NBA ELECTION CRISIS: AUDIT TO THE RESCUE?

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

As the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2020 Election inches to a close, the much anticipated inaugural audit of the election may be the elixir needed to calm frayed nerves and pull the poll away from the usual rancour that has bedeviled previous exercises.

Signs that the election may walk the troubled part of past polls emerged today when one of the presidential candidates, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN wrote to the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) demanding cancellation of the election.

In a petition to the electoral committee, Adesina alleged that the election is fraught with irregularities, saying that the voters’ list “contained grave errors of omission and commission.” He listed some of the errors to include:

  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;
  5. Many Members names found their way to Branches other than their own Branch.

Adesina stated that though he took up the matter with NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN as well as with a member of the Electoral Committee, “Some explanations were made though unsatisfactory by which time voting had actually started.” He stated that the Electoral Committee “admitted this error” in their Statement No. 019 when they stated that “the situation is regretted but arose because members in the course of Verification did not fully update information on their current Branches and/or sex.” He however noted that “nothing was done to rectify the situation.”

The presidential candidate also alleged that the voters’ register was padded with over 180 voters, saying: “The Addition of Votes Recorded plus Notices yet undelivered amounted to 29,820 which is 185 votes over and above the total number of voters on the Voters Register.”

He also alleged that “the System used for this Election was said to have been registered the very day the Election was to start and MoU was signed on that same day. This was done all alone by the President of the NBA.” He added that “There was no opportunity to interrogate the System before the commencement of the Election in order to determine its vulnerability, security and capacity.”

Adesina has practically rejected the outcome of the election, calling it a “sham.” His words: “I call on you Mr. Chairman and Members of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to cancel this sham Election. It is needless to say that if the process is bad, the product cannot be good.”

A similar statement by the Dele Adesina Support Group is fundamentally on all fours with Adesina’s petition. Its list of alleged infractions includes the following:

  1. Failure to release the final voters list within constitutionally prescribed period.
  2. Over 4000 names were without Branches as required by the NBA Constitution.
  3. 86 lawyers were described as belonging to International Diaspora contrary to the provision of the NBA Constitution.
  4. Padding of Voters’ list of some Branches, and reduction in the number of published voters’ list of others. An example is Obollo-Afor Branch which has over 661 names on the voters list when the actual voters list is less than 60.
  5. Several branches had names of hitherto eligible voters removed from the final list.
  6. Several members had their names listed in Branches other than theirs.
  7. Many members have reported that they received notification of confirmation of voting when they neither received voting links nor voted.

At least one candidate for the post of General Secretary also complained bitterly to CITY LAWYER on what is generally perceived as a highly jaundiced voters’ list.

There is no gainsaying that the verified voters’ list as released by the electoral committee was seemingly an anti-climax, as it failed to build on the more robust “final list” released by the ECNBA. Apparently, the “clean up” of the final voters’ list was largely unsuccessful. It also does not seem that the electoral committee’s explanation on the issue fully exonerates it from blame. For example, how does it explain the increase in the number of voters for Obollo Afor by about 600 among sundry gaps.

Also, it is yet to be determined the number of eager and eligible voters who were disenfranchised by non-receipt of voting links either via email or short messaging service. While some of the affected voters contacted CITY LAWYER on the subject, subsequent feedback was not quite satisfactory.

There is no gainsaying that the electoral committee got it right with its appointment of ELECTIONBUDDY, a world class voting management software for the election. The Help Desk was also generally functional.

However, it is instructive that the voters’ list is not only central to any election, but is especially critical for electronic voting given the garbage in-garbage out concept.

It is refreshing that the ECNBA has promised an audit of the election. Hopefully, a comprehensive audit will answer all the posers raised by the stakeholders and pull the association back from another tumultuous era.

 

NBA DUTSE MEMBERS DEFY USORO, INAUGURATE NEW EXCO

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dutse Branch has inaugurated a new Executive Committee to pilot its affairs, notwithstanding the appointment of a Caretaker Committee for the branch by NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN. With Mr. Garba Abubakar as the newly elected Chairman, the new Executive Committee was sworn-in by Mr. Sule Umar, a Notary Public.

Speaking after assuming office as the incumbent branch chairman, Abubakar alleged that acolytes of an influential Bar Leader and former Jigawa State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice have been destabilizing the branch, adding that the branch would no longer tolerate such meddlesomeness. Abubakar warned the Bar Leader to stay away from the branch or risk having legal action taken against him.

Noting that the peaceful disposition of the outgone Executive Committee – of which he was the Secretary – must not be taken for cowardice, Abubakar alleged that the Bar Leader is not a member of the branch by virtue of Article 13 (4) of the NBA Unified Bye Law for branches, adding that he has “no visible place of practice and residence in the whole Jigawa State.”

The Dutse Branch helmsman warned that the branch would henceforth take steps to stem the alleged meddlesomeness of the Bar chieftain, adding that “In the very unlikely event that he refuses or rather neglects to stop tempering with the peaceful nature and wellbeing of the branch, I would have no further option than to activate the provisions of the relevant laws with a view to restoring the peaceful nature of the branch, and when that is done, the whole world will know where the truth lies as the truth is always on the side of the oppressed.”

He however extended an olive branch to all branch members to join his administration in moving the branch forward, saying: “I am using this medium to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to those who have any issue or feel offended by any activities of the Branch Executive. It is indeed time to forget our past and go ahead for the progress of our Branch.”

Reeling out his roadmap for the next two years, Abubakar said he would “continue from where my predecessor stopped in the area of fostering unity among members, mentorship for young lawyers as well as capacity building. I will further continue from where the former Executive stopped in the area of partnership with various government agencies and other development partners for the benefit of our branch.

“We will in particular pay much attention to the following areas:

  • Human Capital Development and Welfare Programs.
  • Promoting of All-inclusive Bar.
  • Promoting mandatory continuing legal education.
  • Mentorship scheme and capacity building for young lawyers.
  • Promoting rule of law and good governance.
  • Provision for pro bono legal service for indigent, aged and victims of rape.
  • Creating synergy and collaboration between the branch and any development partners for the development of the branch.”

Speaking earlier, the former branch chairman, Mr. Bashir Usaini outlined the achievements of his administration, noting that while he met only N300,00 in the branch coffers, “I am leaving NBA GTB Account with the sum Two Million Five Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand Naira (N2, 502,500) only.” He urged the members “to support the incoming executive for collective success and peaceful relationship.”

Usoro had in a statement by NBA General Secretary, Mr. Jonathan Gunu Taidi, dissolved the Election Committee set up by the NBA Dutse Branch and constituted a three-member Caretaker Committee to handle the affairs of the branch upon the expiration of the tenure of the branch Executive Committee on 29th June, 2020.

But the branch members argue that the letter appointing the Caretaker Committee was belated and of no consequence, having been delivered after conclusion of the branch elections, with certificates of return issued to the winners.

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