Former NBA general secretary accuses president, Yakubu Maikyau of dictatorship, abuse of authority

Former NBA general secretary accuses president, Yakubu Maikyau of dictatorship, abuse of authority

  A former general secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nimi Walson-Jack, has accused

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A former general secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nimi Walson-Jack, has accused the president of the association, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), of dictatorship and abuse of authority.

Walson-Jack described his suspension from the National Executive Council (NEC) of the association as a return to the dark ages of socialism and communism when governments sanctioned and jailed lawyers for representing innocent persons.

The former general secretary made this known in a statement titled “The unconstitutionality and illegality of the suspension of Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack from the NEC of the Nigerian Bar Association.”

He said that his suspension is an act of intimidation and harassment, which hinders his ability to continue to provide legal services to citizens who incidentally are also lawyers.

Walson-Jack warned that if the leadership of NBA is allowed to get away with the illegality of his suspension, the right of Nigerians to lawyers of their choice, and the duty of lawyers to their clients would become endangered.

He also called on International Lawyers’ Organisations, members of the legal profession in Nigeria and abroad, the Nigerian judiciary, the media, and Nigerians to question the commitment of the leadership of NBA to promote the rule of law.

The statement reads, “The NBA at the last meeting of its NEC held on Thursday, 15 December, 2022, in Abuja, deliberated on a crackdown on members of the legal profession who are advocating and championing the formation of a new professional association for lawyers in Nigeria and resolved to take punitive measures against them.

“In paragraph 2.1(e) of its communique issued on December 15, 2022, and signed by Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), and Daniel Ka-ayii Kip, its president, and assistant general secretary, respectively, the NBA stated that, “NEC particularly resolves that a past general secretary, Nimi Walson-Jack, who acted as a solicitor to the promoters of the new law society be stripped of his privileges as past general secretary and consequently, be suspended from being a member of the NEC of the association.”

“The communique is clear on the fact that the reason for punishment (if it could be called that) is for discharging a professional duty to provide legal services to members of society.

“The resolution to punish me for representing the promoters of the new law society is a return to the dark ages of socialism and communism when governments sanctioned and jailed lawyers for representing persons whose activities were considered contrary to those of the political leadership.

“This infamous resolution would win a gold medal in the coven of dictators, not in the assembly of lawyers in defense of democracy and the tule of law.

“It is an affront to the right of lawyers to represent the diverse interests of their law-abiding clients.

“The leadership of the NBA, by its resolution, breached the constitution of the NBA, my fundamental right to a fair hearing, and the right of my clients to counsel of their choice.

“The president of the NBA was the accuser, persecutor, prosecutor, and judge in his cause.

“It is interesting to note that a weighty issue like the suspension of a past general secretary from the decision-making body of the association, was not listed on the agenda for the meeting, which was circulated in the morning of the meeting.

“I was neither informed of any complaint against me by any person, lawyer, or non-lawyer nor asked to respond to any complaint or allegation bothering on my representation, as a solicitor, of the interests of my clients, the promoters of a new law society who are citizens of Nigeria and distinguished lawyers.

“In the haste to condemn, the leadership of our NBA acted without observance of the basic procedure of listening to the other party.

“The president and the NEC did not invite me and did not hear from me before taking a decision that has tainted the image and reputation of the NBA.

“No opportunity was given to me to make a presentation before a penalty for a non-existent offence was imposed on me.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no provision in the constitution of the NBA that prohibits a lawyer and member of the association from supporting, advocating, defending, promoting, or representing the promoters for the establishment of another association of lawyers in Nigeria.

“No offence was committed in my representation of the promoters of a new law society distinct from the NBA.

“The right of my clients to counsel, the right of every person to counsel is a fundamental principle of the tule of law enshrined in global conventions, treaties, protocols, national legislation, and rules of professional conduct.

“By rule 24(1) of the rules of professional conduct (RPC) 2007, a lawyer in Nigeria must accept any brief, provided that the appropriate professional costs are paid or agreed upon.

“The basic principles on the role of lawyers adopted on September 7, 1990, by the eighth United Nations (UN) congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, Havana, Cuba, recognized the need for adequate protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which all persons are entitled, and requires that all persons have effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession.

“Access to lawyers and legal services is guaranteed, and all persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect and establish their rights and to defend them.

“The NBA, as a professional association of lawyers, has a vital role to play in upholding professional standards and ethics, protecting its members from persecution and improper restrictions and infringements, and providing legal services to all in need of them, furthering the ends of justice and public interest.

“Ironically, it is the leadership of a professional association of lawyers that has improperly interfered with my ability to perform all of my professional functions.

“The civil and penal immunity I have enjoyed for 39 years as a barrister and solicitor of the upreme court of Nigeria has been breached and violated by the leadership of the NBA, which should be defending my professional services and appearances before courts, tribunals or other legal or administrative authorities, like the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“In our country, to refuse or decline to represent the interest of a party could be considered sanctionable under the rules of professional conduct.

“The NEC of the NBA has colluded with the leadership to punish me for representing persons whose activities are contrary to the interests of some persons in leadership positions.

“The resolution to punish me for representing the promoters of the new law society is a return to the dark ages of socialism and communism when governments sanctioned and jailed lawyers for representing persons whose activities were considered contrary to those of the political leadership.

“This infamous resolution would win a gold medal in the coven of dictators, not in the assembly of lawyers in defense of democracy and the rule of law.

“The moral of the decision to suspend me is not lost when it is noted that among the NEC members who took this ignominious resolution are lawyers who have represented corrupt politicians, election riggers, money-launderers, drug traffickers, kidnappers, and confessed murderers.

“As a lawyer, one cannot deride them for the interests many of them represent because they were only discharging their legal responsibility.

“In deciding to suspend me from the NEC, the leadership of the bar was blinded by dislike or hate of my person, that they overlooked the constitutionality of my membership.

“Section 8 (1) (b) of the NBA constitution 2015, provides for automatic membership of the NEC by past presidents and general secretaries.

“In the process of my suspension, the leadership or the NBA chose in one breath to ignore our constitution and in another breath amend the constitution.

“The NEC has no power to suspend, expel or remove a statutory member like me unless the constitution is amended, an exclusive preserve of the annual general meeting.

“Overriding our constitution shows how low the leadership of the bar has gone and is ready to go in furtherance of parochial interests.

“My suspension from the NEC is the second unconstitutional and illegal action the leadership of the NBA has embarked on within five months.

“The first was the suspension of a serving General Secretary, Joyce Oduah, by the Olumide Akpata-led administration, which was also ratified by NEC.

“Both the suspension and its ratification were set aside by a federal high court in Abuja.

“In its ruling, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that the action of the NBA’s NEC constituted an affront to the rule of law and overreached court proceedings in the suit.

“The court held that the NBA-NEC which gave legal effect to the general secretary’s suspension acted in bad faith and utter disregard for the proceedings of the court.

“This is an indictment of lawyers who ought to know the law and work for the ends of justice.

“It beats the imagination of every rational being, why the leadership body of an association of lawyers would brazenly embark on actions, that even a court of law has recognized as an affront to the rule of law, in bad faith and utter disregard for the proceedings of the court.

“The leadership of NBA has continued to act contrary to known legal and professional principles.”