Controversies have engulfed the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch Elections slated for tomorrow.

CITY LAWYER gathered that aside from unverified claims that the branch leadership has favourite candidates for the poll, there are concerns that the Electoral Committee led by Mr. Wale Akoni SAN has not carried all eligible voters along.

Other members of the Electoral Committee are Mr. Godwin Omoaka SAN, Mr. Kelechi Obi SAN, Mrs. Oluwakemi Eweje and Mrs. Temitope Aribisala (Secretary).

While a few members claimed that their names were missing from the Final Voters List published by the embattled Electoral Committee, at least one member claimed that some names had been removed from the voters list without an explanation.

A senior lawyer, Mr. Babatunde Ogala SAN had in a post seen by CITY LAWYER queried the Electoral Committee for allegedly failing to carry all eligible voters along.

His words: “I understand the Lagos Branch elections will hold on Tuesday 27th June 2023. I must however note that unlike in the past when we got direct communication through email, this time there has been no such communication.

“We do not know the voting procedure. We do not have the voters register nor list of contestants from the electoral committee.

“It cannot be said that the branch does not have my e-mail address since I get notification by mail on all other issues in the branch from notices of meetings to the just concluded law week from the Secretariat and various committees.

“Why has it been different with the issue of the elections? In fact, if not for a call I just received from one of the contestants a few minutes ago, I may not have known that the elections are a few days away. This I think isn’t good enough preparation and planning for the elections.

“The elections must be seen to be credible and transparent and the current state of affairs with a few days to the elections doesn’t augur well for us all and the branch. The Electoral Committee should please talk to us.”

Weighing in on the controversy, Mr. Jacob Dipo said: “I thought of this just this noon when the timing of voting was raised on another platform I belong. In fact, I had to quickly check the website to see if any information is there as per the voting timing. But alas – nothing as such!

“Someone said voting is from 5 am of 27th June till 6 pm on 27th June; another person is of the view that voting will be from 12 am of 27th June till 11:59 pm of 27th June.

“I agree with the Learned Silk that this isn’t good enough and the Electoral Committee should talk to us.”

Speaking on the concerns over the exact duration of the voting process, former NBA Lagos Branch Publicity Secretary, Mr. James Sonde said: “And to buttress this, there was an argument as to the timing of voting. Someone is of the view that the voting is between 5 am to 6 pm on 27th June, while another opined that it is from 12 am of 27th June to 11:59 pm of 27th June.

“I think it is not too early for the Electoral Committee to pass a circular in respect of the voting procedures – a simple flier will do. My view though.”

Others also expressed concern that unlike in previous elections when a demonstration of the voting system was done, that has not been the case this year.

Alleging that “it makes me wonder if something more nefarious is at stake,” a member stated that “With an election not more than 4 days to go, and with all the insinuations as to the bias being shown by the current ExCo for a particular candidate or members of the electoral committee having partners in their firms supporting a certain candidate, they really need to do a lot more to show us that this elections will be free and fair.”

Dousing the concerns, a senior lawyer and member of the Electoral Committee, Mr. Kelechi Obi SAN said: “I am a member of the electoral committee of this branch which is charged with the responsibility of organising the elections.

“The details of the elections has been disseminated on this platform, the branch website and the dedicated website for the elections –

“As lawyers we are guided by rules solely. The Uniform bylaws doesn’t make it a requirement that we send personal emails to people concerning the elections. What it requires includes the dissemination on platforms such as this and on the website.

“It is wrong for colleagues to continue a narrative concerning engagement when in fact flyers concerning this election have been shared on this platform and is on the branch website. Colleagues should exercise restraint before commenting; especially in instances where the comments are not exactly correct.”

CITY LAWYER observed that though the Electoral Committee had not done any demonstration of the electronic voting platform, it had published “Election Guidelines” where it set out details on the elections.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that the controversy on the voting period stems from conflicting statements from the Electoral Committee. While the “Election Guidelines” still hoisted on the official election website and issued by the committee on 24th March, 2023 stated that “Elections shall hold from 8 am on Tuesday, the 27th of June, 2023 to 6 pm on 27th of June, 2023,” another set of “Election Guidelines” dated 30th May, 2023 state that “Elections shall hold from 5 am to 6 pm on Tuesday, the 27th of June 2023.”

The committee also stated that “Elections are by electronic Voting, the link to the secret ballot will be sent electronically to all eligible voters. Eligible voters can vote online from anywhere in the world.”

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