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Rocked By Leadership Crisis

News Introduction: 
Leadership crisis rocks the Aba branch of the Nigeria Bar Association following the annulment of the August 2011 election by the national executive committee of the union. - By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Confusion now reigns in the Aba branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA. Two people are laying claim to the chairmanship of the branch. Charles Eduzor who was last August elected the chairman of the branch was asked to step down by the NBA national executive committee, NEC for failure to pay his bar practicing fees and branch dues within the stipulated time. Emeka Jude Agwulonu who was his opponent at the election was told to takeover having complied with the rules.
Agwulonu had petitioned the NBA national president, Joseph Daudu, alleging that Eduzor did not pay his practicing fees and branch dues before March 31, and therefore ought not to have been cleared by the electoral committee. Agwulonu also prayed that he be returned as the elected chairman of the branch having complied with the rules governing the conduct of the election. His petition was considered as having merit and a committee headed by the first vice chairman of the association Blessing Ukiri set up to investigate the matter. 
Ukiri’s committee noted in its report that Agwulonu was the only candidate who had paid his bar practice and branch dues as and when due. It said Eduzor has not denied the allegation that he did not pay his practice fees and branch dues for 2010 and 2011 as and when due. Ukiri also said his detailed investigation into the matter showed that Eduzor failed to comply with the rules within the stipulated time. “He was therefore not qualified to contest the election into the position of chairman of Aba branch on August 5, 2011. His purported election and return are void ab initio. EEJ Agwulonu Esq. who was the only candidate who had paid his bar practice fees and branch dues as and when due, ought to returned unopposed and sworn-in as the chairman of the Aba Branch, the report added.
Last week, Agwulonu was sworn-in as the branch chairman based on the committee’s report. Eduzor is equally laying claim to the position. This has created confusion in the bar. Agwulonu who alleges that Eduzor is usurping his functions and does not allow him to exercise his mandate has written to the secretary of NBA, notifying him of his swearing-in. Eduzor on his part, sees Agwulonu as an impostor. He noted that there was no time such matter was presented nor adopted by the NEC and said Ukiri lacks the competence to file the thing he claimed as a report. He further accused Ukiri of bias in the investigation because of what he described as a professional problem he had with him. He maintained that he paid his dues as and when due, noting that there was no time was the said report was adopted by the association.  According to him, it is only the pronouncement of NBA that can remove him as the chairman. “My documents are intact. I don’t have any skeleton in my cupboard, so I don’t have anything to fear. Anybody who is doubting the authenticity of my claim that I paid the dues as and when due should go to Guarantee Trust Bank, GTB and verify. You can’t manipulate these things.” Eduzor is however hoping that the matter would be resolved at the next NEC meeting of the NBA in May this year.
Eduzor however, regards the claims are mere propaganda aimed at derailing his administration. “The claims are unfounded. They are mere propaganda aimed at derailing the Aba NBA, which provides the only opposition voice in the state,” he noted. Aba NBA stoutly opposed the confirmation of Justice Ijeoma Offonry as the Chief Judge of Abia State.
Ukiri told this magazine in a telephone interview that the election that brought Eduzor into power is null and void. According to him, a petition was written against Eduzor in which it was alleged that he did not pay his practicing fees and bar dues as and when due. He stated that Eduzor was given the opportunity to defend himself, which he was unable to do. “The position of the matter is that the election that brought Eduzor into office is null and void. It was alleged that he did not pay his bar dues and practicing fees as and when due and I gave him the opportunity to defend himself, which he failed to do.”
On the claim that the report that declared Eduzor’s election was not adopted by the NBA NEC, Ukiri said such claim was unfounded as the report was presented by the secretary of the association and was adopted by the NEC. He denied that he has professional problems with Eduzor, maintaining that there is a court order to the petition Eduzor wrote against him some time ago. He said he has the competence to investigate the matter because he supervises and coordinates bar branches within the southeast and south-south regions. 

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