In this no-holds barred interview, Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch Election Committee, Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN says the elections will be free, fair and credible.
Please briefly introduce yourself.
I am Richard Ayodele Akintunde, SAN, the Chairman of the NBA Lagos Branch 2019 Election Committee
How does it feel being asked to midwife yet another election for the Premier Bar?
I am honoured to be asked once again to Chair the Election Committee of the Premier Bar. I am particularly excited because this year branch elections will be conducted by E-voting. This is a historic event and my committee members and I are super excited to be part of this history making exercise.
How will you describe your team in the Electoral Committee?
I have an excellent team made up distinguished legal practitioners and members of the NBA Lagos Branch. The team consists of HRM Chief E.A. Otokhina, Mrs. Sola Adegbonmire, Mr. Geff Eze and Mrs. Obosa Akpata who is the Secretary of the Committee. We have an excellent working relationship and we are all committed to delivering a free, fair and credible electoral process.
There are concerns that the complaints procedure for members whose names were omitted in the voters’ register is not clear-cut. For instance, some argue that the notice was silent on members submitting Bar Practicing Fees and Branch Dues receipts and that this may discourage members from following through with the process. What is your view on this?
The complaints procedure is clear cut and straightforward and it requires Branch Members whose names were not included in the List of Eligible Voters published by the Committee to submit their complaints. To be Eligible to vote you must be a Financial Member of the Branch and must have paid your bar practicing fees and annual branch dues, as and when due, for the two (2) years preceding the election or since enrolment, if less than two (2) years post-call and you must have attended 5 monthly meetings in a 12 month period preceding the elections. The criteria for eligibility to vote is contained in the Uniform Bye Laws and it was widely published by the Election Committee.
Your name will not appear on the list of Eligible Voters if you have not met these criteria. As members of the branch we all know these requirements. It behooves you therefore in your complaint to show that you have met these criteria by providing useful information [such as receipts showing that you paid your practicing fees and branch dues as required and you attended the require number of meetings] to the Election Committee to enable the Committee include such member’s name in the Supplementary List.
When the Election Committee published the List of Eligible Voters, branch members whose names who had complaints were advised to submit their complaints by email. In the course of reviewing such complaints those whose names were not found on the list of Financial Members of the Branch supplied to us by the Branch Secretariat were requested by email to submit proof of payment of bar practicing fees and annual branch dues for 2018 and 2019 as required and we have been receiving their responses.
Also the names of members who sent in their complaints were checked in the Attendance books and the minutes of meetings from June 2018 to June 2019 to confirm if they attended the 5 monthly meetings required.
Members who meet the requirements have will be included in the Supplementary list of Eligible Voters to be published by the Election Committee.
The complaint process is designed to address any mistakes or omissions on the list of eligible after which a supplementary list will be published. Members who wish to participate in the election process should not be discouraged at all, the complaint process works and we have been using the complaints process for the last 5 elections to include eligible voters whose names were omitted on a Supplementary list.
The integrity of the voters’ register has also been questioned by the observation that some candidates already cleared by your committee had their names omitted from the list. How do you respond to this?
The name of one candidate [Obinna Okereke] was omitted and we have rectified the omission. The candidates whose name was misspelt has also been rectified. The omission of one person’s name is not enough to question the integrity of the list of eligible voters. The omission was an innocent one and his name will appear on the Supplementary list. The essence of publishing the list of eligible voters no later than 14 days before the elections is to afford branch members the opportunity to complain and for the Committee to take on board the complaints and make corrections if need be. We are working day and night to attend to all complaints received. I want to assure our members that the list of eligible voters and the supplementary one coming is credible.
Some have argued that the regularization of the voters’ register ought to have been done online, especially as some registered voters may be overseas during this period. Why did your committee opt for a manual complaints and regularization process?
The initial list of eligible voters was published in hard and soft copies. The list is available online at www.nbalagoselections.com.ng The Complaints process is not manual as complaints are to be sent to the Committee by e-mail to email@example.com . The complaint will be resolved by painstakingly going through the records provided to us by the Branch Secretariat manually to show that such member paid his practicing fees and branch dues as required and attended the 5 monthly meetings required. Once this is resolved the names of successful complainants will be published in hard and soft copies. The Supplementary list will soon be available online at www.nbalagoselections.com.ng
Resolution of the complaint can only be done manually by physically going through the Attendance Register of Meetings and the records of the branch for 2018 and 2019 of Financial Members. We are using technology in the best possible way and you don’t have to be in Nigeria to log on to the website or send an e-mail.
It has been said that there is no feedback mechanism for members to know whether their complaints have been resolved. How do you respond to this?
We are in touch with members who have sent in their complaints and trust me we are resolving their complaints. We will soon publish a supplementary list of Eligible Voters. We will also let members who sent in complaints know by email why their names are not on the Supplementary list.
Your committee has not provided any Help Desk or hotline for members to make enquiries on the electoral process? Is this deliberate?
We have an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org which allows the members and the public to contact the Committee and we have been attending to various enquires from members and the public sent through this e-mail address. We will set up a Help Desk after the Final Batch of Eligible Voters is published and a hotline will be provided. Members are free contact the Election Committee via e-mail.
Some candidates say that your Committee has not been carrying them along, that the processes leading to the elections have been shrouded in secrecy. What is your view on this?
The Uniform Bye Laws sets out the duties of the Election Committee and we have been carrying out our duties as set out to the letter. We have a website where all the information relating to the election is published. We have printed posters, flexes and other online materials regarding the electoral process as required by the Uniform Bye Laws. I have addressed several monthly meetings to talk about the electoral process. The processes leading to the election is not shrouded in secrecy. We are constantly publishing online materials giving information about the election process. In the history of my involvement with the election process in the NBA Lagos Branch we have never published as much information as we have done in the 2019 elections. The Committee has constantly been posting online materials and flexes giving out information on the election process. The electoral process is open and transparent. We are having a parley with candidates, agents, stakeholders and the media on Tuesday, the 25th of June 2019 and we intend to continue to engage with them. Many candidates have been contacting the Committee on one thing or the other.
Do you plan to have a stakeholders’ meeting with the candidates before the elections?
We intend to have a stakeholders meeting with all the candidates, their agents, the branch exco and the media on Tuesday the 25th of June 2019 at the NBA Lagos Branch Conference Room at 12 noon.
Some have argued that enlightenment has been low on the electoral process, especially as the electronic voting model is being adopted for the first time by the branch. How do you respond to this?
We have constantly published online materials on various platforms to enlighten Branch Members of the Step by Step process for the E-Voting. At the last Branch Meeting, I addressed the June Branch Meeting and went through the step by step process for the e-voting. I also did a demonstration of the e-voting process. Members were given the opportunity to ask questions about the process and I provided answers. We intend to have a stakeholders meeting with all the candidates, their agents, the branch Exco and the media on Tuesday the 25th of June 2019 at the NBA Branch Conference Room at 12 noon to once again explain the e-voting process step by step and do a demonstration of the voting process. We will also do the same explanation at the Manifesto Day at the Foyer at 2.00 pm on the same day.
Why is your committee still keeping the ICT Partner for the elections under wraps even days to the election?
We are not keeping the Service Provider under wraps. At the June monthly meeting of the NBA Lagos Branch, I disclosed the name of the service partner in a demonstration to all members present. The Service Provider is: vote-now.com. They are a reputable ballot service provider, with extensive experience in providing secure ballot options to various professional organizations and associations all over the world since 2003. They have conducted 2,375 ballots by e-voting till date.
What is the level of access to be given to the candidates or their agents as to the backend of the e-voting platform?
Candidates will be allowed to nominate agents who will be granted some access to the Situation Room, where the ballot process will be monitored.
Are you confident about the integrity of the e-voting platform and its ability to withstand possible attacks from hackers among others?
The election servers are protected with encrypted connections and have valid SSL certificates. All web connections are made via https with 256 bit security. Vote-now.com is certified Grade A on security when tested with the SSL labs security test. We offer all members the highest assurances of rock-solid security of the voting process.
There are concerns that non-release of the June attendance list may lead to padding of the voters’ register. Are these valid concerns? Do you plan to release the list?
The attendance register for June has been provided by the Secretariat to the Committee to enable the Committee do its work and attend to complaints. The attendance register cannot be padded while in the custody of the election committee. It is the duty of the Branch Secretariat to release the attendance list of the June meeting not that of the Election Committee.
When are campaigns expected to cease, given that the deadline is not stated on the published Guidelines?
Candidates are expected to stop all forms of campaigns by 12 midnight on Thursday the 27th of June 2019.
Only 793 eligible voters were on the voters’ list published by your committee. How many voters are ultimately expected to participate in the elections?
We will able to determine the total number of voters that will participate in the elections after we have attended to all complaints and published the Supplementary List. Watch out the list is coming out soon.
Do you have any concerns regarding the elections?
The collation of data of Eligible Voters is very critical to E-voting. So far, the Election Committee has received about 200 e-mails from Eligible Voters updating their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Eligible Voters are required to check their information on the NBA Lagos Branch Website nbalagos.org and update their information if necessary.
Accurate date is critical to the success of the 2019 elections by e-voting. We are working assiduously to harvest the required data required. I once again use this opportunity to appeal to all eligible voters to ensure that they check with the NBA branch secretariat that their emails and phone numbers are correct. Eligible voters can also supply their telephone and emails to the Committee at email@example.com
When are the results of the elections expected?
The results will be announced shortly after the conclusion of the e-voting exercise. Will there be a paper trail for the results of the elections? The service provider will make available a breakdown of the results after the election, showing a transparent and auditable process.
Is there any complaints procedure for candidates who may wish to contest the results?
There is no complaints procedure in the NBA uniform Bye-Law for Branches. Candidates have already signed on their nomination forms that they will abide by the result of the elections.
What are your last words for voters and other stakeholders?
I want to thank the candidates, the branch Exco and branch members for their cooperation thus far. I want to appeal to eligible voters to familiarize themselves with the step by step guide to e-voting which has been posted on several platforms and on www.nbalagoselections.com.ng
I want to assure members of the NBA Lagos Branch, candidates, eligible voters and stakeholders that with their cooperation and support, the 2019 election by e-voting will be seamless. At the end of it all, we will all congratulate ourselves. On behalf of the Election Committee, I thank you for this opportunity.