All hell broke loose, yesterday 25th June 2020, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during an after-party organized by the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”), Port Harcourt Branch otherwise known as “The Integrity Branch”, at the Coral Reef Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt, for the newly elected Executive Officers of the Branch. The after-party was reportedly bankrolled by one of the Presidential candidates for the upcoming NBA National elections, Mr. Olumide Akpata, who braved the interstate lockdown regulations and the NBA elections guidelines prohibiting candidates from visiting branches for campaigns, to be in physical attendance at the after-party in Port Harcourt.
According to the eyewitness, who pleads anonymity, matters degenerated into an ugly scuffle when a very senior member of the Bar, who was in attendance at the event, attempted to record Mr. Olumide Akpata while Mr. Akpata was giving his campaign speech from the podium. To everyone’s shock and utter disbelief, the senior lawyer, who is a partner in one of the largest law firms in Nigeria, and a well-known member of the Branch, was swiftly swooped upon, roughly tackled and pinned to the ground by stern-looking individuals who accompanied Mr. Akpata as “Private Investigators”, and was dispossessed of his phone. We gather that the senior lawyer who was the victim of this assault did his best to fight off his attackers but was easily overcome and subdued. He was kept pinned to the ground while Olumide Akpata’s “Private Investigators” proceeded to delete all pictures and videos on his phone before releasing the senior lawyer from their stranglehold. Akpata is said to have watched the whole gruesome and embarrassing episode calmly, making no effort to stop his “Private Investigators” from harassing his senior colleague, despite the painful screams and loud protestations of the victim.
Meanwhile, in the melee and ensuing pandemonium, several senior lawyers and elders of the Branch in attendance at the event strenuously tried to intervene, pleading with both Mr. Akpata and the “Private Investigators” to leave the victim alone to no avail, as the harassment continued unabated.
Our sources further revealed that when confronted, one of the aggressors, who had earlier identified himself as a “Private Investigator” in Mr. Akpata’s campaign train, later recanted and claimed he is a lawyer based in Lagos, and insisted that he acted on the direction of Mr. Akpata who had given clear instructions that no person be allowed to procure video or audio recording of the event, especially with him in attendance, for fear of being accused of breaching the Electoral Committee of the NBA (“ECNBA”) guidelines which forbids any candidate from visiting branches to campaign under any guise. Our source stated that he believes Mr. Akpata was of the impression that the senior lawyer was attempting to procure evidence of his attendance at the meeting, hence his indifference to the dastardly attack.
There is presently an ongoing engagement, consultation and persuasion by elders of the Branch to assuage and appease the victim, to avoid further escalation of the situation or the victim’s seeking recourse or redress in Court. The effort is now to resolve the matter as a family affair.
For a highly-regarded profession reputed for nobility and integrity, like the legal profession, there are palpable fears that the days ahead may be stormy in this particular NBA election if ugly incidents like this are allowed to continue unchecked without proper and timely redress by the NBA authorities.