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‘Attempts By Body Of Benchers To Hoodwink The NBA And Surreptitiously Take Control Of The Bar Will Lead To Anarchy And Chaos’ — Jonathan Taidi

A Former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association and Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming NBA General Elections, Jonathan Gunu Taidi has lashed out against attempts by purportedly sponsored by the Body of Benchers to amend the Legal Practitioners Act and strip the NBA of its pristine powers, transferring same to the Body of Benchers (BoB).

Recall that on the 21st of June, 2022, The Lawyer reported a letter written by the NBA President, Olumide Akpata and addressed to the Chairman Body of Benchers, Wole Olanipekun SAN complaining about attempts “to transfer some of the exclusive powers of the Association to the Body of Benchers through a Bill for the amendment of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1975.” According to Akpata, “it has become obvious to the discerning that there is a blatant attempt to create a division in the profession and to decimate, if not extinguish the NBA outright.”

In his reaction to development, Jonathan Taidi described the moves as surreptitious and an attempt by some senior lawyers to display Lordship over the Association in revenge for the outcome of the 2020 General Elections which produced Akpata. Taidi in his statement made available to TheNigeriaLawyer decried that the joy which welcomed the news of the proposed amendment to the 1975 Act was short-lived by these bickering which is unbecoming for the profession.

He said: “The proposed amendment to the timeworn Legal Practitioners Act came as soothing news to progressive minds within the bar; finally we were going to do away with those inhibiting provisions which have outlived their usefulness.

Our joy was however cut short by the shocking revelation that the pristine bill intended for the National Assembly’s passage into law had been doctored with a view to circumventing, clandestinely, the sacrosanct powers and authority of the NBA. Some powers that be within the Body of Benchers had surreptitiously inserted a clause in the said bill, manifestly tampering with the descriptive standpoint of the NBA. The smuggled provision describes the NBA as follows:

“The Registered Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association, and any other body incorporated for the governance and management of the Legal Profession”

Meanwhile, in the original bill the “NBA” was simply defined as the “Nigerian Bar Association”. The way it has always been.”

Taidi did not mince words in condemning the controversial provisions of the amendment bill as he described the moves to exterminate the exclusive powers of the NBA as “evil”.

“This attempt by the Body of Benchers to hoodwink the NBA and forcefully take control of the NBA by doctoring the letters of the law is to say the least evil, by every standard.

According to him, the moves are not unrelated to the emergence of Olumide Akpata, a non-SAN as President of the Association in 2020, a development which did not sit well with several members of the Inner Bench.  “I make bold to state that this attempted coup is not unconnected to the emergence of a non- SAN as president of the NBA. Apparently, many oxen that were gored as a result, as well as sundry deflated bloated egos, remain wounded and unforgiving. This is an attempt to hold lawyers to ransom so that whenever certain powers-that-be are dissatisfied with the outcome of any NBA election, they can easily invoke this very divisive provision.”

Narrating what he believes will be the consequence of such actions, he said : “It is a recipe for anarchy, a foundation for complete uncertainty and distortion of established practices within the bar. It is mind-boggling trying to imagine a scenario where the doctored bill is passed into law and a furious NBA protests that same does not represent what was sent to the National Assembly even as the overlords within the Body of Benchers insists on the flawed bill – effectively dragging the legal profession to utter disrepute.”

He questioned “Where would such an imbroglio leave young lawyers who are still trying to gain their footing in the profession, if they get caught up in such a web of authority tussle between the NBA and the Body of Benchers? Indeed, the possible number of bizarre eventualities that will confront us, where this evil provision to sail through, are endless. It is a good thing that the fraud was discovered and nipped in the bud.

May we never see the day where the collective will and progress of a collection of learned and noble minds are sacrificed on the altar of selfish and egoistic practices.”

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