The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Usoro, has said he will not resign based on the N1.4bn fraud charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Addressing journalists last Saturday, Usoro said that only the National Executive Committee of the NBA could decide whether to remove him from office or not, adding that the body had, during a meeting of its national executive committee held on December 6, adopted his explanation on the allegations.
The EFCC had alleged in the 10 counts filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos on November 29, 2018 that Usoro converted and laundered the cumulative sum of about N1.4bn in connivance with Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom State.
But the NBA president maintained his innocence concerning the charges on Saturday insisting that the funds he received from Udom and the Akwa Ibom State Government were professional fees.
He said, “I will be in court on Monday, I have already made that quite clear. Let me emphasise this: I haven’t been served. I expect that I will be served.
“But I am completely innocent. I presented the facts, as I know them, in the address that was adopted by the NEC. As I have said, you can read the address and you can pick up the facts from there.”
Asked if he would resign after his arraignment, he said, “I will not. I consider that it is the national executive committee of the NBA that has the power to decide whether I should remain or not. This matter was presented to the committee. We had a very good and successful meeting and nobody raised the issue in regard to whether I should leave or not.”
To back his position, he cited the instance of the Senate President Bukola Saraki, who remained in office until he was absolved of the assets declaration charges by the Supreme Court.
“What would have happened if the Senate President had resigned?” Usoro, who was one of the lead lawyers in Saraki’s legal team, queried.
He said the case against him was possibly “hyped” barely 48 hours to the NBA’s NEC meeting to instigate the body to remove him from office.
Usoro also said that, among other issues deliberated during its meeting, the committee regretted the worsening insecurity in country, which was said to have led to the murder of four members of the NBA in different parts of the country in the last three months.
In his address at the NEC meeting, Usoro said his investigation and planned prosecution by the EFCC, had among other implications for lawyers, the breach of client-lawyer privilege, with the anti-graft agency standing as auditor or regulator for legal fees and criminalisation of lawyers’ fees.
He also said the NEC called for an end to different forms of harassments visited by law enforcement officers on lawyers in the course of their duties, adding that the NBA was planning a visit to the Inspector-General of Police on the need to draw a protocol for the engagement of policemen with lawyers.