JUST IN: NBA Assistant GS Lacks the Constitutional Powers to Overrule the General Secretary – Ex General Secretary, Walson-Jack Writes Akpata

JUST IN: NBA Assistant GS Lacks the Constitutional Powers to Overrule the General Secretary – Ex General Secretary, Walson-Jack Writes Akpata

July 30, 2022 Uncategorized 0

A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack has advised the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata, to withdraw the two Notices for NBA Constitutional Amendment shared with members of the Association on 27th and 28 of July 2022 for not being in accordance with the NBA Constitution.

The former NBA GS was reacting to notices from the General Secretary, Joyce Oduah on 27th July 2022 and another Notice shared on 28th July 2022 by the Assistant General Secretary, Uchenna Nwadialo purporting to overrule the notice earlier shared by the General Secretary.Mr Walson-Jack noted that the two Notices was not done in accordance with the NBA Constitution 2015 as Amended in 2021 and as such should be withdrawn.

Mr Walson-Jack further noted that the Assistant General Secretary lacks the legal and constitutional powers, both to assume the constitutional role of the General Secretary or the Overrule the General Secretary while the General Secretary is still in office.

SEE THE FULL LETTER BELOW:

The President
Nigerian Bar Association
NBA House
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way
Central Business District
Abuja.

Dear Mr. President,

RE: NOTICE OF AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (2015) OBJECTION TO NOTICES OF AMENDMENTS.

I acknowledge the receipt of two (2) electronic mails (emails) dated Wednesday, 27th July 2022 addressed to members of the Nigerian Bar Association from the National Secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association. The first email from the General Secretary, Joyce Oduah, was received at 13:38pm on the same Wednesday, 27 July 2022. The second email signed by Uchenna Nwadiala, Assistant General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association was delivered at 00:05am on Thursday, 28 July 2022. A printout of both email notices is attached to this letter as ANNEXURE Al and A2.

Both emails from the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary gave notice of Amendments to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), 2015, as amended in 2021. However, the Amendments highlighted in red in the NBA Constitution attached to both emails are different.

In response to the request for comments in both Notices, I would like to make the following Observations and Comments:

Part III – Section 25 – Amendment Process of the NBA Constitution provides that “(1) This Constitution shall not be amended or repealed or re-enacted except at an Annual General Meeting of the Association by a two-third majority of those present and entitled to vote, provided that the two-thirds of the Branches of the Association are represented and provided further that at least sixty (60) days’ notice of the proposed amendment shall have been given to the General Secretary (GS) who shall have circulated same to delegates at least thirty (30) days before the proposed amendment is tabled for discussion at the Annual General Meeting”.

I suppose that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) where the proposed amendment is to be tabled for discussion is the one that is scheduled to hold on Thursday 25th August 2022 during the Annual General Meeting at Eko Atlantic, Victoria Island, Lagos State, at 12:00 noon, as per Notice by the General Secretary dated 27 July 2022.

If No. 2 above is correct, then both Notices by the General Secretary and the Assistant Secretary of the NBA, do not meet the 30 days’ notice to members mandated by the Constitution. While the Notice by the General Secretary is 29 days before the AGM, that of the Assistant General Secretary (AGS) is circulated 28 days before the AGM.

Without prejudice to the presumption of regularity and compliance with due process in favour of the General Secretary, it is still important that in issuing the Notice, members must be satisfied that the Notice fulfils constitutional requirements. For instance, members must be informed of the date the hard copy of each proposed amendment was received in the National Secretariat, evidenced by the official acknowledgment stamp of the Office of the General Secretary. If received by email, the date of receipt of the email. This would enable us as members determine whether the proposed Amendment submitted to the General Secretary complied with the sixty (60) days rule before determining compliance with the 30 days requirement. In the present case, both Notices to members are short of the thirty (30) days requirement.

The Assistant General Secretary (AGS) who signed, issued, and circulated the second notice has no locus standi to do so. The AGS did not state on whose authority she signed or issued the Notice. The AGS neither claimed to issue the notice on the direction of the General Secretary, nor did she sign for the General Secretary. In the absence of any evidence of the resignation, absence from the country, incapacity by reason of health, or death of the General Secretary, the functions of the AGS cannot be independently activated.

The Assistant General Secretary cannot either legally or constitutionally be assigned the functions of the General Secretary of the NBA, while the latter is alive and present. The omnibus clause in Section 9 – National Executive Committee – Subsection 5(f) (ii), of the NBA Constitution, “… all other duties as may be assigned to him/her… ” is generic to all Offices, except the President. This clause cannot and should not be used to reshuffle the Constitutional duties of elected officers. “All other duties must be duties not envisaged by the Constitution but have arisen from exigencies of the moment; certainly not a reallocation of duties assigned by the Constitution to elected Officers.
evidence of a house divided against itself. To have an Assistant General Secretary that may have been circulated earlier”, is nothing short of incompetence and maladministration.

One cannot think of any circumstance that would warrant an Assistant General Secretary countermanding the instructions issued by a General Secretary of our Professional Association, unless the AGS has the backing of the President in this unconstitutional act of insubordination. The buck stops on your table.

In view of the foregoing, I beg to submit that the two Notices of Amendments to the NBA Constitution (2015), as amended in 2021, issued by both the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary do not satisfy the number of days specified in the NBA Constitution. In addition, Notice by the Assistant General Secretary is ultra vires the Office, null and void.

The National Secretary should withdraw both Notices, remove Item C – Proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 (as amended in 2021) – from the Agenda of the AGM, and do not present the same for discussion at the AGM in Lagos on 25 August 2022.

Permit me to use this opportunity to implore you the President of the NBA to endeavour to always thread the part of legality and constitutionality. Obedience to the Law must also be supported by principles and values. Condonation of any form of untruth, degrades the moral fiber of our Association.

I count on your understanding of this matter.
Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack
SCN006203
Past General Secretary (2004 – 2006) Member, National Executive Council Nigerian Bar Association.

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