BREAKING NEWS: CHAMSGATE – NBA Election Must Be Postponed, Say Past Presidents

• Olanipekun, Daudu, Wali Present at Parley
• CHAMS Remains ICT Partner
• Candidates’ ICT Experts to Oversight CHAMS
• Election to Be Shifted by 2 Days
• Fresh Verification Exercise May Ensue

CHAMS Plc will remain the ICT Partner for the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Election earlier slated for July 27 and 28, 2018, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report. An announcement to this effect will be made soon by either the NBA leadership or the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA).

This decision was reached last night by the Committee of NBA Past Presidents who met for over two hours to take a final decision on the choice of CHAMS as the ICT Partner for the election.

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report revealed that Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, a leading candidate in the forthcoming election, is a co-director at Access Bank Plc with Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika, the first female Chairman of CHAMS Plc.

The report has raised concerns in the legal community, with many lawyers questioning the ability of the ICT firm to deliver free, fair and rancour-free election for Nigerian lawyers.

Apparently concerned by the storm raised by these doubts, NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN summoned a potpourri of meetings to resolve the crisis. An earlier meeting scheduled for last Thursday failed to resolve the matter, as a key presidential candidate, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN shunned the parley. He was not sighted at NBA headquarters. The meeting was rescheduled to yesterday, with all the presidential candidates in attendance. Other candidates were not invited to the meetings.

Unimpeachable sources who attended the meetings told CITY LAWYER that an exploratory meeting which commenced around 10 am yesterday also failed to resolve the impasse, dovetailing into another meeting in the afternoon.

When the NBA President who chaired all the meetings pointedly put the question to the presidential candidates on whether CHAMS should continue with the process, the sources told CITY LAWYER that Usoro and Ojukwu did not have any major issues with CHAMS continuing with the process, even as Chief Arthur Obi Okafor SAN flatly rejected CHAMS’s continued involvement in the election, adding that he had lost confidence in the ICT firm’s ability to conduct the election in a flawless and transparent manner.

Not even a demonstration of the technical aspects of the election process by CHAMS could assuage some stakeholders. A major point of disagreement was CHAMS’s rejection of real-time viewing of the votes as cast. Meanwhile, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report that this is in contra-distinction to CHAMS’s self-acclaimed capacity to deliver this functionality. In a pitch on its official website promoting its electronic voting platform (e-Vota), CHAMS states: “Notifications: Send sms, mails to voters. View live results.”

As tempers continued to flare, former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Ibrahim Mark reportedly stormed out of the meeting over a disagreement with the NBA President.

Following the sharp divisions, Mahmoud was said to have told the meeting that the final decision on the fate of CHAMS would be taken by the Prof. Auwalu Yadudu SAN-led ECNBA.

This set the stage for yet another meeting of NBA past presidents which was scheduled for 6 pm. In attendance were Mahmoud, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, Mr. Joseph Daudu SAN and Mr. Okey Wali SAN. Feelers gathered by CITY LAWYER indicated that immediate past NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN may have boycotted the meeting, as he was about the same time addressing the media in his Lagos office.

Also in attendance were the three presidential candidates, Yadudu, former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Emeka Obegolu and NBA Technical Committee on Conference Planning Chairman, Mr. George Etomi among others.

A source at the meeting told CITY LAWYER that the meeting resolved that CHAMS should be retained as the ICT Partner while the candidates’ ICT experts will oversight its operations, including both the verification and voting processes. There are strong indications that a fresh verification exercise may become inevitable, as almost all the stakeholders at the several meetings agreed that the verification conducted by CHAMS was highly flawed.

The meeting also resolved that the election should be shifted by two days to allow for the advent of a credible voters’ register. The committee mandated the NBA leadership to issue a statement relating to its resolutions. The meeting ended around 8:30 pm.

With the new time table, voting in the election may now commence on July 29, 2018 and end on July 30, 2018.

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