Following the internal crisis within the Nigeria Bar Association recently, the General Secretary of the bar, Mrs Joyce Oduah has been suspended over gross misconduct.
The decision for her suspension was taken during an emergency meeting convened by the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) on Monday August 15, to address urgent issues affecting the association.
The meeting was attended by 11 members of the committee including NBA President, Olumide Akpata, and the general secretary, Joyce Oduah.
The NBA president, however, recused himself from the deliberations and handed over to the 1st Vice President, John Aikpokpo Martins who presided over the meeting.
The committee had on Sunday, August 14, issued a memo signed by nine members, wherein they called for an emergency meeting to deliberate and take urgent action and forestall crisis within the association regarding the conduct of the general secretary over time.
The association is planning to hold Annual General Conference which will commences on 19th August 2022; the Pre-conference NEC meeting on 21st August; and the Annual General Meeting on 25th August 2022. These events are critical to the association and the general secretary plays indispensable roles in them, but they are skeptical that with her disposition in recent times, she might sabotage the process.
In the memo sent to the NBA president, notifying him of the meeting, the members listed cases of misconduct in the past by the general secretary in which according to them, not only caused grave embarrassment to the association but also violated the constitution of the NBA and smooth running of the organisation.
Some of the allegations against are deliberate refusal to discharge her duties as secretary, insubordination to the NBA leadership, cases of verbal and physical assault of people working in the NBA secretariat, among others.
The major allegation was Mrs. Oduah’s unilateral withdrawal of notices for the proposed amendment of the association’s constitution during their AGM.
There had been earlier notices issued on 27th July 2022 which informed members about constitution amendment to be considered during the AGM.
Mrs. Oduah however, issued another mail through her private Yahoo mail advise informing the members that they have been withdrawn, and that those notices have been substituted with a new notice that does not include any constitutional amendment as a line item for discussion at the AGM.
The NBA president however, issued a disclaimer on Friday night August 12, reversing the withdrawal of the notices for the constitution amendment.
“I am writing to disclaim that withdrawal as unauthorised by me or any of the National Officers, and to request that you regard the two notices circulated on 27th July 2022 by (i) firstly, Mrs. Oduah; and (ii) secondly, by the Assistant General Secretary as subsisting,” NBA president, Olumide stated in the disclaimer.
At the end of the committee’s deliberation, they resolved that Mrs Oduah be removed from the office as general secretary and also referred her to the NBA-NEC for disciplinary action under the provisions of section 20(1) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021).
Part of the resolution read, “in view of the critical importance of the Annual General Meeting which is scheduled to hold on 25th August 2022, and to prevent the General Secretary, Mrs Joyce Oduah from imperiling the Annual General Meeting, the Annual General Conference or the succession to the next administration by her unilateral and unauthorised communications purporting to be legitimate communications from the Association, the National Executive Committee has unanimously exercised its emergency powers under section 9(6) (d) of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) to suspend Mrs Joyce Oduah from office as the General Secretary of the Association with immediate effect pending the Pre-Conference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21st August 2022.”
The resolution further directed the Assistant General Secretary, Ms. Uchenna Nwadialo to immediately take over and “act as the General Secretary pending the Pre-Conference meeting of the NBA-NEC scheduled to hold on Sunday 21st August 2022.”
It further urged the members to continue with their preparations for the forthcoming Annual General Conference.
Those who signed the memo include: John Aikpokpo-Martins, 1st Vice President; Debo Adeyemo Kazeem, 2nd Vice President; Ombo Victor Frank-Brigg, 3rd Vice President; Uchenna Nwadialo, Assistant General Secretary; and Mercy Ijato Agada, Treasurer.
Others are: Raphael Nnamdi Anagor, Financial Secretary; Olukunle Edun, Welfare Secretary; Rapuluchukwu Nduka, Publicity Secretary; Ferdinand Naza, Assistant Publicity Secretary.
In the memo Titled ‘Need for Urgent Action to Forestall a Crisis in the NBA,’ which called for the emergence meeting, Mrs. Oduah was accused of being a “clog in the smooth administration of the Association by various acts of dereliction of duty, disobedience to lawful orders, misconducting herself and being involved in acts and behaviours which are likely to, and have indeed brought the Association into disrepute.”
She was also accused of lacking capacity to discharge her duties and proper temperament expected of her office.
“The General Secretary is always unable to produce communique immediately after NEC meetings are expected,” part of the memo disclosed.
In one instance, Mrs. Oduah was also accused of compromising the professional integrity of the association when she led a team of the body as an observer during the Ondo State Governorship Election in October 2020.
She was said to have led the observer team “to pay an unsolicited visit to the home of the Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN (Ondo State governor) on the date of the election, whilst the voting was ongoing.”
This action was according to the memo, condemened by various political groups as affecting the NBA neutrality in the electoral process.