EXCLUSIVE: CONCERNS MOUNT ON VOTING PLATFORM FOR NBA ELECTION

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

‘NO CAUSE FOR ALARM,’ SAYS ECNBA

There are strong indications that the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) is making frantic efforts to fortify the NBA Election Portal and deploy it for the election now shifted to commence tomorrow evening.

The electoral committee had in its latest statement moved the election from midnight today to 11 pm tomorrow, even as it gave no reason for the shift which is coming barely a few hours to the earlier commencement schedule.

But CITY LAWYER reliably gathered that the shift may not be unconnected with strong indications that the electoral committee is yet to conclude a clean-up of the voters’ list. The ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN had told a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday that the clean-up would be concluded by midnight, while a final list of verified voters was expected to be published today by the electoral committee. A source who is familiar with the process however told CITY LAWYER that the clean-up is still ongoing and may not be concluded until tomorrow. The committee had stated that over 30,000 eligible voters participated in the verification exercise.

CITY LAWYER also gathered that the electoral committee may have insisted on deploying the controversial NBA Election Platform delivered to it by the current administration for the election, even as it is making efforts to plug the gaps on the portal.

However, the ECNBA told CITY LAWYER today that there is no cause for worry, adding that the technology to be deployed for the election would be “seamless.” 

According to a source who is familiar with the process, “They (ECNBA) are still updating the NBA platform up until now. The database of the election collation is now being hosted on another IP. They will only make that one active on the day of the election.”

Continuing, the source said: “The only option they have is implement a third party election collation system like VOTE NOW api, then use it within the NBA portal environment. I believe they are integrating to use a third party collation system within the platform. That is using a system like VOTE NOW but within the NBA or another IP as they know this present one is closely monitored.”

But ECNBA Secretary Cordelia Eke told CITY LAWYER that some of the stakeholders “assumed we were going to use the NBA Election portal.” She however said that the electoral committee “wants the best” and would abide by the advice of its IT Consultants. 

According to the ECNBA scribe, “We have done test runs. The platform we will use tomorrow will be endorsed by our IT Consultants. It is to be noted that the number of eligible voters for the election is a critical factor in deciding on the voting portal. This is the highest number of eligible voters so far when compared with the two previous elections. But rest assured that the process will be seamless. We all have our integrity and we will want to complete this assignment with our integrity intact. We will deploy the best platform for the election.”

Continuing, she said the “silence” on the part of the committee was to ensure the security of the process, adding that some mischief makers were bound to attempt to truncate the process “whichever platform you use.”

She assured that voters will receive a certificate after voting aside from an audit of the entire election, adding that the committee is making extra efforts to clean up the voters’ list and ensure that no eligible voter is disenfranchised. Her words: “Be assured that the voters’ list would be published before the voting exercise.”

It is recalled that some candidates have raised concerns on the reliability of the voting portal, even as the electoral committee refused yesterday to confirm whether the election will be hosted on the NBA Election portal as speculated. The Dele Adesina SAN (DASAN) Group had queried the electoral process, saying: “We are yet to receive any information from the ECNBA regarding the Service Provider who would conduct and manage the electoral process in respect of accreditation, voting, computation of votes, and declaration of results.”

The group also queried compilation of the voters’ list, saying that “the Voters List for Abuja and Lagos Branches, as typical examples, are tainted by severe irregularities which are yet to be addressed, even though official petitions have been written to the ECNBA.”

A technical report by consultants hired by another presidential candidate, Mr. Olu Akpata was more damning on the integrity of the voting portal. In a petition to ECNBA, Akpata stated that “Even more distressing is the fact that the NBA portal on which the verification exercise is being conducted appears not to be secure and can be easily manipulated.”

The report by the ICT experts stated that “we carried out a vulnerability assessment of the web platform with IP 130.61.106.164 and came up with the following deductions: That the NBA Portal is built on Drupal 8, an Open Source Content Management Software. The platform is a template edited for the NBA; That the NBA portal has a vulnerability severity rating between 4 – 7 based on discovered vulnerability exposures.”

The report noted that Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), an attack that tricks the victim into loading a page that contains a malicious request, “was exploited few weeks ago on the NBA portal where many users made complaints of their password being changed without their taking such actions personally.”

The experts recommended the following remedial measures:
* A Unique Customized Secure Platform Built Specifically For The NBA: An organization with such repute and standard as the Nigerian Bar Association requires a unique software architecture and security framework used to build a customized web portal for all its services.
* Remediation of Security Vulnerabilities: This refers to the process by which vulnerabilities identified are resolved and further threats to the platform is prevented.
* Constant Vulnerability Assessment: There should be a set standard procedure for running assessment and penetration test constantly to keep the platform updated in line with global security standards and its defence capable of deterring any such cyber-attacks.

But in a searing reposte, the electoral committee lampooned Akpata for the petition, accusing him of gaining “unauthorized access” to the NBA portal. Said Tawo: “The committee therefore deprecates in strong terms the various attempts by individuals who in an attempt to force the hand of the ECNBA, some of who are members of the profession, to gain unauthorized access to the NBA website and going further to publish a report showing perceived weaknesses of the site to the world. This action is so sad to say, not expected of gentlemen of our noble profession.”

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NBA LAGOS ELECTIONS: COMMITTEE DISPELS FEARS

  • SUMMONS STAKEHOLDERSMEETING
  • RELEASES GUIDELINES ON E-VOTING PROCEDURE

The leadership of the Election Committee for the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch Elections has dispelled concerns over the elections, saying there is no cause for worry.

In a notice seen by CITY LAWYER, the Committee Chairman, Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN noted that it had always kept stakeholders in the picture as regards its activities, adding that nothing would be done to imperil the elections.

In a separate post by Akintunde, a longstanding chairman of the committee, the electoral body also summoned a meeting of all candidates in the election. The meeting is scheduled to hold tomorrow 12 noon at the NBA Conference Room. Candidates were directed to come along with not more than two agents each.

The committee has also released an elaborate 12-step voting manual titled “Electronic voting procedure: From start to finish.”

Below are the notices:

RE: NBA LAGOS ELECTIONS CONCERNS MOUNT ON E-VOTING SYSTEM

*The NBA Election Committee’s response to the concerns raised in the publication by CITY LAWYER.

Postponement of the Manifesto Day:

The Committee in its notice postponing the Manifesto Day to Tuesday, 25th June, 2019 explained the reason for the postponement. The schedule of the event in honour of the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke (Rtd) was not brought to the attention of the Election Committee when the relevant arrangements were made for the Manifesto Day. The postponement is regrettable but could not be helped in the circumstances.

Explanation of the e-voting process:

The Committee at the Branch meeting held on Monday, 10th June, 2019 went through step by step the e-voting process and thereafter conducted a demo of the e-voting process for the forthcoming elections. All questions asked by the lawyers in attendance were addressed by the Chairman of the Election Committee, Mr. Ayodele Akintunde, SAN.

In addition, the Committee has constantly published online materials on the step by step process for the e-voting. Members should please take time to read the materials to familiarise themselves with the process.

Please note that the Committee has complied with all publications required under the Uniform bye laws to the letter. In addition the Committee has published several online materials to explain the e-voting process.

The Committee appreciates the need to give the candidates, stakeholders and their agents an opportunity to raise any queries in respect of the elections. A meeting between the candidates and members of the Election Committee has been scheduled at which the candidates are required to attend along with their agents. The Committee intends to further explain the e-voting process to them and address any queries and concerns raised at the meeting.

List of eligible voters:

We are attending to all complaints by members whose names did not appear on the list of eligible voters published by the Committee. A supplementary list will soon be published of the names of members whose complaints were successful. The complaint process allows the Committee to address any omissions or mistakes. This has been the practice in the past.

We want to assure all candidates and branch members that the Election Committee is working tirelessly to ensure a free, fair and credible election. All concerns will be addressed as best as possible

We continue to solicit your support and cooperation and enjoin all eligible voters to contact the secretariat to ensure that there e-mails and phone numbers on record are correct.

Thank you.

Dear Sirs, NOTICE OF MEETING OF THE CANDIDATES AND MEMBERS OF THE NBA LAGOS BRANCH ELECTION COMMITTEE

Notice is hereby given that there will be a meeting of all candidates participating in the 2019 NBA Lagos Branch elections and members of the NBA Lagos Branch Election Committee as follows:

Date: Tuesday, 25th 2019
Venue: NBA Conference Room
Time: 12.00 pm

Candidates are to come along with their agents (not more than 2 each).

Agenda:

  1. To provide a further explanation of the e-voting election process.
  2. To address any queries/concerns.
  3. Any other business.

Signed: NBA Lagos Branch Election Committee

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NBA LAGOS ELECTIONS: CONCERNS MOUNT ON E-VOTING SYSTEM

Some stakeholders have raised concerns over the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch Elections scheduled to hold on Friday.

The stakeholders told CITY LAWYER that while the integrity of the Electoral Committee is not in doubt, some of the processes leading to the high-stakes elections leave a sour taste in their mouth.

This comes against the backdrop of postponement of the highly anticipated “Manifesto Day” earlier scheduled for tomorrow to Tuesday at 1:45 pm. The postponement is not unconnected with the investiture of former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke as a Fellow of the Institute of Criminology and Penology at the High Court Foyer earlier slated for the Manifesto Day.

According to some of the candidates, enlightenment on the electronic voting system is poor, moreso as the branch is deploying the e-voting system for the first time.

They also poked holes in the complaints processes for the cleaning up of the voters’ register. According to them, many eligible voters may be disenfranchised as the initial notice on omitted names did not request members to send in their Bar Practicing Fee and Branch Dues receipts.

A notice cited by CITY LAWYER as published on the election website stated that “ANY COMPLAINT REGARDING THE FINAL LIST OF ELIGIBLE VOTERS FOR THE 2019 ELECTIONS SCHEDULED TO HOLD ON FRIDAY THE 28TH OF JUNE 2019 SHOULD BE SENT BY EMAIL TO nbaelection2019@gmail.com ON OR BEFORE WEDNESDAY THE 19TH OF JUNE 2019. ELIGIBLE VOTERS SHOULD PLEASE VISIT THE NBA LAGOS BRANCH SECRETARIAT TO VERIFY THAT THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS ARE ACCURATE.”

“Several members reached out to us on this, saying it was only after they sent in their complaints that they were directed to attach these documents,” a candidate told CITY LAWYER at the weekend. “Some potential voters are even giving up after several attempts to send in their complaints.” It was also noted that there was no feedback from the Electoral Committee to members on whether their complaints are being resolved or not.

The stakeholders also say that barely a few days to the elections, they are in the dark as to the framework being put in place by the Electoral Committee for the elections. “We are worried that the disclosure levels are rather low,” said the candidate. “We are not being carried along. There is no information on the processes. We do not know who the ICT Partner will be. The integrity of the Electoral Committee is not the issue. How do you monitor an electoral process you know nothing about?”

Another stakeholder told CITY LAWYER that the integrity of the voters’ register must not be put in doubt. His words: “It is crucial that we have in place a credible voters’ register. This is non-negotiable. There is also no official Help Desk or hotline published by the Electoral Committee for potential voters to follow-up on their complaints.

“There is no reason why the attendance list for the June Branch Meeting should not be in the public domain by now; transparency demands that. We must eschew padding of the voters’ register.

“Till date, there is also no notice on when electioneering campaigns should cease. This is important so that everyone is on the same page on the electoral guidelines. This is the first time that e-voting is being used. This entails that we must be extra careful.

“Why is the database not published on the election website or online so that members can update their details there? I know some members who are overseas as we speak. Will they not be disenfranchised by this manual approach to the complaints? Why do we then call it electronic voting if members cannot update their data online and vote from any part of the world?”

One of the candidates told CITY LAWYER that it is imperative that the Electoral Committee convenes a stakeholders’ meeting to be attended by the media to unveil its framework for the elections. “We need to have a forum to ventilate our concerns to the Electoral Committee. So far, that has not happened. That needs to happen. What will be the level of involvement of our agents in the entire electoral process? We need to be in the server room as the votes are dropping; that is an irreducible minimum. We do not want a situation where the backend is opened to rig the process.”

It is estimated that Lagos Branch has about 14,000 nominal members. However, only 793 voters are on the voters’ register published by the Electoral Committee. More names may make the list following ongoing resolution of complaints by the Electoral Committee. Members of the longstanding committee are Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN, Chairman; Chief E. A. Otokhina; Mr. Geff Eze; Mrs. Obosa Akpata and Mrs. Olusola Adegbonmire.

When CITY LAWYER contacted Akintunde on the concerns, he assured that he would respond to all the issues raised by the stakeholders.

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.