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.

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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.

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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

EXCLUSIVE: NBA ELECTIONS – WHY EFCC QUIZED NBA CHIEFTAIN

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have swooped on senior lawyer and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) administrative lynchpin, Sarah Ajijola over an alleged cash payment received from one of the presidential candidates in the last elections.

An impeccable source who is familiar with the EFCC investigations told CITY LAWYER that Ajijola, NBA’s Director of Membership & Bar Services, was pulled in by the anti-graft agency for questioning over a N25,000 inflow into her bank account in the run-up to the controversial 2018 NBA Elections.

The EFCC is investigating the outcome of the elections following an alleged petition by Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure who was an agent to Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, one of the presidential candidates in the elections. Olowokure is now deceased.

As the overseer of the NBA database, Ajijola worked closely with the Professor Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) in generating a register of voters for the elections. Reputed as highly knowledgeable in NBA affairs, Ajijola was quizzed for several days over the inflow. It was however unclear at press time whether the anti-graft agency was able to make a headway in its investigations into the elections following this latest effort to track those who allegedly rigged the Bar elections.

CITY LAWYER sent whatsapp messages to Ajijola requesting her response on the subject. When CITY LAWYER noticed that the messages remained unread, CITY LAWYER alerted Ajijola via SMS. Though there was compelling evidence that the whatsapp messages were read, Ajijola however did not respond to the enquiries even after CITY LAWYER made another request for a feedback.

CITY LAWYER gathered that Ajijola was released when NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN dispatched NBA Legal Adviser, Mr. Innocent Eze to Lagos to secure her release. It was gathered that Eze was able to persuade the anti-graft agency to let the NBA top officer off the hook. He was said to have processed the administrative bail granted Ajijola, leading to her release from EFCC custody.

Though some lawyers had frowned on Ajijola’s prolonged detention, there are strong indications that this may not be unconnected with the fact that key NBA chieftains were heading to Seoul, South Korea to attend the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference barely a few days after she was picked up by EFCC operatives and whisked away to their Lagos Office.

Usoro was declared winner of the election, having polled 4,509 votes to beat Okafor and former Nigerian Law School Deputy Director General, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN. While Okafor garnered 4,423 votes, Ojukwu polled 3,313 votes to place third.

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.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Audit Will Not Alter Election Results – Yadudu

Any hopes by defeated candidates in the recent Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections that an audit will upturn the outcome of the elections has been dashed by the Electoral Committee of NBA (ECNBA) Chairman, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu.

It is recalled that a presidential candidate in the elections, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN had specifically requested an audit of the elections as a pre-condition to cooperate with NBA President-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN.

But Yadudu while responding to enquiries by CITY LAWYER, foreclosed any possibility that the audit will reverse the election results as declared by the ECNBA.

His words: “A post election audit will be carried out as promised. However, it is not to validate or invalidate the result announced.”

This is bound to rattle some of the candidates who are hoping that the planned audit may void some of the results declared by the ECNBA.

Asked to respond to allegations by Okafor and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN, the two other presidential candidates, that the elections were riddled with rigging among other infractions, the ECNBA Chairman declined comment, saying: “Sorry l cannot comment on views by others about or in any matter pertaining to (the) election.”

When CITY LAWYER asked the veteran law teacher for suggestions on electoral reforms, he also side-stepped the issue, saying: “These are matters that will go into (our) report. So it will not be proper to address (same) in the press.”

He however noted that the NBA National Executive Committee meeting which held yesterday did not ratify the outcome of the elections but merely the change in date. His words: “NEC did not ratify the election. It ratified the timing by which the ECNBA held the election in August instead of July.”

It is recalled that CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report revealed that Usoro is a co-director at Access Bank Plc with Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika, the first female Chairman of CHAMS Plc. CHAMS was originally hired by the ECNBA as its sole ICT Partner for the elections. It eventually deployed its voting portal for the elections.

The CITY LAWYER report had raised concerns on the integrity of NBA’s electoral process and the ability of the ECNBA to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

Following petitions by candidates and a flurry of meetings, outgoing NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN had initiated several electoral reforms to reassure stakeholders.

In a press statement dated July 21, 2018 Mahmoud had promised that an audit of the elections will be carried out.

His words: “The ECNBA will develop a post-election audit framework and process and may engage an independent entity for that purpose.”

Usoro was declared winner of the hotly contested poll on August 20, three weeks after the initial date set for the conclusion of the elections.

Both Okafor and Ojukwu rejected the results, alleging rigging and other electoral infractions.

Though the elections were conducted in August as against July specified in the NBA Constitution, the NBA-NEC yesterday ratified the shift in date, clearing the way for Usoro to be sworn-in as the 29th NBA President.

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BREAKING: How NBA Election Was Rigged, by Arthur Obi Okafor

* Election a ‘Robbery’

* ECNBA Ignored our Inputs

* Unveils 4000 Fake Phone Numbers

A presidential candidate in the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN has detailed how the election was allegedly rigged.

In a “preliminary release” by Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure, Leader of the Arthur Obi Okafor SAN Technical Team, the campaign directorate described the elections as a “robbery,” adding that it had identified no less than 4000 fake telephone numbers and 1004 fake emails deployed to rig the elections.

The statement reads:

PRELIMINARY RELEASE ON IRREGULARITIES IDENTIFIED IN THE JUST CONCLUDED NBA ELECTIONS

One can confidently say the alleged victory of Paul Usoro SAN at the recently conducted NBA elections is the biggest embarrassment and robbery that members of NBA have ever experienced since the formation of NBA.

You would recall that there were serious reservations in some quarters about permitting Chams to participate in providing services in this election in any form or manner. As a result of these reservations a company known as CRENET was brought in to repeat the vilified verification exercise previously conducted by Chams. For some inexplicable reason Chams was retained to provide the voting platform despite it being established that the Chairman of Chams Plc and Paul Usoro SAN are co-directors of Access Bank and are members of same committees of Access Bank. Trusting in the assurances given by the President of NBA A.B Mahmoud SAN and the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) the other candidates decided to participate in the election with Chams involved.

ECNBA to its credit leading up to the elections adopted a somewhat participatory approach with the Presidential candidates and often sought their opinions before implementing decisions. Even then, the first danger signal and sign that there was a deliberate attempt to rig this election came when we discovered that close to 4000 names had telephone numbers assigned to them that were not the stated owners numbers but belonged to other persons. An example of this was in the list of eligible voters submitted by Abuja branch, the telephone number of one Blossom Barrakah Esq (2017 call set) was repeated as the valid telephone number of 41 other lawyers on the eligible voters list. Likewise the telephone number of Noah Ajare Esq a known and ardent supporter of Paul Usoro SAN appeared 15 times against different lawyers names. What made the danger signals more frightening was that Noah Ajare was the caretaker secretary of Abuja branch at the time of the submission of the Abuja branch list of eligible voters and he was the person that compiled and submitted the Abuja Branch list to ECNBA.

We have a comprehensive list of the nearly 4000 instances of duplicate telephone numbers that appeared in ECNBA’s original voter’s list and have attached same for ease of reference (Annex A ). We also have strong reason to believe that there were far more than 4000 of such instances. Rather than treat this occurrence as a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the Elections and move decisively against the perpetrators, ECNBA for some reason chose to allow the perpetrators to still participate in the election, eg. our records show the said Noah Ajare despite his actions aforesaid was verified and cleared to vote in this election.

As the elections drew closer things started to go terribly wrong;

The first problem was that CRENET was not given enough time to perfect the excellent security procedures that they had put in place to ensure that members’ votes were not hijacked. The verification process became laboured and extremely difficult for members and as a result of extreme pressure from many quarters, especially from the President of NBA, ECNBA in consultation with the President of the NBA took a decision to relax the security procedures put in place by CRENET to make the verification process ‘faster’. This decision was fatal because it became the very reason why this election was so badly rigged.

The relaxing of the security procedures meant members were now allowed to go straight to the verification portal and enter any details they liked without restriction. It also meant that unscrupulous persons would also now be able to verify for other lawyers without them knowing and hijack their votes by inserting different email addresses and telephone numbers ; this is precisely what happened in this election. This is precisely what we had continually warned against but our warnings fell on deaf ears.

We eventually agreed to the relaxing of the security protocols by CRENET but we did so on the following conditions;

i. Any change effected in a lawyer’s details must be in line with data already in NBA’s database. i.e genuine mistakes can be changed but other changes should be cleared through bar services after satisfying itself that the rationale for such changes was genuine.

ii. The comprehensive list of verified voters to be uploaded on to the CHAMS voting platform by CRENET shall be given to candidates to peruse to enable them comment and give observations before uploading and before the commencement of the elections.

iii. All names associated with any form of duplication of telephone numbers and email addresses would be quarantined and only included in the final verification list if the lawyers concerned came forward and gave their true and correct phone numbers and email addresses which should conform with records already contained in the NBA database.

Conditions i) and iii) above were totally disregarded by ECNBA, while the verified voters list as specified in condition ii) above was not given to candidates until after the election had already started. This in effect meant that candidates’ agreement to remove the security protocols was obtained on false pretences and candidates were actually being led like lambs into a slaughterhouse.

A day before the election we discovered from the verification portal the incidences of some strange looking email addresses that surfaced as lawyers alleged email addresses for the first time. These email addresses predominantly came from three domains “Openmailbox.org”, “firemail.cc” and “airmail.cc”. We alerted ECNBA to the sudden existence of these strange email addresses in a meeting which took place between the Presidential Candidates representatives and ECNBA on 17th August 2018. We also suggested at the same meeting after watching Chams demonstration of the voting process that passwords to vote should be sent automatically to both emails and telephone numbers so that if a prospective voter’s email had been tampered with he/she would still know through SMS if somebody was attempting to vote on his/her behalf.

When we realised our concerns above were not being addressed by ECNBA we sent an email to ECNBA at about 1:53pm on Saturday 18th August 2018 reiterating our concerns and requesting that emails from such domains should be disallowed as our investigations had shown the email addresses did not belong to the lawyers indicated in the verified voter’s list (Annex B).When we still did not receive any response from ECNBA we sent another email on 19th August 2018 at about 7.54am giving full details of the suspected emails and the lawyers affected, (Annex C) . Details of the lawyers affected and the offending emails is attached. (Annex D)

The breakdown of the details of our initial investigations sent to ECNBA well before the conclusion of the elections shows that;

Openmailbox.org email addresses were fraudulently used to replace the email addresses of 196 Lawyers without their consent
Firemail.cc email addresses were fraudulently used to replace the email addresses of 203 Lawyers without their consent.
Airmail.cc email addresses were fraudulently used to replace the email addresses of 605 Lawyers without their consent.

The implication of the above is that there were a total of 1004 of these bogus email addresses used to harvest the votes of unsuspecting members. Further investigation has shown that two of the above mentioned domain names belong to closed user groups, whose members can only obtain email addresses in such domains if they are specifically invited to the group. The real owners cannot be traced, in fact a common feature of these closed user groups is that they are associated with scams, hacking, malware and ransomware. Did ECNBA not have technical advice? Why was this development not addressed or arrested when it came to the committees notice?

Abdullahi Karaye Musa Esq of Ungogo branch (No 213 on the Airmail.CC list) and Emmanuel Yokpe Nenmasha of Jos Branch (No 579 on the Airmail.CC list) have detailed their ordeals of having their right to vote hijacked (Kindly find attached Annexes E and F). A similar experience of hijacked voting was specifically documented by the following three members of Ahoada branch; Ogbobula Isaac Abbot (No 4 on the Firemail.cc list), Okpara Uchevenotu Ezor (No 1 on the firemail.cc list) and Lauretta U. Nwokaeze (No. 68 on the Firemail.cc list). All 1004 on the said list have a story to tell and we will soon release a branch by branch account of members whose votes were hijacked using the fraudulent emails above. We have so far identified the precise branches of 656 of the lawyers already mentioned in the list of 1004 (Annex G) and will identify the branches of at least 348 other cheated voters shortly.

We are also gathering information that shows that even email addresses from regular domain names were used to hijack votes and will release same soonest. Needless to say the 1004 incidences of glaring malpractice already identified are enough to show that in an Election that ECNBA claims was won by 80 something votes cannot stand. I have only stated facts in this report there is no conjecture or guessing there are just plain facts.

We still expect the current leadership of NBA to act and cancel this fault laden process that declared Paul Usoro SAN the winner of the election.

Kind regards

O.O. Olowokure Esq.
Leader AOOSAN Technical Team

BREAKING: Usoro Wins, Obi Okafor ‘Withdraws’

Mr. Paul Usoro SAN may be declared winner of the hotly contested NBA Elections, even as his closest rival, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN may have withdrawn from the race, citing “surges of votes in favour of Paul Usoro SAN.”

Sources close to the ECNBA Situation Room said Usoro may coast to victory with less than one hundred votes.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Mr. Jonathan Taidi has won the post of General Secretary with a wide margin.

The petition by Arthur Obi Okafor Campaign Directorate reads:

20th August 2018
The Chairman
ECNBA
NBA Secretariat
Abuja

Dear Sir

This is to inform you that having reviewed the events leading up to and during the elections Arthur Obi Okafor SAN states categorically that he withdraws from this election and cannot accept the outcome of the result.

Inexplicable and strange surges of votes in favour of Paul Usoro SAN and the glaring incidences of hijacked votes makes it clear the result of this election cannot stand.

An acceptable participatory post election Audit of International standard will bear out our grievances in this regard.

Thank you

O.O.Olowokure Esq
For Arthur Obi Okafor SAN