Monday, 6 July, 2020

BREAKING: ECNBA Set to Extend Verification Deadline Again

• Officer Slams Branches for Chaos
• Says Compilation of Branch Voters’ List Irregular
• Branches Warn Against Disenfranchising Members

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) may for the umpteenth time joggle its timelines for the National Officers Elections, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report.

Although the ECNBA had earlier set 10 o’clock today as the deadline for the verification exercise, it is seemingly apparent that many eligible voters will be disenfranchised should the electoral body stick to the deadline.

In a post by a ranking national officer aimed to assuage frayed nerves, he stated that “A statement on the election time table will be out shortly. Verification is not ending at 10 am this morning. That much I can confirm.”

An online poll conducted by CITY LAWYER showed that even a number of candidates are yet to be verified for the elections. Most online platforms have been awash with complaints on the challenges being faced by eligible voters in surmounting the verification hurdle.

The national officer also slammed the branches for being a major cause of the problems, noting that the voters’ lists sent in by them were riddled with incorrect or zero critical data.

The post read:

“One thing is certain, we shall not conduct an election where majority are disenfranchised. If by the deadline for verification, the number of those that are yet to verify is too significant, we will rather take the painful but right decision of further extending the deadline than go ahead with election where majority of members are shut out. The present situation is unfortunate but what is most important at this time is ameliorating the bad situation. I must however for the purpose of disabusing our minds state that most of the problems were created by the Branches.

“Please note the below:
1. About 5 Branches submitted the names of their members using same phone number and email address for all the members;
2. Some Branches submitted incomplete information for some of their members;
3. Most Branches submitted incorrect information for a number of their members;
4. Some Branches did not even submit the names and information of some of their members at all.

“I was a victim of the category 4. The immediate past administration in my Branch did not forward my name to the National Secretariat despite being a National Officer with undoubtful eligibility to vote. So, many of us with missing or incomplete information fell into at least one of the above categories. I must again mention that, Chams used a model that allowed for members to correct their own information by themselves and this made verification so easy and seamless. But that process was compromised and manipulated by our members, hence the model adopted by Crenet which makes it impossible for members to correct their own information directly on the server.

“There are thousands of tickets still being treated as at this moment. Our members should please be reassured of the credibility of this present process. We may have challenges, but all issues will be attended to. My plea is that we should please show understanding and cooperate with the ECNBA in ensuring that credibility of this election is assured and sustained. All will be well.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that the ECNBA had severally postponed the verification exercise, citing challenges by CRENET, the ICT Partner, in cleaning up the preliminary voters’ register. A statement yesterday by CRENET failed to assuage eligible voters.

While CRENET had noted that it had not received any payment so far for work done, Mr. Ike Osondu of NBA Owerri Branch who is yet to be verified stated: “If the NBA should pay you a dime for this hazard done to lawyers, I will personally file an action in court to challenge it. Nonsense!” When queried on the seriousness of his threat, he retorted: “Yes, Counsel. 100% serious. What has Crenet Techlabs Ltd done to warrant the payment? It should be the one to compensate the teeming number of lawyers for wasting our time and causing us psychological stress.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that though the exercise was originally slated to commence on July 26, 2018 it was initially shifted to July 27 and ultimately commenced at 8 pm on July 31, 2018. It is recalled that while the ECNBA had stated that “Verification will end at 10.00am on Thursday 2nd August, 2018,” the timeline could not be sustained due to hiccups. The electoral committee then shifted the deadline to today at 10 o’clock.

Several branches have written to the electoral committee seeking yet another extension of the verification deadline. In a protest letter signed by the Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom, he stated: “As at 3 pm today, Friday, 3 August 2018, the information available to us is that less than 20% of the over 7,000 members of our Branch whose names appear on the final list of voters published by the ECNBA have been able to verify for the election. An overwhelming majority of our members have been unsuccessfully trying to do the verification in the past three days.

“The situation is so dire that unless something really dramatic happens, if the election goes on next Wednesday as scheduled, as many as 70% of our members will be disenfranchised. Indeed, there is a growing sense of anxiety and restiveness among our members. Some have even suggested that the challenges currently being encountered by members of the Association have been deliberately orchestrated to frustrate and ultimately disenfranchise many of us from voting in the election.”

Other branches that have protested the verification exercise include Nnewi, Benin, Pankshin, Badagry, Owerri, Warri, Port Harcourt, Ahoada, Isiokpo, Bori, Degema, Omoku, Okehi and Okrika branches.

While the ECNBA and NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN had repeatedly committed to ensure free, fair and credible elections, all eyes are now on them to deliver on their promise.

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