*Says “I Did Not In Any Way Alter Any Part Of Our Branch’s Register”
*Rejects The Report Of The Disciplinary Committee.
The Immediate Past Chairman of Nnewi branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, P. C. Ugwuanyi Esq, has denied mutilating and/or tampering with the branch’s attendance register when he served as the chairman.
Ugwuanyi, disclosed this to TheNigerialawyer, Tuesday while reacting to the allegations contained in the reports submitted by the Disciplinary Committee of the branch and the Ad-hoc Audit Committee, against him and A. A. Igwebuike.
Read his full statement below:
NBA NNEWI BRANCH’S REPORTS OF AD-HOC AUDITING COMMITTEE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE
My attention has been drawn to a report going round on the social media purporting that I spent the money belonging to my branch without proper explanation. The report equally has it that I was found complicit in the allegation of mutilating the attendance register of my branch while I was the chairman of my branch.
I understand that the said report was caused to be published on the social media platforms including TheNigerialawyer by the Publicity Secretary of our branch, Franklyn Ofodeme Esq. I am aware that the brain behind the publication is the present chairman of my branch, Kingsley Awuka Esq. I shall address the reports but before I do so I wish to first and foremost let the readers know the background history of the said reports.
The sins I committed in my branch since 2018 were contesting for the office of chairman of my branch in June 2018 with Kingsley Awuka Esq and my insistence that things must be transparently done in our branch in accordance with the provisions of the Uniform Bye-Law of NBA which guide activities of various branches of NBA in the whole federation.
When I took over the mantle of leadership of my branch in June 2018, our branch was in a big mess. We had only N36,000.00 in our branch’s bank account while we were owing some of our vendors over N350,000.00 (Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira). I realized that many senior members of our branch would attend the branch’s Annual Bar Dinners from year to year with members of their families but they would not pay their Dinner levies. When I discovered this, I and members of my Executive Committee resolved to reform the branch to the best of our ability. We put in place a policy we termed “The policy of recovery of debts”. We went through the financial records of our branch and identified those who were indebted to the branch from 2015 to 2018. We made it very clear that the debs must be paid. Through that policy, we were able to recover some money from our members who were indebted to the branch. This policy was actually successfully implemented but not without pitching me against many senior members of my branch who continued to fight back until my tenure finished. The present chairman equally took the advantage of the little frictions the implementation of the policy created to remind me that I won him in the election. He kept on fighting my administration till my tenure ended basking on the supports of some senior members of the branch who were not comfortable with my insistence that the provisions of the Bye-Law should guide the activities of our branch in our dealings. For instance, at the time he handed over to the General Secretary that took over from him, he refused to hand over the practice stamps of one of our members, Ifechukwu Jacobs Esq because he did not support him during the branch’s election. He ignored all the directives given to him by the Executive Committee of the branch to hand over the stamp to the General Secretary that took over from him. In spite of my position as the chairman of the branch, I had to go to his office to plead with him before he could give me the stamps.
Even as the chairman of the branch, he removed me from being one of the administrators of our branch’s official platform because in line with the resolution of the general meeting of our branch, I removed the then non-member of the branch (Uchenna Nwammiri Esq) he added on the platform when he ignored my advice that he should remove him from the platform pending when he registers with the branch. He was able to do this because I was magnanimous enough to allow him continue to be one of the administrators of the platform when he handed over to the General Secretary of the branch that took over from him. When I led the Committee of Chairmen of NBA branches in Anambra state to struggle for the reduction of filing fees in our various courts, he was the only lawyer in Anambra state that stood in opposition to our struggle through his press releases. I can go on and on but space will not allow me. All these facts are verifiable.
Through the said policy of recovery of debt, we were able to re-orientate members of our branch such that even after my tenure came to an end, our members were still paying their outstanding debts to the present administration. Presently, as a result of the policy our members pay their dues and levies voluntarily. With the policy we were able to pay all our creditors including two members of our branch. We were also able to get some projects done. For instance we got a parcel of land for our branch. We also secured the land with a spiral wall fence. We did some other projects including replacement of the engine of our branch’s bus which knocked while bringing our members from the Annual General Conference which was held in Lagos in 2019. When I was leaving the office in June 2020, our branch had over N250,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) in its bank account and we were not owing anybody.
What is happening in our branch can never happen in any branch that has any regard for the provisions of the Bye-Law of the association. I tried my possible best to reform the association to be in line with other branches but some members of my branch who enjoy the unorganized nature of the branch preferred to allow it remain as it is.
My issue with the present chairman, climaxed during the 2020 branch elections. I insisted that the provisions of the Bye-Law should be followed in the course of conducting the election. I maintained that all the contestants vying for any positions in the branch must be given a level playing ground and if any waiver should be granted to any of the contestants that the general meeting must agree and see it transparently done.
Incidentally in the said 2020, the present chairman was not qualified to contest for any position in our branch not to talk of the office of chairman of the branch. It is on record and verifiable that prior to June 2020 election, the present chairman had held at least three positions in our branch.
Amongst the elective position the chairman had held in my branch prior to the election held in June 2020 are the following:
- Welfare Secretary 2008 – 2010
- Publicity Secretary 2010 – 2012
- General Secretary 2018 – 2020
By the provision of Section 6(3) of the Bye-Law, the chairman was not qualified to contest for any elective position in our branch in June 2020. By the said provision, the chairman must wait for at least 5(five) years before he could be qualified to contest for any elective position in our branch. It is important to note that in 2018 when I contested for the office of chairman with the chairman, both of us were caught up by the provision of section 6(3) of the Bye-Law and the Election Committee headed by a very senior member of the branch, Ike Obeta Esq referred the issue to the general meeting for deliberation. When it was realized that no other person was interested in the position, the general meeting unanimously resolved that rather than leaving the association without a chairman that waiver should be granted to both of us and that was why I contested for the office of chairman with him.
Unfortunately, in 2020, the branch’s Election Committee headed by Chikodili Nwogugu Esq a very senior member of the branch, rather than being transparent in their dealings became selective in clearing both contestants and voters. The committee disqualified contestants who were not the preferred candidates of members of the committee and cleared contestants they wanted irrespective of whether the persons were qualified or not. For instance, one of our members, N.M. Ugboma Esq who indicated interest to contest for the office of chairman alongside the Chairman and A.A Igwebuike Esq was disqualified without any defined reason even when no petition was written against him while the chairman who clearly was not qualified was cleared by the committee even when the committee was in receipt of more than one petition drawing the attention of the members to the effect that the chairman was not by the provision of Sec. 6(3) of the Bye-Law qualified to contest in the election. The present treasurer of the branch who paid her 2019 branch dues on 24/04/19 contrary to Sec 15(4) of the Bye-Law was cleared by the committee while other contestants who had similar issues where disqualified by the committee.
When the committee released the voters list, it was discovered that from the branch’s statement of account, over 25 well known supporters of the chairman who did not pay their branch dues and practicing fees on or before 31st March 2019 and 2020 made the list of voters contrary to sec 16(1) of the Uniform Bye-Law. It was discovered that out of the 83 names on the voters list, over 25 members who were well known supporters of the chairman who did not pay their branch dues and/or practicing fees on or before 31st March of 2019 and 2020 made the voters list. Complaints were made to the Election Committee by the chairman’s co-contestant, A.A. Igwebuike Esq but the members of the committee ignored him. I also drew the attention of the committee to the fraud but painfully I realized that the committee and some senior members of the branch had conspired and made up their mind to rig the election in favour of the chairman.
When it was obvious that the committee did not want to allow the election to be free and fair, the chairman’s co-contestant (who did not want himself to be seen as having been humiliated) withdrew his participation in the election. The election was eventually held and the chairman’s said supporters who were not qualified to vote voted and were used to rig the chairman into the office. The chairman was said to have gotten 77 votes while his co-contestant was said to have gotten 4 votes even when he had withdrawn his participation in the election.
For the avoidance of doubt, the following understated members of the branch were amongst the supporters of the chairman who were not qualified to vote but fraudulently appeared on the voters list and voted for the chairman in the said election held on 26th June, 2020.
|S/N||Name||No. on the voters list||Date of payment of branch dues||Date of payment of practicing fees|
|1||Nwachukwu Chioma .A.||47||01/04/2020|
|2||Onuigbo Christiana .N.||61||06/04/2020|
|3||Udeze Azubuike Maduka||63||13/05/2020|
|4||Eze Monday Onwe||11||13/05/2020|
|5||Origbakor Chistopher Elom||18||13/05/2020|
|6||Peter Moses Okon||67||02/06/2020|
|7||Ewim Nnedimma .N.||6||02/06/2020|
|8||Maureen Nneka Emecheta||70||04/06/2020|
|10||Ofodeme Franklyn .C.||26||30/04/2019|
|14||Okonkwo Chukwuka Emmanuel||65||20/05/2020|
|15||His Worship Loveth Nnaka||21||23/11/2019|
|17||Silver C. Udeogaranya Orizu||27||19/05/2020|
|20||Onwugamba .U.||31||April 2020|
To underscore my point, the Publicity Secretary of the branch who caused the report to be published against me was No. 10 on the voters list but he paid his 2019 branch dues on 30th April, 2019. He should tell us how he made the voters list and voted that day. It is worthy of note that the then General Secretary of NBA, Jonathan Taidi Esq was being dully communicated in writing of all that was happening in our branch during the election but for the reason best known to him, he allowed the election to go on in spite of the monumental fraud discovered. Even the appeal sent to the NBA appeal panel (South East Zone) was till date sat on. The said Appeal Panel till date never notified anybody of its decision in spite of series of demands made to the Secretary of the panel and the then General Secretary, Jonathan Taidi Esq. It is worthy of note that the Appeal Panel was headed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
It is important to note here that the said branch’s 2020 Election Committee later presented a post-election report to the General Meeting of NBA Nnewi branch and in paragraph 1.08 of the report, the election committee admitted that the voters list used in the said election was fraudulently prepared and published. The said paragraph 1.08 of the said post election report is here by annexed.
I am sorry to state that anything goes in NBA Nnewi branch and if one insists that the provision of the Bye- Law should be adhered to, he becomes the enemy of many members of the branch amongst whom are senior members of the branch who wouldn’t like the branch to be guided by the provisions of the Bye-Law but rather by their whims and caprices. Upon the swearing in of the present chairman, he unilaterally appointed a member of the branch, Ifeanyi David Esq to the position of National Executive Committee Representative (NEC REP) of the branch without recourse to the general meeting even when he (Chairman) was very much aware that he (Ifeanyi David Esq) had never held any elective position in the branch. This was contrary to Section 9 of the Bye-Law which made it clear that those who are qualified for the position of NEC REP are the two preceding chairmen and vice chairmen. When I drew the chairman’s attention to the provision of Section 9 of the Bye-Law he ignored my complaint and I petitioned the President of NBA who later referred the issue to NEC for consideration. NEC later nullified the appointment and directed that the election should be held to elect the branch’s NEC REP.
In spite of the said admissions made by the 2020 Election Committee to the effect that the provisions of the Bye-Law was compromised in the course of conducting the 2020 branch elections, on 18th day of December, 2020 at the annual dinner of the branch, the chairman issued Certificates of Excellent Service to each of the members of the 2020 election committee. I brought it to the notice of the Chairman that the certificates would encourage our members to rig elections in future and advised him to withdraw the certificates but he ignored my advice.
I didn’t have any option than to institute action in court against the chairman and the 5 members of the election committee via suit No. HN/10/2021 praying that the certificates be declared null and void since they are contrary to the objectives of NBA.
Subsequent to the NEC’s directive that fresh election should be conducted to elect the NEC REP of our branch, the chairman constituted an election committee to conduct the election. The Committee in conspiracy with the chairman started scheming to re appoint the member (Ifeanyi David Esq) who was previously unlawfully appointed by him. In spite of the admission of the 2020 election committee that the voters list was illegally prepared, the committee for the NEC REP released a notice adopting the said voters list used in 2020 election as the voters list for the NEC REP election. A copy of the said notice is hereby annexed. The committee in conspiracy with the chairman also through the said notice disqualified me from contesting for the said position of NEC REP solely to pave way for the chairman to re appoint Ifeanyi David Esq to the position of NEC REP which he is not qualified to contest for. Eventually no election was held. Subsequently, I instituted action in court via suit No. HN/129/2021 challenging my disqualification. Even when the parties in the suit (including the chairman) had been dully served with the court processes, the chairman is said to have thereafter sent the name of Ifeanyi David Esq to the President of NBA for recognition as the NEC REP of Nnewi Branch. That is the extent of lawlessness we experience in Nnewi branch.
In Nnewi Bar, Bye-Law is relegated to the dustbin and you dare not insist that the Bye-Law should be followed except you want to attract both verbal and physical attacks from members including senior members of the Branch. During branch elections even non members of the branch (including very senior Lawyers) determine the elections by putting pressures on the members of the election committee to compromise the provisions of the Bye-Law in favour of their preferred contestants except where the committee is made up of members with strong character.
THE AD-HOC AUDITING COMMITTEE
First and foremost I am yet to receive any report from the ad-hoc auditing committee constituted by the chairman in spite of my applications to that effect. As a result of my insistence that the provisions of the Bye – Law should be observed in our branch during the election and after the election, the chairman has been using the instrumentalities of his office to victimize me.
Sometime in October 2020, I presented account to the general meeting of the branch and in line with the practice of our branch; I attended our monthly meetings to take questions from our members. The Chairman refused to allow me opportunity to take questions from members and claimed that an ad-hoc auditing committee should be constituted to enable me make some clarifications on the account. It is important to note that prior to constituting the Ad-hoc auditing committee, the chairman instigated his well known followers who wrote me a letter demanding that I make some clarifications on the account I presented. On constituting the Ad-hoc auditing committee, the chairman referred the letter to the committee for consideration. Initially, when I was invited by the committee, I entertained some fear in the unbiasedness and neutrality of the committee in view of the fact that the secretary of the committee was one of the chairman’s supporters who was not qualified to vote in the election but was used to rig the chairman into the office while the chairman of the committee was among the few lawyers that signed the requisition notice calling for a physical meeting to set aside the election committee my administration constituted through an online meeting as a result of COVID 19 pandemic. This prompted to write the committee a letter to express my feelings. But to show utmost good faith, I later conceded to appear before the committee on 19th April, 2021. After appearing before the committee for the said day, further hearing was adjourned to 21st April, 2021. Because of the way I was bullied on the said 19th April, 2021, I realized that nothing would make me to get justice from the committee. I subsequently applied in writing to the committee to be allowed to engage any lawyer of my choice to appear with me and defend me in the committee, the committee refused. I further applied in writing to be allowed to invite my well wishers to appear with me in the committee, the committee refused. I applied for stay of proceedings to enable me challenge the decision of the committee dismissing my applications in the court of law yet the committee refused and compelled me to take questions from them. After the committee finished with me I applied in writing to be allowed to call witnesses (including members of my executive committee) who would testify on my behalf and the committee refused.
I wish to state that when I appeared before the committee I explained everything I did with the branch’s money and tendered receipts I could lay hand on. It was very obvious that the committee was not constituted to discover the truth but rather constituted with an instruction to indict me. I was denied all known principles of fair hearing by the committee. The committee later submitted its report and recommendations to the chairman. But later the chairman in corroboration with some senior members of the branch put pressure on the members of the committee to make further report recommending that I should refund some money to the branch. It is worthy of note that the chairman of the branch worked as the secretary of the branch under the administration that handed over to me.
The said administration inherited over N680,000.00 (Six Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira) spent all the money and left a debt of over N350,000.00 for my administration which I paid and left over N250,000.00 in the branch’s account after doing some project. I have written the chairman a letter rejecting the decision of the committee for being in breach of my right for fair hearing. It is also important to categorically state that I did not unilaterally spend the branch’s money and all money spent by my administration was dully approved and was spent in the interest of the branch. It is also important to state that when the committee requested to be presented with the CTC of the minutes of the branch’s monthly meeting to see approvals by the General meeting, I applied to the chairman to cause to be released to me the CTC of the minutes of the monthly meetings of the branch as contend in the register handed over to his administration but the chairman refused to cause the CTC of the minutes released to me. This fact was duly brought to the notice of the committee. May I further make it clear that from the follow up report of the committee, the money it (committee) recommended that I should refund to the branch is the money used to replace the engine, brain box and generally fix the branch’s bus that got grounded since August 2019. It is then laughable that the committee did not recommend that those items caused to be fixed in the bus with the branch’s money should be returned to me while the money is refunded to the branch. The said branch bus was handed over to the present administration by me and it was driven off from the compound of my office by the vice chairman of the branch on the instruction of the chairman. While the branch took its bus with the items my administration caused to be fixed on the bus with the branch’s money the branch cannot rightly turn around to demand that I refund the money with which the items were caused to be fixed.
The committee at no place in their report claimed that I did not cause all those items to be fixed on the bus because they are all identifiable in the bus. It is important to note that the committee didn’t care to call for the bus to see for themselves the work done on the bus because they were not interested in finding the truth. It is unacceptable that while the branch enjoys the benefits of what my administration used its money to procure, it turns around to demand for its money. The money the committee by its follow up report demanded that I should refund to the branch is money which provided the branch identifiable benefits which the members of the branch have enjoyed or enjoying. The committee’s follow up report is nothing than the extension of Kingsley Awuka’s effort to get me silenced at all cost but it cannot be possible.
DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE REPORT
With respect to the Disciplinary Committee’s report, I wish to state that till date I am yet to receive any copy of the alleged report of the Disciplinary Committee. I wish to state that I did not appear before the Disciplinary Committee of our branch in respect of the alleged mutilation of branch’s attendance register. Through the letter dated 22/3/2021. I notified the committee and the chairman of the branch why I would not appear before the committee. When I looked at the composition of the Disciplinary committee I realized that the members of the committee must be biased if I appeared before the committee. I realized that the chairman of the branch intentionally selected only members of my branch who I have had cause to differ with in most hostile circumstances. Our branch is made up of over 200 (Two hundred) members but the chairman of the branch intentionally chose the nine (9) members of our branch each of whom to his knowledge I have had issues with by one way or the other in the course of insisting that the provisions of the Bye –law should be observed in what we are doing in our branch. The members of the Disciplinary Committee are 9 and I shall here under state why each of them cannot see that justice is meted on me if I appeared before the committee:
- The chairman of the committee is Sam Onyia Esq. Sam Onyia Esq is the 2nd defendant in suit No. HN/72/2021 in which I sued him and two others including the chairman who is the 1st defendant for unlawfully disqualifying me from participating in election for NEC REP of my branch.
- The Alternate chairman of the committee is Ifeanyi David Esq. Ifeanyi David Esq is the member of my branch who was unlawful appointed as NEC REP of our branch by the chairman which appointment was nullified by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NBA pursuant to my petition to the President of NBA.
- T.O Igwegbe Esq was a member of the committee. T.O. Igwegbe Esq was a member of 2020 Election Committee and the 3rd defendant in suit NO. HN/10/2021 which I instituted to challenge the Certificate of Excellent Service the chairman issued to her and other members of the 2020 election committee that compromised the provisions of the Bye law and rigged the chairman into office. The chairman is 1st defendant in the suit.
- K.O. Odimegwu Esq. was a member of the committee. He is the 4th defendant in suit No. HN/129/2020 in which I instituted against him and 8 other members who made efforts to unlawfully impeach me from the office for insisting that the first election committee my administration constituted (through the online meeting as a result of COVID 19 pandemic) should conduct the 2020 election. The chairman is the 3rd defendant in the suit.
- Nnamdi Chima Esq is also a member of the committee and the 1st defendant in suit No. HN/129/2020 in which I instituted against him and 8 other members who made efforts to unlawfully impeach me from the office for insisting that the first election committee my administration constituted (through the online meeting as a result of COVID 19 pandemic) should conduct the 2020 election. The chairman is the 3rd defendant in the suit.
- M.N Emecheta Esq. is the 6th member of the committee M.N Emecheta Esq is one of the well known supporters of the chairman who was not qualified to vote during the 2020 election but who was used to rig the chairman into the office. She was No. 70 on the voters list yet she paid her 2020 branch dues on 04/06/2020. I have on different occasions publicly criticized her for allowing herself to be used to rig the chairman into the office.
- Chioma Nwachukwu Esq is the 7th member of the committee. Chioma Nwachukwu Esq was also one of the well known supporters of the chairman who was not qualified to vote during the 2020 branch’s election but was cleared to vote solely to rig the chairman into the office. She was NO. 47 on the voters list yet she paid her branch dues on 01/04/2020. I have also publicly criticized her for allowing herself to be used to rig the chairman into the office.
- Obinna Nnaka Esq is the 8th member of the committee. Obinna Nnaka Esq is the 6th defendant in suit No. HN/129/2020 in which I instituted against him and 8 other members who made efforts to unlawfully impeach me from the office for insisting that the first election committee my administration constituted (through the online meeting as a result of COVID 19 pandemic) should conduct the 2020 election. The chairman is the 3rd defendant in the suit.
- A.C Edu Esq is the 9th member of the committee defendant. A.C Edu Esq was one of the members of my branch who in 2020 signed a requisition notice forcing me to call for physical meeting of the branch to constitute a fresh election committee which I conceded to without knowing that the motive was to constitute an election committee that would compromise the provisions of the Bye-law and rig the chairman into the office. I have publicly criticized his action in that regard.
When I discovered that the chairman intentionally selected those who would be biased in their judgment to be members of the Disciplinary Committee I wrote him the letter indicating that I would not appear before the committee with such composition. The committee was dully informed that I would not appear before it and the reason why I would not appear before it.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I did not in any way alter any part of our branch’s register. I handed over the branch’s attendance register to the chairman of the election committee the same way I believed I had received it from the then General Secretary of the branch Egbuna Odimegwu Esq. It is important to note that in 2020 (prior to the 2020 election) one of the chairman’s followers, one Kingsley Aroh Esq posted a copy of an attendance register on our branch’s platform and when I saw it, I asked the then secretary how Kingsley Aroh Esq became in possession of our attendance register and he told me that the attendance register was stolen while we were having our monthly meeting but that he later found it. Surprisingly, the then General Secretary later informed me that the Chairman (Kingsley Awuka Esq) came to his office and requested for a copy of register and he (General Secretary) released it to his (General Secretary), secretary in the office to do a photocopy for the Chairman (Kingsley Awuka Esq). When he told that, I asked him whether there was any application to that effect and he said no. I scolded him for doing that. I am surprised that it is said that the same then General Secretary turned around and claimed that he did a photocopy of the attendance register and handed over the original to me at the premises of DPP Nnewi. It is important to note that in the same 2020, prior to the election A.A Igwebuike Esq, the chairman’s co-contestant accused the chairman of deleting his name in the copies of the register he was then having. I am most surprised that it was alleged that the same A.A Igwebuike Esq claimed that I gave him the branch’s attendance register to mutilate. May I clearly state that the then General Secretary gave me the attendance register at the premises of the office of DPP Nnewi at about 6.30pm immediately after the emergency general meeting at which the 2nd 2020 Election Committee that compromised the Bye-Law in the course of conducting the election was constituted. The General Secretary had no time to do any photocopies at that time because he handed over to me immediately the meeting came to a close as I was sitting with him on one table coupled with the fact that it was during the lock down caused by COVID 19 pandemic and no business outfit was open within the vicinity at that time. I am surprised as to when and where he did the photocopy he was said to have claimed to have done. It is important to note that I would have handed over the attendance register to the Chairman of the Election Committee at the same time and venue I collected it from the then General Secretary but he (Chairman Election Committee) requested that I give him the register with the constitution of NBA and the cheque for the money approved for conducting of the election. I currently have a copy of the register I handed over to the chairman of the election committee. I hereby categorically reject the report of the Disciplinary Committee.
Dated this 1st day of June 2021.
P. C. Ugwuanyi Esq
Immediate Past Chairman,
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