South West lawyers bicker over consensus candidate for NBA presidency

Two senior lawyers opted out of a screening exercise.

Two aspirants, who have shown interest to be the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in its election slated for August, have opted out of a screening exercise scheduled to hold in Ibadan on Saturday.

A committee raised by the Egbe Amofin, a conglomerate of practicing lawyers in the southwest, was to hold a special session at the Bar Centre where all the four candidates vying for the NBA presidency were expected to submit themselves for screening ahead of the election.

But, two of the candidates, Funke Adekoya and Niyi Akintola, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, wrote protest letters to the screening committee, copies of which were made available to journalists in Ibadan on Friday.

As part of its tradition of rotating its leadership among various zones in Nigeria, the NBA has zoned its next president to the southwest, with lawyers trying, but failing, to get a consensus from the zone.

There are suspicions that some influential members of the association want Dele Adesina, also a SAN, as the consensus candidate.

In her letter dated February 20, and specifically addressed to Priscilla Kuye, the chairperson of the screening committee, Mrs. Adekoya alleged that the committee is populated by unfit and compromised members, who may likely impose unpopular decision on the zone for the election.

The lawyer gave five reasons to question the integrity of some of the members of the committee.

She said the committee may use other criteria other than merit in arriving at a choice for a consensus candidate, saying, “The committee did not discuss or decide on whether the criteria established by the previous screening committee (or any other criteria) were to be used for the selection of a candidate”.

Also, Mrs. Adekoya alleged that chairmen of some NBA branches who are members of the committee, were overheard after a meeting of a group (Egbe Amofin) describing the proposed exercise as “a waste of time as they have already decided on which candidate to endorse’.

“As record of the Egbe meeting at Ibadan will confirm, some branch chairmen do not represent the interests of their branches. Some members at the meeting protested to my hearing that their branch chairmen were not in any position to represent their interest and that of the branch as they were already compromised and therefore on self-serving mission.

“Some chairmen cannot legitimately represent their branches as their tenure has either expired or will expire later this month.

“Some branch chairmen have received huge financial inducement in order to vote in a particular way,” the letter alleged.

Mr. Akintola, whose letter is dated February 18, gave similar excuses for his decision to opt out of the screening exercise.

According to him, apart from the allegation of inducement against some members of the committee, some of them had less than 10 years post-call experience which, according to him, is against the tradition of respect for seniority in the legal profession.

“Seniority at the bar is a long respected rule in our profession. Unfortunately, the composition of the committee of chairmen as the screening committee has constituted an abuse of this cherished rule and subjecting myself to the committee will amount to aiding in this abuse.

“Furthermore, the decision to make branch chairmen to screen candidates on behalf of the generality of members of Egbe cannot be truly representative of the aspiration and desire of our members. It is a known fact that branches have different numbers of delegates, depending on their respective sizes,” he said.

Perhaps giving credence to some of the issues raised in the letters, members of some of the NBA branches to participate in the screening had also written to the committee to disown their representatives.

Letters from Badagry and Ikorodu, both in Lagos, were copied journalists in Ibadan on Friday.

While the Egbe Amofin appears to prefer a consensus candidate for the August election, all modalities employed to achieve this have failed.

The committee that would meet in Ibadan on Saturday was the third one set up by the group to choose a consensus candidate. The first two were inconclusive.

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