NBA President Olumide Akpata has blamed supplier company for the unfortunate stampede during distribution of bags at the 62nd NBA conference
The NBA annual general conference for 2022 was held from 19th to 26th August 2022 at the Eko Atlantic and Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos State.
The NBA president in a statement explaining what transpired regarding bag collection during the conference, apologised to delegates and promised to deliver conference bags to those who didn’t get them at their destinations as soon as they are ready at no cost to them.
He said: “It is public knowledge that the 2022 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA-AGC) encountered a glitch in the area of collection of conference materials (particularly the bags) when a percentage of the conference delegates (estimated to be about 20% of those physically present) did not receive their conference bags in good time, and therefore had their conference experience severely hampered.
“The inconvenience caused to our members is deeply regretted, and I wish to once again officially apologise to our members and generality of Nigerians for what was clearly an embarrassment,” the NBA president stated.
A video that circulated online showed lawyers breaking into the registration point and and in the ensuing feud as a result of mass influx, there was vandalisation of properties and available conference bags and other conference materials carted away by the raging lawyers.
Prime Business Africa learnt that the lawyers went on rampage when they sensed that distribution of the conference bags was being delayed, and became impatient leading to the unfortunate incident that was witnessed.
It was gathered that phones were reportedly stolen which the NBA president promised to address.
The Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) of the NBA had earlier sent out emails informing lawyers that distribution of conference materials would be suspended due to substandard materials supplied.
The TCCP chairman, Tobenna Erojikwe said, “Regarding the ongoing collection of conference materials, I am writing to update you that we will now pause the collection of conference materials (specifically the conference bags) until further notice.
“This is because while we have ordered more than enough bags to serve our delegates, we have now observed that the most recent batches of the bags delivered to us are less than the quality that we contracted and paid for.
“We have accordingly rejected them and asked our suppliers to provide conforming replacements as soon as possible.
“In any case, to enable our delegates continue to enjoy the conference, all other materials (particularly the tags, tickets and lanyards will still be issued to you at the designated collection points. The collection of the bags will resume afterwards,” Erojikwe stated in the mail to lawyers.
Some Nigerians took to social media to berate the lawyers involved in that melee for such display considered to be strange coming from people in that noble profession.
Akpata in his statement explained that the company known as Antoche Limited that was contracted to supply the conference bags failed to deliver as promised despite earlier assurances when the deal was struck even with over 75 per cent of the total supply cost paid to the contractor in advance.
He further stated that not only did the company fail to deliver the agreed quantity, but also supplied substandard materials and were rejected by the conference planning committee.
Explaining how the company that supplied the conference bags was engaged, Akpata said that “Contrary to insinuations from different quarters, the leadership of the NBA and TCCP had no prior knowledge of the company and/or any relationship with its CEO, Martha Okopi before engaging its services,” but the decision to engage its services was reached after he received from an organisation a gift of a good quality bag said to have been produced by the company.
“I directed the TCCP to inquire into the company that supplied the bags. The TCCP conducted its due diligence and confirmed that indeed the company had a track record of supplying reputable organisations like MTN and PWC, and thereafter the supplier successfully passed through our procurement process.”
He, however, added that as things turned out, they realised that the supplier wasn’t honest as it started giving series of excuses for inability to deliver as agreed.
“In the course of distributing the bags on Monday 22nd August 2022, the TCCP realised that Martha Okopi and her company had taken advantage of the rush to supply over 1,000 bags that did not meet the standards and specifications agreed with the company. The price differential between the bags that we ordered and off-specification bags that were supplied was nearly 50%.
“The TCCP therefore had no choice but to reject them. It was at this point that the TCCP took the decision to pause the distribution of bags and to ensure that the vendor delivers the correct bags.
“On Tuesday 23rd August 2022, using our goodwill, we were able to secure the release of additional 3,500 bags from the custody of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company and the Nigeria Customs Service where the bags were being kept due to the supplier’s failure or delay in paying import duties.
“It was in the process of attempting to offload these bags and distribute them to our members, that we witnessed the unfortunate and disgraceful scenes where several lawyers broke into the registration point, vandalised properties and carted away most of the available conference bags and materials.
“The supplier was present throughout the melee and witnessed first-hand what we predicted would happen if our members did not get their bags.
“Yet, when the TCCP paid an unannounced visit to the location where the supplier was branding the bags around 3am on Wednesday 24th August 2022, we discovered that the supplier was branding very inferior backpack (even less inferior to the ones rejected) ostensibly in a bid to hide them under the bags that it was contracted to supply.
The NBA president said the association has resolved to not only blacklist the company but also institute a legal action against the company for the dishonest deal that led to that embarrassing incident.
“We have taken a decision to not only blacklist Antoche Limited and its proprietors as contractors to the NBA, but to exercise our legal rights against them to the fullest extent possible.”
He further urged the lawyers to show some empathy and understanding with the conference planning committee who did their best in the circumstance, and promised to work with the incoming NBA President Mr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN and his team “to ensure that all conference delegates, especially the groups, who are yet to receive their bags will have their bags delivered to them at their various destinations, at no cost to the delegates.”