Congratulations on the successful completion of your tenure as the Chairman of the Ikeja Bar.
You are welcome.
The beginning of your tenure as Chairman appeared to be rough as there was a challenge to your election: Can you tell us briefly what happened?
I would say the problem was caused as a result of a conflict of understanding or the interpretation of the NBA Constitution. During the Alegeh led administration of the NBA, a provision was passed that anyone who had held offices of the Bar on two occasions should not be eligible to hold any office of the Bar again until after five years. We took the position that the new provision became effective as from the date it was passed and could not be applied retroactively to those who had held offices before the passing of the provision. On the other hand, the Alegeh led Executive held that the new provision applied to anybody who had ever held offices before. In my own case, I had held three offices of the Bar and my last position was not up to the five year waiting period prescribed by the new provision. Of course, that provision could not apply to me unless it was applied retroactively. The Electoral Committee of the Ikeja Branch which was responsible for the Branch elections also disagreed with the position taken by the National Body. As such, I was allowed to contest the election and I won, becoming the Chairman of the Branch in 2016.
Reaction of the National Body
The NBA refused to recognise my election as the Chairman and ordered a purported bye-election for the position of the Chairman which Prince Dele Oloke won. We had to file an action in Court to restrain them from interfering with our functions.
How was the crisis resolved?
The Mahmoud led Executive took over at the National level and they adopted a different approach. They constituted a Committee to find a solution but the Committee has not submitted a report till date. Finally, it was after about one year into my tenure that my opponent then agreed to end his challenge to my chairmanship with the proviso that I should support his aspiration to become Chairman of the Branch after my tenure.
Can it be said that it was part of the agreement reached on the resolution of the crisis of your Chairmanship that imposed the current Executive led by the same Prince Dele Oloke on the Ikeja Bar?
I would say that his emergence is the electoral preference of the electorate. Even though his group believed that there should be no election concerning the office of the Chairman but I disagreed because that would have set a bad precedent. It would then mean that all you have to do to become Chairman is challenge the incumbent and then, reach a compromise for the incumbent to hand over to the challenger after his tenure. It was my view that other aspirants ought not to be denied their right to contest even if Prince Dele Oloke had the advantage of that previous compromise.
There is an allegation against you by the current Ikeja Bar Executive that you did not properly hand over to them and that because of this, the current Executive has not been able to access the accounts of the Association. What’s your response to this allegation?
They didn’t do what they ought to have done from the beginning. In the first place, his supporters insisted that he must be sworn in on the very day of election whereas the Constitution says the swearing in should be at the Annual General Meeting of the Branch. The election took place on Tuesday 26th of June and the AGM should have been on Thursday 28th of June, 2018 to be convened by my outgoing Executive. That is where we would have given a report of our activities. But they went ahead and did the swearing in on the 26th and so, I ceased to be the Chairman. That effectively prevented me from convening an AGM.
However, after the elections on the 26th, I handed over the following: the financial records, the receipts, the Cheque Books, the architectural drawings of the Bar Centre and the publications of the Branch.
It was some days after the elections that the current Chairman called to request a meeting with me. We agreed to meet on a Thursday at the Bar Centre. I was there on the appointed day and time but he was not there and he didn’t call. It was not until the 17th of July 2018 that we finally met. It was on that occasion that I was being informed that they have scheduled the AGM of the Branch for the 18th of July. It was there that I was given a letter to sign, written in my name and addressed to the Bank introducing the new Executive. I told them that I would not be able to sign the letter there and then because I needed to study the letter and possibly make my own copy. I also declined to attend the AGM because I considered it as illegal being an AGM which by law, ought to have been the closing function of my Executive. I didn’t want my presence there to validate the illegality. As it is now, the current Executive which has only a two year tenure will be convening three Annual General Meetings!
The Chairman has been reporting me as holding them to ransom by refusing to say n change of mandate for them. But he did not tell them that the delay was from their own end, that the mail the request of me only on the 17th whereas the AGM was to come up on the 18th.
It was after that AGM that the incumbent Treasurer and Publicity Secretary came to my office. They wanted me to sigh change of mandate forms but l told them that it was only fair, first to deal with the allegations raised against me. Those allegations were made against me in public and you can’t destroy my character in public and then appeal to me in private.
With the exit of your executive, do you think there is a danger that there may not be any opposition now if the Lagos State Government decides to go ahead with the tax increments?
I have done my bit and we have pointed out that the law is unconstitutional.
Sir, can you tell us some experiences you find unique during your tenure as Chairman of Ikeja Bar?
There were many crises right from the beginning, we were pitched against the National body of the NBA. I was dragged to various police stations seventeen times. Our opponents disrupted our meetings several times with armed police. On one occasion, the National Judicial Council referred me to the Disciplinary Committee of the NBA. They said I used uncouth language in a Petition we wrote to the NJC. Another one is the Land Use Charge challenge against the Lagos State Government. There were pressures from very highly placed people to give up the Land Use Charge protest. We were even induced with bribe when we refused to give up. When all these failed to derail us, we got trailed by drones so that I had to take special security measures to protect myself.
You seem to be promoting an organisation called Citizens Rally Against Oppression (CR). Can you tell us about this organisation?
The organisation is already established. Credit for the idea must be given to two young lawyers. The organisation is to mobilise the people against all manner of oppression. There is a need to mobilise people’s power to liberate themselves. God has done his part when he created us and gave us intelligence. We must then learn to take action to liberate ourselves. We cannot be expecting that another liberator like Moses will arise and save us. Like God told Moses to use the rod in his hand, the people already have what is needed to liberate themselves. So, we have to re-educate the people to raise their awareness to the awesome energy which they posses.
The NBA both at the local and the national levels seem not to be proactive in advocating for a speedy delivery of justice in this country?
Lawyers are part of the problem. Many do not follow the ethics of the profession. Some of them turn litigation to a war of attrition, knowing that there is no good defence, they turn litigation to a war of attrition to wear out the opponent so that they become tired and abandon their claims. The NBA is overwhelmed. The number of Judges are too small. For example, we need not less than Three Hundred Judges in Lagos State. But currently, there are only about Fifty Five and there are just two Court of Appeal panels in Lagos. How can these service a population of 20 million people?
Perhaps the Government is considering the financial burden?
What financial burden? A quick dispensation of justice has the capacity to revolutionise the entire economy. There are many people wanting to invest in the economy who are put off by the inordinate delay in resolving disputes. If disputes are resolved between two to three months, this will greatly stimulate the economy and generate massive revenue.