‘NBA ELECTION WAS RIGGED,’ SAYS OKUTEPA

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

• ‘NBA LEADERSHIP TOOK LAWYERS TO SLAUGHTER SLAB’

Longstanding Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN at the weekend took a hard look at the just concluded NBA Elections and declared that it was rigged.

In a reaction made available exclusively to CITY LAWYER, the fiery senior lawyer and staunch supporter of the candidacy of Mr. Dele Adesina SAN said: “But let me tell you as I had said before that this election will be rigged and it has been rigged.”

He accused the NBA leadership of taking lawyers for granted and being secretive about the process, saying: “As lawyers we were led to the slaughter slab and we followed blindly.”

Reviewing the election, Okutepa said: “What other reaction do I have than to keep calm and see what the leadership that has been foisted on the Bar will do in the next two years.

“We are degenerating in integrity and honesty in the legal profession in geometric proportions. The Bar is divided now. The house we have is on shaking grounds. But let me tell you as I had said before that this election will be rigged and it has been rigged.

“The fragrant breach of NBA constitution is legendary in this election. The processes leading to this election were product of constitutional iniquities. The leadership of the Bar took everyone for granted and did what it did in the most secret manner. As lawyers we were led to the slaughter slab and we followed blindly.

“Misconduct was not punished. But we need to make examples of those who are dragging the nobility of this profession to the muds. Indiscipline is being celebrated and we think that is part of freedom. I weep for the legal profession.

“Many young lawyers are busy happy abusing the elders and they are happy doing it. But we all were once young lawyers. The nobility of the legal profession is in respect for the ethics and etiquette of the profession. But that is far gone now in our profession.”

Continuing, the Bar Leader said: “The days cometh when this once noble profession will bounce back in glory. That is when the rots in the profession will be addressed,” adding that those who “won” should be “kind enough to interrogate the processes that threw them on the Bar.” He warned that those who “lost” must not be “mocked,” saying: “For me there is nothing new. I had said before that we will see what we have now.”

Okutepa had told CITY LAWYER before the elections that “I do not see what we will do differently when the rigging that characterized the last election was not addressed.” Hinting that the election managers may tow a pre-determined line, Okutepa said: “Those who have the capacity to appoint the service providers will not heed any suggestions.” Asked the way forward, he said: “Until the Bar and its leadership decide to be honest and transparent with our electoral processes no suggestion will matter.”

It is recalled that Mr. Olumide Akpata was declared winner of the keenly contested presidential election. According to the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), Akpata polled 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. Adesina had a few hours to the end of the election demanded cancellation of the poll, saying it was fraught with irregularities. The election was held via ELECTIONBUDDY, an electronic voting software deployed by Edmonton, Canada based firm.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

ELECTION CRISIS: USORO VOWS TO UNITE AKPATA, ADESINA, OTHERS

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has committed to bridge the schism that has attended the just concluded NBA National Officers Elections.

CITY LAWYER recalls that one of the presidential candidates in the race, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN had in a searing petition to the Electoral Committee (ECNBA) carpeted the poll as a “sham election,” demanding its cancellation. Mr. Olumide Akpata was declared winner of the election, polling 9,891 or 54.3 per cent votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who garnered 4,328 (23.8 per cent) votes. Adesina polled 3,982 votes (21.9 per cent) to bring up the rear. 

But in a response by Usoro addressed to NBA Past Presidents and Trustees, he stated that the election may have occasioned “wounds and bruises,” and warned against allowing the schism to deepen.

His words: “Now that the Elections are gone and past, I would, with the greatest respect, urge all our members, including the erstwhile contestants – both the winners and the losers – to join hands in healing the wounds and bruises that may have been occasioned by the Elections campaigns and results. It is inevitable that, in contests of this nature, there would be such wounds and bruises; we must however not allow them to fester and become open sores and flashpoints for divisions amongst us.”

Usoro assured that his immediate task is to facilitate the mending of fences between the combatants, saying: “That healing process is the most urgent and pressing assignment that we have, and I intend in the coming days to reach out to all the erstwhile contestants in that regard, notably, the Presidential candidates. I solicit your support and assistance, my dear Presidents and Trustees, in that task. There is much work to be done by all of us in the elevation of our Bar and we need to heal fast and then turn our attention, as a united Bar, to those tasks.”

In a detailed riposte to the allegations raised in Adesina’s petition, the NBA President vowed that neither him nor the ECNBA rigged the poll, saying that not only was the voter turnout unprecedented, the petitioner had adduced no evidence that any alleged infraction adversely impacted the result of the election.

He said it is “strange” that Adesina claimed that there were members “who received the link” but “could not vote,” adding that the “overwhelming evidence” that he received and also read on social media was that the voting process was “seamless” and “very easy for our members. I have so far not received any report from any member claiming that he or she had challenges in voting on the basis of the unique link that were sent to members from and by the Election Platform server. In any case, the ECNBA Statement No. 18 that was referenced in the Committee’s Statement No. 19 afore-referenced provided a helpline for members – 0700 5555 2020 – and I am hoping that those members who may have experienced voting challenges after receiving their unique links had contacted that helpline for assistance.”

Confirming that Adesina discussed his concerns with him before the election, Usoro said: “To reinforce the explanations in the ECNBA Statement No. 19, I further explained to Mr. Adesina that (a) all the names in the Verified Voters’ List were drawn from the Final Voters’ List that was published by the ECNBA on 01 July 2020 and that no new names were added; (b) all the names in the Verified Voters’ List are lawyers and had paid their Bar Practicing Fees and Branch Dues and had therefore met the eligibility qualification to vote in the Elections; and (c) the Elections would be determined, not on the basis of NBA branches but based on universal suffrage of the members which is the voting system enshrined in the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 (as amended) and we should therefore not be fixated on the electronic glitches that assigned wrong branches to members. I stand by those explanations that I gave to Mr. Adesina and of course the fuller explanations that are contained in the ECNBA Statement No. 19.” He therefore warned against being “fixated” on the “electronic glitches” that assigned wrong branches to members.

Noting that Adesina has not been “forthcoming” with the details of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria that he mentioned in his petition, Usoro said: “Suffice to state that there were 29,636 verified voters for the 2020 NBA National Officers Election – a number that is far higher than the numbers we had in 2016 and 2018 for the NBA National Officers’ Elections that were held in those years. In my humble opinion, that is an advancement that we should all be proud of and should build on in succeeding Elections.”

The NBA President stated that “the relevant question to ask in regard to the security of the NBA Membership Portal is whether any member’s security was breached or compromised howsoever vis-à-vis the 2020 NBA National Officers’ Election. Prior to the Elections, I had read some non-specific allegations in that regard by a candidate and had requested for specific instance of any such breach to enable investigation by the NBA. Up till date, I have not received any such specific complaint, and none has been made in regard to the 2020 Elections. The NBA however remains open to investigate any such complaint if any is presented by Mr. Adesina or any other person.”

Usoro observed that 18,256 ballots were cast in the Elections consisting of 62% of the verified voters, saying: “That was by far higher than the number of ballots that were cast in the last 2 (two) NBA National Officers’ Elections since universal suffrage was introduced in 2015. Again, that is a feat which, in my very humble opinion, we should all exult and revel in. It reflects an incremental achievement which succeeding Elections can and should build on.”

He said that Adesina fell into error when he mistook the number of undeliverable notices for the number of persons who did not receive notices, saying that the number of notices “represented the aggregate of the undeliverable notices that were sent to each Verified Voter through the two notification channels – sms and e-mails. It also represents the aggregate number of blasts of such notices to each of the affected Verified Voter.” According to Usoro, the number of voters whose notices were previously undeliverable but were eventually able to vote also improved, climbing from 1,886 to 6,500. “That, in my respectful view, was quite commendable and showed an overarching commitment by the ECNBA to deliver on its mandate,” he said.

Alluding to the chequered issue of NBA database, Usoro said that “the inability to deliver those notices was not attributable howsoever to the Election Platform; it had everything to do with the NBA’s poor database (which, in point of fact, has been much improved under the present NBA administration) and the activation of DND in some of our members’ mobile phones.”

Usoro denied signing any Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the election portal vendor, adding that Adesina also got his information wrong on that score. His words: “In regard to the allegations relating to the procurement of the Election Platform, these are all incorrect, to the best of my knowledge. No MoU was signed on the Election Day in regard to the Election Platform. It is not quite clear what Mr. Adesina intends by his assertion that “the System . . . was . . . registered the very day the Election was to start”. As far as I know, the Election Platform, ElectionBuddy, belongs to a foreign company who has provided service such as we had for the NBA 2020 Elections in the past 12 years. Mr. Adesina, with the greatest respect, got his facts in regard to the Election Platform completely wrong. In any case, I would have thought that the more material issue should be whether the Election Platform provided satisfactory service to our members for the Elections. The evidence I have answers that question overwhelmingly in the positive. Mr. Adesina’s letter incidentally did not assert to the contrary. Regardless, the NBA remains open to address any specific queries that Mr. Adesina or any other may have in regard to the Election Platform.”

He said that Adesina left the “most critical” issue unaddressed, namely the integrity of the ballot. His words: “Perhaps I should first comment on the refreshing and complete transparency of the ballot. That is one feature that no one could dispute or quibble over. We were all election monitors, right from the first ballot to the last, using our various devices. It was possible for all our members to track the votes as they were cast. Another unique feature of the Elections was the unique link that was sent to each Verified Voter for him or her to access the platform and cast his/her ballot. That link was unique to the receiver and non-transferable; it was also not possible to use a single link and vote more than once.

“The link was delivered to members both by e-mail and sms and this was to ensure that Verified Voters all received the notification. Upon accessing the Election portal, the unique identifier that enabled voting by members was the Supreme Court Number of each Verified Voter. In effect, even if Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN’s unique link for accessing the Election Portal were to fall into the wrong hands, such wrong hands could not have cast the ballot, using that link except he or they also had Mr. Usoro’s SCN. These were all security measures that were put in place by the ECNBA to ensure the integrity of the ballot and I have not received any report from anyone whomsoever suggesting that these security measures were compromised or breached howsoever.”

Usoro said that he “had consistently committed to a free, fair, credible, transparent and unimpeachable ballot for our members in the 2020 National Officers’ Elections, right from my election in 2018,” adding: “I had also expressly informed each of the Presidential Candidates during my interactions with them that I would not rig the Election for any candidate neither would the ECNBA. The ECNBA were sworn to the same ideals as I was and I feel very comfortable holding my hand to my chest and declaring that we – the ECNBA and the NBA National Officers – lived up to those ideals in the conduct of the 2020 NBA National Officers’ Elections. I affirm solemnly and, in all conviction, that it was the transparent ballot which we all witnessed and nothing else that produced the winners of the Elections.”

PUSAN_LETTER_DASAN

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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 IS CONTROLLING YOU TO RIG ELECTION,’ ONU WARNS ECNBA

  • SAYS VERIFICATION MODEL WILL FOSTER FAKE VOTERS

  • ‘SAFEGUARD YOUR GOOD NAME,’ ONU TELLS TAWO TAWO

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Co-Convener of Open Bar Initiative, Mr. Silas Onu has petitioned the Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over the exclusion of his name and that of his colleague from the voters’ register for the forthcoming NBA Elections, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report.

In a letter dated 6th July, 2020 and titled “Conplaint (sic) against a foreseeable calculated attempt to disenfranchise me and other junior lawyers in the forthcoming national election of the Nigerian Bar Association,” Onu noted that while he has always discharged his financial responsibility to the NBA and is entitled to all benefits deriving from his membership of the association, “I have to make the point here that there is no benefit whatsoever that I have ever enjoyed as a faithful member of this Bar.”

Noting that “the only privilege that I have received by virtue of my membership is the right to vote and be voted for as enshrined in our constitution,” Onu stated that “this right itself has been stolen from me in the past and another concerted effort is underway to steal it from me again.”

Onu alleged that he was disenfranchised in 2018 by the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu-led electoral committee “in the total control of A. B. Mahmoud SAN,” adding that this was “due to my support for a candidate other than their endorsed candidate, even with evidence of all qualifying payments.”

Alleging that the current NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN “is the main beneficiary of that illegality,” Onu stated that “I fear that he (Usoro) is also controlling your committee to deliver the same outcome as the one that brought him in.”

Warning that he “will have a reason to seek redress and demand damages” if the right to vote is “taken away from me for the second time in a row,” the Abuja based lawyer also said that such “will determine my further need to pay anything to the Bar as the conduct of those running its affairs is gradually becoming a brazen acts (sic) of fraud with no fear for any consequence.”

Onu, who showered encomiums on the ECNBA Chairman, however warned him to steer clear of acts that may impugn his integrity, saying: “Mr. Chairman Sir, I have known you for many years. You have remained one of the few Senior Advocates who I deeply appreciate and respect because of how you have carried yourself with dignity of your station in life and respect for those who are behind you. You have earned yourself a good name by hard work and persevering in integrity. The task that you are currently chairing is one that can broaden your horizon in the path that you have been or completely deplete the good name that you have done for many years. The latter is easily achievable if you do not insist on managing the entire process that will lead up to the election. If you allow the certain regular partisan individuals occupying offices in the Secretariat to manage the process, then we will end up with a disputed election that can bring the NBA to its knee.”

Onu noted that there is a need to ensure that the electoral process “is more credible than the past and as transparent as the voting itself,” adding that the compilation of the voters register was a “shameful exercise” as it reflected a list “a list put together from names sent from various Branches of the Association.”

He alleged that the register is “replete with duplicate names or bogus names,” querying : “Can you sincerely say that a credible election is about to be conducted when thousands of qualified voters are unable to verify for the election?” He stated that many names on the voters register were without email addresses, adding that those assigned to administer the Help Desk “have become professional liars promising so much and delivering nothing to members with verification challenges.”

Providing their personal details, Onu said: “With the information given herein, there is no reason why we should not be able to do our verification before the last day scheduled for it, except if the bid to deny us this right is actually deeper than we thought.”

Onu warned that “lawyers verification should not have anything to do with this election,” and observed that opening the NBA portal for verification by all comers may be a recipe for a flawed election. His words: “This needs to be addressed urgently as allowing it as it is will open a window to all verified lawyers to gain access into the election portal even without having paid BPF for the year.”

The NBA Election is scheduled to hold on July 29 and 30, 2020.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

 

‘HOW ECNBA CAN AVOID RIGGING OF 2020 ELECTIONS,’ BY ODINKALU

Human rights advocate and former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu has predicted that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections scheduled to open on July 29 will be rigged. In an article titled “The 2020 Elections of the Nigerian Bar Association Will Be Rigged: Here is How,” Odinkalu outlines perceived gaps in the ongoing electoral process, expressing fears that the NBA leadership may lack the political will to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

THE 2020 ELECTIONS OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION WILL BE RIGGED: HERE IS HOW

By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu

In his infamous letter issued last month to the 1998 transitional President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NA), Chief T.J.O. Okpoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), senior Nigerian lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, himself also a SAN, appealed that “it will be a great failure of leadership for the senior advocate to surrender leadership to outer Bar when there are willing and able senior advocates.” In an election in which two of the three aspirants for the top prize of president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are SANs, this was as close as anyone could come to openly advocating rigging the election à la carte, without calling the crime by its name. Barring last minute course correction by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA), Chief Awomolo is likely to get his wish: these 2020 NBA elections, like the two before it in 2016 and 2018, have been set up to be rigged to order.

While Chief Awomolo may have provided the motive or rationale for rigging the NBA election, the mechanics of procuring the rigging are in the hands of the ECNBA. By way of context, it is useful to explain that the NBA elections are digital. In their 2018 book, How to Rig an Election, Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas point out that “once upon a time, to do the dirty of changing votes, you had to be present in the actual polling location. That is no longer true.” In an earlier piece of work on “Making Democracy Harder to Hack” published in the Michigan Journal of Law Reform in 2017, Scott Shackleford and his collaborators examined essential vulnerabilities that make rigging possible in digital democracy, focusing in particular on three aspects: who can vote (voter rolls); who you vote for (voting platforms) and vote computation. (how many votes each candidate receives). As will be shown shortly, all three vulnerabilities are deliberately built into the NBA’s electoral processes.

Essentially, there are four vulnerabilities that have been designed to guarantee rigging of the vote in the 2020 NBA election. These are voter rolls (register), portal integrity (or lack of it), voter verification opacity and prohibitive transaction cost, and lack of independence in the ECNBA. I will explain each of these briefly.

Voter Register: Voters in NBA ballot have to meet three conditions. First, they must be enrolled as lawyers in Nigeria. This is easily confirmed from the Roll of lawyers kept with the Supreme Court. Every lawyer on the Roll has an enrolment number, with which their enrolment can be verified. Second, the person must have paid their annual practicing fees by 31 March. The collecting bank for this is Access Bank. It should be easy to verify those who paid from the records or tellers of the bank. In reality, the only people who have access to this record are the President of the NBA and those whom he wishes to. Third, the voter must also have paid his or her branch dues by 31 March. The NBA comprises 125 branches. Each branch manages its own processes for collecting dues. These are not standardized. The list of eligible payees is at the say so of the different branch chairmen.

Without access to the records of the bank or of the branches, the register of voters lacks integrity and it shows. When the ECNBA issued the provisional register at the end of May 2020, it contained 21,067 names. By the time it issued what it called a final list one month later in June, it had ballooned by 186.65% to 39,321. A close reading of the list shows it contains multiple repetitions, omissions and even figments. People who did not pay the practicing fees are there while many who paid are not. Many branch chairmen have no records of people whom they have put forward as having paid branch dues. There are credibly attested reports of chairmen printing receipts of payment and backdating fictional payments. One particular voter on the list goes by the incredible name of “Opening Balance”. The joke is that this voter has a twin, who is also a lawyer called “Closing”. Their Dad, Mr. Balance, must be proud!

Portal Integrity: In 2018, the voting portal for the NBA election was from a compromised provider. In 2020 it is not clear who the provider is. The portal appears to be managed by the NBA itself. It is not clear who has built it. There is neither transparency to its provenance nor verifiability or falsifiability to its operations and computations. As such, its integrity can neither be investigated nor guaranteed. It should be easy to engage external monitors for this purpose or engage the leading campaigns to designate back-end agents to monitor and verify the integrity of the operations. Neither the leadership of the NBA nor the ECNBA constituted by it is willing to grant either.

Verification Opacity and Prohibitive Transaction Cost: By meeting the three conditions for getting on the voter register, a potential voter does not earn the right to vote as such. S/he only qualifies for the privilege of verification. To do this, the voter is required to go to the portal and key in their details, including uploading their qualifying certificate and providing an e-mail address to which a password can be sent to them. The uploading can take up to three to four days. Many voters find this frustrating and opt out. Passwords are generated by the portal and changed by it at will without the agency of the voter. The voting register does not contain the e-mail address of the voter, so it is impossible to verify in any forensic process whether an e-mail corresponds to any particular voter. On their part, the ECNBA and the NBA can put forward data-protection concerns for circumspection with publishing of the e-mail addresses. In response, surely, that cannot be cited to justify creating deliberate balloting vulnerability. This opacity guarantees inflation of actual voting. In 2018, this was precisely the vulnerability that allowed for clusters of voting to happen using fake Firemail addresses generated from one source. That is almost guaranteed to occur in 2020. The prohibitive transaction cost is engineered for targeted disenfranchisement of voting clusters or conurbations seen as favourably disposed to unfavoured candidates.

Lack of Independence in ECNBA: Appointed to supervise the NBA election, the ECNBA lacks independent appropriations and operations. It has to function through the NBA Secretariat under the direction of the NBA President. Despite the existence of an ECNBA, aspirants and candidates continue(d) to receive letters from the NBA Secretariat and the NBA continues to be involved in directing essential aspects of the election value chain. The absence of institutional and process independence could itself become a dent on the personal integrity of members of the ECNBA.

It happened in 2016 and 2018. The litigation commenced in 2016 against the outcome of the rigged election to the position of the NBA presidency was only concluded at the end of the tenure of the beneficiary in 2018. After the 2018 election, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the State Security Service (SSS) instituted investigations into the rigging of the ballot for the NBA presidency. Several staff of the NBA Secretariat were arrested. In one case, a young mother who works as staff of the NBA was arrested and detained for nearly two weeks.

The ECNBA has an opportunity even now 2020 to avoid these. It can easily infuse greater transparency into its operations. It can invite independent monitors to certify the integrity of its operations. All the accredited campaigns should be entitled to records that should enable them to certify the integrity of the process. These are not expensive steps. The only reason none will happen is because the NBA elections will be rigged. I will be happy to be proved wrong and to eat humble pie.

This, then, is the architecture of rigging that almost assuredly guarantees that Chief Awomolo and his gang of insecure, entitled antediluvians will get his wish. As I have said elsewhere, any system in which a minority feels entitled to rule over the majority has only one name: Apartheid. It should be resisted.

Odinkalu is Co-Convenor of the Open Bar Initiative and writes in his personal capacity.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

OKUTEPA: ‘2020 NBA ELECTION IS DOOMED IF …’

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

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

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

EXCLUSIVE: NBA ELECTION – Usoro, Obi Okafor Rigged, Says Ojukwu

A presidential candidate in the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has alleged that his two rivals in the presidential bid attempted to out-rig each other during the poll.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, the former Nigerian Law School helmsman claimed that he was the only presidential candidate that did not tamper with the electoral process, adding that the election is the “worst” conducted by NBA since 1991.

Warned that CITY LAWYER would quote him on the allegation, Ojukwu was even more emphatic, saying: “Quote me on that; hundred per cent. Both candidates corrupted the system, bribed voters with money, practice fee, and then ultimately stole people’s data and used it to vote. Quote me hundred per cent.”

Continuing, the defeated NBA presidential candidate who polled 3313 votes to trail both the president-elect, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN said: “I am the only person who didn’t try to rig the election. They were competing with each other on who will rig better.

“The election was rigged 100 per cent. The candidates hijacked the process from the time members were asked to verify; that’s when they hijacked the system – and stole people’s data. From the ones they paid their practice fee and the others stolen during the verification exercise. And many many people couldn’t vote because of that. Once that was done, they were competing with each other as to who will out-vote each other with stolen data.”

On his suggestions towards electoral reforms, Ojukwu said: “Nothing. Nothing. It’s not the system that is the problem; it is the human beings. So, there is nothing I can suggest to a person who is elected by a stolen mandate because he will not do a new free election. That’s why we have transited from hand-to-hand since 2012. People who emerged through a stolen system have not been able to hand over through free and fair elections. This is one of the worst elections conducted at the Bar since 1991. In fact, it is the worst. And it will have a place in infamy.”

Ojukwu restated his resolve not to challenge the result of the poll. His words: “My statement is very clear. I said I was not going to contest the election. What am I going to court to do? I said I was not going to contest it.”

On whether he would explore any internal mechanism within the NBA system, the former law teacher said: “You complain to the person who is the armed robber? How would you get the verdict? You complain to the armed robber for stealing your money? To do what? To settle between me and Paul (Usoro SAN) or between me and who?”

Reminded that the pre-Annual General Conference NBA National Executive Committee may deliberate on the debacle, Ojukwu said: “It depends on the issue that arises. That’s the only time I know what to answer – if there is any need to answer.”

The former law teacher also told CITY LAWYER that he has no plans for the future in relation to his political fortunes. His words: “I don’t have any future plan. I’m still a member (of NBA).”

It is recalled that the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) had in the early hours of Monday, August 20, 2018 declared Usoro as the duly elected 29th president of the NBA. Usoro polled 4509 while his closest rival, Obi Okafor garnered 4423 to place second. Ojukwu placed third with 3313 votes.

The election was severally postponed due to many hiccups that plagued the process.

Send your Press Statement, Events, News Tips, Opinions or Informed Commentary to citylawyermag@gmail.com
Follow us on facebook at City-Lawyer-Magazine

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.

INSIGHT: NBA’s Troubled 2018 Elections

By Our Correspondent

The first signs that this year’s Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections will be keenly contested emerged at the National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting in Ilorin on March 1, 2018 when the composition of the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) stoked a fierce controversy. This ultimately led to the replacement of Mr. Tobias Kekemeke with Prof. Augustine Agom. Continue Reading