
3. Payment of 2016 and 2017 Branch Annual Dues cannot be verified.
After carefully reading the stated reasons vis-a-viz the provisions of the Constitution of Nigerian Bar Association, 2015 as amended, I am of the considered view that my disqualification is insupportable in law and in fact. I shall proceed to respond to the grounds anon:
GROUND ONE: No evidence before the Committee to show that I have paid my Annual Dues and other financial obligations to Nnewi Branch as and when due for at least 3 years immediately preceding this years’ election
A. In my forwarding letter, I informed your Committee that I am presently a member of NBA Nnewi branch which I joined in January, 2018.
B. I also informed your Committee that I joined the branch as I have residence at 4 Odajuo Lane, Nnewichi Nnewi as well as carry on practice at No. 10 Dala Ucha Street, Okpuno-Egbu Umudim Nnewi.
C. I could not have paid Branch Dues as a member of Nnewi Branch in 2016 and 2017 as I was not a member of the Branch in those years.
D. In 2016 and 2017, I was a member of NBA Abuja Branch and paid my Branch dues accordingly to Abuja Branch Account.
E. Section 13(4) of NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended provides that no member shall belong to more than one Branch. Thus a lawyer cannot lawfully pay branch dues to more than one branch at the same time in the same year.
F. The NBA Constitution does not require a candidate for national office to have mandatory membership of a particular branch before he/she will qualify to contest in the election.
G. The qualification stipulated by Section 8(3) (a) of the NBA Constitution only requires a person seeking to hold national office in NBA is to be ‘a full member of the Association and has paid, as at the date of his/her nomination, his/her practicing fees and Branch Dues, as and when due, for three (3) consecutive years inclusive of the year of election”.
H. There is nothing in Section 8(3)(a) of the NBA Constitution that requires such a person must have paid “his/her practicing fees and Branch Dues, as and when due, for three (3) consecutive years inclusive of the year of election”, ONLY to his current branch.
I. By acknowledging in your second ground for disqualifying me that proof of relocation to Nnewi Branch would accommodate me within the window of exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended, the ECNBA clearly admitted that change of branch membership is lawful and permissible under the NBA Constitution.
GROUND TWO: No satisfactory proof of my relocation to Nnewi Branch to accommodate you within the window of exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended.
A. Contrary to your assertion that there was no satisfactory proof of my relocation to Nnewi Branch to accommodate me within the window of exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended, I informed you in my forwarding letter of the fact of my relocation as well as supplied my residential and office addresses in Nnewi.
B. I did this even though there is no constitutional provision to justify your inference that satisfactory proof of my relocation to Nnewi Branch to must be shown to your Committee (ECNBA) so as to accommodate me within the window of exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended.
C. For the avoidance of doubt, Paragraph 4(1) of the third Schedule as you cited state thus: 4(1) ‘In addition to his Bar Practicing fees, he has paid his annual dues and all other financial obligations to the branch as and when due for at least the immediate preceding 3 years, unless he was enrolled or had relocated to the state where the branch is situate within a shorter period which shall then be the threshold point instead of 3 years; and, …..’ (The underlined is mine for emphasis).
D. The Chairman and Secretary of Nnewi branch duly issued a Letter of Good Standing wherein they confirmed that I have joined the Branch upon my relocation.
E. I duly paid my Bar Practice Fee and Branch Dues for 2018 as a member of Nnewi Branch and attached same. You have in fact not faulted this.
F. NBA Nnewi Branch duly submitted a Voters List to ECNBA wherein my name is listed as No. 86.
G. Nnewi Branch did not at any time whatsoever disclaim my membership of the Branch.
H. My relocation is clearly covered by the exception created by the proviso to Paragraph 4(1) of the Third Schedule (Uniform Bylaws for Branches) to the NBA Constitution, 2015 as amended.
I. I am therefore at a loss what would amount to satisfactory “of relocation to Nnewi branch’.
GROUND THREE: Payment of 2016 and 2017 Branch Annual Dues cannot be verified
A. I paid my branch Dues for 2016 on January 12, 2016 into Account No. 01133428334 maintained with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, which has been one of the designated bank accounts of Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch since 2011.
B. I paid my branch Dues for 2017 on February 14, 2017 into Account No. 0694758692 maintained with Access Bank Plc, which has been one of the designated bank accounts of Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch since 2014.
C. Please note that proof of payment of my branch Dues for 2016 was duly submitted to ECNBA by NBA Abuja Branch in 2016 and the ECNBA thereby used the same to enlist me as a voter qualified to vote in the NBA National Officers election which took place in July 2016. It is therefore a source of worry that the same national office can no longer verify the payment of my 2016 dues.
D. Indeed NBA Abuja submitted the printout of Account No. 01133428334 maintained with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in 2016 to ECNBA in 2016 and the statement clearly showed I paid my Branch Dues on January 12, 2016. The printout as well as the Voters Register for the 2016 election is in the NBA National Secretariat.
E. A printout of the Statement of Account of NBA Abuja, Account No. 0694758692 maintained with Access Bank Plc for February 14, 2017 will clearly show that I made these payments.
F. Payment of Branch dues to NBA Abuja Branch are made through the various bank accounts and not by cash payments. I therefore urge the ECNBA to obtain the said Branch statements of accounts of NBA Abuja Account No. 01133428334 maintained with GTB Plc 2016 and NBA Abuja, Account No. 0694758692 maintained with Access Bank Plc for confirmation.
G. To build confidence in this process the ECNBA should state the person who could not ‘verify’ my payment of Branches Dues in 2016 and 2017 as well as the process of the so-called verification.
H. The payment of branch dues by other aspirants was not subjected to the so-called ‘Verification’ except mine thereby giving rise to the belief this was a contrived ground to justify my unlawful disqualification.
I. It inconceivable how the Committee can in one breath claim I did not show proof of payment of 2016 and 2017 Branch Dues to Nnewi branch, in another breath justify my disqualification on the ground that my payment of 2016 and 2017 Branch Annual Dues made to Abuja Branch cannot be verified.
J. The Committee on one hand implicitly concede proof of payment of Branch Dues to NBA Abuja in 2016 and 2107 were made (though purportedly not verified) on the other hand complain of the same Dues not been paid to another branch. This amounts to approbation and reprobation in a bid to fish for excuse to disqualify me.
I have no doubt met all the qualification requirement as stipulated by Section 8(3) (a)(b)(c)(d) of the NBA Constitution, 2015 to enable me contest for the office of President of NBA Election.
There is only one NBA in Nigeria and members are allowed to join any branch of their choice at any time without any hindrance or abridgment of the member’s rights as a result of such migration. All that is required is for the new Branch to confirm that the said person has actually joined and no further requirement as to payment of any dues whether previous or any other as confirmed by the said paragraph 4(1).
I therefore respectfully submit that the reasons given for not clearing my nomination is with due respect not covered by the 2015 Constitution of the NBA. In fact my disqualification appears to lend credence to the boasts of some highly placed persons in the Association and that not being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I will NEVER be allowed to contest in this election.
I expect this Committee to handle this matter in a manner that shows that it can be trusted to conduct this election in a transparent and fair manner. Anything short of even-handedness to all candidates will deal a fatal blow to the image of our great Association. The Committee still has an opportunity to write its name in gold by not taking unlawful and unjustifiable actions which lend credence to undemocratic boasts that I will NEVER be a candidate in this election. Nigeria and indeed the whole world are watching.
In the light of the above, I request that my name be restored as a candidate for the office of President for the 2018 Elections having met all the requirements.
Mazi Afam Osigwe
Immediate Past General Secretary, NBA