CHAMSGATE: Mahmoud Summons Crisis Meeting

• Invites Presidential Candidates
• High-level Parley Holds Thursday
• NBA Writes CHAMS for Full Disclosure
• CHAMS to Know Fate Soon

The crises rocking the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Election has compelled NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN to summon a meeting of key stakeholders to find ways to save the elections.

Impeccable sources told CITY LAWYER that emails were sent to the presidential candidates inviting them to the high-profile crisis management meeting scheduled to hold by 2 pm on Thursday in the President’s Conference Room. Other candidates are not invited to the high stakes meeting.

Signed by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) Secretary, Mr. Bolaji Agoro, sources told CITY LAWYER that the letter did not disclose any agenda for the meeting.

However, NBA sources told CITY LAWYER that perhaps the only item on the agenda is to decide the fate of CHAMS Plc whose selection as the ICT Partner for the elections has raised serious dust among stakeholders.

It is recalled that an exclusive report by CITY LAWYER http://citylawyermag.com/2018/07/12/nba-hires-usoros-co-directors-firm-as-ict-partner-for-elections/ showed conclusively that Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, a major candidate in the elections, is a co-director at Access Bank Plc with Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika, the first female Chairman of CHAMS Plc.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the NBA leadership may have written to CHAMS to explain its part in the debacle. Though both Agoro and NBA General Secretary, Mr. Isiaka Olagunju had dismissed the CITY LAWYER report as unfounded, key stakeholders disagree, stating that the matter must not be swept under the carpet.

Following the investigative report, several lawyers have asked CHAMS Plc to recuse itself or be sacked by the NBA leadership, adding that there are serious conflict of interest issues that would hobble CHAMS as an impartial arbiter for the elections.

In an exclusive interview (http://citylawyermag.com/2018/07/13/chamsgate-odinkalu-chides-olagunju-carpets-ecnba/) with CITY LAWYER, leading human rights activist and former National Human Rights Commission Chairman, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu berated ECNBA, saying: “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.”

On his part, former NBA Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN said: “The principle that those who have the duty to decide must not give appearance of bias is of considerable antiquity. R vs Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy (924) 1 KB 256, (1923) All ER Rep 233 is a leading English case on the impartiality and recusal of judges. It is famous for its precedence in establishing the principle that the mere appearance of bias is sufficient to overturn a decision. It also brought into common parlance the oft-quoted aphorism, “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

“This authority is notorious for the principle that in any setting where an impartial decision is expected, those saddled with the duty to produce the result must not give appearance of bias. Justice demands that they live above board. Any appearance of bias destroys the confidence of the people.”

Some key candidates who spoke to CITY LAWYER on condition of anonymity expressed worry on the ability of the ICT Partner to discharge its mandate with impartiality. They argue that their confidence has been seriously shaken by the revelations, adding that their fate may no longer lie in the hands of the electorate.

Odinkalu had queried the level of due diligence that went into the selection process, saying: “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.”

Though some have argued that non-disclosure of material information is at the root of the current crisis, CHAMS Plc professes to abide by good corporate governance in carrying on its business. In its 2017 Annual Report & Accounts, the company states: “The companies that make up Chams Group are advocates and practitioners of corporate governance. The practice of corporate governance fosters openness, transparency, accountability, honesty, selflessness, integrity, leadership, monitoring of performance and leadership.” Continuing, CHAMS said: “The company is committed to full disclosure and transparency in providing information to all stakeholders because of its belief that this is the most important driving force in any good governance process.”

In light of the crisis which has cast a pall of uncertainty over the elections, there are strong indications that many of the candidates would demand the sack of CHAMS Plc, given that they may have lost confidence in the leading ICT firm.

While many stakeholders consider Mahmoud a “gentleman” who would not want to tarnish his reputation or further hobble the NBA due to another electoral crisis, others argue that his decisiveness in the matter would be critical in determining his legacy.

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