ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY: ELECTORAL REFORM C’TE WANTS NBA CONSTITUTION AMENDED

The Nigerian Bar Association Electoral Audit and Reform Committee (NBA-EARC) has called for the amendment of the NBA Constitution to clearly provide for rotational presidency.

In a 44-page report obtained by CITY LAWYER, the committee poked holes in the NBA Constitution as it relates to rotational presidency and recommended that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone since different groups and/or sections do not appear to mean a state within the geographical zone.”

The committee “identified the issues that plagued the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and classified them into three broad categories; namely: (i) Pre-election issues, (ii) Election Day issues and (iii) Post-Election issues.”

Specifically, it identified “Non-implementation of the rotational policy as it relates to the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone as stated in the constitution” as a major stumbling block towards free and fair NBA elections.

Other challenges that hampered the elections were: Delay in appointment and appearance of lack of Independence of the ECNBA; Appearance of lack of transparency in the engagement of service providers; Negative impact of money driven campaigns on the election’s credibility; Involvement of the sitting NBA President in the electoral process; Non-implementation of the rotational policy as it relates to the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone as stated in the constitution; Cumbersome verification process; Lack of integrity and late publication of the list of eligible voters; Lack of integrity of the NBA voting portal; Involvement of the NBA Secretariat in the electoral process; and Poor IT knowledge of some Lawyers.

Turning to the controversial issue of rotational presidency, the committee recommended that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone.”

According to the committee which was chaired by respected senior lawyer and longstanding NBA Lagos Branch Electoral Committee Chairman, Mr. Ayodele Akintunde SAN, “The committee found that “Another area of concern is the interpretation of the constitutional provisions of zoning particularly with respect to the election to the office of the President.

“The rotational presidency of the NBA was initially an informal arrangement until it was formalized by its incorporation into the NBA Constitution. Sadly, what started out as an arrangement geared toward promoting an all-inclusive bar is now posing a threat to the unity of the Bar.

“The NBA is divided into three (3) geographical zones for the purpose of electing National Officers namely- Northern Zone, Eastern Zone and Western Zone. The list of states that make up the respective geographical zones are set out in Paragraph 1.2 (e) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution.

“The Northern Zone is made up of the following states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and Abuja. The Eastern Zone is made up of the following states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Enugu, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Imo, and Rivers while the Western Zone is made up of the following states: Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo.

“Since the amendment of the NBA Constitution in 2015, the geographical rotation of the position of President of the NBA has been complied with. In 2016, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN from the Northern Zone was elected as President while in 2018, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN from the Eastern Zone was elected and more recently in 2020, Mr. Olumide Akpata from the Western Zone was elected as President.

“In past elections, members of the NBA have alleged that some ethnic associations within the NBA amass support for candidates from select states within a geographical zone thereby marginalizing candidates from other states despite the provisions of paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution which provides for the rotation of a position in turn by the different groups and/or sections in the geographical zone.”

The committee therefore recommended that “The provisions of Section 9 (d) and Paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution should be strictly adhered to in order to ensure that no group and/or section in a geographical zone is marginalized and the unity of the bar is preserved.”

It also urged that “The NBA Constitution should be amended to specifically state/identify the different groups and/or sections in a geographical zone since different groups and/or sections do not appear to mean a state within the geographical zone,” adding that “The ECNBA in its preliminary notice for the election of National Officers of the NBA should specify which group and/or section in a geographical zone the position is rotated to as a measure to ensure adherence to Section 9 (d) and Paragraph 2.2 (d) of the Second Schedule of the NBA Constitution.”

The Committee stated that it “is of the firm view that if the recommendations contained in this Final Report are implemented, future elections of National Officers of the NBA by electronic voting will be devoid of the controversies which have plagued past elections,” while urging the Olumide Akpata led association to “commit to making the required changes to its electoral processes and reference point for conducting credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria and rebuild confidence in the electoral process for the overall good of all. NBA must be true to its motto which is “promoting the rule of law”.

It is recalled that Akpata had during his inaugural address promised to reform NBA’s electoral system to ensure that it is devoid of the controversies that had trailed its elections especially since the advent of electronic voting. The committee was on September 30, 2020. CITY LAWYER gathered that the NBA-EARC Report was presented to the NBA-NEC Meeting at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The full report is available at this link.
http://citylawyermag.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/FINAL-REPORT-EARC.pdf

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