Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday nullified the ratification of the suspension of Joyce Oduah as Secretary General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The ruling came just as the President-elect of the NBA, Mr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, yesterday promised to deal with sexual harassment of female lawyers, and create employment opportunities for young lawyers.
Justice Mohammed voided the ratification for being an affront to the rule of law and in violation of the court’s proceedings. Delivering ruling in the application filed and argued by Mr. Ayotunde Ogunleye on behalf of the plaintiff, the judge held that the NBA’s NEC which gave legal effect to the suspension of the plaintiff acted in bad faith and in utter disregard to the proceedings of the court.
According to the ruling, the ratification done on August 21, 2022, ought not to have been carried out by the NEC in view of the pendency of a suit challenging the suspension in the first instance.
The court in addition said the purported ratification was not only an affront to the court, but a denigration of the sanctity of the judiciary which on several occasions had been condemned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Justice Mohammed observed that having submitted to the court’s jurisdiction and joined issues with the plaintiff in court and with or without express order of court, no party ought to have taken any further steps on the subject matter of the litigation.
He, therefore, described the action of the NBA’s Council in relation to the unlawful ratification as irritating, annoying, condemnable, adding that it is liable to be set aside since the actors in the illegal ratification cannot claim ignorance of the position of the law on such contemptuous attitude.
The National Executive Committee (EXCO) of the NBA led by Olumide Akpata had on August 15, 2022 suspended the General Secretary pending ratification by NBA’s NEC for final removal from office.
Nine out of eleven officers who signed the resolution authorising the suspension also referred Mrs Oduah to the NBA’s NEC for disciplinary action and for removal from office for alleged gross misconduct.
However, while the NBA’s NEC ratified the suspension, it declined to ratify recommendation for removal of the plaintiff from office on the ground of her subsisting legal action against the suspension.
Meanwhile, the court has fixed August 31 for hearing in a motion on notice seeking mandatory order of injunction against the defendants in the suit.
NBA President-Elect Vows to Deal with Sexual Harassment of Female Lawyers
In the meantime, Maikyau, yesterday promised to deal with sexual harassment of female lawyers, and create employment opportunities for young lawyers.
He stated this yesterday, at a plenary session with the theme: ” NBA in Transition; Conversation with the NBA Presidents,” at the ongoing NBA conference in Lagos.
Maikyau also promised to improve and encourage health insurance for all members.
Maikyau said his administration would uphold the legacy built by his predecessors and most importantly that of the Olumide Akpata led administration.
He promised to uphold decision making, create employment opportunities for young lawyers, improve and encourage health insurance for all members, deal with sexual harassment for female lawyers.
“We will make sure all lawyers benefit from the health insurance scheme. The N1.5 billion Akpata administration save as the steriliation fund will be built on. The law officers in the prosecuting duty will not find it difficult to work under my administration.
“We will work for perfect law firm mentorship program to build young lawyers. All of us will be impacted, you will be able to pay your practicing fee and get your stamp and seal in due time.”
He added, “There’s nothing that will deter me from continuing in what our fathers have laid down.”
He said his administration would be fair to all and treat everyone equally no matter who is involved.
Mikyau said he was committed to take the association to greater heights, adding that his administration would ensure welfare packages to all the members.
He emphasised that he would build on the accountability, regulation and transparency stressing that the voice of the bar has been restored.
Maikyau thanked his predecessors for maintaining transparency in justice delivery and pledged to build on it.
“There’s nothing that will deter me from continuing in what our fathers have laid down. My administration will be fair to all and treat everyone equally no matter who the person is,” he added.
He appreciated NBA members for electing him as the president and also participating in the election despite being an online voting.
In his remarks, the outgoing NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata said his administration had put in place an effective Secretariat, better remuneration, and thereby urged the incoming president to continue with the set legacy.
He also urged members to participate in the affairs of the association and boldly lay their complaints when necessary.
Akpata disclosed that 62,000 lawyers paid their practicing fee in year 2022, while 38,000 members participated in the election held recently.
He however stated that his administration did not measure up to expectation in the area of stamp and seals for lawyers due to lack of effective distribution as a result of weak secretariat
He urged members to participate in the affairs of the association and boldly lay their complaints when necessary.
The session which was coordinated by Kunle Ajagbe and Jane Asim- Etim Eta had in attendance, the present NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, Past Presidents, Mr. Paul Usoro, (SAN) and Mr. A.B Mahmoud (SAN).