Wednesday, 8 July, 2020

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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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).

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WE WILL DELIVER RANCOUR-FREE ELECTIONS, NBA LAGOS C’TE CHAIR TELLS CITY LAWYER

  • UNVEILS ICT PARTNER

In this no-holds barred interview, Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch Election Committee, Mr. Richard Akintunde SAN says the elections will be free, fair and credible.

Please briefly introduce yourself.

I am Richard Ayodele Akintunde, SAN, the Chairman of the NBA Lagos Branch 2019 Election Committee

How does it feel being asked to midwife yet another election for the Premier Bar?

I am honoured to be asked once again to Chair the Election Committee of the Premier Bar. I am particularly excited because this year branch elections will be conducted by E-voting. This is a historic event and my committee members and I are super excited to be part of this history making exercise.

How will you describe your team in the Electoral Committee?

I have an excellent team made up distinguished legal practitioners and members of the NBA Lagos Branch. The team consists of HRM Chief E.A. Otokhina, Mrs. Sola Adegbonmire, Mr. Geff Eze and Mrs. Obosa Akpata who is the Secretary of the Committee. We have an excellent working relationship and we are all committed to delivering a free, fair and credible electoral process.

There are concerns that the complaints procedure for members whose names were omitted in the voters’ register is not clear-cut. For instance, some argue that the notice was silent on members submitting Bar Practicing Fees and Branch Dues receipts and that this may discourage members from following through with the process. What is your view on this?

The complaints procedure is clear cut and straightforward and it requires Branch Members whose names were not included in the List of Eligible Voters published by the Committee to submit their complaints. To be Eligible to vote you must be a Financial Member of the Branch and must have paid your bar practicing fees and annual branch dues, as and when due, for the two (2) years preceding the election or since enrolment, if less than two (2) years post-call and you must have attended 5 monthly meetings in a 12 month period preceding the elections. The criteria for eligibility to vote is contained in the Uniform Bye Laws and it was widely published by the Election Committee.

Your name will not appear on the list of Eligible Voters if you have not met these criteria. As members of the branch we all know these requirements. It behooves you therefore in your complaint to show that you have met these criteria by providing useful information [such as receipts showing that you paid your practicing fees and branch dues as required and you attended the require number of meetings] to the Election Committee to enable the Committee include such member’s name in the Supplementary List.

When the Election Committee published the List of Eligible Voters, branch members whose names who had complaints were advised to submit their complaints by email. In the course of reviewing such complaints those whose names were not found on the list of Financial Members of the Branch supplied to us by the Branch Secretariat were requested by email to submit proof of payment of bar practicing fees and annual branch dues for 2018 and 2019 as required and we have been receiving their responses.

Also the names of members who sent in their complaints were checked in the Attendance books and the minutes of meetings from June 2018 to June 2019 to confirm if they attended the 5 monthly meetings required.

Members who meet the requirements have will be included in the Supplementary list of Eligible Voters to be published by the Election Committee.

The complaint process is designed to address any mistakes or omissions on the list of eligible after which a supplementary list will be published. Members who wish to participate in the election process should not be discouraged at all, the complaint process works and we have been using the complaints process for the last 5 elections to include eligible voters whose names were omitted on a Supplementary list.

The integrity of the voters’ register has also been questioned by the observation that some candidates already cleared by your committee had their names omitted from the list. How do you respond to this?

The name of one candidate [Obinna Okereke] was omitted and we have rectified the omission. The candidates whose name was misspelt has also been rectified. The omission of one person’s name is not enough to question the integrity of the list of eligible voters. The omission was an innocent one and his name will appear on the Supplementary list. The essence of publishing the list of eligible voters no later than 14 days before the elections is to afford branch members the opportunity to complain and for the Committee to take on board the complaints and make corrections if need be. We are working day and night to attend to all complaints received. I want to assure our members that the list of eligible voters and the supplementary one coming is credible.

Some have argued that the regularization of the voters’ register ought to have been done online, especially as some registered voters may be overseas during this period. Why did your committee opt for a manual complaints and regularization process?

The initial list of eligible voters was published in hard and soft copies. The list is available online at www.nbalagoselections.com.ng The Complaints process is not manual as complaints are to be sent to the Committee by e-mail to nbaelection2019@gmail.com . The complaint will be resolved by painstakingly going through the records provided to us by the Branch Secretariat manually to show that such member paid his practicing fees and branch dues as required and attended the 5 monthly meetings required. Once this is resolved the names of successful complainants will be published in hard and soft copies. The Supplementary list will soon be available online at www.nbalagoselections.com.ng

Resolution of the complaint can only be done manually by physically going through the Attendance Register of Meetings and the records of the branch for 2018 and 2019 of Financial Members. We are using technology in the best possible way and you don’t have to be in Nigeria to log on to the website or send an e-mail.

It has been said that there is no feedback mechanism for members to know whether their complaints have been resolved. How do you respond to this?

We are in touch with members who have sent in their complaints and trust me we are resolving their complaints. We will soon publish a supplementary list of Eligible Voters. We will also let members who sent in complaints know by email why their names are not on the Supplementary list.

Your committee has not provided any Help Desk or hotline for members to make enquiries on the electoral process? Is this deliberate?

We have an e-mail nbaelection2019@gmail.com which allows the members and the public to contact the Committee and we have been attending to various enquires from members and the public sent through this e-mail address. We will set up a Help Desk after the Final Batch of Eligible Voters is published and a hotline will be provided. Members are free contact the Election Committee via e-mail.

Some candidates say that your Committee has not been carrying them along, that the processes leading to the elections have been shrouded in secrecy. What is your view on this?

The Uniform Bye Laws sets out the duties of the Election Committee and we have been carrying out our duties as set out to the letter. We have a website where all the information relating to the election is published. We have printed posters, flexes and other online materials regarding the electoral process as required by the Uniform Bye Laws. I have addressed several monthly meetings to talk about the electoral process. The processes leading to the election is not shrouded in secrecy. We are constantly publishing online materials giving information about the election process. In the history of my involvement with the election process in the NBA Lagos Branch we have never published as much information as we have done in the 2019 elections. The Committee has constantly been posting online materials and flexes giving out information on the election process. The electoral process is open and transparent. We are having a parley with candidates, agents, stakeholders and the media on Tuesday, the 25th of June 2019 and we intend to continue to engage with them. Many candidates have been contacting the Committee on one thing or the other.

Do you plan to have a stakeholders’ meeting with the candidates before the elections?

We intend to have a stakeholders meeting with all the candidates, their agents, the branch exco and the media on Tuesday the 25th of June 2019 at the NBA Lagos Branch Conference Room at 12 noon.

Some have argued that enlightenment has been low on the electoral process, especially as the electronic voting model is being adopted for the first time by the branch. How do you respond to this?

We have constantly published online materials on various platforms to enlighten Branch Members of the Step by Step process for the E-Voting. At the last Branch Meeting, I addressed the June Branch Meeting and went through the step by step process for the e-voting. I also did a demonstration of the e-voting process. Members were given the opportunity to ask questions about the process and I provided answers. We intend to have a stakeholders meeting with all the candidates, their agents, the branch Exco and the media on Tuesday the 25th of June 2019 at the NBA Branch Conference Room at 12 noon to once again explain the e-voting process step by step and do a demonstration of the voting process. We will also do the same explanation at the Manifesto Day at the Foyer at 2.00 pm on the same day.

Why is your committee still keeping the ICT Partner for the elections under wraps even days to the election?

We are not keeping the Service Provider under wraps. At the June monthly meeting of the NBA Lagos Branch, I disclosed the name of the service partner in a demonstration to all members present. The Service Provider is: vote-now.com. They are a reputable ballot service provider, with extensive experience in providing secure ballot options to various professional organizations and associations all over the world since 2003. They have conducted 2,375 ballots by e-voting till date.

What is the level of access to be given to the candidates or their agents as to the backend of the e-voting platform?

Candidates will be allowed to nominate agents who will be granted some access to the Situation Room, where the ballot process will be monitored.

Are you confident about the integrity of the e-voting platform and its ability to withstand possible attacks from hackers among others?

The election servers are protected with encrypted connections and have valid SSL certificates. All web connections are made via https with 256 bit security. Vote-now.com is certified Grade A on security when tested with the SSL labs security test. We offer all members the highest assurances of rock-solid security of the voting process.

There are concerns that non-release of the June attendance list may lead to padding of the voters’ register. Are these valid concerns? Do you plan to release the list?

The attendance register for June has been provided by the Secretariat to the Committee to enable the Committee do its work and attend to complaints. The attendance register cannot be padded while in the custody of the election committee. It is the duty of the Branch Secretariat to release the attendance list of the June meeting not that of the Election Committee.

When are campaigns expected to cease, given that the deadline is not stated on the published Guidelines?

Candidates are expected to stop all forms of campaigns by 12 midnight on Thursday the 27th of June 2019.

Only 793 eligible voters were on the voters’ list published by your committee. How many voters are ultimately expected to participate in the elections?

We will able to determine the total number of voters that will participate in the elections after we have attended to all complaints and published the Supplementary List. Watch out the list is coming out soon.

Do you have any concerns regarding the elections?

The collation of data of Eligible Voters is very critical to E-voting. So far, the Election Committee has received about 200 e-mails from Eligible Voters updating their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Eligible Voters are required to check their information on the NBA Lagos Branch Website nbalagos.org and update their information if necessary.

Accurate date is critical to the success of the 2019 elections by e-voting. We are working assiduously to harvest the required data required. I once again use this opportunity to appeal to all eligible voters to ensure that they check with the NBA branch secretariat that their emails and phone numbers are correct. Eligible voters can also supply their telephone and emails to the Committee at nbaelection2019@gmail.com

When are the results of the elections expected?

The results will be announced shortly after the conclusion of the e-voting exercise. Will there be a paper trail for the results of the elections? The service provider will make available a breakdown of the results after the election, showing a transparent and auditable process.

Is there any complaints procedure for candidates who may wish to contest the results?

There is no complaints procedure in the NBA uniform Bye-Law for Branches. Candidates have already signed on their nomination forms that they will abide by the result of the elections.

What are your last words for voters and other stakeholders?

I want to thank the candidates, the branch Exco and branch members for their cooperation thus far. I want to appeal to eligible voters to familiarize themselves with the step by step guide to e-voting which has been posted on several platforms and on www.nbalagoselections.com.ng

I want to assure members of the NBA Lagos Branch, candidates, eligible voters and stakeholders that with their cooperation and support, the 2019 election by e-voting will be seamless. At the end of it all, we will all congratulate ourselves. On behalf of the Election Committee, I thank you for this opportunity.