TheNigeriaLawyer Editorial

The controversies that has taken centre stage in Nigeria’s legal profession in the past two months or more, took a new dimension yesterday in what many onlookers and observers have considered a dramatic power play within the Council of National Officers.

To summarise the ongoing internal conflict, on the 26th and 27th of June, the General Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Oduah and the Assistant General Secretary, respectively, issued a notice stating that hearing and voting for the amended 2021 Constitution of the NBA will be held at the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the Association, in Lagos.

However, in a dramatic twist, the General Secretary in a statement dated 12th of August and made available to the general public stated that there is no motion for the amendment of the 2015 Constitution as amended in 2021. She said confirmed her withdrawal of the notice she issued earlier on the ground of non-compliance with Section 15(1) of the NBA Constitution.

She also declared the notice issued by the Assistant General Secretary as unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void.

In a swift response, the NBA President, Olumide Akpata in a statement made available to TheNigeriaLawyer on the 13th of August, urged all and sundry to discountenance the purported withdrawal of the notice of proposed constitutional amendments by the General Secretary, saying same was not authorised by all other National Officers.

He reaffirmed the validity of the earlier notices sent out by the Gen Sec and her Assistant on the 27th of July as subsisting.

This conflict of positions between the President and General Secretary has raised questions within the minds of inquisitive observers on the hierarchy of National Officers and the position of the General Secretary in the order of hierarchy and allotted powers in the Association.

It is this position that TheNigeriaLawyer seeks to clarify is this brief article.

To ascertain to hierarchy of officers in the Association, reference must be made to the Constitution of the Association which creates and empowers the various National Officers.

Section 8 of the NBA Constitution lists the various National offices and their qualifications as follows:

“The National Officers of the Association shall be elected as provided under this Constitution for a single term of two years.

2. The National Officers of the Association shall be –
a. The President
b. The First Vice-President
c. The Second Vice-President
d. The Third Vice-President
e. The General Secretary
f. The Assistant Secretary
g. The Treasurer
h. The Welfare Secretary
i. The Financial Secretary
j. The Publicity Secretary
k. The Assistant Publicity Secretary”

In the above list, the General Secretary comes after the 3 Vice Presidents, and the list suggests he/she comes after them in hierarchy and authority within the Association.

Also, Sub section 3 which provides for the qualifications for contesting the various offices stipulates that the President, 1st VP, 2nd VP and 3rd VP must have at least 15 years post-call experience, while for the General Secretary, it is reduced to 10 years post call.

It is also believed that the requisite experience needed for the various offices is an attestation of their respective placing in the hierarchy, and in that regard the General Secretary lags behind the President, 1st, 2nd and 3rd VP.

However, in the allocation of powers under subsection 5 of Section 8, while the 3 VPs are empowered to merely act in the absence of the President, and supervise branches under their jurisdictions, the General Secretary is allotted more responsibilities as follows:

“The General Secretary under the overall direction of the President shall be in charge of the National Secretariat and other offices of the Association and his/her duties shall include the following:

i. He/She shall, on the instruction of the President or in accordance with
a previous decision of the National Executive Committee or pursuant
to a requisition made in accordance with the provisions of this
Constitution, summon the Annual General Meeting, Meetings of the
National Executive Committee or other meetings of the Association;
ii. He/She shall record and keep the minutes including attendance and
summary of all decisions taken thereat;
iii. He/She shall write and dispatch circulars, letters, and other
correspondence of the Association including that of the National
Executive Committee;
iv. He/She shall keep a roll of members and an up-to-date list of
Branches of the Association;
v. He/She shall furnish an annual return or special reports of the
activities of the Association or any of its organs at the Annual General
Meeting;
vi. He/She shall be an ex-officio member of all committees of the
Association;
vii. He/She shall perform all other duties as may be assigned to him/her
by the President or the National Executive Committee or the Annual
General Meeting”

It might be argued the conferment of more relevant responsibilities on the General Secretary over and above the Vice Presidents is an indication of his/her preeminence over them in the actual day-to-day running of the Association.

It is our view that even if the General Secretary is ranked Fifth in political succession in NBA, the office is ranked second with respect to NBA power structure.

Thus, if the President is removed, dies or resigns the 1VP with take over but it is only the GS that becomes a life NEC member alongside the President after leaving offfice . The GS also exercises more powers than the VPs.

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