ELECTORAL C’TE SETTLES FOR NBA WEBSITE AS VOTING PORTAL

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) may have resolved to deploy the NBA website as the voting portal for the forthcoming National Officers Elections.

An indication to this effect was given today by the NBA Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Akorede Habeeb Lawal while responding to concerns raised by lawyers on a CITY LAWYER whatsapp platform.

This may have laid to rest speculations on whether the newly built NBA Election Portal will be deployed by the Electoral Committee for the elections.

While one Osa Akpata had expressed worry over the challenges being encountered by lawyers in the verification exercise, Lawal said that the verification process was not commenced with the elections in mind. His words: “Although the ECNBA has chosen to conduct the election on the NBA membership portal, the verification exercise was not commenced primarily because of election. And we will not compromise its essence on the altar of politics. Verification takes some time and that time is used to ensure from the backend that the applicant for verification is indeed the owner of the bar certificate he/she uploads. It is far beyond the election – greater than politics.”

Debunking the charge that the verification process is “flawed,” the NBA publicist said: “No one who had been verified would state that the process was flawed. A lot of members got verified and paid their BPF during the lockdown in March. And there was no complaint about the process.

“We also have to acknowledge that not all of us are versatile with the use of technology and as such, while others have a seamless verification exercise, some have troubles with it. It is for this reason that we’ve set up a help desk in this respect. Members with issues may and indeed have been reaching out to me and other national officers. I can be reached through this WhatsApp line.

“While not holding the brief of the ECNBA, the Chairman of the Committee has stated number without times that no eligible voter will be disenfranchised. If you cannot trust them, then, at least you give them the benefit of doubt.”
On the controversy surrounding some strange names found on the final voters register, Lawal said: “We have no non-living things/duplicated names on the verified list. With respect, you are confusing the voters list with a verified list. In fact, there is no such thing as a verified list.”

Akpata had raised concerns on duplicated names on the voters’ register, adding that this may adversely impact the outcome of the election. She said: “The process is fraught with flaws; we have non-living objects on the verified list, we have names duplicated, we are days to the election and we have tons of lawyers who have not been verified due to the onerous and flawed online process.

“I’ve been trying to assist a colleague to verify for over a week with no success, how you can disenfranchise Lawyers who have paid their Practising fees and Branch Dues as required by the NBA out of no failure on their part simply because of the very flawed process. If we do not trust the process, how do we trust the outcome?”

Another lawyer, Favour Hart however agreed with Lawal, saying: “May I humbly align myself with your position. The process for verification on the NBA Portal might take a while but it doesn’t mean you’d not get any response from them. All those I’ve helped with verification have been successful! Agreed, the back and forth might be frustrating but that doesn’t meant (sic) it’s fraught with flaws. We need to leave politics aside when making some comments.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN had in a statement noted that the NBA had developed an Election Portal, adding however that its deployment would depend on the advice of an information technology expert. His words: “There is no gainsaying that the success of the elections would depend to a large extent on the electronic or IT platform that would be deployed for the election. The need to procure such a platform has been a priority. The Committee was briefed that the NBA has its own e-voting platform/portal for elections developed by TAVIA, an IT firm. TAVIA was invited to brief the Committee in conjunction with the NBA IT Officer Umar Gezawa, on the said NBA election platform/portal.

“Further to the said briefing, the ECNBA decided that in spite of the advantages of such a portal, exploring the use of other viable e-voting platforms if necessary is not foreclosed. As such there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant that would examine the NBA portal and critique same, its integrity, functionality and suitability or otherwise for the purpose of the elections as well as advise on other options. The Consultant would also be required to identify avenues for possible threats, and advise on how to contain same. Other issues to be addressed include the training of staff and all those associated with handling any part of the e-voting process by the consultant. They would be expected to verify electronically, the votes cast at the end of the exercise. Notwithstanding the above, the platform or portal to deploy for the election by the ECNBA would largely be dependent on the advice and report of the IT Consultant.”

Clarifying some controversy surrounding the NBA Election Portal, Tawo told a national newspaper that the portal was not designed to rig the forthcoming election. His said: “I did not say the e-voting platform/portal was developed specifically for the 2020 elections, and neither did I say anything that should warrant an inference that the NBA developed platform was created for the purpose of rigging the elections, far from it. It may be of interest to point out that, the IT firm, TAVIA, that developed the NBA election portal/platform, is not conducting the e-voting election for the NBA; rather another IT consultant will do that. I went further in that statement to state that, in spite of the obvious advantages of the NBA portal, namely reduction in cost and security of members data vis- a-vis deployment of another election platform or portal, there was the need to engage an independent IT Consultant to analyse, assess and critique the portal as to its integrity, functionality and suitability for the elections, or otherwise advice on other options.”

Arguing that there is wisdom in having a permanent NBA Election Portal, the Electoral Committee chairman said: “Having said that, what is wrong for an organisation that conducts a crucial election biannually to develop an election portal for use for its elections, rather than every two years an IT firm is commissioned or contracted to develop an election portal for the election, and discard same afterwards?”

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