An eminent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN has responded to the letter of Chief Awomolo (SAN) which tends to suggest that only members of the Inner Bar should occupy the office of the NBA President.

In a letter made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), Chief Orbih disagreed with Awomolo and listed the number of past Presidents which shows that 15 were non-SANs while 13 were SANs

He said the non-SAN presidents neither ridiculed the SAN rank nor the office of the President

He, therefore, urged Chief Awomolo to allow NBA to freely make their choice as the NBA constitution does not limit eligibility for NBa presidential office to the rank of SAN

Read the full letter below:

Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN needs no introduction in the legal profession in general and politics of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in particular.

The Chief in a recent widely circulated letter addressed to Chief T.J.O. Okpoko, SAN  expressed some very strong views on NBA leadership and her future as follows.    

“…unannounced but powerful and potent revolutionary move by our junior colleagues who are much in larger numbers to wrestle the office of the NBA from the rank of SAN. That in my view will be unfortunate for the rank. To the members of the public a ridicule of the rank and office of the President of the NBA.”

It is common knowledge that the NBA ECNBA has cleared three [3] candidates to run for the office of President of the NBA in the forthcoming NBA 2020 elections; two candidates are from the inner Bar and one is from the outer Bar. Apparently, the Chief’s expressed position is based on his fear that the candidate from the outer Bar appears to be more widely acceptable to the Bar and may win the 2020 NBA elections. However, this is not the first time that a member of the outer Bar is contesting for the Office of NBA President. In the 2012 NBA elections Late Blessing Emomena Ukiri, Esq. of Port-Harcourt Branch ran for the office of NBA President. In the 2014 NBA elections, O. J. Erhabor, Esq. of Ilesha Branch ran for the office of NBA President. It is interesting to note that the Chief Awomolo, SAN did not intervene in this manner in any of these past elections to truncate the possible election of a member of the outer Bar as NBA President. I will say no more on this for now.

It would be important to review the position of Chief Awomolo, SAN by reference to the history of the NBA, which I believe most members of the Association are very familiar with. Kindly note that Dr. Mudiaga Odje, SAN [of blessed memory] to whom Chief Awomolo, SAN referred to, served as NBA President from 1974-1975 but took silk on 1st December, 1978.

The list of NBA Presidents since independence in 1960 till date is set out below:

 

S/NO NAME NBA PRESIDENCY ELEVATION TO SAN
1. Frederick Rotimi Williams 1960–1968 3/4/75
2. Peter Thomas 1968 – 1969 NEVER TOOK SILK
3. Chief B.M Boyo 1969 – 1970 NEVER TOOK SILK
4. Chief Richard Akinjide 1970–1973 1/12/1978
5. Chief Adebayo Ogunsanya 1973–1974 16/7/90
6. Dr. Mudiaga Odje 1974 – 1975 1/12/1978
7. Dr. Nwakamma Okoro 1976 – 1978 1/12/1978
8. Chief B.O. Benson 1978–1980 1983
9. Chief Adetunji Fadayiro 1980–1982 3/5/88
10.  A.N Anyamene 1982 – 1984 5/3/81
11. Prince Bola Ajibola 1984–1985 5/6/86
12.  Ebele Nwokoye 1985 – 1987 NEVER TOOK SILK
13.  Alao Aka-Bashorun 1987 – 1989 NEVER TOOK SILK
14.  Charles Idehen 1989 – 1991 NEVER TOOK SILK
15.  Chief Clement Akpamgbo 1991 – 1992 31/7/85
16.  Priscilla Kuye 1991 – 1992 NEVER TOOK SILK
17.  Chief T.J.O Okpoko 1998 – 2000 25/2/87
18.  O.C.J Okocha 2000 – 2002 24/4/95
19.  Chief Wole Olanipekun 2002 – 2004 19/7/91
20. Chief Bayo Ojo 2004 – 2005 20/9/99
21.  Prince Lanke Odogiyon 2005 – 2006 NEVER TOOK SILK
22. Olisa Agbakoba 2006 – 2008 14/9/98
23. Olurotimi Akeredolu 2008 – 2010 14/9/98
24. Joseph Bodurin Daudu 2010 – 2012 24/4/95
25. Okey Wali 2012 – 2014 31/10/2007
26. Augustine O. Alegeh 2014 – 2016 31/10/2007
27. Mahmoud Abubakar Balarabe 2016 – 2018 25/7/2001
28. Paul Usoro 2018 – 2020 8/9/2003

 

The above table shows clearly that the NBA has had 15 Presidents from the Outer Bar and 13 Presidents who took silk prior to their election as NBA President.

I do not believe that any of these fine gentlemen of the Bar, who became NBA Presidents from the outer Bar ridiculed the rank of SAN or the office of the NBA President. I do not believe that it is intention of Chief Awomolo, SAN to denigrate the memories and/or lofty contributions of these our respected and noble Past Presidents, as the position he canvassed in his letter under reference would seem to suggest.

We have several respected senior members of the Bar who have never applied for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. These are respected and responsible Bar leaders in their own rights. We also have senior members of the Bar who have specialized in Corporate Law matters but are not involved in Litigation and would consequently, not be eligible for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The position Chief Awomolo, SAN is pushing has the tendency to totally deprive them the opportunity to aspire to lead the Bar. This would in my humble view be unfair.

The NBA Constitution, 2015 [as amended] sets out the qualifications for the office of NBA President and it does not limit the office of NBA President to only holders of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The position canvassed by the Chief Awomolo, SAN clearly offends the NBA Constitution.

Our Bar is built on inclusiveness and every member of the Bar must be allowed to aspire to lead the Bar after meeting the qualification criteria set out in the NBA Constitution. We must accept and embrace the aspirations of all members of the Association. We must allow our members to freely choose who leads the Association at each election.

Finally, I am of the humble but firm view that rather than seek a means of truncating the aspiration of a member of the outer Bar from emerging as President of the NBA in the forthcoming NBA elections, Chief Awomolo, SAN should showcase any qualities that the candidate of his choice has to offer the Bar and allow the Bar to decide freely.

May God continue to bless my respected Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN and keep him in good health.

Chief Ferdinand Oshioke Orbih, SAN

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