TheNigeriaLawyer blog, NBA-SPIDEL leadership, and the global ethics for journalists, bloggers on ACCURACY, truthfulness and fact-based communications
TheNigeriaLawyer blog, NBA-SPIDEL leadership, and the global ethics for journalists, bloggers on ACCURACY, truthfulness and fact-based communications

By Sylvester Udemezue

TheNigeriaLawyer is a major name in the legal/law blog industry in Nigeria. Without mincing words, I think the entry of TheNigeriaLawyer into Nigeria's law blogging space has contributed immensely to revolutionizing law blogging in Nigeria, bringing news, reports, developments and opinions on law, law practice, legal education, and the legal profession, among others, to the doorsteps of lawyers, judges, and other stakeholders. Besides, efforts of TheNigeriaLawyer in consistently and regularly making CTC's of high-profile court judgements and other legal precedents readily available, is noteworthy. It is therefore safe to hold the view that publishers of TheNigeriaLawyer have made tremendous contributions to advancement of law, legal education, law practice and the legal profession in Nigeria. Indeed, if anyone describes the proprietors of TheNigeriaLawyer as a group of lawyers who may be ranked among those who have *attained distinction in the legal profession in Nigeria,* that one may not be wrong, because courtroom advocacy isn't the only career nor the only route, towards achieving distinction in the legal profession. That publishers of TheNigeriaLawyer are not yet being considered by relevant stakeholders in the industry for an open acknowledgement, commendation or award in the profession, on account of their invaluable impacts on the legal profession, law practice and legal education in Nigeria is, to me, one of the riddles/mysteries of the profession. Meanwhile, while I'm proud of theNigeriaLawyer and its efforts towards advancing the profession, it's important, when necessary, to respectfully point out perceived loopholes or lapses requiring corrective attention, in order that a distinguished blog may retain its enviable and respectable position in the industry and in the profession.

Hence, the present commentary, which is intended solely to offer sincere observations, humble suggestions and candid advice towards making journalists, law bloggers, law blogging, lawyers and the law profession, better and more effective in service of the public. Anne Tyler's observation appears instructive here: _“It is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice”._

(1). Publishers of @TheNigeriaLawyer had covered the quarterly meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association's National Executive Council (NBA-NEC) which held in Jos Nigeria on 29 February 2024, and whereat a UNANIMOUS resolution was passed, removing the former leadership of NBA-SPIDEL. Indeed, on 29 February 2024, the NBA-NEC at that first quarterly meeting for the year 2024, held in Jos Plateau State, had resolved inter alia, that the Executive Committee of NBA-SPIDEL led by Mr. John O. Aikpokpo-Martins (as the Chairman) and Funmi Adeogun (as the Secretary) be removed from office forthwith and that a Caretaker Committee be appointed to run the NBA-SPIDEL in its place; the following persons were appointed to constitute the Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of the NBA-SPIDEL until further notice: ▪️A). Sir Steve Adehi, SAN (Chairman); ▪️B). Yakubu Philemon, SAN (Member), ▪️C). Ben Oji (Secretary); ▪️D). Ronke Adeyemi (Member), and ▪️E). Eva Amadi (Member).

(2). As far back as 29 February 2024, @TheNigeriaLawyer had published this: _"a caretaker committee has been appointed and tasked with withdrawing all court cases filed by the ousted SPIDEL executives. This decision was made during the recent NEC quarterly meeting held in Jos. A motion was moved by the NBA Gwagwalada Branch Chairman, Emmanuel Ogunjide, and seconded by a co-opted member from the Maiduguri Branch calling for the president to preside over NEC meetings and ratifying all actions taken regarding SPIDEL. The caretaker committee is comprised of Ben Oji of Warri Branch, Funke Aderemi of Ilorin Branch, Yakubu Philemon SAN of Abuja Branch, and Eva Amadi of Port Harcourt Branch. They have been mandated to withdraw all court cases filed by the removed SPIDEL leaders"_ (*"NBA-NEC UNANIMOUSLY VOTES TO REMOVE SPIDEL LEADERS, APPOINTS CARETAKER COMMITTEE, & ORDERS WITHDRAWAL OF SPIDEL COURT CASES"* (29 February 2024; TheNigeriaLawyer.com).

(3). Publishers of @TheNigeriaLawyer knew that a communique was issued on 01 March 2024, following the NBA-NEC meeting of 29 February 2024, stating inter alia, that the NEC of the NBA had removed the previous leadership and had directed that all pending actions, including this instant Suit (Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/90/2024 between John Aikpokpo-Martins (Chairman, NBA-SPIDEL) & Funmi Adeogun (Secretary, NBA-SPIDEL) (for themselves and on behalf of members of NBA-SPIDEL) v. Ms. Hannatu Musa Musawa & 3 Ors.) filed by the John Aikpokpo-Martins-led NBA -SPIDEL be discontinued. (See: *"DOWNLOAD] NBA-NEC Quarterly Meeting Communiqué: Recap Of Resolutions Made On February 29th, 2024".* (publisherd by TheNigeriaLawyer on 04 March 2024).

(4). Publishers of @TheNigeriaLawyer knew that Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/90/2024 between John Aikpokpo-Martins (Chairman, NBA-SPIDEL) & Funmi Adeogun (Secretary, NBA-SPIDEL) (for themselves and on behalf of members of NBA-SPIDEL) v. Ms. Hannatu Musa Musawa & 3 Ors, hitherto pending at Court Number 08, Federal High Court, Abuja Division, was dismissed on 21 March 2024, following an issue raised by the Court, which had led to argument by the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, to the effect that the lawsuit earlier filed by John Aikpokpo-Martins (Chairman, NBA-SPIDEL) & Funmi Adeogun (Secretary, NBA-SPIDEL) (for themselves and on behalf of members of NBA-SPIDEL), without prior go-ahead of the NBA President and/or the NBA-NEC, was incompetent. See: *"NBA-SPIDEL OFFICIALS CANNOT SUE IN OFFICIAL CAPACITY WITHOUT INCORPORATED TRUSTEES, COURT RULES; DISMISSES NBA-SPIDEL OFFICIALS’ SUIT AGAINST HANNATU MUSAWA, OTHERS OVER LACK OF LOCUS STANDI"* (TheNigeriaLawyer; 22 March 2024)

(5). Surprisingly, publishers of TheNigeriaLawyer have thereafter continued to misrepresent the facts regarding the removal of the former leadership of the NBA-SPIDEL. A few examples will serve to illustrate this:

(A). On 22 March 2024, TheNigeriaLawyer reported that _"The Federal High Court in Abuja on March 21, 2024, dismissed a lawsuit filed by officials of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) against the Minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa and two others. The case, registered as FHC/ABJ/CS/90/2024, met an abrupt end due to the plaintiffs’ lack of legal standing, commonly referred to as locus standi. The plaintiffs, John Aikpokpo Martins, the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, and Funmi Adeogun, the Secretary, had initiated the legal action in their official capacities"._ In the above report, while representing that (I) the dismissed lawsuit was filled by "filed by officials of NBA-SPIDEL" and that "The plaintiffs, John Aikpokpo Martins, the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, and Funmi Adeogun, the Secretary, had initiated the legal action in their official capacities", TheNigeriaLawyer made no attempt to indicate that the said leadership of NBA-SPIDEL had now been removed by the NBA-NEC. A statement indicating that the named individuals, although now removed, had filed the lawsuit in their official capacity as the Chairman and the Secretary of NBA-SPIDEL, would have been better to represent facts as they're.

(B). In a 25 March 2024 news report inaccurately titled, *"NBA President Threatens To Drag SPIDEL Chairman To LPDC Over Alleged False Pretense And Refusal To Fund GCB Members’ Expenses",* TheNigeriaLawyer indicated that _"The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN, has threatened to initiate disciplinary action against the NBA SPIDEL Chairman, John Aikpokpo-Martins, before the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for allegedly obtaining money under false pretense"._ A statement like _*"has threatened to initiate disciplinary action against a FORMER Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL"* or theNigeriaLawyer could have used a term as _"the removed Chairman of the NBA-SPIDEL"_ which would alternatively have captured the accuracy of the situation. With due respect to TheNigeriaLawyer

(C). And in yet another news publication on 26 March 2024, titled, *"SPIDEL Chairman Aikpokpo-Martins Slams NBA President Maikyau For Attempted Blackmail, Accuses Him Of Misrepresentation",* TheNigeriaLawyer reported that "In a strongly-worded letter dated March 15, 2024, John Aikpokpo-Martins, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), has accused the NBA President, Y.C. Maikyau, SAN, of attempting to blackmail him amidst their ongoing face-off".

One had expected that TheNigeriaLawyer would have complied with the ethics of journalism and blogging, which require accurate and unbiased reportage. The fact that the NBA-NEC while exercising its powers under the Constitution of the NBA, 2015, and as the General Overseer of NBA-SPIDEL, had unanimously removed the previous leadership of the NBA-SPIDE, led by respected learned John Akpokpo-Martins, and appointed in its place, a Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of the Section until further notice, is not in doubt. TheNigeriaLawyer knew and had even reported this fact. Also not in doubt is that no court of law has removed the Steve Adehi-led leadership of the NBA-SPIDEL or restored the earlier-removed John Akpokpo-Martins-led leadership. Why TheNigeriaLawyer would nevertheless continue to ignore that Sir Steve ADEHI, SAN is the Chairman of the NBA-SPIDEL, and that there can't be two different leaderships of the same NBA-SPIDEL at one and the same time, is befuddling, shocking.

On the other hand, it may be necessary to respectfully cite as an example of an ACCURATE reportage on the subject under discussion, a 26 March 2024 news report that came under the title, *"I WILL CHARGE YOU BEFORE LPDC FOR OBTAINING MONEY BY FALSE PRETENSE IF…….. – NBA PRESIDENT, MAIKYAU SAN WRITES NBA EX-VP, AIKPOKPO-MARTINS"* wherein BarristerNG reported: "The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, YC Maikyau SAN has directed the immediate past 1st Vice President of the Association, John Aikpokpo Martins to refund some money collected by the members of the General Council of the Bar, GCB to cover their sitting expenses for a meeting held on the 28th day of November 2023. Mr Aikpokpo was also the Chairman of the NBA SPIDEL before his leadership was dissolved by NBA NEC at Jos Plateau State in February".

In a related report under the title, *"I AM SADDENED AT YOUR ATTEMPT TO BULLY/BLACKMAIL ME BECAUSE YOU HAVE ISSUE WITH SPIDEL, TREAD CAREFULLY – EX-NBA VP AIKPOKPO-MARTINS REPLIES NBA PRESIDENT, YC MAIKYAU SAN"*, the same Blog, BarristerNG, on 27 March 2024, reports as follows: _"Former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA’s 1st Vice President, John Aikpokpo-Martins has replied a letter written to him by the President of NBA YC Maikyau SAN requesting that he refund back to the Attorney General of the Federation, some sitting allowance allegedly paid to him as a member of the General Council of the Bar, GCB.... In a detailed reply to the NBA President, Mr Aikpokpo-Martins denied the allegations and the Accusations of the NBA President and accused Mr Maikyau SAN of telling lies and half truths. He expressed a deep sadness that the NBA President will seek to bully and/or blackmail him simply because he had a misunderstanding with the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) which Aikpokpo was the Chairman"_

Meanwhile, writing on ACCURACY and TRUTHFULNESS as core ethical and professional requirements in responsible journalism and blogging, Colin Porlezza, in the introductory statement to his work, *"Accuracy in Journalism"* (published in Oxford Biographies on 25 July 2023), had explained as follows:

_"Offering accurate reporting is at the heart of journalism practice. Accuracy is therefore a fundamental norm in the journalistic profession. It is closely related to other key concepts, such as objectivity, truthfulness, trust, and credibility. Its importance is also reflected in the weight that is given to the concept when it comes to media self-regulation, for instance in press councils’ regulations or codes of ethics. Even if accuracy developed out of the concept of objectivity, being therefore of Anglo-American origin, it has become a universal rule that transcends different journalistic cultures. It also allows journalism to be distinguished from works of fiction. Accuracy is also an important criteria to determine the quality of news reporting. Particularly in digital journalism, where the accelerated news cycle requires immediacy and fast publication, news outlets often adopt the strategy “publish first and verify second,” although research has shown that the accuracy of journalistic reporting and trustfulness are related.... Nevertheless, accuracy plays an important role in terms of a fact-based journalistic discourse, since it forces journalists and editors to check whether the conveyed facts are true or not. Particularly in times of dis- and misinformation, implementing a thorough fact-checking process becomes paramount, not only to verify information, but also to tackle the further spread of fake news. Research finds that fact-checking can help to correct disinformation, and many online fact-checking and verification services have thus been launched—even if some studies suggest that fact-checking might not always be effective or that it can even backfire. Research into news accuracy can look back on a long history of studies that originated in the United States in 1936. Since then, accuracy research has become an established research strand in journalism studies that yields regular publications"_

For the avoidance of doubts, in the present commentary is not aimed (by udems) to support or to not support the removal of the John Aikpokpo-Martins-led NBA-SPIDEL leadership of the NBA-SPIDEL, nor to discuss the circumstances that had led to, or surrounded, the NBA-NEC resolution of 29/02/2024 which had removed the John Aikpokpo-Martins-led NBA-SPIDEL leadership and replaced the same with a Caretaker Committee headed by Sir Steve Adehi, SAN. This commentary is devoted solely to correcting the inaccurate impression being created in some quarters, especially by an otherwise reputable and respectable law blog, (TheNigeriaLawyer) to the effect that the John Aikpokpo-Martins-led leadership of the NBA-SPIDEL still holds sway. Truth is, the John Aikpokpo-Martins-led leadership of the NBA-SPIDEL was removed on 29 February 2024, and replaced with a Caretaker Committee headed by Sir Steve Adehi, SAN. This remains the status quo until further notice. Thus TheNigeriaLawyer, in line with the requirements of accuracy, truthfulness, and reasonableness, is hereby advised to respect the status quo until further notice. Where anyone stands is immaterial at this juncture; the important thing is that the status quo ought to be respected by all. Wikipedia gives further explanations on journalists' ethical virtues of accuracy, truthfulness and fact-based communications: "Journalistic ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and good practice applicable to journalists. This subset of media ethics is known as journalism's professional "code of ethics" and the "canons of journalism". The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements by professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organizations. There are around 400 codes covering journalistic work around the world. While various codes may differ in the detail of their content and come from different cultural traditions, *most share common elements including the principles of truthfulness, accuracy and fact-based communications,* independence, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, respect for others and public accountability, as these apply to the gathering, editing and dissemination of newsworthy information to the public"

Finally, The IFJ Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists was adopted at the 30th IFJ World Congress in Tunis on 12 June 2019. It completes the IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists (1954), known as the ”Bordeaux Declaration". The Charter is based on major texts of international law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It contains 16 articles plus a preamble and defines journalists’ duties and rights regarding ethics. In its preamble, while emphasizing that "The journalist's responsibility towards the public takes precedence over any other responsibility, in particular towards their employers and the public authorities", this international declaration specifies the guidelines of conduct for journalists in the research, editing, transmission, dissemination and commentary of news and information, and in the description of events, in any media whatsoever. Among these "guidelines of conduct" are the following:

(1). Respect for the facts and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.

(2). In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall...make sure to clearly distinguish factual information from commentary and criticism.

(3). The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts.... The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify any document....

(6). The journalist shall, in a timely, explicit, complete and transparent manner, do the utmost to RECTIFY ANY ERRORS OR PUBLISHED INFORMATION WHICH IS FOUND TO BE INACCURATE

(10). The journalist will consider DISTORTION OF FACTS a serious professional misconduct. (See: <https://www.ifj.org/who/rules-and-policy/global-charter-of-ethics-for-journalists>)

Based on the foregoing, it's hoped that TheNigeriaLawyer shall take urgent steps to comply with Guideline Number (6) of the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists which is binding on all journalists and bloggers all over the world, especially considering that "DISTORTION OF FACTS a serious professional misconduct". It was our own Michael Bassey Johnson who in his "The Book of Maxims, Poems and Anecdotes", said that "Sometimes, the mistake is not the problem; the lack of remorse is the real mistake". And in the book, "The Thoughtful Beast" is contained a declaration that "I accept when I am wrong because that only makes me strong". This is an indication that life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, which is why John Maxwell was to declare that "A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes...and strong enough to correct them". Accordingly, when proven wrong, a wise man ought to immediately correct himself. It has been suggested by Orlando Aloysius Battista that "An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it". We all know the right thing to do!

God bless the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Bar, the Legal Profession and Nigeria. Respectfully, Sylvester UDEMEZUE (Udems) Proctor, Reality Ministry of Justice (RMJ)

08109024556. therealistministry@gmail.com. (27 March 2024)

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