Wednesday, 3 June, 2020

ELECTIONS: ‘NBA OFFERED US READY-MADE VOTING PORTAL,’ SAYS TAWO TAWO

• CONFIRMS CITY LAWYER REPORT
• SAYS FATE OF PORTAL UNCERTAIN
• VOWS THAT ECNBA IS ‘TOTALLY INDEPENDENT’

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has admitted that it was handed over a ready-made election portal for the forthcoming National Elections by the Mr. Paul Usoro SAN-led bar association. This confirms CITY LAWYER exclusive report which hinted that the ECNBA may have been preparing for the elections on the basis of the election portal bequeathed to it by the NBA leadership.

CITY LAWYER had in a recent report stated that “It was unclear at press time whether the vendor’s scope of work included a mandate to deliver an election portal for the forthcoming NBA Elections, given the notice issued by the ECNBA seeking proposals to recruit an ‘Information Technology Specialist.’ Among the work to be done by the IT Specialist/ECNBA Partner is, ‘Analyzing the new NBA Election portal system and infrastructure.’ The successful vendor is also required to train NBA staff ‘to use the new IT system.’ ”

Putting the issue beyond speculation, the ECNBA in a statement personally signed by its Chairman, Mr. Tawo Eja Tawo SAN said: “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.”

He emphasized the critical role of the election portal, saying “the success of the elections would depend to a large extent on the electronic or IT platform that would be deployed for the election.” He added that “The need to procure such a platform has been a priority.”

Giving more insights into the “briefing” received from the NBA leadership on the election portal, the ECNBA Chairman said: “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.”

Highlighting additional roles of the consultant, the ECNBA Chairman said: “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.”

Hinting on the fate of the election portal delivered by the NBA, Tawo who is said to be a born-again Christian noted: “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.” The ECNBA is currently sifting through applications received from its advertised request for expression of interest to pick its preferred IT consultant.

While the ECNBA Chairman did not state when the committee received the “briefing” from the NBA leadership, there are strong indications that this must have been before April 4, 2020 when the committee issued a “REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP): IT CONSULTANCY” which gave the scope of work of the IT Consultant to include “Analyzing the new NBA Election portal system and infrastructure.” CITY LAWYER recalls that the ECNBA was appointed by NBA-NEC on March 12, 2020.

At least three National officers who spoke to CITY LAWYER recently vowed that they were in the dark on the NBA website contract, adding that it was never discussed at any of their meetings. They also pleaded ignorance on the identity of the vendor or scope of work contained in the contract. The NBA did not respond to CITY LAWYER enquiries on the subject.

CITY LAWYER investigation however showed that Usoro informed NBA-NEC during its March 2019 meeting of his plan to “revamp” the verified NBA website to enhance its “functional uses.” He had stated that the websites for the Annual General Conference and NBA sections would be hosted on or linked to the NBA website while online payments and online platform for ordering stamps would be incorporated. However, the address was silent on the incorporation of a voting platform on the portal.

Though there are concerns among some stakeholders on the role of NBA staff in managing the elections, the ECNBA may have decided to give substantial roles to the staff. In its latest statement, the committee said: “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.” This aligns with item “f” of the “Scope of work” set out in the request for proposal which lists “Training staff to use the new IT system” as one of the deliverables of the IT Consultant.

While urging all stakeholders to shun “any activity that would be subversive and counter-productive to this exercise,” the committee however assured that it is “totally independent,” adding that “Mr. Paul Usoro SAN and his elected executive have given the ECNBA the needed liberty to do what is just and proper for the benefit of the profession in Nigeria. All candidates for the 2020 Elections shall be treated equally.”

The committee had published a Preliminary Notice of Elections as well as Election Guidelines in the run-up to the elections. Following its Call for Proposals from IT consultants, the ECNBA in its latest statement noted that it was “disheartening” for branches to shun the request to provide the data of eligible voters as requested by the NBA secretariat, warning that this may disenfranchise branch members. It however noted that it is in the process of compiling the Interim Voters Register as well as screening of IT proposals and interviewing of IT consultancy firms.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

NBA DATABASE: OLANIPEKUN, NGIGE, FALANA IN ‘OBOLLO-AFOR’ BRANCH

* Mixed reactions, as errors mar project
* ‘We are in the dark on website contract,’ say EXCO Members

There is palpable anxiety over the current state of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) database as uploaded on the NBA website. While some members have their data correctly inputted, prominent Bar Leaders such as former NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); former NBA presidential candidate and Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE), Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) and Mrs. Funmi Falana, wife of fiery human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) are among those whose data have errors. The trio are listed as members of NBA Obollo-Afor Branch. Continue Reading

2020 ELECTIONS: HOW NBA CAN GET IT RIGHT, BY FORENSIC EXPERT

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Election has been scheduled to hold in July. Given the controversies that have beset previous NBA elections, several stakeholders have been engaging in initiatives aimed to ensure that this year’s exercise is free, fair and credible.

At a recent round-table organized by “The Legal Torchbearers” online forum to which CITY LAWYER was invited and in which many key stakeholders – including some presidential aspirants – participated actively, a leading consultant, auditor and investigator in Digital Forensic & Open Source Intelligence, Dr. Dominic Ehiwe spoke on the potential challenges facing the NBA elections and how to surmount them.

In 2006, Ehiwe received an upper honours degree in Economics (majoring in Statistics) from Federal University of Abuja. He was at the University of Duisburg-Essen for the Enterprise Resource Planning (SAP) programme, and was in 2014 awarded the Master of Science (MSc) in Computing (with Commendation) by the Birmingham City University, England. Ehiwe’s academic pursuits climaxed in 2019 with the award of a doctoral degree in Management Information Systems by the Babcock University. He is currently pursuing an Advanced Diploma in Forensic Accounting & Criminal Intelligence (FACI). He holds several licences and certifications in forensics.

Below are excerpts from the roundtable.

QUESTION: Is there any difference between internet voting and electronic voting?

ANSWER: Internet voting is same as electronic voting or e-voting.

QUESTION: What are the benefits of online voting over manual voting?

ANSWER: Online voting, generally called e-voting, is good and can be efficient where the integrity of the process and the information systems used for the exercise is guaranteed. E-voting can deliver the following results: Ensure that everyone eligible to vote can vote from any location; remove deliberate human tampering of voting ballot papers to favour a particular candidate or outcome; ensure no manual process is involved in the collation and processing of results, and cut cost by ensuring only relevant stakeholders take part in the process.

By integrity of the process, I mean ensuring that there are rules for participation in the exercise and the rules are followed. It also means having a process to verify and validate all eligible votes. There are ways by which this can be enforced. Integrity of the process also relates to ensuring that the computing infrastructure used for the exercise are secured and cannot be hacked, records falsified and multiple voting restricted.

QUESTION: Is there a system of voting that cannot be hacked?
ANSWER: Not really. All systems can be hacked as long as it involves computing infrastructure and use of internet. E-voting results are stored on computer systems called servers. These are hackable. However, the hack can be investigated and traced.

QUESTION: What are the features of the system that you will recommend to an association of lawyers with strength of about 60,000 to 70,000?

ANSWER: There are several that can be used. Judging anyone as being best is a matter of need. The key to achieving desired result is to ensure the system and process meet the guidelines set. These are the requirements, as organizers, you ensure the service provider meets.

For an association like yours, I would recommend that the voting system can provide the following: (1) Ensure that voting multiple times from a single device or computer is restricted – that means the system must be able to recognize every device that has been utilized; There must be a unique way of verifying every vote. (2) As members to vote, the question is besides email addresses and phone numbers, what is the unique feature by which each member can be identified. The e-voting system must ensure this is utilized for verifying and validating the votes. (3) The system should cater for multiple levels of authorization; by this, I mean checks and balance. No single individual must be able to complete a process end-to-end without higher authority verifying what was done. (4) Recording, collating and processing of results must be done without human interference. Aside from hacking of the system taking place, enforcing the above at a minimum should guarantee that the process is credible.

QUESTION: How does an association determine the above security features? Does it mean it must as a matter of course engage a forensic expert to determine what it needs for the e-voting?

ANSWER: My recommendation is to have an expert be part of the process in defining the security features. These security features must be what the service provider can deliver as part of the process.

QUESTION: Are there any particular risks for allowing voting to run for more than two days, especially as some eligible voters were allegedly disenfranchised during the last exercise?

ANSWER: E-voting allows voting from anywhere but there must be a set timeline. Once this elapses, the system should not recognise the vote. It is a good security measure to do this.

QUESTION: Must all electronic voting system be internet based?

ANSWER: Yes, electronic voting is internet based. It is dependent on internet infrastructure. However, one can explore other digital means that can let people vote offline without being connected to the internet. The question is, are there service providers to render this service? There might be and that will be great but the security must be enforced as described above.

QUESTION: What is the possibility of configuring the electronic voting system to enable the collation of votes on branch-by-branch basis instead of centrally?

ANSWER: This should be possible. The service provider should be able to do the necessary configurations as per your requirements.

QUESTION: How do election managers ensure that anonymity of votes does not imperil the electoral process?

ANSWER: Anonymity can be removed where the system only accounts for votes that have been verified. Recall I mentioned having that unique thing that identifies everyone eligible to vote. Using email and phone numbers may not be sufficient to prevent anonymity of votes.

Another way to prevent anonymity is having the system restrict voting more than once from a single device. All devices have what is known as MAC address. This must be logged and captured for every vote. This key information can be used as part of the auditing process to ensure detection of violations.

QUESTION: In our environment, not many are ICT savvy. Many depend on other members and their ICT devices to vote. If the server recognizes only one vote from a device, will it not block the device from being used by multiple voters? How can the election portal determine that the subsequent votes are not fraudulent?

ANSWER: To further address determining fraudulent votes, if the system allows people to vote multiple times from a single device, then it must ensure that the uniqueness of each vote is enforced. That brings me back to the point of what uniquely verify and validate each person eligible to vote.

This security measure is desired to avoid multiple voting by a single individual. Voting need not be restricted to computer systems only. E-voting requires internet connectivity, and all our smart phones have this capability. It is desired to ensure the exercise is credible. It’s a recommendation, too.

QUESTION: Is it correct that when an online procedure is set up for an election, such system needs to be cross checked/audited by an expert to ensure that system is in an optimal state for a free and fair election?

ANSWER: Yes, you are right. The system is expected to be test run and certified to have met set requirements.

QUESTION: What is the technical possibility of auditing 10,000 e-votes within 24 hours?

ANSWER: It is achievable so long as the process to enforce this is defined and maintained.

QUESTION: An area of concern is verifying the identity of each voter. We know that there is an existing NBA Membership Platform; how do we mitigate against individuals using the Supreme Court number of, for example, deceased lawyers? It is not inconceivable that someone can take-over the identity of a dead Lawyer, pay his/her BPF and Branch Dues, and subsequently participate in the voting process. I am of the opinion that we should use any of the government issued identity cards to verify current members of the NBA on the membership platform; that way, it will become practically impossible to steal the identity of any lawyer dead or alive.

ANSWER: You are right. Thankfully, there are unique means of identity that can be used for validating members eligible to vote. Determine which one is suitable, have a database of those records for future verification where the need arises.

QUESTION: Electronic voting that requires fingerprint may disenfranchise lawyers without limbs. How can this be mitigated?

ANSWER: The requirements are for you to decide as an association. If the use of physical features will lead to anyone being disenfranchised, then it is not a good enough means to use. Also, e-voting should not require people being physically present to vote. Voting should be from anywhere using my device. The system should handle the rest.

QUESTION: Everyone is harping on the ‘integrity of the process’ while discussing e-voting. What does integrity of the process entail in full dimension?

ANSWER: Integrity of the process means ensuring the systems are secure and that only verified and eligible people vote

QUESTION: What processes will you suggest for an effective pre- and post-election auditing of the votes?

ANSWER: As an association, there should be a register of members eligible to participate. This database of people eligible to vote can be utilized to validate the number who voted. This is a pre- and post-election exercise. I like to believe this register existS for each branch or location. If yes, this can be used to validate votes per location or chapter as the need may be.

QUESTION: Investigating hacking takes place after the conclusion of the process. How does the election manager prevent hacking from happening during the voting process?

ANSWER: Investigation takes time and efforts and is a post-election exercise. To avoid hacking, ensure the security features of the system are defined, agreed and provided. Also, recall I mentioned the system should have been test run before the real exercise. By doing this, any shortcomings would have been identified and possibly fixed before the exercise.

QUESTION: Multiple voting, falsification of records and hacking are acts perpetrated by human beings, not the system or tools. Kindly expound on this.

ANSWER: Hacking is interfering with the system that has the voting records. Data can be manipulated or deleted or damaged. These are hack activities done by humans – which can be investigated where it occurs.

QUESTION: Computer is garbage-in garbage-out; it is what is programmed that it processes. Is it not possible that it could be programmed candidate?

ANSWER: Yes, it is garbage-in, garbage-out. That is why there should be a test run. Also, recall the multiple levels of authorization I mentioned earlier.

QUESTION: Is secret voting attainable in e-voting?

ANSWER: Ensuring the secrecy of votes is a requirement that the service provider should be able to provide.

QUESTION: The Electoral Committee plans to conduct verification and voting on the platform at the same time. Does this pose any challenge logistically or to the credibility of the process?

ANSWER: No, it should not. The platform should be able to verify and allow people to vote at same time. The key is ensuring verification is efficient as defined. This is the most important requirement.

QUESTION: One of the requirements set by the Electoral Committee for IT Consultants is “Verification and confirmation of votes cast at the end of voting.” How do you reconcile this with manual interference and the need to avoid delay in releasing the result?

ANSWER: It depends on what the manual interference is required for. The system in use should be capable to do the collection, processing and reporting of results. All these should be configurable and work as designed on the application.

QUESTION: What level of access should be given especially to the key candidates on Election Day to reassure them on the integrity of the voting exercise?

ANSWER: Limited access. This should be on a need-to-have basis. Their representatives, I believe, should be able to represent them as required.

QUESTION: Will it infringe the intellectual property of the consultant if candidates bring experts to assess the efficiency of the programming?

ANSWER: I do not think it does. As there are different stakeholders with varied interest, it should help the process having experts on ground to validate that there is no rigging by any stakeholder.

QUESTION: In an ideal situation, how long before the actual voting should the list of eligible voters have been compiled, verified and certified to be accurate?

ANSWER: This, I believe, should depend on the committee organizing the exercise to decide. The key is to have the records compiled and certified okay for the exercise and validation where required. So timelines should vary based on a number of factors.

QUESTION: What are the options that could be considered for use as the unique identifier. Would a voter’s BVN be an option?

ANSWER: As per options, BVN can be used though this is not 100% guaranteed. NIN can be used also. The key is to correlate these means of identification with details of eligible voters. This should be part of the database that should be maintained.

QUESTION: It is instructive that once results are declared, it may be difficult to overturn them. As a result, all the protocols to secure the integrity of the process must necessarily be done before and during the election, not after. What are these key protocols and to what extent should especially key candidates be involved in that process to reassure all stakeholders?

ANSWER: The grounds for overturning of results should be what has been defined and agreed. There are many. First is to confirm if any of the rules were violated. Second, how many people were eligible to vote, say per chapter? How many people voted? If the records were manipulated, how did this occur, etc? Plenty of loopholes, depending on the scenario.

QUESTION: Should a post-election audit be mandatory before release of results? Is the audit something that can be achieved in 24 hours or less? What level of transparency should the audit entail?

ANSWER: Yes, audit should be before release of results. Audit duration will depend on what it entails but there should be timeline set. Transparency should be total and verifiable to all concerned. However, recall my suggestion on the need-to-know basis.

QUESTION: Would you agree that what is needed is for prospective voters to submit their bio-data details which can be run against any of the government issued identity cards and if this does not “check,” then such a person will not be allowed into system. It will be better that they are not allowed in at that point rather than letting them in first and then verifying their ID at a later date. That could be very risky.

ANSWER: This speaks to the verification process. Verification can be before voting or during voting depending on how the system is set up for the exercise. If done during voting, then the system should ensure the unique identifier constraint rule cannot be violated. For example, if the rule is to identify people with NIN, then anyone else trying to vote with different email or phone number or any other bio-data detail but already used NIN will not be allowed because the NIN has been earlier verified and utilized.
Thankfully, there are unique means of identity that can be used for validating members eligible to vote. Determine which one is suitable, have a database of those records for future verification where the need arise.

QUESTION: Is it possible to avoid the method of allowing someone to vote on your behalf or by proxy even if they are Control Room staff and they have your details? How does the election manager avoid identity theft?

ANSWER: Rather than use codes for elections, verify using unique identifier and records of participants eligible to vote.

QUESTION: What steps can be put in place to ensure that the information of verified voters from the various branches will not be tampered with? We have heard of instances where such information have been altered during the process of transmission to the Service Provider(s). What fail-safe measures can you recommend to stop an Operator who is intent on manipulating the process from the get go?

ANSWER: In forensics, there is a method to validate information. We can validate the integrity of the records generated before it is shared for upload. If it changes by anything as little as a single character, we can determine the change and hence know the record was manipulated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OKUTEPA: ‘2020 NBA ELECTION IS DOOMED IF …’

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

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

NBA MUST ALLOW REAL-TIME MONITORING OF VOTING – GADZAMA

  • SAYS ‘TAWO TAWO IS A MAN OF INTEGRITY’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• ‘THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

FORMER SCRIBE HAILS NBA AT NEC

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 1ST Assistant Secretary, Mr. Okey Leo Ohagba has advised lawyers to be “more selfless in offering meaningful contributions towards repositioning the NBA as that Voice of the Voiceless.”

In a goodwill message to NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) members, he also called on lawyers to “focus more on welfare and capacity building programs for lawyers (especially the young lawyers), so as to enable them compete more favorably in the emerging global legal market.”

Below is the full text of the message.

GOODWILL MESSAGE

It is my profound pleasure to felicitate with the NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN, NBA NEC Members and observers alike, as we converge in Abuja for the National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of our dear Association, holding from the 4th to the 6th day of December, 2019.

As we gather to lend our voices for the good of our Nation and particularly our NBA, I call on us to be more selfless in offering meaningful contributions towards repositioning the NBA as that “Voice of the Voiceless”, particularly at a time when our nation’s core democratic foundations are being threatened, even more overtly.

Let me also remind us that the future of the Bar and Legal Profession in Nigeria can only be assessed by the level of investment we make today in younger members of the profession. Therefore, I urge us to focus more on welfare and capacity building programs for lawyers (especially the young lawyers), so as to enable them compete more favorably in the emerging global legal market.

Finally, I wish the NBA – NEC, fruitful deliberations and meaningful resolutions. Do have a pleasant stay in the Federal Capital Territory

and journey mercies to and fro your respective abodes.

With Compliments from;

Okey Leo Ohagba

Immediate Past NBA 1st Asst. Secretary