By Kayode Sanni-Arewa
A legal Practitioner and social critic, S.O. Akobe, has raised alarm over some decisions and official statements emanating from the current leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association. Recall that recently the NBA President, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN rated INEC'S performance in the last Presidential/National Assembly Elections as an excellent performance and that only 10% of the electorates were dissatisfied with the conduct of the said elections. The said assessment did not go down well with many Lawyers in Nigeria as many rose to condemned NBA President's comment in that regard.
This week, it was widely reported that the NBA President informed the National Executive Council of the Association at its quarterly meeting held in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State that he has submitted list of members of the Association who volunteered to assist INEC with legal services, free of charge. The NBA President was reported to have further informed the NBA-NEC that INEC was happy for the pro-bono offer of legal services from the Lawyers. It was further reported that the NBA President who initiated the pro-bono services explained that the role members of the Association will play in defense of INEC is not to defend INEC at all cost but to offer legal direction in accordance with the justice of each case.
Reacting to this development via his Twitter handle, S. O. Akobe, Esq. wrote that NBA is derailing suicidally under its current leadership. According to the fiery Lawyer, NBA is now engaging in ambulance chasing and brief solicitation from INEC under the guise of offering pro bono services to INEC. He challenged the NBA President to make public the Lawyers who made such offers and whose names were submitted to INEC in that regard.
He stated: “I read with dismay a very bizarre headline with the caption, “2023 Election Cases: NBA Members to defend INEC in Courts Free of Charge”. At first, I thought it was just a comical story typical of Nigerians who now “catch cruise” with everything nowadays. The previous night, I had read a story in one of the popular Dailies where some Nigerians were reported to have told the Super Eagles “to go to Court” if they are not satisfied with their 1:0 loss to Guinea Bissau in Abuja on Friday!. So, I took the headline relating to NBA to be another cruise of the day. Alas, I was mistaken: The NBA President indeed, made the said pronouncement.
“Honestly, l am left to wonder what the current leadership of the NBA tend to achieve in this unprecedented, sudden affinity with the electoral umpire. On what basis is NBA offering pro bono legal services to INEC? Is INEC a destitute organization or a ‘broke' institution? Here is a Body which budgeted 355 billion Naira of innocent Taxpayers in Nigeria to conduct the 2023 general elections but failed to conduct credible polls and, yet, being offered to be defended “free of charge” by the NBA – a body of lawyers which under normal circumstances, ought to lead the crusade against INEC'S disappointing performance in the 2023 general polls. When INEC budgeted 355b from taxpayers' money for the 2023 Polls it knew very well that litigations are inevitable and must have therefore, taken cost of litigations in court into consideration in its budget. So, where is the free legal services or pro bono idea coming from?, the lawyer queried.
He concluded: “The truth is that NBA is derailing in geometric progression under the current regime. All of a sudden, NBA has become INEC's sole “corporate sympathizer” that now cries more than the bereaved. The lawyers who purportedly offered through NBA to defend INEC ‘free of charge' are liable of what is known as “ambulance chasing” – that is, a lawyer soliciting for clients at a disaster site . Their action is a gross violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. They are indirectly, soliciting for briefs from the electoral umpire; an action which the Rules of Professional Conduct abhors. Their names must be made public for necessary disciplinary actions. They must not be shielded. It would have been more dignifying if it was INEC that cried out to NBA for free legal services. The ridiculous aspect of this heartbreaking news therefore, is that it is NBA that is now begging cap in hands to offer free legal services to a ‘billionaire-Institution' like INEC. May I borrow the biblical words of St. Paul to ask, Oh Foolish ‘Galatians', who has bewitched you?”.