By M.T Mohammed, Esq Immediate past Chairman of NBA Kaduna Branch
In the midst of internal disputes and controversies within the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), there emerges a need to scrutinize the actions and statements of key national officers – the 3rd Vice President and the Treasurer. As the immediate past Chairman of a branch and a close observer of these developments, I feel compelled to delve into the details of these issues and provide an objective analysis. While I am not advocating for the President or taking sides in these matters, my proximity to these national officers and the evidence at hand allows me to offer a comprehensive perspective.
Understanding the Context
Let us begin by examining the situation with the 3rd Vice President, who recently penned an article titled “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT.” In this piece, she expressed her disappointment in not being included in the Conference Planning Committee and alleged a lack of representation at the Annual General Conference (AGC). Her grievances revolve around a perceived sense of entitlement – the belief that she should have a seat at the table.
The 3rd Vice President’s lamentations about not being part of committees raise an important question: Should national officers be content with their roles, or is there a legitimate need for them to seek additional responsibilities? The NBA Constitution, in fact, does not mandate the President to include national officers in the Conference Planning Committee, though it may be beneficial for collaboration. The National Executive Council (NEC) approved the President’s selection, effectively resolving any disputes about committee membership. It is perplexing why the issue of the 3rd Vice President’s inclusion in the committee has gained such prominence, especially in the absence of demonstrated exceptional organizational skills.
Furthermore, the 3rd Vice President’s claim of having no knowledge of the conference plans is contradicted by pictorial evidence that shows all national officers attending a briefing session. During this session, the Alternate Chair of the Conference Planning Committee provided extensive information and addressed concerns raised by the national officers. The assertion of ignorance appears to be a falsehood, casting doubt on the Vice President’s credibility.
Protocol and Pettiness
At the same briefing session, a rather petty dispute emerged among the national officers regarding the order of mention in titles. One Vice President took offense when the Alternate Chair referred to the national officers as “Honourable GS and other national officers.” This incident highlights the recurring issue of protocol within the NBA, where the order of precedence has been a subject of contention. It is worth noting that these matters should ideally be reserved for formal gatherings.
Quality of Leadership
The quality of leadership within the NBA has also come under scrutiny, particularly regarding the conduct and language used by the 3rd Vice President. While she claimed to represent herself and other national officers whose responsibilities she believes are being usurped, she failed to show restraint in her choice of words. Referring to colleagues as “ass-licking Officers” is not only derogatory but also unbecoming of a high-ranking officer in the association. This type of language is not in line with the standards of professionalism and civility that should be upheld.
The “Familiarization Tour” Controversy
Shifting our focus to the contentious issue of the “familiarization tour,” it is important to note that the 3rd Vice President embarked on this tour without the President’s approval. The President, citing his interpretation of the NBA’s constitution, made it clear that he would not endorse or finance such trips unless there was a crisis. The President’s stance is consistent with the constitution, which does not mention “familiarisation tours.”
The question arises: Why did the 3rd Vice President proceed with the tour against the President’s explicit instructions? The President’s interpretation aligns with NBA practice, and there is no precedent for familiarization tours in the association’s history. This move by the Vice President can be viewed as insubordination, even when considering her own account of events.
It is essential to respect the President’s interpretation of the constitution and the established norms of the NBA. The National Executive Council (NEC) would likely prefer to uphold the President’s viewpoint on this matter.
Understanding the Duties of National Officers
To clarify any misconceptions, it is crucial to note that issues related to Human Rights do not fall under the purview of the 3rd Vice President, as claimed in her article. The NBA Constitution clearly outlines the duties of the 3rd Vice President, which do not encompass Human Rights matters.
Additionally, the role of the 2nd Vice President in coordinating branches under their jurisdiction, as exemplified during the author’s tenure as Chairman, illustrates that such coordination can occur effectively without the need for familiarization tours. Modern communication tools like phone calls and WhatsApp platforms suffice to coordinate branches in the absence of crises.
President’s Discretion and Constitutional Amendments
National Officers must remember that the NBA Constitution grants the President the discretion to assign additional responsibilities to any officer. The President’s decision to assign duties to an officer is based on their capacity and competency. Those who believe the President wields too much power have the option to initiate constitutional amendments. It is important to note that the President is not responsible for the constitutional framework but rather operates within the parameters defined by the constitution.
The Disappointing Treasurer
Turning our attention to the Treasurer of the Association, it is evident that she holds one of the most critical roles among national officers. The Treasurer’s duties, as outlined in the NBA Constitution, are extensive and encompass a wide range of responsibilities, including financial management.
Unfortunately, the Treasurer’s performance has fallen short of expectations. Her duties extend beyond the preparation of financial reports, yet she appears to limit her role to this aspect. Furthermore, the Treasurer has demonstrated a misunderstanding of her role by insisting on her consent for financial transactions and refusing to sign reports that she did not prepare. Such actions seem to be motivated by a desire for personal gain, as she aims to contest for another national office in 2024.
Neglected Duties and a Lack of Accountability
The Treasurer’s failure to fulfill several key duties outlined in the constitution is a matter of concern. These include ensuring that branch members pay their annual practicing fees, compiling and circulating lists of fee payment statuses, and presenting quarterly management reports to the National Executive Council. The absence of these essential functions raises questions about accountability and adherence to constitutional obligations.
It is essential for all national officers to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, civility, and adherence to the NBA Constitution. Disagreements and disputes should be resolved through constructive dialogue and adherence to established norms and procedures.
I plead with the 3rd Vice President and the Treasurer (indeed all national Officers) to cooperate and support our amiable President, Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau OON, SAN in his giant stride and in his determination to reposition and transform NBA. We are all living witnesses to his remarkable achievements within one year in office. The medical outreach alone (among others) introduced as part of the annual conference in collaboration with Kebbi State Government is a wonderful experience which put smile on the faces of many and relief to many deserving members and the less privileged among the citizens. This was achieved at no cost to the NBA. This isn’t the first laudable project the President has implemented at no cost to the NBA. For the first time in the history of NBA, NEC meeting was held in Kebbi, Kebbi State at no cost to the NBA. NBA President should not be distracted.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of the Nigerian Bar Association.