CHAMSgate: Odinkalu Chides Olagunju, Carpets ECNBA

By Our Correspondent

·        Says ECNBA Not Independent, ‘has not done its homework’

·        Demands Full Disclosure

·        Raps NBA GenSec for ‘excess of eagerness’

Human rights czar and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu has taken a swipe at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) leadership for meddling in the affairs of the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA).

In a statement exclusively obtained by CITY LAWYER MAGAZINE, the human rights activist also carpeted the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu-led ECNBA, declaring that the committee “has not done its homework.”

Odinkalu was reacting to the exclusive investigative report by CITY LAWYER (http://citylawyermag.com/2018/07/12/nba-hires-usoros-co-directors-firm-as-ict-partner-for-elections/) which revealed that Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, a leading candidate in the forthcoming NBA General Elections, is a co-director at Access Bank Plc with the Chairman of CHAMS Plc, Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika. CHAMS is the ICT Partner selected by NBA to anchor the elections.

CITY LAWYER report showed that aside from the duo currently being non-executive directors of the bank, both directors also share membership of at least four of the board committees. This has raised concerns among stakeholders on the ability of CHAMS Plc to deliver free, fair and rancour-free elections commencing exactly two weeks from today.

Aside from questioning the independence of ECNBA and the level of transparency that went into the selection of CHAMS as the ICT Partner for the elections, the foremost human rights activist berated NBA General Secretary, Mr. Isiaka Olagunju for meddling in the affairs of ECNBA, saying the action “suggests he has an excess of eagerness unbecoming for his position.”

A report by an online legal blog (not CITY LAWYER) allegedly quoted Olagunju and ECNBA Secretary, Mr. Bolaji A. Agoro as denying the CITY LAWYER report, asserting that CHAMS has no links to Usoro. Agoro reportedly described CITY LAWYER’s report as “cheap blackmail,” adding that “We didn’t hire any company linked with any of the contestants. The committee deliberated on it and responded accordingly.”

But Odinkalu disagrees. His words: “I have read reports crediting the NBA Secretary, Mr. (Isiaka) Olagunju and the ECNBA Secretary, Mr. (Bolaji) Agoro, with doing a tag team on this issue of the NBA’s e-voting solution provider. One would have thought that with the existence of an ECNBA, the NBA General Secretary would advise himself to keep quiet on this matter. By coming out the way he has, he casts a pall over the independence of the ECNBA, and he suggests he has an excess of eagerness unbecoming for his position. That is more than worrying.

“It seems clear ECNBA has not done its homework and is not looking very independent. The degree of transparency expected of this ECNBA has been lacking. When did they advertise the bids for solution providers? Where? How? Who curated and managed the bids? How was the bid process governed? What is the scope and specification of the contract? What are the data management and data protection responsibilities of the contractor? Has the platform been tested? Demonstrated? To whom? When? How? What due diligence did the ECNBA do? It seems it’s only now after the fact that the ECNBA is about to go do the kind of due diligence it should have done well before now.

“Some people say the relationship between Mr. Usoro & Dr. Awosika are too tangential to ignore. Both CHAMS & Access Bank are public companies. It seems clear from the publicly available records that Mr. Usoro is a debtor to Access Bank. Dr. Awosika who sits on both the Credit and Finance and Audit committees of the Access Bank Board would have had to take a view of this. I say nothing of the concurrence of their board committee memberships. None of these are disclosed. We simply are supposed to accept opinions of people who have not done their homework. For me, that is not good enough.

“The other issue that clearly should be asked is: what other relationships exist between Access Bank and CHAMS (if any)? Is Access Bank a creditor to CHAMS or has it been since Dr. Awosika and Mr. Usoro have been on the board of Access? What of shareholder interests?

“The ECNBA has to convince us that it investigated these issues. It can only do so by disclosing publicly and clearly the result of its due diligence on these questions. Only then can its assurances count for something.”

The NBA General Election holds on July 27 and 28, 2018. The last exercise was marred by controversies, leading to a court action by the defeated presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN who is still battling to ‘reclaim his mandate.’ The tenure of Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN-led executive committee ends next month. A new president is expected to be sworn in at the Annual General Conference (AGC) holding at Abuja between August 26 and 30, 2018.

Some aspects of this year’s election have been marred by controversies, especially the disqualification of former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Afam Osigwe. There were also claims that the ECNBA gave a green light to some candidates who were not qualified to contest the election.

 

 

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