EFCC Investigation: NBA Lagos Branch Responds To Reports Of ‘Massive Probe’
The Leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Branch has responded to rife reports peddled online about an alleged investigation of the branch’s financial records by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a statement obtained by TheNigeriaLawyer, the Chairman of the branch, Mr. Ikechukwu Uwanna described the report as sensational, misleading, casting aspersion on the image of the branch which has been laboriously built for over 60 years.
According to Uwanna, the branch exco is aware of the ongoing investigation based on an anonymous petition but however asks members of the public to remain calm as events unfold.
Uwanna stated, “The attention of the Executive Committee (Exco) of the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Branch has been drawn to a sensational news item reported by “City Lawyer magazine” regarding a so called ‘massive probe’ of the activities of the NBA Lagos Branch.”
He further said that “the headline of the news report is misleading and casts aspersions on the image of the NBA Lagos Branch – an image that many have laboured so hard to build for over 60 years.
“The NBA Lagos Branch Exco is aware of an ongoing investigation by the EFCC regarding alleged procurement irregularities by the immediate past Branch Administration based on an anonymous petition.”
“The Bar Chairman further informed that he has made all records regarding the said procurements available to the EFCC in line with due process for scrutiny and investigation.
“Upon the EFCC’s request, we have made the records regarding all relevant procurement issues available to the EFCC.
“We will continue to update members as events unfold.”
TheNigeriaLawyer recalls that yesterday it was reported that the anti-graft agency had launched investigations into the activities of the past leadership of the branch. According to the report originally published by CITY LAWYER, the EFCC recently launched a massive probe into the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch.
According to the report, a source privy to the investigation described it as an “unprecedented probe” of Nigeria’s ‘premier bar’. The investigation was said to have been launched sequel to an anonymous petition against the immediate past administration of the branch.
It was gathered that the focus of the extensive investigation is on the contracts and financial dealings of that administration.
According to reports, the anti-graft agency is focusing its investigation on contracts for the branch Bar Centre project, as well as payments for website development, branch bus purchases, and hybrid monthly meetings.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has reportedly kicked off investigations into the activities of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
“No cost was allowed by the Executive Committee,” according to a member of the administration’s Executive Committee. There was almost no tendering for the contracts, hence the procurement procedure was non-existent. There were no spending memos. In several of the contracts, there were conflicts of interest. There were no safeguards in place. Imagine paying N150 million for the Bar Centre project without holding an EXCO meeting to debate the contract and relying only on the fact that it was authorised by the Building Committee. Only two weeks before the end of our term, another N50 million was paid under the guise of a ‘due payment.’ Instead of the typical one-year renewal time, the Branch domain name was renewed every six months. A costly N150,000 was spent at the last minute for a high-definition presentation on the Bar Centre project.”
It is reported that the anti-graft agency is putting a searchlight especially on contracts for the branch Bar Centre project as well as payments for website development, branch bus purchase and hybrid monthly meetings among others.
Speaking on the branch accounts for the year-ended May 31, 2021, its auditors, Messrs Olu Aladejebi & Co. (Chartered Accountants) wrote: “We observed that some memos that was (sic) raised/written were having the authorized persons’ on them but were not signed especially the ones for the construction.”
It also stated that “At the close of business as at May 31st 2021, the branch’s cash and cash equivalent stood at ₦220,420,065.
This shows a decrease of ₦145,599,135 from last year’s figure, which is a 40% decrease over last year’s result of ₦366,019,200. This is as a result of on going construction work on Bar Centre building at Lekki.”
But another ranking Executive Committee member in that administration dismissed the probe as futile, saying that nothing would come out of it. According to him there were “no suspicious financial dealings” during their tenure, adding that payments on the Bar Centre were approved by the Building Committee chaired by Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN. He argued that it was not the role of the Executive Committee to oversight standing committees, adding that such committees have their terms of reference approved by the general meeting and also make periodic reports to the general meeting.
He disputed allegations of financial irregularities connected to website design and virtual meetings, claiming that the ICT Committee was in charge of such affairs. He said that all financial concerns mentioned by members at general meetings had been adequately addressed, and that although the new branch bus had “fixing” issues, a committee was formed to address them.
He claimed that Mr. Harry Ukaejiofor’s resignation from the Executive Committee WhatsApp platform was due to an effort to “overreach himself” rather than a fundamental and ongoing dispute over financial transactions.
While the investigation is being discussed in hushed tones among a few branch members who have been aware of the petition, Mr. Yemi Akangbe, the immediate past Branch Chairman, has yet to comment.