Tuesday, 11 August, 2020

ECNBA APPEARS BEFORE TRUSTEES, REPLIES ADESINA

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

• CONTRADICTS ITSELF ON NUMBER OF VERIFIED VOTERS
• SET TO SUBMIT CLEAN LIST OF VERIFIED VOTERS TO BOT
• ELECTIONBUDDY SUBMITS CERTIFIED RESULTS
• ‘AUDIT WILL IDENTIFY EVERY VOTER, CHOICES’
• ‘THERE IS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT,’ SAYS TAWO

There are strong indications that the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) may have appeared before the NBA Board of Trustees (BOT) yesterday as Trustees opened hearing in a petition filed by erstwhile NBA presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN seeking to overturn the election.

CITY LAWYER had reported that the committee was to adopt its response to Adesina’s petition at yesterday’s hearing. 

Meanwhile, the controversy over the exact number of voters on the register has refused to abate, as the electoral committee has now pegged the figure at 29,632 voters in its response to the BOT. The figure is different from the “total of 29,635 verified and duly accredited members who have fulfilled all requirements for voting in the NBA National Officers elections 2020” – as announced by the committee in its ECNBA STATEMENT N0. 018 ACCREDITED VOTERS LIST – or the “29636 eligible voters” which is still trending on the election results portal. 

In the response obtained by CITY LAWYER and titled “RE: PETITION BY JULIUS OLADELE ADESINA SAN IN RESPECT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (sic) 2020,” the electoral committee stated that it “through a transparent process, engaged an IT Consultant to advice the committee on the best possible options to achieve maximum result for the e-voting system and an enterprise voting platform to conduct the election.”

According to the ECNBA, “A record of Over 18,000 members of the NBA voters participated in the NBA national officers elections. In specific terms, the list of legal practitioners qualified to vote in the 2020 NBA national officers elections stood at 39,000.”

Though the electoral committee stated that “The verified voters were in excesses (sic) of 30,000,” it later declared in the response that “29,632 (75.36%) verified.”

Noting that 18,256 voters cast their ballot, “representing over 62% or verified/accredited Voters,” the ECNBA said: “The results were observed from all locations real time and same were later officially announced by the ECNBA. The election was adjudged by many as free, fair and transparent.”

Comparing the 2020 election with the 2016 and 2018 polls, the electoral committee stated that “In 2020, a total of 39,321 Lawyers made the final voters’ list, 29,632 (75.36%) verified, 18,256 voted representing 46.43% of the electorate and 61.61% of those verified by accreditation to vote.”

Responding specifically to Adesina’s petition, the committee in its 8-page defence dated August 5, 2020 and signed by its Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN said that “no illegal, inaccurate or flawed Voters Register was used in the 2020 National officers’ elections of the Nigerian Bar Association neither was the process subverted nor manipulated against or in favour of anybody by any person.”

The committee vowed that it did not deploy any illegal voters’ register for the elections, adding that “The Electronic voting platform is designed in such a manner that a post-election audit can identify every voter and his choices at the election.”

It also debunked Adesina’s allegation that the use of NBA stamp in compiling the voters’ register imperiled the elections, saying that the “stamp and seal list for 2020 was a mere handmaiden provided by the National secretariat based on data supplied by the Branches of persons who had paid their Bar practicing fees and Branch dues as prequalification for application for stamp and seal. The Branches sent further details to cover those whose names were not on the stamp and seal list.”

On the allegation that the final voters’ list violated the provision of the NBA Constitution which set out a 28 days deadline for the publication of the register, the committee said: “This (publication of the list of verified voters) must not be confused with the (39,321) final voters’ list of legal practitioners qualified to vote as required by Article 1.2.(d) to be published at least twenty-eight (28) days before the election.”

The committee also debunked the claim that there were names of lawyers on the accredited list without branches indicated, saying that “the said names already had their branches indicated in the full list of all legal practitioners qualified to vote which was published on the 1st of July 2020.”

On the controversial issue of “International diaspora” branch, the electoral umpire said that “the names that were erroneously tagged as International Diaspora, had their correct branches indicated on the aforesaid list of 1st July 2020. The error of the International Diaspora designation arose from the fact that same was amongst the list of branches on the NBA Verification portal (perhaps for futuristic projections) and became a default place holder for any member who did not indicate his/her Branch during verification. This was addressed in the contents of ECNBA Statement No.019 thereto.”

Noting that there was no untoward activity relating to uploading of the voters’ register “that would affect the outcome of the elections or disenfranchise any voter in the elections,” the committee added that it explained in its Statement No. 019 “the circumstances around the complaints of members that they were put in branches other than their own.”

The electoral committee promised to avail the Trustees with “accredited Voters’ list with the proper Branches of members reflected,” adding that “It may be compared with the names on the final voters’ list prior to verification/accreditation.” It also noted that the “active element” for the election or unique identifier for each member was the Supreme Court Enrollment Number (SCN). “At no time did the Committee receive any complain about ‘SAN Number’ which may well have been a reference to SCN number, if at all such an incident occurred. There is no such requirement for eligibility to vote in the elections,” the committee said.

Turning to the charge of “data diddling” as alleged by Adesina, the committee said: “The ECNBA reiterates that no data was programmed and/or preconfigured to a premeditated result “in any case of data diddling”. There was never and could never be any unholy alliance and collaboration between any candidate and the ECNBA.”

The committee declared that NBA portal was not deployed for the voting, adding: “Rather, it is a foreign enterprise platform called Election Buddy with a pedigree for the kind of electoral exercise conducted by the NBA. Prior to the voting exercise, the platform had been put through series of trials via mock elections involving the ECNBA members and national officers (excluding the NBA President), with a good showing. At the end of the elections, the Certification of the election results by Election Buddy (platform provider) has also been received by the ECNBA and is forwarded with this report.”

It stated that the committee “is not unaware that for two previous elections, the IT consultants/Service providers have been subject to litigations and invitations to the various organs of the States in a manner that have not given so much credit to the NBA,” noting that “This state of affairs has made many service providers wary of doing business with the NBA.”

The committee noted that the election portal “was programmed to deliver 5 notices of the election to each voter’s phone number and email and each failed attempt was aggregated. The failure to deliver the notices had nothing to do with the capacity of the platform but the phone number/email or the facility on the receiving device.”

Though the ECNBA denied that NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN usurped its powers to engage the Service Provider, it however admitted that “The MOU for the engagement for the ICT consultant was necessarily signed by the NBA because the ECNBA is a committee of the NBA and the former has no resources of its own to pay for the services.”

Concluding, the electoral committee noted that “There is no gainsaying the fact that there is room for improvement in the NBA electoral process, especially in the manner members’ data are maintained at the Branches and the need for Lawyers to optimize their digital skills to enable the e-voting system to be user friendly cannot be over-emphasized.”

It is recalled that Adesina had petitioned the electoral committee alleging irregularities and demanding a cancellation of the poll. In a letter to ECNBA Chairman dated 30th July, 2020 and personally signed by him, Adesina stated that the voters’ list “contained grave errors of omission and commission,” listing some of the errors as:

Leading solicitor, Mr. Olumide Akpata was on July 31, 2020 declared winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020. Announcing the results, Tawo said Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

ECNBA RESPONSE

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NBA TRUSTEES TO HEAR ADESINA’S ELECTION PETITION TODAY

EMEKA NWADIOKE

There are strong indications that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Board of Trustees (BOT) will today begin hearing in the petition filed by Mr. Dele Adesina SAN against the declaration of Mr. Olumide Akpata as winner of the recent NBA National Officers Elections.

It is expected that the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) will appear before the panel to present its case against Adesina’s petition. A member of the committee told CITY LAWYER at the weekend that the board was scheduled to sit on the petition today, saying: “BOT is meeting on Monday. We are expected to formally adopt our response before them.”

It is recalled that Adesina had petitioned the electoral committee alleging irregularities and demanding a cancellation of the poll. In a letter to ECNBA Chairman dated 30th July, 2020 and personally signed by him, Adesina stated that the voters’ list “contained grave errors of omission and commission,” listing some of the errors as:

  1. Names of purported Lawyers without Branches ascribed to them from Serial Number 25171 to 29635;
  2. Names of Lawyers under the subheading “International Diaspora” from Serial Number 12182 to 12268. A clear violation of the provisions of the Constitution of the NBA;
  3. Inflation of the List of some Branches. For instance, Obollo-Afor Branch on the Final List for Verification had only 39 names on the List from Serial Number 30424 to 30462. Strangely, this increased to 662 on the Verified List;
  4. Deletion of Names of Members removed from the Final List;
  1. Many Members names found their way to Branches other than their own Branch.

He however queried why it was NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN that responded to his complaint as against the committee. He then petitioned the trustees.

In a petition dated 2nd August, 2020 and addressed to BOT Chairman, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Adesina stated that he “had the privilege of joining others to build the NBA before some of the god-fathers who are plunging the NBA into avoidable crisis today ever became involved in the affairs of the Association.”

Other members of the BOT are former NBA Presidents Joseph Bodunrin Daudu (SAN) and Augustine Alegeh (SAN), a former NBA General Secretary Obafemi Adewale and longstanding Bar Leader, Hajia Fatima Kwaku. Instructively, while Daudu threw his weight behind Adesina in the run-up to the election, Adewale endorsed Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN as the best man for the job. On his part, though Alegeh did not openly align with Akpata, he is said to be perhaps his most influential backer, even as he congratulated the NBA President-elect even before he was officially decalred as a winner of the election. 

Citing alleged infractions of the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended), the erstwhile presidential candidate said: “Our I.C.T. Consultants informed us that though the voting site might have appeared credible on the surface as a decoy, it is apparent to state that the data uploaded to the site was programmed and preconfigured to achieve a premeditated result in an obvious case of data diddling.”

According to Adesina, “it is apparent to state that the data uploaded to the site was programmed and preconfigured to achieve a premeditated result in an obvious case of data diddling.”

In the petition titled “Re: The Nigerian Bar Association 2020 National Officers Election: A case of classical electronic fraud, illegal and unconstitutional process: call for cancellation and a new election conducted for the Nigerian Bar Association (nba)” and copied to all the trustees and NBA past presidents, Adesina warned that “The time has come to regain the integrity of the Nigerian Bar Association by putting an end to unconstitutional and fraudulent elections in our Association.”

It is recalled that the Chairman of the Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN had on July 31, 2020 declared Akpata as winner of the NBA presidential election held on July 29 or 30, 2020.

According to the ECNBA Chairman, Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Ajibade who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear.  Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with infractions. The election was held via ElectionBuddy, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Though a total of 29,636 lawyers were accredited for the election, only 18,256 or 62 per cent of the voters succeeded in casting their ballots.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

SHOCKER! NBA ELECTION PORTAL RESULT TALLIES WRONG

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

• ALSO, MORE VOTERS ON PORTAL THAN ON VOTERS’ REGISTER

The tally of votes on the election portal deployed for the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Election is incorrect, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report.

Also, the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) uploaded more voters than the number of voters published by the committee in its final verified voters’ register.

For the presidential race, while the election portal records that 18, 201 votes tallied and 54 abstentions were from “18, 256 ballots,” a tally of the votes and abstentions by CITY LAWYER shows that the correct total is 18,255 ballots. This shows that the total ballots shot up by one ballot.

When CITY LAWYER tallied the ballots for the post of 1st Vice President, the same error margin recurred. While the election portal hosted by ElectionBuddy, a world class election company, tallied the 17, 312 ballots and 943 abstentions at a total 18, 256 ballots, the actual figure is 18, 255 ballots.

For the post of 2nd Vice President, the election portal tallied the 15, 442 votes and 2,813 abstentions again at 18, 256 ballots as against the correct tally of 18, 255 ballots.

The tally for the post of General Secretary is not different. While ElectionBuddy tallied the 17, 941 ballots and 314 abstentions at 18, 256 ballots, the actual figure is again 18, 255 ballots, showing that the tally shot up by one ballot.

The error recurs for all the posts, including the uncontested posts such as Treasurer and Financial Secretary. The posts that suffered the same “mystery one vote” gap include Welfare Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Assistant Publicity Secretary.

Meanwhile, the voters register deployed for the election may have exceeded the register used for the election again by one voter. While the ECNBA had in its “ECNBA STATEMENT N0. 018 ACCREDITED VOTERS LIST” declared the number of verified voters on the register as 29, 635, the records on the election portal show that 29, 636 voters were uploaded on the election platform. The notice on the election portal reads that 18, 256 ballots were “submitted of 29636 eligible voters.” 

It is recalled that the electoral committee had while announcing the number of verified voters on the final voters’ register said: “Further to the publication of the full list of legal practitioners qualified to vote, the ECNBA now presents a total of 29,635 verified and duly accredited members who have fulfilled all requirements for voting in the NBA National Officers elections 2020.”

When CITY LAWYER sought an explanation on the wrong ballot tallies from the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA), its Secretary Cordelia Eke promised to provide an explanation. However, despite repeated reminders, this was not made available at press time.

Former NBA presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN had petitioned the NBA Board of Trustees over the elections, alleging rigging and other irregularities. In a petition dated 2nd August, 2020 Adesina stated that “Our I.C.T. Consultants informed us that though the voting site might have appeared credible on the surface as a decoy, it is apparent to state that the data uploaded to the site was programmed and preconfigured to achieve a premeditated result in an obvious case of data diddling.”

Continuing, Adesina said: “Right from the outset of the election and up till the end of same, all the candidates virtually maintained the same percentage of votes relative to each other and the total votes cast. This fact alone is indicative of the possibility of a system which was programmed towards a predetermined result. A close examination of the recorded result at different timelines shows percentage movement of the Presidential Candidates as 54%, 23% and 21% with little or no variation. The system was obviously programmed to distribute votes at either +1 or – 1 throughout the 24 hour period. According to the Interim Report of our Technical Team, “statistically, the voting result showed no randomness of any sort, which raises the question of whether there was no tampering of votes.” ”

According to results announced by ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN, Mr. Olumide Akpata polled 9, 891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes.  Adesina polled 3, 982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with irregularities. 

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

AKPATA DISOWNS ATTACKS ON POLITICAL OPPONENTS

Nigerian Bar Association President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata has warned his supporters to desist from lampooning opponents while celebrating his victory at the poll.

In a post trending on social media, Akpata chided “my supporters who have unnecessarily targeted and excoriated our colleagues for no just cause,” and warned that such attitude would detract from his quest to forge a united Bar. He noted that “a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.”

It is recalled that some senior lawyers have expressed worry at what they perceive as disrespect from juniors in relation to the recent NBA Elections. Fiery longstanding NBA Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN has penned several statements on the subject, even as CITY LAWYER yesterday reported a searing indictment of erstwhile NBA presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN by Akpata’s accredited agent at the elections, Mr. Aderemi Oguntoye.

The full text of Akpata’s statement is below.

Dear Colleagues,

In the last few days, I have observed with concern the rising tide of social media vitriol by a few lawyers believed to be my supporters who have unnecessarily targeted and excoriated our colleagues for no just cause. Whilst I deeply appreciate everyone who contributed to my emergence as President-elect of the NBA, I do not subscribe to showing disrespect to other people because they did not support my candidacy. Ours is a noble profession that prides itself on the high sense of discipline, learning, respect for seniority and character for which its members are reputed.

The mandate that I have from Nigerian lawyers is to work for ALL members of the Bar irrespective of who they voted for in the just concluded elections. In my acceptance speech, I made the obvious point that there is so much work to be done to revitalise our Bar and make it work for everyone without discrimination. This enormous task cannot be achieved if we continue to fan the embers of division at a time when we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice.

I therefore use this medium to appeal to our colleagues (both junior and senior) who supported me to show respect to seniors and peers whilst celebrating last week’s electoral victory. We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful and sensitive by our words and actions. This is because doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. The electioneering season is far behind us. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.

I leave you with the words of the legendary Henry Ford who said: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

If we truly want to make progress and ultimately succeed as a Bar, then we have a responsibility to show respect to one another and stay together as one. The time to do this is now.
Olumide Akpata

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

‘GIVEN WHAT I KNOW, NBA ELECTION LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED’ – FORENSIC EXPERT

  • HOSTING RESULTS ON NBA PORTAL OPENS SYSTEM TO MANIPULATION

  • NUMBER OF UNDELIVERED NOTICES IS STAGGERING BY ANY PARAMETER

  • I DON’T BELIEVE PORTAL CAN SEND 5 NOTICES TO A VOTER

  • IT’S LAUGHABLE TO BLAME DND FOR UNDELIVERED NOTICES

Dr. Dominic Ehiwe is a Consultant in digital forensics & open source intelligence as well as an investigator for software, technology and intellectual rights violations. He works in the domain of information security, project management and quality control and assurance. He is Managing Partner of EON-Peace Consult Limited, a digital forensic investigation, information security consulting and IP rights violation investigation and litigation support services provider. He is also Executive Partner with ENSOPAR Forensic & Partners, a tax, audit and forensic accounting practice.

He is a certified Software Analysis & Forensic Engineering (SAFE, USA) software & tech intellectual property violation investigator, litigation support consultant and expert witness. Ehiwe has an Advanced Diploma in Forensic Accounting & Criminal Intelligence (FACI) from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. A member of Computer Forensic Institute of Nigeria, Ehiwe facilitates part-time a fully hands-on digital forensics investigation training course with the Institute of Advanced Forensics (IAF) in collaboration with the University of Lagos (UNILAG). He also serves as a resource person with the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) and presents at conferences.

Ehiwe received a doctorate degree in Computer Science, Management Information Systems specialization (Ph.D MIS) from Babcock University and a Master’s degree in Computing from Birmingham City University, England in 2014. Earlier in 2006, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics (Statistics Major) from the University of Abuja. He has participated in many professional trainings and received several certifications in Information technology, project and risk management.

In this interview with EMEKA NWADIOKE, he speaks on the recent NBA Elections and the controversies that have trailed the elections.

Please tell us briefly about yourself.
I am Dr. Dominic Ehiwe. I practice as a Consultant in digital forensics & open source intelligence as well as an investigator for software & technology and intellectual rights violation.

Before the NBA Elections, you had an interactive session with a group of lawyers under the aegis of LEGAL TORCHBEARERS where you set out the key requirements to ensure that the 2020 NBA Election was free, fair, credible and transparent. Can you give us a brief recap of those requirements?
The session was a discussion about online voting and ways to ensure security and guarantee the integrity of the votes cast. We had discussed some key requirements. These measures include:
• Have a unique means of identifying every vote cast.
• Have a stakeholder agreed list of requirements that meets your need as a body and by which you measure the outcome.
• Ensure people do not vote more than once from a single device (This is possible to achieve)
• The system and process should cater for multiple levels of authorization to avoid a single individual hijacking the results.
• There should be mock trial of the election platform so you know what to expect during the real exercise.
• Have a process in place by which the results are auditable.

How would you rate ELECTIONBUDDY an election software provider?
To be candid, I know nothing about the service provider besides what you and I read about them online. Besides, I only knew who the provider was when one of your colleagues told me the election had held and the results published. I learnt it is a company based in the US. Hearing it’s a US based company, I checked to know more about the provider and see what information is available about their services. I did note though there is no form of contact information on their site detailing location information and other basic info one would expect of a service provider located in the US. To me, such businesses can be located anywhere and claim a different geographical location.

At the close of ballot, out of the 29,636 eligible voters, 18,256 or 62% ballots were submitted while 15,234 notices were declared as “undeliverable.” What is your view on this statistics?
I was sent the link to the results via WhatsApp and the first thing I noticed was the figure indicated as undeliverable notices. I recall showing my spouse the details on my phone and her first question was were these phone numbers or email addresses not verified before the votes were cast? That number is staggering by whatever parameter you choose to look at or rate it. Moreover, at that point I didn’t have much information about how verification for the exercise was done but I knew that figure would raise questions about the process.

Given that there were 29,636 eligible voters, will you consider that 28,525 emails and 17,887 SMS are adequate?
My thought is why this disparity between the Email and SMS figures sent to eligible voters? I do not expect members of your community with valid emails not to have valid mobile numbers as well. I do not know if some of you submitted emails only and others phone numbers which may likely account for this disparity. Also, the question is, did those to vote not know the exercise was to hold and have their mobile lines switched on to receive notifications about the exercise? Perhaps, the organizers can provide better answers to these if there is any justification for the differences. In addition, supposing I receive both email and SMS notification as someone eligible to vote, what gets counted for me if I go ahead to vote using both medium? But as I said the service provider or organizers can better explain this.

The results of the election were migrated to NBA server (https://go.nigerianbar.org.ng/Results) at some point in the election. What is your opinion on this?
This is interesting to note. I would expect any form of migration be done after and not during the exercise. Besides, one would need to review the NBA server logs to be able to confirm at what point data was migrated or shared between your systems and that of the service provider. However, from a security perspective, I would expect such migration to be after the exercise. I say this from a data security and assurance perspective. If any foul play was to take place, it could have been achieved when the records are in the systems of the party with ulterior motives. That being said, I would like to leave it at simply saying I perhaps would expect to see more relevant information to make better judgement.

Is the fact that evidence of voting was not received by the voter either via email or SMS of any consequence?
This I believe is part of the requirements that should have been verified before the exercise. In my session with your colleagues on the forum, I had mentioned the need to have a stakeholder agreed list of requirements. I feel strongly this should have been part of the checks and balance criteria to judge the transparency of an exercise like this.

The candidates allege lack of information regarding the Service Provider and the Election portal. Is this a valid charge?
This is a red flag that should have been addressed. Perhaps a mock trial of the election system could have been conducted. I believe the organizing body could have arranged for an exercise like this involving select representatives of all stakeholders. A body like the NBA could work something out, I like to hope. While there are no perfect elections or systems anywhere, more visibility about the service provider and their platform would have helped.

The election management body (ECNBA) did not reveal the election software provider to the candidates. The candidates did not also witness a test run of the election portal. What is your view on this?
To me, this is unacceptable? It paints the picture of something to hide. I leave it at that.

A presidential candidate in the elections alleged that the service provider was unable to deliver 14,000 notices to prospective voters 13 hours after the commencement of the Election. If true, is this sufficient to invalidate the election?
This raises questions about the integrity of the process. It raises concerns about how voters were verified for the exercise and those whose votes are returned as valid? From an observer point of view, I like to know what notices were given to members about the process to carry everyone along. However, about invalidating the election, I had advised your colleagues about having the rules by which invalidating the process is to be done or pursued. My opinion aligns with what your body agreed on this.

There are questions around the authenticity of the voters’ register. However, the Electoral Committee states that the use of a ‘unique identifier’ such as each voter’s Supreme Court Number made manipulation or over voting impossible. How true is this, moreso as the Supreme Court Number is largely in the public domain?
Having a unique identifier is insufficient. What is the essence of a unique identifier if I can vote multiple times? One needs to know in detail the security measures put in place to prevent people from voting more than once or using invalid or non-existing SCN to vote. Are you able to tell that the service provider’s platform validates the SCN of your members? These are questions that should have been asked and answered.

The final voters’ register used for the Election was released by the Electoral Committee about five (5) hours to the election. Is this sufficient to invalidate the register or the election?
This is laughable. If that is the case, I am confident to answer in the affirmative. Five hours? To verify accuracy of the records in 5 hours? For a body like yours?

A case of data diddling has been alleged, as especially the presidential candidates were said to have maintained the same percentage of votes relative to each other and the total votes cast throughout the election. It is alleged that the system was programmed to distribute votes at either +1 or –1, and that statistically, the voting result showed no randomness. What is your view on this?
I believe an independent auditing of the configurations agreed and set on the systems can show the real picture about this. I still like to stress that more visibility of the whole process would have helped. I also recall advising your forum colleagues on the need to have security professionals review the platform of the service provider. Perhaps, the election committee can tell you more about what checks were carried out.

About 38% of eligible voters could not cast their ballots as they did not receive voting links. How significant is this figure in an electronic voting system?
Very significant. This is close to half the number of eligible voters. This is significant enough to skew the results in a particular direction given the circumstances at play or engineered by anyone willing to achieve pre-defined objectives.

The NBA states that the 15,234 “undelivered notices” represent aggregate of undeliverable notices that were sent to each Verified Voter through the two notification channels – SMS and emails. It also represents the aggregate number of blasts of such notices to each of the affected Verified Voter. It states that there was a minimum of 5 blasts of notices to each voter or an aggregate 10 undeliverable notices, made up of 5 SMS and 5 e-mails – but did not represent the number of persons whose notices were not delivered. What is your view on this?
I do not believe the service provider runs an application system capable or configured to do this. I know the standard number of retry notifications application servers or services send is at most 2 to 3 notifications. One would need to see the service level agreement agreed with the provider to confirm this. Also, there are server logs that should show the number of notices sent. But to say five notices for that number of recipients begs for justification.

Do you agree with NBA’s assertion that the inability to deliver notices to voters was not attributable to the Election Platform, but to NBA’s poor database and the activation of DND in some voters’ mobile phones?
It is laughable to mention DND on mobile phones of members of a body looking forward to vote in an election. Did these people stop receiving messages before the election or had DND set for notices from the NBA prior to the exercise? Like I said, what was communicated to members prior to the election? How much sensitization was done about the whole process and what, as stakeholders, everyone had to do to achieve a fair exercise?

Do you agree with NBA’s view that the election was free, fair and credible because the link to each voter was unique and non-transferable, and it was also not possible to vote more than once using a single link?
Besides unique link and non-transferability of the link to vote, can we attest to a case of non-eligible or non-existing members not having participated in the election? The vote records are available somewhere. When in doubt, I believe further review should be possible to clarify the doubts where necessary.

Given what you know about the election, will you consider it as free, fair, credible and transparent, and why?
Based on what I know and have read from your members about the verification process and how the exercise was conducted, it leaves much to be desired in terms of credibility. I believe the organizers know this as well.

What are your suggestions for future NBA elections?
Be better organized and transparent. Involve relevant stakeholders in the process. Thank you.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

AKPATA’S AIDE BLASTS ADESINA OVER NBA ELECTION

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

  • SAYS ‘HE PREPARED TO FAIL’

  • ‘HIS AGENT ONLY CAME TO SITUATION ROOM TO SUBMIT PETITION’

The controversies trailing the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections took a new turn today following a fierce indictment of erstwhile presidential candidate, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN by an aide of NBA President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata.

It is recalled that Adesina had petitioned NBA Trustees, urging them to cancel the election due to alleged irregularities. Influential Yoruba lawyers’ forum, Egbe Amofin O’odua has also joined the fray, saying: “In clear terms, the Egbe Amofin rejects the purported results declared by the Election Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA).” CITY LAWYER also reported that the forum has placed a gag order on its members on the election, even as it appointed Mr. Femi Falana SAN and Chief Niyi Akintola SAN as its spokespersons on the election.

Apparently responding to the barrage of criticisms relating to the election, Mr. Aderemi Oguntoye, Akpata’s “Accredited Agent” at the ECNBA Situation Room for the election, blasted Adesina, saying he was “prepared to fail.”

In a trending post on social media, Oguntoye said Adesina “strongly believed he’s entitled to be handed the Bar Presidency since he served with Olanipekun as Gen-Sec and Olanipekun and Egbe endorsed him.” He stated that the former NBA General Secretary “didn’t realise that Egbe’s influence had limitations and it was actually counterproductive in the preceding circumstances of the endorsement.”

The ranking Akpata associate also noted that Adesina’s camp was aloof as regards tracking of the electoral process, adding that “the first time we had a glimpse of Adesina’s representatives was when they arrived in the afternoon of 30th July with the sole purpose of submitting their petition and this was well over 14 hours into the election.”

The full text of Oguntoye’s post is below:

Guys, pls calm down! Sustained grievance can lead to cancer. Quote me.

Adesina prepared to fail. Ask me why?

He strongly believed he’s entitled to be handed the Bar Presidency since he served with Olanipekun as Gen-Sec and Olanipekun and Egbe endorsed him. Adesina didn’t realise that Egbe’s influence had limitations and it was actually counterproductive in the preceding circumstances of the endorsement. My friends, endorsement doesn’t win elections, preparation does. *In the 21st century, nobody hands power, influence to you. You go for it.* You’ll be shocked to know that some junior lawyers in Adesina and probably Chief Olanipekun’s law firms actually voted Akpata. *The junior lawyers (age 21-33 yrs) don’t understand tribal sentiments,which our seniors are preaching on Egbe’s platforms, what they understand is Instagram and Tiktok and that’s the language OLU spoke to them* .😊😉

Pointer to Adesina’s preparation to fail:

On Wednesday 29th when the election was about to commence, ECNBA officials addresed candidates’ representatives btw 10:50pm-11:05pm. They explained the reason why they froze candidates from knowing ahead of time, the cyber platform to be utilised for the election. They basically guarded against likely direct interference by candidates with the platform/server providers (US company called Election Buddy). *Interestingly, Adesina’s representatives were absent.* At 1am, we (Ajibade’s agent and myself) were invited to ECNBA’s local tech room at the NBA house. They wanted to show us round in order to assure us that the ongoing election back up tech installation was free from manipulation.

You know what’s shocking? Adesina’s rep/agent was still no where to be found.* At about 1:30 am when the results platform temporarily froze, I agitatively rushed up to the ECNBA server room and the officials put a call through to the Americans hosting the main computation server, who later assured us that the link will come back on. They had to quickly re-configure the refreshing timing, since there was more traffic on the result link than voting link. They were overwhelmed by the number of lawyers and non-lawyers following up on the results even at 1:30am.

By 7:30am, I enquired from the ECNBA officials whether they had independent officials and they informed me that they had sent the link to nothing less than 7 Judges/Justices of different courts amongst other observers for monitoring.

Guys, the first time we had a glimpse of Adesina’s representatives was when they arrived in the afternoon of 30th July with the sole purpose of submitting their petition and this was well over 14 hours into the election.

Please, let no one fool us because we are a very intelligent people and we shouldn’t be swayed by Adesina’s pre-planned reaction. The fellow doesn’t wish to go into oblivion without some noise. My inclination is that he either overestimated his chances or he knew he would lose. *How do you explain his inability to present a situation room representative as required by the ECNBA?

Enough said for now.

Aderemi Oguntoye

Olumide Akpata’s Accredited Agent at the ECNBA Situation Room at the just concluded NBA Elections

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‘NBA ELECTION WAS RIGGED,’ SAYS OKUTEPA

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

• ‘NBA LEADERSHIP TOOK LAWYERS TO SLAUGHTER SLAB’

Longstanding Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN at the weekend took a hard look at the just concluded NBA Elections and declared that it was rigged.

In a reaction made available exclusively to CITY LAWYER, the fiery senior lawyer and staunch supporter of the candidacy of Mr. Dele Adesina SAN said: “But let me tell you as I had said before that this election will be rigged and it has been rigged.”

He accused the NBA leadership of taking lawyers for granted and being secretive about the process, saying: “As lawyers we were led to the slaughter slab and we followed blindly.”

Reviewing the election, Okutepa said: “What other reaction do I have than to keep calm and see what the leadership that has been foisted on the Bar will do in the next two years.

“We are degenerating in integrity and honesty in the legal profession in geometric proportions. The Bar is divided now. The house we have is on shaking grounds. But let me tell you as I had said before that this election will be rigged and it has been rigged.

“The fragrant breach of NBA constitution is legendary in this election. The processes leading to this election were product of constitutional iniquities. The leadership of the Bar took everyone for granted and did what it did in the most secret manner. As lawyers we were led to the slaughter slab and we followed blindly.

“Misconduct was not punished. But we need to make examples of those who are dragging the nobility of this profession to the muds. Indiscipline is being celebrated and we think that is part of freedom. I weep for the legal profession.

“Many young lawyers are busy happy abusing the elders and they are happy doing it. But we all were once young lawyers. The nobility of the legal profession is in respect for the ethics and etiquette of the profession. But that is far gone now in our profession.”

Continuing, the Bar Leader said: “The days cometh when this once noble profession will bounce back in glory. That is when the rots in the profession will be addressed,” adding that those who “won” should be “kind enough to interrogate the processes that threw them on the Bar.” He warned that those who “lost” must not be “mocked,” saying: “For me there is nothing new. I had said before that we will see what we have now.”

Okutepa had told CITY LAWYER before the elections that “I do not see what we will do differently when the rigging that characterized the last election was not addressed.” Hinting that the election managers may tow a pre-determined line, Okutepa said: “Those who have the capacity to appoint the service providers will not heed any suggestions.” Asked the way forward, he said: “Until the Bar and its leadership decide to be honest and transparent with our electoral processes no suggestion will matter.”

It is recalled that Mr. Olumide Akpata was declared winner of the keenly contested presidential election. According to the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with irregularities. The election was held via ELECTIONBUDDY, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

EXCLUSIVE: EGBE AMOFIN CRACKS, GAGS MEMBERS ON NBA ELECTION

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

• EGBE BLOC CONGRATULATES AKPATA, ASSURES SUPPORT
• ADESINA PETITIONS NBA TRUSTEES 

Cracks have emerged within Egbe Amofin O’odua ranks as a major bloc in the influential regional group has congratulated Nigerian Bar Association President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata on his victory at the poll.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Egbe Amofin O’odua may have barred its members from commenting on the outcome of the NBA Elections. The gag order was made after a meeting of the group at the weekend, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report. Firebrand human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana SAN is among the two persons appointed as spokespersons on the election.

Egbe Amofin ni Eko, the Lagos bloc of the group, has congratulated Akpata on his victory, assuring him of “our individual and collective support for your administration and for our noble mother association.”

The bloc had in the run-up to the hotly contested NBA Elections endorsed Adesina, saying: “We are true sons and daughters of Oduduwa and we stand on the decision of Egbe made in Ibadan over the endorsement of a single candidate. Another meeting of the Egbe is only 13 days away. Any aggrieved candidate should approach Egbe. But for us, we stand on the decision of the mother group.”

But in a statement made available to CITY LAWYER and signed by the Chairman of the bloc, Mr. Martin Ogunleye, it said: “On behalf of the leadership and members of Egbe Amofin ni Eko, I hereby convey to you our congratulations on your emergence as President-elect of the Nigerian Bar Association.

“We are optimistic that your track record of service to the bar, especially as Chairman of the Section of Business Law, and your promise to take a 24 month sabbatical from law practice to serve the association, would be brought to bear to take our association, the NBA to greater heights.

“Please accept the assurances of our individual and collective support for your administration and for our noble mother association.”

While a leading member of the association had assured CITY LAWYER that he would proffer his opinion on the conduct of the election, things took a new today early today when he sent an apology saying: “I regret to inform you that we, members of Egbe Amofin ODUA have been barred from commenting, writing, granting interview and or posting on social media platforms any comment, write up and article on issues relating to the recently concluded NBA 2020 elections. Asiwaju Niyi Akintola, SAN and Femi Falana, SAN have been appointed as spokespersons for Yoruba Lawyers on the election. In deference to this directive, I will be resiling from my earlier commitment to send my write up on the election to your blog.

“The decision was taken at the last Egbe meeting held on Saturday. Please note that the directive affects only those who subscribed to Egbe Amofin ODUA ideals.”

It was unclear whether the gag order is linked to the congratulatory message by Egbe Amofin ni Eko. When CITY LAWYER contacted the Secretary of Egbe Amofin O’odua, Dr. John Akintayo at the time of going to press, he pleaded that he was “very busy” but assured that he would be available to speak subsequently.

It is recalled that Egbe Amofin O’odua had adopted Adesina as its sole candidate, even as erstwhile NBA presidential candidate, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN opted out of the adoption process, arguing that it was devoid of transparency.

Meanwhile, Adesina has again petitioned NBA Trustees on the outcome of the election. In his latest petition, the senior lawyer alleged that the election “breached the fundamental provisions of the NBA Constitution itself in material particulars,” adding that provisions on publication of the Voters Register 28 days and appointment of Service Provider by ECNBA were violated.

He also alleged that while the ECNBA is expected to be independent, “Representations made by me to the ECNBA were very strangely responded to personally by the NBA President without any such response from the ECNBA which was the primary addressee of the complaints. The entire election looked like it was a personal show or project of the incumbent President including selection/appointment of service providers et al. Mr. Chairman, sir, what the NBA President did by comparison can be likened to a situation where the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria conducts a Presidential election, hijacked the constitutional responsibilities by assuming the duties and responsibilities of INEC, appointing Service Providers, nominating and paying those who would print ballot papers, warehousing the ballot boxes, providing INEC Server etc.”

Continuing, he said: “In this connection, NBA will never be taken serious by Nigeria and Nigerians as well as other law associations outside our shores, including the International Bar Association (IBA) if these crass, abnormalities, illegalities and deliberate wholesale breach of our constitution are not redressed. Our dear Association must not be allowed to descend to opprobrium. We must not be made or subjected to a laughing stock.”

EGBE AMOFIN EKO

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BUHARI, ATIKU, SARAKI, ODINKALU, OTHERS HAIL AKPATA

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Encomiums have continued to pour in for Nigerian Bar Association President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata over his victory at the just concluded NBA National Officers Elections.

In his congratulatory message, President Muhammadu Buhari said: “I congratulate Olumide Akpata on his election as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), a crucial stakeholder in our democracy. I wish him every success in the new position, and assure the new leadership of the continued cooperation of our administration.”

Replying, Akpata said he was especially delighted that the president acknowledged NBA as a “crucial stakeholder in our democracy.” His words: “Your Excellency, thank you for your kind words, and in particular the acknowledgement of the @NigBarAssoc as a crucial stakeholder in our democracy and the assurance of your administration’s cooperation. It is a partnership that can only be beneficial to the Nigerian populace.”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said: “@OlumideAkpata’s victory at the just concluded @NigBarAssoc’s elections is proof that real power lies with the people. Congratulations, I am confident you will do well and also deliver convincingly on the mandate of which you now carry. –AA”

In his response, Akpata wrote: “Thank you Your Excellency @atiku. Indeed the people [lawyers] spoke, and in very clear terms too. Thank you for the vote of confidence. The real work starts now and it is my pledge that the mandate will be fulfilled and posterity will judge us well.”

Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki also felicitated with the NBA President-elect on his verified Twitter handle, saying: “I offer my congratulations to @OlumideAkpata on his emergence as President of the
@NigBarAssoc. His was a blistering campaign which promised to revolutionise and reposition the NBA, not only for the benefit of its members but for the generality of the Nigerian society.”

Replying, Akpata wrote: “Your Excellency Dr @bukolasaraki Floreat! It was truly a blistering campaign and one which soon became obviously not about any one individual but a cause for the majority of Nigerian lawyers (both young and old). I commit to not letting them down. KC did not teach us that.”

Next in line was the Governor of Edo State, Akpata’s home State. He wrote: ” Congratulations to @OlumideAkpata on his emergence as the President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). He brings with him years of enviable success as a distinguished lawyer and is sure to steer the NBA to glorious heights. Congratulations, once more!”

“My Governor @GovernorObaseki,” Akpata wrote, “thank you for your kind wishes. It will be a thing of pride for us to be able to steer the @NigBarAssoc to glorious heights and make it value adding for our members and the general society. That is our minimum target.”

Also not left out is the Governor of Delat State, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who tweeted thus: “I congratulate my friend and brother, Barrister @OlumideAkpata, on his emergence as the next President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Over the years, Barrister Akpata has worked to strengthen the legal profession and empower a new generation of Nigerian lawyers.

“As he prepares to steer the affairs of the NBA, it is my fervent hope that lawyers across Nigeria work with the new leadership of the NBA and Barrister Akpata to provide more efficient and effective access to justice for all Nigerians.”

In his response, Akpata tweeted: “Your Excellency @IAOkowa I appreciate the glowing endorsement. Indeed the hardwork is just about to start. We are optimistic of a new dawn for the @NigBarAssoc.”

Popular social media influencer, Dr. Joe Abah was not left out of the outpouring of encomiums. He tweeted: “Congratulations, my brother @OlumideAkpata, on your election as NBA President. Please celebrate tonight because there’s a lot of work ahead. The noble profession can be a real force for change in this country. You can count on my continuing support.”

Akpata responded thus: “My brother @DrJoeAbah thank you. The amount of work to be done has never been lost on me. Indeed the unprecedented interest in the election even among the wider populace lends credence to your point. I will be counting on you on this journey. Thank you again, Ezemmuo.”

Akpata also found favour in the eyes of Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a strident critic of the current NBA leadership. Having reviewed Akpata’s acceptance speech, Odinkalu tweeted: “Olu, this is a balanced statement. I’m particularly gratified by what you say about the #electoralprocess in @NigBarAssoc. In that, you’ll find lots of willing supporters. Welcome to the world of work,
@OlumideAkpata.”

Replying, Akpata wrote: “Thank you Prof @ChidiOdinkalu. My message about the electoral process remained consistent, before and after the poll. Indeed we can do better. With the support of the likes of you, we will approach the coming months and years with confidence.”

The NBA President-elect also received a congratulatory message from erstwhile NBA presidential aspirant and former NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana and his group, Radical Agenda Movement in the NBA (RAMINBA ). Tracing the debacle that attended his quest, the group wrote: “However the indisputable fact is that a Leader has emerged and it is one Leader, who, right from the onset, has always had a formidable presence in the field and a constant leading contestant.”

Akpata also acknowledged receipt of congratulatory telephone call from his closest rival and former NBA presidential candidate, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN, saying: “This morning, I received a call from Dr. @BAjibadeSAN and I have also read his congratulatory message both of which were quintessential Tunde, the gentleman who I have known for a long time who is my brother & friend and will always remain so. As I said in my thank you message, I will count on his support and counsel as we work towards Securing a United Bar that Works for All.”

On his part, Nigerian Law School teacher, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue said that while he had called Akpata to congratulate him on his victory, “I have also chosen this medium to, again, heartily congratulate the NBA President-elect, Mr. Akpata, on his victory. It was a keenly contested election, but someone had to win. The term ‘election’ itself suggests a contest between two or more persons at the end of which one person must win and another or others must lose, while all must thereafter continue as one. Dear sir, I urge you to be high-minded in victory; to reach out to the other contestants, indeed to all camps and also to endeavour to carry everyone along in your leadership of the NBA, during the next two years. This you should do in order to succeed, and make the NBA better, because your camp or supporters alone cannot make you succeed; they can only make you remain for only one side! I sincerely hope you be guided by the words of Michael Watson who once advised, ‘true winners and strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.’ ”

In its congratulatory message signed by its Convener, Mr. Chuma Akana, Innovation and Technology Lawyers Network wrote: “We believe the NBA is properly positioned to navigate the intersection of law and technology, as we look forward to a technology driven NBA. We also look forward to a Nigerian Bar Association that will encourage interested members to build capacity and jurisprudence in emerging areas of tech law including Fintech, blockchain, data privacy, artificial intelligence etc.”

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

ELECTION CRISIS: USORO VOWS TO UNITE AKPATA, ADESINA, OTHERS

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has committed to bridge the schism that has attended the just concluded NBA National Officers Elections.

CITY LAWYER recalls that one of the presidential candidates in the race, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN had in a searing petition to the Electoral Committee (ECNBA) carpeted the poll as a “sham election,” demanding its cancellation. Mr. Olumide Akpata was declared winner of the election, polling 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. 

But in a response by Usoro addressed to NBA Past Presidents and Trustees, he stated that the election may have occasioned “wounds and bruises,” and warned against allowing the schism to deepen.

His words: “Now that the Elections are gone and past, I would, with the greatest respect, urge all our members, including the erstwhile contestants – both the winners and the losers – to join hands in healing the wounds and bruises that may have been occasioned by the Elections campaigns and results. It is inevitable that, in contests of this nature, there would be such wounds and bruises; we must however not allow them to fester and become open sores and flashpoints for divisions amongst us.”

Usoro assured that his immediate task is to facilitate the mending of fences between the combatants, saying: “That healing process is the most urgent and pressing assignment that we have, and I intend in the coming days to reach out to all the erstwhile contestants in that regard, notably, the Presidential candidates. I solicit your support and assistance, my dear Presidents and Trustees, in that task. There is much work to be done by all of us in the elevation of our Bar and we need to heal fast and then turn our attention, as a united Bar, to those tasks.”

In a detailed riposte to the allegations raised in Adesina’s petition, the NBA President vowed that neither him nor the ECNBA rigged the poll, saying that not only was the voter turnout unprecedented, the petitioner had adduced no evidence that any alleged infraction adversely impacted the result of the election.

He said it is “strange” that Adesina claimed that there were members “who received the link” but “could not vote,” adding that the “overwhelming evidence” that he received and also read on social media was that the voting process was “seamless” and “very easy for our members. I have so far not received any report from any member claiming that he or she had challenges in voting on the basis of the unique link that were sent to members from and by the Election Platform server. In any case, the ECNBA Statement No. 18 that was referenced in the Committee’s Statement No. 19 afore-referenced provided a helpline for members – 0700 5555 2020 – and I am hoping that those members who may have experienced voting challenges after receiving their unique links had contacted that helpline for assistance.”

Confirming that Adesina discussed his concerns with him before the election, Usoro said: “To reinforce the explanations in the ECNBA Statement No. 19, I further explained to Mr. Adesina that (a) all the names in the Verified Voters’ List were drawn from the Final Voters’ List that was published by the ECNBA on 01 July 2020 and that no new names were added; (b) all the names in the Verified Voters’ List are lawyers and had paid their Bar Practicing Fees and Branch Dues and had therefore met the eligibility qualification to vote in the Elections; and (c) the Elections would be determined, not on the basis of NBA branches but based on universal suffrage of the members which is the voting system enshrined in the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 (as amended) and we should therefore not be fixated on the electronic glitches that assigned wrong branches to members. I stand by those explanations that I gave to Mr. Adesina and of course the fuller explanations that are contained in the ECNBA Statement No. 19.” He therefore warned against being “fixated” on the “electronic glitches” that assigned wrong branches to members.

Noting that Adesina has not been “forthcoming” with the details of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria that he mentioned in his petition, Usoro said: “Suffice to state that there were 29,636 verified voters for the 2020 NBA National Officers Election – a number that is far higher than the numbers we had in 2016 and 2018 for the NBA National Officers’ Elections that were held in those years. In my humble opinion, that is an advancement that we should all be proud of and should build on in succeeding Elections.”

The NBA President stated that “the relevant question to ask in regard to the security of the NBA Membership Portal is whether any member’s security was breached or compromised howsoever vis-à-vis the 2020 NBA National Officers’ Election. Prior to the Elections, I had read some non-specific allegations in that regard by a candidate and had requested for specific instance of any such breach to enable investigation by the NBA. Up till date, I have not received any such specific complaint, and none has been made in regard to the 2020 Elections. The NBA however remains open to investigate any such complaint if any is presented by Mr. Adesina or any other person.”

Usoro observed that 18,256 ballots were cast in the Elections consisting of 62% of the verified voters, saying: “That was by far higher than the number of ballots that were cast in the last 2 (two) NBA National Officers’ Elections since universal suffrage was introduced in 2015. Again, that is a feat which, in my very humble opinion, we should all exult and revel in. It reflects an incremental achievement which succeeding Elections can and should build on.”

He said that Adesina fell into error when he mistook the number of undeliverable notices for the number of persons who did not receive notices, saying that the number of notices “represented the aggregate of the undeliverable notices that were sent to each Verified Voter through the two notification channels – sms and e-mails. It also represents the aggregate number of blasts of such notices to each of the affected Verified Voter.” According to Usoro, the number of voters whose notices were previously undeliverable but were eventually able to vote also improved, climbing from 1,886 to 6,500. “That, in my respectful view, was quite commendable and showed an overarching commitment by the ECNBA to deliver on its mandate,” he said.

Alluding to the chequered issue of NBA database, Usoro said that “the inability to deliver those notices was not attributable howsoever to the Election Platform; it had everything to do with the NBA’s poor database (which, in point of fact, has been much improved under the present NBA administration) and the activation of DND in some of our members’ mobile phones.”

Usoro denied signing any Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the election portal vendor, adding that Adesina also got his information wrong on that score. His words: “In regard to the allegations relating to the procurement of the Election Platform, these are all incorrect, to the best of my knowledge. No MoU was signed on the Election Day in regard to the Election Platform. It is not quite clear what Mr. Adesina intends by his assertion that “the System . . . was . . . registered the very day the Election was to start”. As far as I know, the Election Platform, ElectionBuddy, belongs to a foreign company who has provided service such as we had for the NBA 2020 Elections in the past 12 years. Mr. Adesina, with the greatest respect, got his facts in regard to the Election Platform completely wrong. In any case, I would have thought that the more material issue should be whether the Election Platform provided satisfactory service to our members for the Elections. The evidence I have answers that question overwhelmingly in the positive. Mr. Adesina’s letter incidentally did not assert to the contrary. Regardless, the NBA remains open to address any specific queries that Mr. Adesina or any other may have in regard to the Election Platform.”

He said that Adesina left the “most critical” issue unaddressed, namely the integrity of the ballot. His words: “Perhaps I should first comment on the refreshing and complete transparency of the ballot. That is one feature that no one could dispute or quibble over. We were all election monitors, right from the first ballot to the last, using our various devices. It was possible for all our members to track the votes as they were cast. Another unique feature of the Elections was the unique link that was sent to each Verified Voter for him or her to access the platform and cast his/her ballot. That link was unique to the receiver and non-transferable; it was also not possible to use a single link and vote more than once.

“The link was delivered to members both by e-mail and sms and this was to ensure that Verified Voters all received the notification. Upon accessing the Election portal, the unique identifier that enabled voting by members was the Supreme Court Number of each Verified Voter. In effect, even if Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN’s unique link for accessing the Election Portal were to fall into the wrong hands, such wrong hands could not have cast the ballot, using that link except he or they also had Mr. Usoro’s SCN. These were all security measures that were put in place by the ECNBA to ensure the integrity of the ballot and I have not received any report from anyone whomsoever suggesting that these security measures were compromised or breached howsoever.”

Usoro said that he “had consistently committed to a free, fair, credible, transparent and unimpeachable ballot for our members in the 2020 National Officers’ Elections, right from my election in 2018,” adding: “I had also expressly informed each of the Presidential Candidates during my interactions with them that I would not rig the Election for any candidate neither would the ECNBA. The ECNBA were sworn to the same ideals as I was and I feel very comfortable holding my hand to my chest and declaring that we – the ECNBA and the NBA National Officers – lived up to those ideals in the conduct of the 2020 NBA National Officers’ Elections. I affirm solemnly and, in all conviction, that it was the transparent ballot which we all witnessed and nothing else that produced the winners of the Elections.”

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