Saturday, 30 May, 2020

NBA ELECTIONS: ‘WHAT WE WANT FROM ECNBA’ – ASPIRANTS

As the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) fine-tunes modalities to select its Information Technology Specialist for the 2020 NBA Elections, some aspirants have been speaking on their expectations from the election management body.

While some told CITY LAWYER that they are confident the ECNBA would deliver free and transparent elections, others warned that it may sound the death knell for NBA if the electoral process is not fair and credible.

ALEX MUOKA
I think that it will be difficult to sincerely move forward if we do not admit the mistakes of the past. The official NBA is still in denial that anything untoward happened during the last elections. If we consider the complaints from the last process we will know what to do and or not do this time around.

Last week there was an online discourse by The Torchbearers during which an IT expert discuss e-voting. The synopsis of that engagement will be most instructive. It would be very unfortunate if there is already a predetermined bidder. It means that there is a script being acted out.

The NBA secretariat ought to have credible database of lawyers from the roll and the verification process; also from conference registrations and previous elections (for older lawyers). This data ought by now to have been integrated such that once the evidence of payment of 2020 BPF and Branch dues is inputed the secretariat would produce a clean voters list. Once this data is handed over to the committee the work of the secretariat as far as the elections are concerned is over.

The committee should allow stakeholders to interrogate the processes as they go forward and should take seriously any comments or complaints from stakeholders. There must be a post-election audit before the results are announced.

S. O. K. SHILLING
First, I adopt the submission of Learned Silk Funke Adekoya, Mrs. as reported.

Further, there are fears about the integrity of the process, hence interested party should be allowed to assess the process by their respective experts. This should be done before the negotiation is complete lest it becomes medicine after death. The integrity of this process is already staked if some things have not been done now.

BARTH OKOYE-ANICHE
The Committee should make a thorough screening of the candidates in accordance with the Constitution of NBA. The Committee in all its dealings and (at) each stage of their activities should pay strict adherence to the provisions of the Constitution. And should not conduct itself as to suggest that they already have a candidate in mind.
The issues of our NBA elections always emanate from the point of publishing the list of eligible voters, therefore I advise that the committee should do a thorough work on that and ensure that nobody who is qualified to vote is disenfranchised from taking part in the process.

Transparency is a key to every election. To demonstrate transparency, the Committee should always make their dealings open for members of the Association to scrutinize. There should be in place an avenue to communicate with the members on the activities of the Committee stage by stage. With that they can earn the confidence of members especially when the last election was perceived by many quarters as tampered with.

The members are watching very keenly to see the first step this ECNBA Committee will take especially in the area of selection of partners or ICT Company to work with amongst the bidders. This if gotten right will earn the confidence of people in the Committee. The Committee should be circumspect in that area, because it will make or mar the confidence of members. And finally on that, I suggest that the Committee go with an International ICT Company, or an Indigenous Company with no link to any of the aspirants or their seeming supporters. We have to get it right this time.

I will say that you cannot totally do away with the involvement of the staff of NBA in the electoral process of the NBA. This is because, it is this same staff or employees that are in custody of the NBA machineries and are expected to furnish any ICT Company selected with the materials to work with. So you see, it will be near impossible to conduct any election without them there to supply the data and other things to the external company or body coming to conduct the election. But what we should be talking about is how we make sure that the bad eggs in them will not have anything to do with the sensitive materials for the election, or will not have any involvement with the operation of the machineries. There should be a standing order to curtail the NBA staff’s interference with the sensitive parts of the process.

I think if the Committee follow the procedures laid down in the Constitution and the Electoral Regulation, free and fair election is achievable without stress. What breaches elections is when the supposed umpire begins to have interest in the process whether personal interest or pressured interest. If a foreign ICT Company is involved in the process from the start, I believe they still have the morals not to succumb to any pressure. Generally, I have trust on the Committee, and so far they have my full support. Even though their work is not going to be easy I pray that they succeed to give NBA the best election, in order to bring back the lost confidence in our electoral process.

ADEDOTUN ADETUNJI
Transparency is very key in this. A transparent process to invite leading players in the industry and/or advertising same in the print and/or electronic media to enable suitably qualified companies to bid will go a long way to give us a hitch free process.
I don’t like to sound pessimistic; the committee members are our colleagues and they are men of proven integrity. I do not doubt their ability to deliver on the assignment given to them. I am sure they will perform well and be fair to all concerned.

NBA staff in the circumstance are not members of the committee. The running and workings of the committee to me is the responsibility of the committee members and the successful company eventually selected to carry out the job. NBA staff should not be involved in the electoral process beyond mere/simple administrative runnings.

On the way forward, there is urgent need to improve on the accreditation process in terms of provision of enough time adequate for complaints and redress options. Secondly, there must be satisfactory voters education for members. Thirdly, all the candidates must be enlightened on the modality of accreditation, voting and counting ab initio to avoid misunderstanding of the process. The fourth suggestion is that a clear-cut, credible and acceptable election dispute resolution process should be put in place so as to avoid incessant and embarrassing litigation that have characterized NBA elections lately. Finally, an election review forum should hold where stakeholders can come to compare notes, exchange ideas and recommend better methodologies, if any.

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OKUTEPA: ‘2020 NBA ELECTION IS DOOMED IF …’

Fiery Bar Leader and longstanding Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN has predicted that the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) election is doomed to fail if certain challenges remain unresolved.

In an interview with CITY LAWYER, the rags-to-riches senior lawyer warned that unless the allegations that beset previous Bar elections are fully resolved, lawyers should not expect free and fair NBA elections. Continue Reading

AKINJIDE WAS AN OUTSTANDING LAWYER, SAYS GADZAMA

Bar Leader and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) has described late former Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) as an “outstanding multi-jurisdictional lawyer” who “contributed monumentally” to the growth and development of the legal profession in Nigeria.

In a statement sent to CITY LAWYER, the pioneer Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) said he was “saddened” by the demise of the former Chairman of Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), adding that Nigeria has lost “one of its finest” legal minds.

The statement reads:

“I was saddened to hear of the death of former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN who passed away at the ripe age of 88 in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Until his death, he was the Chairman of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN).

“He was an outstanding multi-jurisdictional lawyer called to both the Nigerian and English Bar. As Minister of Education in the first republic and later as Minister of Justice in the second republic, he distinguished himself. No doubt, he was a decent politician who played politics without bitterness.

“Chief Akinjide, SAN contributed monumentally to the growth and development of the legal profession in Nigeria. He was indeed a great achiever who lived a life worthy of emulation. Nigeria has lost one of its finest who will always be fondly remembered for the great legacy he left behind. May his soul rest in peace.”

Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN
Pioneer Chairman, NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law, (SPIDEL)

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NBA MUST ALLOW REAL-TIME MONITORING OF VOTING – GADZAMA

  • SAYS ‘TAWO TAWO IS A MAN OF INTEGRITY’

Foremost litigator and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (OFR, MFR, SAN) has stated that a key requirement for a rancour-free 2020 NBA Elections is “real time monitoring of votes.”

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, Gadzama, the first presidential candidate to drag NBA to court to challenge the outcome of its national election conducted by electronic voting, also warned that all “principal actors” in the electioneering process must eschew throwing up a preferred information technology specialist to midwife the election.

Giving in insight into the character of the newly appointed Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo (SAN), Gadzama stated that lawyers in the Abuja axis especially view him “as a man of integrity,” adding however that he “hopes” Tawo would sustain the rating.

His words: “There should be a mechanism to allow real-time monitoring of votes during the voting exercise.”

On the selection of an information technology specialist to partner with the ECNBA to deliver the elections, the leading arbitrator said: “This is a crucial time in the legal profession as we prepare to elect National Officers who will pilot the affairs of the association for the next two years. Any IT company to be engaged must be competent and reputable. Requisite due diligence must be conducted on any prospective IT company before engagement. It must be a company that has no real interest in who emerges as winners of the election other than a reflection of the wishes of the majority of members of the Bar.

“In engagement of an IT company, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure, as much as practicable, that the Principal Actors here do not have any affiliation, interest in or influence over the IT company. I am aware that the ECNBA has issued a request for proposal for IT consultancy. Bearing in mind the above considerations and the pre-qualification requirements in the issued RfP, if strictly adhered to, it should result to the engagement of a competent IT company.”

Speaking on growing concerns that a preferred bidder may be chosen as an IT Specialist for the elections, Gadzama said all efforts should be made to dispel such claim. His words: “You will recall that the outcome of the 2016 and 2018 NBA elections were challenged in Court and as an association, we must do everything reasonably and humanly possible to ensure that the 2020 election is conducted in a transparent manner acceptable to the majority, if not all. This process of course includes the selection of an IT company for the election. Any legitimate concern by stakeholders about the process must be taken seriously and adequately addressed. Remember that confidence and trust are key here.

“As pointed out earlier, there should be clear yardsticks and objective basis for selection of an IT company for this process and all Candidates (particularly presidential candidates) should be carried along. With the considerations already highlighted, I believe that the concerns of stakeholders can be adequately addressed. No system is perfect but once appropriate checks and balances are put in place, these concerns will be sufficiently, if not completely, addressed.”

Gadzama also weighed in on the controversy surrounding participation of NBA staff in the elections. Asked the extent to which the staff should be involved in the elections, Gadzama said: “No doubt, the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2019) vests the responsibility of conducting National Officers Elections on the ECNBA. Particularly, Paragraph 2.3 (c) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution makes it the duty and responsibility of the Electoral Officers to control, conduct and manage the elections. Also see paragraph 2.1 (a) of the Second Schedule.

“However, there is still some level of involvement of the National Secretariat which, of course, is manned by NBA Staff. For example, paragraph 2.1 (c) of the Second Schedule to the Constitution provides that completed forms received in respect of elections into national offices shall be forwarded to the National Secretariat and thereafter referred to the Electoral Committee. In further demonstration of possible roles of the National Secretariat in the process, I also refer to Paragraph 2.3 (d) of the Second Schedule which gives the National Secretariat the responsibility, in conjunction with the ECNBA, to publish the full list of all legal practitioners qualified to vote.

He adds: “The NBA Secretariat is manned by NBA Staff and, as highlighted above, there are certain roles and activities to be performed by the Secretariat in the process. Because NBA Staff are also human and may have personal interest in the outcome of the election, it is advisable that their participation in the process should be limited and/or restricted to assuage the genuine fears of those who may have cause to worry that they may be used to manipulate and/or confer undue advantage on any candidate.”

Given that he took the unprecedented step of challenging the 2016 presidential election in court, CITY LAWYER asked the popular Bar Leader to plot a roadmap to a rancour-free 2020 National Officers Elections. Gadzama advised that aside from availing all candidates a level-playing field, the ECNBA must eschew arbitrary disqualification of aspirants. Also, voter registration and verification must be transparent while the candidates must be given access to interrogate the electoral process.

His words: “The need for an acceptable NBA election cannot be over-emphasized. The outcome must reflect the choice of the majority of members. The ECNBA must ensure a level-playing field for all candidates.

“In the past, there have been genuine complaints against unjustifiable disqualification of aspirants for elections. A National Publicity Secretary in the previous administration had to challenge his disqualification in Court which gave judgment in his favour. These sorts of things should be avoided. The process of screening of aspirants should be transparent in line with the provisions of the Constitution and no aspirant should be victimised and/or unjustly disqualified.

“All candidates must also be treated equally by the ECNBA. It should be a fair contest. No candidate should be given undue advantage whether knowingly and unknowingly. The candidates must be allowed to investigate and interrogate every step of the election process without interfering with the work of the Committee.

“It is important that the guidelines to be issued by the ECNBA as required by paragraph 2.4(c) of the Second Schedule should be in line with the provisions of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2019). The need for the principle of universal suffrage as enshrined in the Constitution to be upheld and given effect cannot be over-emphasized. Universal Suffrage to my mind in this context is the right of all eligible members of NBA to freely vote for candidates of their choice without let or hindrance. Paragraph 2.2(f) of the Second Schedule to the Constitution is also instructive here. Thus, all foreseeable obstacles and/or impediments capable of disenfranchising any member should be contemplated, addressed and eliminated in advance in order to ensure a smooth and acceptable process. There should be a mechanism to allow real-time monitoring of votes during the voting exercise.”

He adds: “Another important area which will be covered in the guidelines is the voter registration process. Voter registration is a pre-condition for voting in the election as stipulated in paragraph 2.2(f) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution. Thus, the registration process should be seamless and transparent. We should be able to have an accurate and verifiable number of registered voters at different levels at the end of the process. Also germane here is that the verification of votes intended in paragraph 2.8 of the Second Schedule should indeed reflect a verifiable process capable of ascertaining the authenticity of any collated votes.”

Though there have been concerns on whether the ECNBA will maintain sufficient independence from the NBA leadership, Gadzama however said its chairman is well regarded by the legal community in Abuja where he practices.

His words: “I want to commend the ECNBA for the good work the Committee is already doing. I have seen the preliminary notice of election dated 15/04/20 already issued by the ECNBA. I am confident that the Committee under the able leadership of Tawo Tawo, SAN will do a good job that we will all be proud of as an association. Tawo is already known to many of us here in Abuja as a man of integrity but this is an opportunity for those who do not know him to review our assessment of him as well as judge his personality. I hope, pray and wish that he sustains the accolade we have given him.”

Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN was declared winner of the presidential election in the NBA National Officers Elections conducted via electronic voting. He polled 3,055 votes while Gadzama garnered 2,384 votes. But Gadzama rejected the results, stating that the election was fraught with irregularities.

A statement by Mr. Garba Gajam and Mr. Steve Abar, Director General and Secretary respectively of the Gadzama Campaign Organisation, said: “Having reviewed the situation and circumstances before and during the elections, to wit: the non-credibility of the elections; the lack of transparency; the non-automatic collation of the results on the display screen; the open partisanship of Mr. Austin Alegeh, SAN (who worked with the ECNBA) for the declared winner; and the delay for over one hour and 20 minutes before releasing the results after the close of polls at 12 midnight on Sunday, July 31, 2016, all these in total disregard for the concerns we had hitherto raised in our previous correspondence with the ECNBA, we hereby, reject the results of the elections and call for the immediate cancellation of same for failing to be credible, transparent, free and fair, and for failing to comply with the provisions of the NBA constitution and the Electoral Guidelines. We also call for the conduct of fresh electronic, not Internet, elections that will be credible, free and fair and in compliance with the provisions of the NBA constitution and the Electoral Guidelines.”

Gadzama was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1986 and the Bar of England and Wales (Lincoln’s Inn) in 2008. He took Silk in 1998 – being the first among his 1986 set – and was the Chairman of the National Working Group on Domestication of the Rome Statute in Nigeria. A leading arbitrator and member of several domestic, regional and international arbitral centres, Gadzama has participated as presiding arbitrator, party nominated arbitrator, sole arbitrator and lead counsel in several landmark commercial arbitration matters.

He was Chairman of NBA Abuja Branch and pioneer Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL). A chartered arbitrator, Gadzama is a fellow of several institutes, including the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC).

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

NBA ELECTION: ‘DON’T USE NIGERIAN ICT PARTNER,’ ADEKOYA WARNS ECNBA

• ‘THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE’

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN has warned the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) to steer clear of Nigerian information technology specialists if it plans to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, Adekoya warned that the forthcoming NBA National Officers Elections would be doomed if local ICT specialists are deployed for the elections, adding that “this is our last chance” to restore credibility to NBA’s electoral process given the rancour that has attended previous NBA elections.

She also noted that Nigerian ICT firms have been reportedly unreliable in previous elections. Her words: “Don’t use a Nigerian based entity or system; there are allegations that those used in the past have been hacked into and the voting was compromised.”

Instead, the foremost litigator who is also listed as a “thought leader” by the influential “Who is Who Legal” urged the Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN-led ECNBA to look beyond Nigeria’s shores for established electronic voting entities to conduct a rancour-free poll. She said: “The Committee does not need to re-invent the wheel; there are accredited international election conducting platforms that various Nigerian associations have used to conduct elections for their members for the past few years. Examples are https://www.eballot.com/, https://electionrunner.com/, https://electionbuddy.com/ and https://nvotes.com.”

On concerns that the bidding process may favour a pre-determined bidder, Adekoya said: “If they do that, it will be the death knell for the electoral process in the NBA. The IT platform must be agreed to by all the candidates.”

The former NBA presidential candidate warned that very minimal role must be given to NBA staff in the electoral management process to avoid compromising the poll. Her words: “Their (staff) only involvement should be to provide the election platform with access to the list of accredited voters. This list is all the lawyers who paid their practising fees by 31 March. Their email addresses should be accessible on the ‘Find a Lawyer’ portal of the NBA website.”

The ECNBA seems to have followed previous tradition where NBA staff are deployed as the committee’s clearinghouse. Both ECNBA notices seeking bids from information technology specialists as well as the committee’s preliminary notice on the elections give roles to NBA staff. This has raised doubts on the committee’s resolve not to be tied to the apron strings of the NBA but rather to keep an arm’s length relationship with NBA HOUSE.

On ways for the Electoral Committee to guarantee transparent and rancour-free elections, the highly decorated Founding Partner at AELEX said: “The Committee members must be IT savvy; they must have presided over, organised or been involved in online voting systems before now so they can understand the proposals presented, identify any areas where the system could be corrupted if a locally based provider is used and block all loopholes. In a properly run system, the results should be available within 24 hours.

“For transparency purposes, a delegate of each candidate should be a member of the Election Committee and participate in all decision making processes. Finally, keep Nigerian IT specialists out of the process. With the rancour generated over the last two elections in the NBA and the NMA, we must restore credibility to the system. It’s our last chance.”

Adekoya was in 2014 adopted by the Chief Bandele Aiku SAN-led Egbe Amofin O’odua as its sole candidate for the NBA presidential election. However, a split within the zone saw to the emergence of Mr. Dele Adesina SAN and Chief Niyi Akintola SAN as presidential candidates. Analysts argue that the inability of the Yoruba bloc to present a sole presidential candidate gifted the race to Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN.

Adekoya heads the Dispute Resolution Practice Group at AELEX. Appointed Notary Public in 1986 and elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2001, Adekoya has over 45 years experience in litigation and arbitration. She has acted in numerous disputes as either party appointed Arbitrator, Sole Arbitrator or Presiding Arbitrator. A Life Bencher, she is a member of the International Bar Association (IBA), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), LCIA African Users Council and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

SPECIAL REPORT: TAWO TAWO SAN – THE MAN WHO’LL MAKE OR MAR NBA

Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN is obviously one of the most important stakeholders in Nigerian Bar circles today. In fact, it is believed that the fate of Africa’s largest Bar association may depend on what he does or fails to do in the coming weeks leading up to the 2020 National Officers Elections of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Continue Reading

N5M COVID-19 PALLIATIVE: SANs, OTHERS CARPET, HAIL AKPATA

A N5 million relief package funded by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential aspirant, Mr. Olumide Akpata and “his friends” and administered by the NBA Lagos Branch has raised a firestorm within the Bar, pitching many lawyers against their colleagues.

The fiery debate on the propriety of the palliatives was set off by a notice by NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe when he urged “members of the Branch that genuinely need this support” to email him and other named branch Executive Committee members.

Continue Reading