By Onyebuchi Sampson
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced investigation into the activities of the Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
It was learnt that the probe of Nigeria’s “Premier Bar” focused on the contracts and financial dealings of the immediate past administration of the branch.
A source said at least one current executive committee member and a service provider, Fresible Company Limited may have been grilled by the anti-graft agency “following an anonymous petition against the immediate past administration of the branch.”
The source added that the anti-graft agency is putting a searchlight, especially on contracts for the branch Bar Centre project as well as payments for website development, branch bus purchase and hybrid monthly meetings among others.
An executive committee member of that administration said: “No expense was approved by the Executive Committee.
The procurement process was non-existent, as there was hardly any bidding for the contracts. There were no memos for expenditures.
There were issues of conflict of interest in some of the contracts. There were no checks and balances. Can you imagine that N150 million was paid for the Bar Centre project without any EXCO meeting held to discuss the contract and on the ground only that it was approved by the Building Committee.
Barely two weeks to the end of our tenure, another N50 million was paid on the excuse that the ‘payment is due.’ The Branch domain name renewal was effected every 6 months instead of the standard one-year renewal period. A last-minute hefty N150,000 was paid for HD presentation on the Bar Centre project.”
Speaking on the branch accounts for the year-ended May 31, 2021, its auditors, Messrs Olu Aladejebi & Co. (Chartered Accountants) wrote: “We observed that some memos that was (sic) raised/written were having the authorised persons’ on them, but were not signed especially the ones for the construction.”
It also stated that “At the close of business as at May 31st 2021, the branch’s cash and cash equivalent stood at ₦220,420,065.
This shows a decrease of ₦145,599,135 from last year’s figure, which is a 40per cent decrease over last year’s result of ₦366,019,200. This is as a result of on going construction work on Bar Centre building at Lekki.”
It was also gathered that the immediate past chairman of the Branch, Mr. Yemi Akangbe is yet to speak on the matter.
But, a member of an Executive Committee in that administration, has dismissed the probe as futile.
He stressed that there were “no suspicious financial dealings” during their tenure, adding that payments on the Bar Centre were approved by the Building Committee chaired by Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN.
He argued that it was not the role of the Executive Committee to oversight standing committees, adding that such committees have their terms of reference approved by the general meeting and also make periodic reports to the general meeting.