The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday reversed the ratification of the suspension of Barrister Joyce Oduah as Secretary General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Giving her verdict on an application filed and argued by Mr Ayotunde Ogunleye on behalf of the plaintiff, the court judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed held that the NBA’S National Executive Committee (NEC) which gave legal effect to the suspension of the plaintiff acted in bad faith and in utter disregard to the proceedings of the court.
Mohammed overrode the earlier verdict on grounds that the action was an affront to the rule of law and a violation of the court’s proceedings in the matter.
Naija News reports that Oduah was suspended from office last week on the grounds of gross misconduct.
Her suspension was confirmed in a statement made available to newsmen earlier by the NBA Publicity Secretary, Rapulu Nduka.
The development was coming following a major disagreement between the outgoing NBA President, Olumide Akpata and Oduah on issues bordering on the proposed Constitutional Amendment.
NBA had in an internal memo referred “in particular to the actions of Mrs. Joyce Oduah, the General Secretary of the Association who has from the very beginning of this administration constituted 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 behaviors which are likely to, and have indeed brought the Association into disrepute.”
However, on Tuesday (today), Justice Mohammed agreed with Ogunleye that the ratification done on August 21 by the NBA-NEC ought not to have been carried out in view of the pendency of a suit challenging the suspension in the first instance.
The Judge also agreed with the plaintiff’s counsel that the purported Ratification was not only an affront to the Court but a denigration of the sanctity of the judiciary which on several occasions had been condemned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Naija News understands that Ogunleye had in his application drawn the attention of the Court to the effect that the out-going President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata who is the 2nd defendant in the suit against the suspension, presided over the August 21 meeting of NBA’S NEC where the purported Ratification was carried out.
Ogunleye cited Supreme Court authorities to establish that the Olumide Akpata-led National Committee acted against the established law in taking steps in a matter pending against them adding that the purported Ratification was a deliberate and desperate ploy to foist helplessness on the court.
He urged the court to condemn the Council for resorting to self-help in a suit being adjudicated upon by a law court.
Justice Mohammed agreed that having submitted to court jurisdiction and joined issues with the plaintiff in court and with or without the express order of the court, no party ought to have taken any further steps on the subject matter of the litigation.
The Judge said the action of the NBA’S Council in relation to the unlawful ratification was irritating, annoying, condemnable and liable to be set aside since the actors in the illegal ratification cannot claim ignorance of the position of law on such a contemptuous attitude.
It was said that nine out of eleven officers had signed the resolution authorizing Oduah’s suspension, referring her to the NBA’S NEC for disciplinary action and for removal from office for alleged gross misconduct.
However, while the NBA’S NEC ratified the suspension, it declined to ratify the recommendation for the removal of the plaintiff from office on the ground of her subsisting legal action against the suspension.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Goodwin Onuakwu had made spirited efforts to justify the ratification on the ground that the NBA’S NEC only acted on a completed act.
The senior lawyer urged the court not to hold that the action of the NBA’S NEC amounted to self-help or attempts to foist a situation of hopelessness on the court because the suspension can be voided and set aside if merit is found in the case of the plaintiff.
Justice Mohammed, however, disagreed with the senior lawyer on the ground that the action of the NBA’S NEC was a direct attack against the court and must not be allowed to stand.
The Judge particularly noted that the action of the NBA’S NEC members was painful because all of them are legal practitioners.
Justice Mohammed today fixed August 31 for hearing in a motion on notice seeking mandatory order of injunction against the defendants in the suit.
This article was originally published on Naija News