Long Williams

Article 11 of the constitution of the Eastern Bar Forum provides for the procedure for screening of members of the Eastern Bar Forum who intends to vie for elective offices in the Nigerian Bar Association Elections and Article 11.7 provides for the membership of the screening committee whose responsibility is it to screen aspirants of the EBF for NBA elections. The committee comprises of the following members; 
1. Members of the Governing Council
2. Serving National Officers of the NBA who are members of the forum.
3. Past Presidents & Past General Secretaries of the NBA who are members of the forum.
4. Senior Advocates of Nigeria who are members of the forum.
5. Serving Chairmen of branches or in their absence the Secretary.
6. Past Chairmen and Past Secretaries of the Governing Council of EBF.
For the purpose of the 2018 NBA Elections, the committee met at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State for the screening exercise on 3rd February, 2018.

The meeting which was slated to commence by 0700 hours actually commenced at 0915 hours after accreditation & rigorous security checks by security personnel. In the Screening Room, members were serially numbered for the purpose of certainty and to know the total number of persons present in the event of a ballot. Yours truly was number 25. The Chairman of the Governing Council Hon. Sir. Arthur Elvis Chukwu who also doubles as the Chairman of the Screening Committee set the pace of the meeting by welcoming and informing members of the sole agenda of the meeting. He also welcomed the observers to the meeting which included the following;

1. Caleb Dajan, NBA 1st Vice President representing the NBA President
2. Ben Orji, NBA 2nd Vice President
3. Ranti Ajeleti & Matins Ogunleye representing Omo Egbe Amofin
4. Alex Obaide & Yahaya Hambali representing the Mid- West Bar Forum
5. Chief Garba Pwul, Vice Chairman Arewa Lawyers Forum
6. Dr. Garba Tetengi SAN
The following learned Senior Advocates were also present;
1. Livy Uzuokwu SAN
2. J. T. U. Nnodum SAN
3. K. C. O. Njemanze SAN
4. Ndukwe A. Nnawuchi SAN
5. Emeka Anaenugu SAN
6. Nnamdi Ibegbu SAN
7. Gerald Ezeuko SAN

The Chairman thereafter read out the names of members of the EBF who filed their Notice of Intention to contest for a National Office as at 19th November, 2017 the last date for the submission of Letter of Intent as directed by the forum at its meeting held in Abakaliki on 28th October, 2017 and they are as follows;

A. Asst Publicity Secretary- Seth Nwokolo
B. Financial Secretary- Elias Emeka Anosike
C. Legal Adviser- Nnamdi Eze
D. Welfare Secretary:
I. Obong Essien
ii. Sabastine Anyia
E. Treasurer- Uju Mary Chukwuma- Okafor
F. Ist Vice President:
I. Gerald Ebonyi
ii. Stanley Chidi Imo
iii. Richard Ogbeche

G. President- Arthur Obi Okafor SAN
At this point the Chairman of Ikot Ekpene Branch, Sir Cosmas P. Udoette Esq indicated his unwillingness to partake in the screening exercise and was therefore excused from the meeting. This did not however deter Obong Essien Esq. a member and former Chairman of Ikot Ekpene Branch to continue with his participation in the screening exercise even though it was obvious that he has lost the crucial vote of his Chairman.

Apart from the offices of 1st Vice President and Welfare Secretary, the other offices were unopposed. The aspirants for the uncontested offices were therefore returned unopposed after the committee satisfied itself that they meet all the criteria and qualifications for the various positions in compliance with the NBA constitution.
For the contested offices, the aspirants were given time to address the meeting after which they were excused from the meeting.

The office of the 1st Vice President which has Gerald Abonyi, Stanley Chidi Imo and Richard Ogbeche became a subject of intense debate as some members opined that for the sake of unity, brotherhood and collectivity, the position should be left for the aspirant from the Southsouth, Richard Ogbeche since only one aspirant from the Southeast indicated interest to the EBF for the position of President. Some others were of the view that from the nature of the couching of Section 2.2 of the Second Schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution,  the position of the 1st Vice President should be left for the Southeast so that the Southeast will also produce the President in the event of another Bayo Ojo saga and it will be counted that the Southeast has completed its turn.( for our young colleagues, Bayo Ojo was a former President of the NBA who was later appointed as the Attorney General of the Federation while still serving as President)

It was further argued that if we allow the Southeast to occupy the said positions, when the zoning rotates back to the EBF, the Southsouth will be allowed to produce the President and also the 1st Vice President. This it was argued was to cure any confusion that may arise in future if different zones in the east are allowed to produce the President and 1st Vice President. The committee then resolved to call in the aspirants for the office of the 1st Vice President to explain the situation if it my lead to a step down of the aspirant from the Southsouth, Mr. Richard Ogbeche Esq and the 2nd Vice President of NBA, Monday U. Ubani was mandated to take the explanation and plead for a step down. The aspirants were then called in but after the explanation, Richard Ogbeche thanked the committee but reasoned that it was unacceptable to him and that it’s all about service coupled with the issue of time which may not be on his side. He opted for a ballot.

In the screening for the office of the Welfare Secretary between Obong Essien & Sabastine Anyia, underground campaigns were launched to garner support and votes for Obong Essien to satisfy the yearnings of the Southsouth but when it was disclosed that Sabastine Anyia is from Cross Rivers a Southsouth State and a sellable foot from Akwacross, that surreptitious campaign by some to favour Obong Essien was abandoned and the meeting became set for the ballot box.

The elections for the office of 1st Vice President was conducted first. The Publicity Secretary of EBF, George I. Fortune shared the signed ballot papers and at the end of voting, the following results were returned;

1. Gerald Ebonyi- 1 vote.
2. Stanley Chidi Imo- 53 votes.
3. Richard Ogbeche- 4 votes
One vote was voided bringing the total votes to fifty nine(59). Stanley Chidi Imo having scored the highest number of votes was returned.
Next was the election for the office of Welfare Secretary and at the end of voting, the following results were returned;
1. Obong Essien- 24 votes
2. Sabastine Anyia-38 votes.
A total of sixty two votes was counted and Sabastine Anyia was returned having scored the highest number of votes.
From the total number of votes cast for the office of 1st Vice President and the office of the Welfare Secretary, it seems some members of the committee abstained from voting  in the elections for the office of 1st Vice President which explains the difference in the number of votes.
At the end of the exercise, the aspirants were invited back to the room and the results were announced and winners declared. The following were therefore screened and cleared  by the committee;
A. Asst Publicity Secretary- Seth Nwokolo
B. Financial Secretary- Elias Emeka Anosike
C. Legal Adviser- Nnamdi Eze
D. Welfare Secretary: Sabastine Anyia
E. Treasurer- Uju Mary Chukwuma- Okafor
F. Ist Vice President: Stanley Chidi Imo
G. President- Arthur Obi Okafor SAN

Worthy to mention at this point is the rebuttal published by the Chairman of Uyo Branch Eno- Obong Akpan alleging that the Chairman of Oron Branch Richard Ekong Bassey  and herself left the meeting before the commencement of voting. I have not  been able to get anyone who was present to confirm or deny the veracity of that rebuttal but only to add that I never saw the duo leave the screening room for as at the commencement of voting,  the door to the room was securely locked and no one was giving an opportunity of ingress or egress.

I must commend all members of the committee for the decorum, maturity, patience and wisdom displayed in course of the screening exercise. All issues that cropped up in course of the exercise were discussed through and firm decisions taken. I also commend the Chairman of Eket Branch U. D. I. Imeh Esq. who showed maturity as a committed Bar man and a two time member of the Governing Council of the Eastern Bar Forum. He preserved throughout the meeting and showed himself as a committed EBF member that he is.

After the announcement of the results and the cleared aspirants, the meeting came to close at about 1100 hours and members were asked to proceed immediately to the NBA PH House the venue of the General Meeting

STAGE TWO; THE RATIFICATION
By the clear provisions of Article 11.8 of the EBF Constitution, after the screening of candidates by the screening committee, the results of the committee shall be presented immediately before the general meeting for ratification. In line with this extant provision of the Constitution, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the EBF in course of the general meeting of the EBF held on 3rd February, 2018 at NBA PH House, invited Chief Ogbonnaya O. Igwenyi, a past chairman of the EBF and a member of the Screening Committee to come forward and present the report of the committee. Chief Ogbonnaya O. Igwenyi thoroughly presented the report of the Screening Committee to the General Meeting and thereafter by a motion moved by the Chairman of Ukwa Branch, Nwosuegbe Munachi Eze Esq. and seconded by S. Long Williams Esq. the report was ratified and accepted by the General Meeting thus the aspirants listed above became the official potential candidates of the EBF in the forthcoming NBA National Elections

We urge all learned members of the EBF to remember that our sustained unity is our strength. From inception, the EBF has always carried out adoptions which were implemented and supervised by Past Governors which includes the Premier Governor of the EBF, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN who served the EBF meritoriously for six(6) years, Hon. Kemasuode Wodu, Hon. Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Bayelsa State, Chief Ogbonnaya Igwenyi & Elder Efeffiom O. E. Ekong.

The candidates of the EBF as adopted at all times represents the collective will, interest and consciousness of the EBF. It is their turn today, tomorrow shall spring forth the turn of others. I urge all EBF members to please respect and abide by the arrangements and decisions of EBF so that we don’t walk alone.

ADDENDUM:
I have read with awe the false, wicked and diversionary propaganda being spewed by some of our colleagues who attended the adoption meeting and partook in all its delicious trappings that violence marred the adoption meeting and therefore no adoption took place. It is important that I inform the Bar and the general public of the true facts of the so called violence now being propagated to tarnish the EBF adoption meeting.
The Aba Branch of the NBA after the 2016 Branch elections split into two camps. Each camp claims to be the legitimate executive of the branch. While one camp led by Bob Ogwu Esq. has in its possession and control the asset of the branch including the two buses owned by the branch, the other camp led by Uchenna Umenne Esq. has no control over any of the branch assets. The Bob Ogwu camp arrived Port Harcourt with the two buses for the EBF Meeting on 3rd February, 2018. The Uchenna Umenne camp saw it as an opportunity to have one of the buses and launched a sting operation to take possession of one of the buses. This led to a fracas between supporters of the two camps and in the confusion that ensued, the driver of the invaded buse was injured. The NBA PH Branch Chairman, Omubo Victor Frankbriggs intervened in a bid to maintain peace and took control of the particular bus that was in contention. The bus is still lying at the premises of NBA PH  HOUSE pending when the issues will be resolved. Gentlemen please if any one tells you or propagate in whatever media that there was violence because of the adoption, know that it’s a cheap, wicked and malicious lie. These are facts verifiable by anyone including publishers of Bar issues and related matters.

God bless the Eastern Bar Forum
God bless the Nigerian Bar Association.

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