Article11 of the constitution of the Eastern Bar Forum provides for the procedure for screening of members of the Eastern Bar Forum who intends to vie for elective offices in the Nigerian Bar Association Elections and Article 11.7 provides for the membership of the screening committee whose responsibility is it to screen aspirants of the EBF for NBA elections. The committee comprises of the following members;

  1. Members of the Governing Council
  2. Serving National Officers of the NBA who are members of the forum.
  3. Past Presidents & Past General Secretaries of the NBA who are members of the forum.
  4. Senior Advocates of Nigeria who are members of the forum.
  5. Serving Chairmen of branches or in their absence the Secretary.
  6. Past Chairmen and Past Secretaries of the Governing Council of EBF.

For the purpose of the 2018 NBA Elections, the committee met at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State for the screening exercise on 3rd February, 2018.

The meeting which was slated to commence by 0700 hours actually commenced at 0915 hours after accreditation & rigorous security checks by security personnel. In the Screening Room, members were serially numbered for the purpose of certainty and to know the total number of persons present in the event of a ballot. Yours truly was number 25. The Chairman of the Governing Council Hon. Sir. Arthur Elvis Chukwu who also doubles as the Chairman of the Screening Committee set the pace of the meeting by welcoming and informing members of the sole agenda of the meeting. He also welcomed the observers to the meeting which included the following;

  1. Caleb Dajan, NBA 1st Vice President representing the NBA President
  2. Ben Orji, NBA 2nd Vice President
  3. Ranti Ajeleti & Matins Ogunleye representing Omo Egbe Amofin
  4. Alex Obaide & Yahaya Hambali representing the Mid- West Bar Forum
  5. Chief Garba Pwul, Vice Chairman Arewa Lawyers Forum
  6. Dr. Garba Tetengi SAN

The following learned Senior Advocates were also present;

  1. Livy Uzuokwu SAN
  2. J. T. U. Nnodum SAN
  3. K. C. O. Njemanze SAN
  4. Ndukwe A. Nnawuchi SAN
  5. Emeka Anaenugu SAN
  6. Nnamdi Ibegbu SAN
  7. Gerald Ezeuko SAN

The Chairman thereafter read out the names of members of the EBF who filed their Notice of Intention to contest for a National Office as at 19th November, 2017 the last date for the submission of Letter of Intent as directed by the forum at its meeting held in Abakaliki on 28th October, 2017 and they are as follows;

  1. Asst Publicity Secretary- Seth Nwokolo
  2. Financial Secretary- Elias Emeka Anosike
  3. Legal Adviser- Nnamdi Eze
  4. Welfare Secretary:
  5. Obong Essien
  6. Sabastine Anyia
  7. Treasurer- Uju Mary Chukwuma- Okafor
  8. Ist Vice President:
  9. Gerald Ebonyi
  10. Stanley Chidi Imo

iii. Richard Ogbeche

  1. President- Arthur Obi Okafor SAN

At this point the Chairman of Ikot Ekpene Branch, Sir Cosmas P. Udoette Esq indicated his unwillingness to partake in the screening exercise and was therefore excused from the meeting. This did not however deter Obong Essien Esq. a member and former Chairman of Ikot Ekpene Branch to continue with his participation in the screening exercise even though it was obvious that he has lost the crucial vote of his Chairman.

Apart from the offices of 1st Vice President and Welfare Secretary, the other offices were unopposed. The aspirants for the uncontested offices were therefore returned unopposed after the committee satisfied itself that they meet all the criteria and qualifications for the various positions in compliance with the NBA constitution.

For the contested offices, the aspirants were given time to address the meeting after which they were excused from the meeting.

The office of the 1st Vice President which has Gerald Abonyi, Stanley Chidi Imo and Richard Ogbeche became a subject of intense debate as some members opined that for the sake of unity, brotherhood and collectivity, the position should be left for the aspirant from the Southsouth, Richard Ogbeche since only one aspirant from the Southeast indicated interest to the EBF for the position of President. Some others were of the view that from the nature of the couching of Section 2.2 of the Second Schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution,  the position of the 1st Vice President should be left for the Southeast so that the Southeast will also produce the President in the event of another Bayo Ojo saga and it will be counted that the Southeast has completed its turn.( for our young colleagues, Bayo Ojo was a former President of the NBA who was later appointed as the Attorney General of the Federation while still serving as President)

It was further argued that if we allow the Southeast to occupy the said positions, when the zoning rotates back to the EBF, the Southsouth will be allowed to produce the President and also the 1st Vice President. This it was argued was to cure any confusion that may arise in future if different zones in the east are allowed to produce the President and 1st Vice President. The committee then resolved to call in the aspirants for the office of the 1st Vice President to explain the situation if it my lead to a step down of the aspirant from the Southsouth, Mr. Richard Ogbeche Esq and the 2nd Vice President of NBA, Monday U. Ubani was mandated to take the explanation and plead for a step down. The aspirants were then called in but after the explanation, Richard Ogbeche thanked the committee but reasoned that it was unacceptable to him and that it’s all about service coupled with the issue of time which may not be on his side. He opted for a ballot.

In the screening for the office of the Welfare Secretary between Obong Essien & Sabastine Anyia, underground campaigns were launched to garner support and votes for Obong Essien to satisfy the yearnings of the Southsouth but when it was disclosed that Sabastine Anyia is from Cross Rivers a Southsouth State and a sellable foot from Akwacross, that surreptitious campaign by some to favour Obong Essien was abandoned and the meeting became set for the ballot box.

 

The elections for the office of 1st Vice President was conducted first. The Publicity Secretary of EBF, George I. Fortune shared the signed ballot papers and at the end of voting, the following results were returned;

  1. Gerald Ebonyi- 1 vote.
  2. Stanley Chidi Imo- 53 votes.
  3. Richard Ogbeche- 4 votes

One vote was voided bringing the total votes to fifty nine(59). Stanley Chidi Imo having scored the highest number of votes was returned.

Next was the election for the office of Welfare Secretary and at the end of voting, the following results were returned;

  1. Obong Essien- 24 votes
  2. Sabastine Anyia-38 votes.

A total of sixty two votes was counted and Sabastine Anyia was returned having scored the highest number of votes.

From the total number of votes cast for the office of 1st Vice President and the office of the Welfare Secretary, it seems some members of the committee abstained from voting  in the elections for the office of 1st Vice President which explains the difference in the number of votes.

At the end of the exercise, the aspirants were invited back to the room and the results were announced and winners declared. The following were therefore screened and cleared  by the committee;

  1. Asst Publicity Secretary- Seth Nwokolo
  2. Financial Secretary- Elias Emeka Anosike
  3. Legal Adviser- Nnamdi Eze
  4. Welfare Secretary: Sabastine Anyia
  5. Treasurer- Uju Mary Chukwuma- Okafor
  6. Ist Vice President: Stanley Chidi Imo
  7. President- Arthur Obi Okafor SAN

Worthy to mention at this point is the rebuttal published by the Chairman of Uyo Branch Eno- Obong Akpan alleging that the Chairman of Oron Branch Richard Ekong Bassey  and herself left the meeting before the commencement of voting. I have not  been able to get anyone who was present to confirm or deny the veracity of that rebuttal but only to add that I never saw the duo leave the screening room for as at the commencement of voting,  the door to the room was securely locked and no one was giving an opportunity of ingress or egress.

 

I must commend all members of the committee for the decorum, maturity, patience and wisdom displayed in course of the screening exercise. All issues that cropped up in course of the exercise were discussed through and firm decisions taken. I also commend the Chairman of Eket Branch U. D. I. Imeh Esq. who showed maturity as a committed Bar man and a two time member of the Governing Council of the Eastern Bar Forum. He preserved throughout the meeting and showed himself as a committed EBF member that he is.

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