As the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) continues Thursday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, there are indications that the battle for the presidency of the association has begun, and it is going to be messy!
Gavelinternational reported that already, personal attacks on one of the contestants appeared on Thursday morning as a lawyer, and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu launched a corruption accusation against Mr Paul Usoro SAN, accusing him of bribing a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) Justice James Agbadu-Fishim who is presently standing trial before an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, on charges of bribery and corruption preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Prof Odinkalu’s statement goes thus: “Good morning, colleagues. The levels of impunity in Nigeria are staggering. The motto of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, commits it to promoting the rule of law. We cannot do that without integrity;
Whoever dreamt up this Paul Usoro project to lead the Bar is terribly misguided. The person wishes perdition on the Bar. It is worse than a bad dream and it has to be stopped;
Here are the facts: Paul Usoro is supposed to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN);
Paul Usoro is charged with having bribed James Agbadu-Fishim, (I refuse to call him “Honorable Justice”), a judge of the National Industrial Court, with N800,000 paid in 3 instalments of N300k; N400k, & N100k. Paul Usoro himself admits to having given the judge at least N450k, claiming it was contribution towards his vacation. The judge is presently on trial for these acts. The payments he received from Paul Usoro are in evidence in the trial;
In a sane country, Paul Usoro should be facing disciplinary proceedings at best & should have been disbarred. In Nigeria. Someone is parading him to lead our Bar. That Bar belongs to us all. No one has a right to even think about this;
This idea that a lawyer who admits to having bribed a judge is even considering himself for the office of President of the Bar while the judge that he bribed is being prosecuted & the payments he made to the judge are exhibits in the case is worse than a terrible joke. It is an insult to us all. We all have a duty to stop it;
This Paul Usoro project for Presidency of the Bar has to end, fortwith. By all means let all lawyers of decent standing aspire for the Bar Presidency. I want it to go on record that Paul Usoro has no standing in morality &, I would venture, in law to even consider aspiring for Presidency of the Bar now or ever. He should bury his head in ignominy. The only right he has is to go before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to clear his name or be disbarred. Period!;
Let me be clear: My name is Chidi Anselm Odinkalu. I am a Nigerian lawyer who also belongs to this Bar that will be ruined by this aspiration birthed in arrogant impunity. It will not work. No lawyer with the charges against his name that Paul Usoro has should be allowed to insult us in the way this Paul Usoro project seeks to do. It is awfully aggravating”.
However, the Usoro camp promptly responded to the accusations of Odinkalu stating that the senior lawyer did nothing wrong. The response further stated that Usoro is not under prosecution by EFCC, rather, he is even a prosecution witness in case.