NBA ELECTION’LL BE TRANSPARENT, INCLUSIVE, FREE AND FAIR – TAWO TAWO

At today’s meeting of the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) with candidates and other stakeholders, ECNBA Chairman, MR. TAWO TAWO SAN in his welcome address assures all that the committee is leaving no stone unturned to deliver free and credible polls 

ECNBA UPDATE ON THE NBA NATIONAL OFFICERS ELECTIONS 2020 PRESENTED AT THE STAKEHOLDERS INTERACTIVE SESSION HELD ON THE 27TH OF JULY 2020

PREAMBLE
The ECNBA welcomes you all to this interactive session to update Bar leaders, Candidates and Voters of the current state of affairs towards preparation for the NBA National Officers Elections. We had hoped that this session would take place earlier in the electoral process but the global health emergency response by Government compelled a change of the course of activities initially outlined by the Committee to accord with extant regulations on the pandemic and yet accord with the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015(as amended). We do however consider it necessary at this stage of the electoral process, to hold this session albeit remotely, due to the prevailing conditions, to enable us rub minds with stakeholders in the process towards ensuring that we all have a National election that we can be proud of as Lawyers and as an Association.

COMMENCEMENT OF DUTIES
The ECNBA was appointed by the NBA NEC and inaugurated by the NBA President of the 12th day of March 2020 pursuant to the provisions of the NBA Constitution which prescribes for the appointment of the Committee at the first NEC meeting of an election year. The Committee was given the task of conducting the NBA National Officers election within four (4) months. This was at a time when the COVID19 pandemic had just broken out in the Country. Undeterred, the Committee was set to commence work immediately, even if working remotely, knowing that time was of the essence. The effect of the pandemic however significantly slowed down responses and affected schedules and timelines.

COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES
From the time of inauguration of the Committee till date, the ECNBA has carried several activities and has kept members informed through its several releases in ECNBA Statements Nos.1-15.

It is noteworthy that in the course of its activities, the ECNBA has constantly updated members via Statements and publications in total of fifteen (15) as at date. We would however like to specifically address some areas perceived to be of concern to members and Candidates in the election.

THE ELIGIBLE VOTERS REGISTER

The importance of a credible voters list to the NBA 2020 elections cannot be over emphasized. The Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015 (as amended) in Paragraph 1.3 (d) Second schedule stipulates that the register of eligible voters is to be compiled by the ECNBA in conjunction with the Nigerian Bar Association. As such the said task is not one that could be done without recourse or input from the NBA or its Staff. In furtherance of this provision, while engaging with the National Secretariat, the ECNBA also engaged with Branch Chairmen to supply lists of members that had met the Constitutional criteria for eligibility to vote, being payment of Branch Dues as at 31st March of 2020. The National Secretariat was also requested to produce the list of members who had paid their Bar Practice Fees as at March 31st 2020. This task suffered some delays due to the fact that the NBA National Secretariat and some Branches of the NBA were closed and not fully operational due to the Government lockdown in Abuja and other parts of the country, making it difficult to access some necessary documentation for the exercise. It would also be recalled that Access Bank was not fully operational at this time and needed time to supply the data on payments of BPF. Eventually, the National Secretariat succeeded in producing the comprehensive data on the BPF payments, but the lists from the NBA Branches were however more challenging to gather as shown in the several statements already published by the ECNBA to that effect.

The challenges to the exercise ranged from but were not limited to: lack of Bank statements showing payment of dues by members, failure of members to submit their payment details to their Branches for compilation, incomplete membership information and documentation from Branches, inaccurate lists submitted by some Branches, amongst others. The general impact of the lockdown across the country is also acknowledged as a major factor that affected the exercise.

In combating these challenges, the ECNBA had to device creative solutions, to sort through the various lists and payment details submitted in order to sieve those persons truly eligible to vote in compliance with the provisions of the NBA Constitution.

It must at this stage be clarified that due to complaints by members in respect of lists submitted by their Branches and the desire to ensure that no eligible Voter is disenfranchised, the ECNBA gave an opportunity to members whose names may have been omitted or had errors, to submit same directly to the Committee with proof of payment of their Branch dues and Bar Practice fees for compilation in the voters register. It is noteworthy that these activities had deadlines assigned to them because the Committee was also bound by timelines imposed by the NBA Constitution, which still remains effective in the face of the COVID19 pandemic. While some colleagues responded to the publications and extensions given within the time stipulated, some failed to do so and only awoke much later (after expiration of the deadlines) to demand that their names be included on the final Voters list. However, there must be an end to that exercise and as such the final list of names had to be published in accordance with the NBA Constitution.

VOTERS VERIFICATION EXERCISE
By the ECNBA Statement No. 008, the Committee called on eligible voters to ensure they verified their details on the NBA website preparatory to voting in the elections. The importance of the Exercise cannot be overemphasized as it is not only a form of accreditation for eligible Voters, but also a source of authentic data about members supplied by the Voters themselves. It also ensures that Voters have access to their portal in the event that the site would be used for the voting exercise. The verification exercise for voters has now ended by 6PM on Sunday 26th July 2020. We can confirm from records of the exercise available to us now, that over 30,000 Voters on the published Voters have now verified their details.

ELECTION PLATFORM AND IT CONSULTANT

Security and integrity of the voting platform for the NBA national officers election 2020 is of paramount importance to the ECNBA. The authenticity and security of votes cast at the elections are issues that have not been taken lightly. A lot of work has gone into ensuring that all but only legitimate votes count at the elections. It would be recalled that in the ECNBA Statement No.006, the Committee outlined its efforts at engaging an IT expert to work with the ECNBA in the determination of the proper platform to be used for voting and also the modalities for the electronic voting. We can confirm that further to our Request for Proposals, applications were received from several IT firms, which went through various stages of screening and interviews and at the end, a firm which was adjudged to have the requisite experience and expertise and competence in such matters was engaged to work with the ECNBA on this project. At the time of engagement of the Consultant, the ECNBA had not taken any decision as to the platform to be used for the elections as mentioned in our Statement No. 006 and were open to exploring all viable options, inclusive of the newly developed election portal of the Nigerian Bar Association. We had intimated that the decision as to what platform would be used for the elections would be based on the recommendations of the technical experts, in this case our engaged IT Consultants, not foreclosing recommendations from other experts. The Committee therefore deprecates in strong terms the various attempt by individuals, who in an attempt to force the hand of the ECNBA some of whom are members of the profession, to gain unauthorized access to the NBA website and going further to publish a report showing perceived weaknesses of the site to the world. This action is sad to say, not expected of gentlemen of the legal profession.

The ECNBA is confident of the competence of our OT Consultants who are to advise us on the technical aspects of the electoral process and will abide by their professional recommendations.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, and as we count down to the elections, the ECNBA wishes to express its gratitude to members of the Bar for their patience with the ECNBA, our Bar leaders for their constant advise and contributions and the National Secretariat for cooperation thus far in this process. Needless to say that we all are stakeholders in this process and must continue to work together to ensure a smooth transition process in our association for the benefit of us all. On its part the ECNBA will continue to keep its promise of doing its very best to conduct a transparent, inclusive, free and fair 2020 polls. We therefore urge you to keep an open mind on issues and make constructive contributions that will engender progress and promote the general good of our dear Association.

Thank you and God bless you.

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.

ECNBA MEETS CANDIDATES, KEEPS MUM ON VOTING PORTAL, OTHERS

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

* BAYO OJO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES, OTHERS SPEAK
* OVER 30,000 VOTERS TO ELECT NEXT NBA PRESIDENT
* ECNBA BLASTS AKPATA FOR ‘OPEN LETTER’ 
* AKPATA REPLIES ECNBA, INSISTS NBA PORTAL IS ‘VULNERABLE’
* ECNBA WARNS CANDIDATES AGAINST ELECTION ‘HELP DESKS’

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) today held a virtual meeting with candidates in the forthcoming NBA Elections and other stakeholders, assuring that the poll will be free, fair and credible.

Tagged “Online interactive session with all Candidates in the NBA National Officers Election 2020, Bar leaders, and Stakeholders,” the meeting was monitored by CITY LAWYER and attended by the three presidential candidates among others, even as some candidates shunned the parley.

In a 12-minute opening speech, ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN went down memory lane, recalling how the electoral committee conducted the compilation of voters list and the verification exercise. He stated that the committee chose the election portal in line with operational recommendations of its Information Technology Consultant, adding that the process will ensure that “all but only legitimate votes count” and that it is a “national election we can be proud of.”

Tawo thanked Bar Leaders and NBA staff for their cooperation, even as he singled out NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro for commendation for giving the committee a free hand to conduct the election.

On the choice of IT Consultant for the election, Tawo stated that at the end of the committee’s screening exercise, “a firm which was adjudged to have the requisite experience and expertise and competent in such matters was engaged to work with ECNBA on this project as our consultants. At the time of the engagement of the consultant, the ECNBA had not taken any decision as to the platform to be used for the election, as mentioned in our statement No. 006.”

Indicting one of the presidential candidates, Mr. Olumide Akpata for what he termed “unauthorized access” to the NBA website, the electoral committee chairman said: “The committee therefore deprecates in strong terms the various attempts by individuals who in an attempt to force the hand of the ECNBA, some of who are members of the profession, to gain unauthorized access to the NBA website and going further to publish a report showing perceived weaknesses of the site to the world. This action is so sad to say, not expected of gentlemen of our noble profession.” He stated that the committee is confident of its IT Consultants and their expert advice on the technical aspects of the election.

In his remarks, former NBA President, Chief Bayo Ojo SAN warned all stakeholders that “we are in this together,” noting that having criticized the government on electoral misfeasance, “now is the time to show how to do it and do it well.” He urged the electoral committee to ensure that the election is “free, fair and credible,” adding that the candidates must exhibit the spirit of sportsmanship, as only one person can win the race.

Following several questions from some candidates, Mr. Alozie Echeonwu was invited by the electoral committee chairman to throw more light on some aspects of the election.

Said Echeonwu: “The chairman did not say that the election will be on the NBA website. The chairman has not disclosed the election protocol. The platform upon which this election will be run is considered a sensitive election item. The protocol will be released to everyone whose name is on the voters’ list and who has properly done his verification. The protocol is a do-it-yourself form of protocol and everybody’s unique credentials will be delivered to him. Each credential is unique to each voter and under no circumstance should these credentials be shared with any other person.

He assured that “the architecture for the election is reliable,” adding that the ECNBA is the “only umpire” for the election and that the consultant “is not conducting the election. We take responsibility for the election.”

He stated that there would be proper voter education directed to eligible voters, emphasizing that the voting platform is “very secure; very secure. You can go to sleep. The architecture is such that you may be given access to monitor the election wherever you are; and after the elections, there will be a post-election audit. A post-election audit will expose everything for anybody who is minded to do further study on it to please go ahead.”

Stating that each voter would be availed proof of his voting, Echeonwu said: “The architecture is automated. Everybody voting can verify; in fact, when you vote, you get a certificate. Each voter will receive a certificate as to the activities he carried on. You can self-audit the process.” He assured that eligible voters will receive their credentials, voter education and details of the protocols “in good time.”

Addressing the thorny issue of voters’ list, Tawo said though the committee had published the “final voters’ list,” the ECNBA had stated that the list “was being cleaned because of the duplications. We expect to publish the clean list after the outstanding verifications, the backlog has been cleared tonight. So, that will be done.”

In his remarks, Akpata noted that he sent in over 12 questions to the electoral committee, adding that “the issue of transparent and credible election lies at the heart of every election, and it must be seen and felt by all participating in the process.”

Responding to the allegation of unauthorized access to the NBA website, Akpata said: “Obviously, that reference was to me. Mr. Chairman, access to the portal is open to all. Maybe that’s the point some of us are making. It is free to all to study. As you know, Mr. Chairman, this is the first meeting we are holding with ECNBA in this entire process – two days to the election. So, we have not had information. The only information we have had is that the portal – in fact, the infographics released (shows) that is where the election will be held. Some of us (are) concerned about that website, that portal and the fact that it appears vulnerable. And we asked experts, please advise.”

He stated that he was aware the website was not developed by the electoral committee, adding that he was “not ascribing blame to anyone. We are saying, ‘Let’s be careful because this portal may be vulnerable.”

Noting that “We are all stakeholders and the cost of silence is too high,” Akpata queried: “Can it (voting portal) withstand multiple concurrences for about 40,000 voters?” He also expressed worry that “there’s little information out there.”

While Echeonwu stated that the NBA website was “for verification,” ECNBA Secretary Cordelia Eke asserted that “I do not believe the ECNBA at any time said election will be conducted on website.” But Akpata insisted that the infographics state otherwise.

Continuing, Echeonwu said: “Let me make it absolutely clear that the protocol for the election has not been released by ECNBA. Someone had alluded that ECNBA released the election protocol. Please consider it an unhealthy and malicious circulation. When ECNBA releases its protocol it will come directly to you and everybody will know.
“We are working with a timeline. We have assured you it is a seamless process. It is a do-it-yourself process. You don’t need to contact any help desk other than the ECNBA Help Desk to help you. You don’t need to set up any Help Desk; you will be crossing the boundaries if you do that. We would consider that crossing the boundary.”

One of the presidential candidates, Mr. Dele Adesina SAN expressed worry that the electoral committee barred campaigns via travels and the electronic media, noting that eligible voters need “information dissemination to make informed decision.”

Responding, a member of the committee, Prof. Augustine Agom stated that the electoral committee’s guidelines were informed by the NBA Constitution. He added: “The election is going to be free; it is going to be fair. It is going to be credible. You can take this to the bank.”

On his part, another presidential candidate, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN commended the committee for “operating under unusual circumstances,” a veiled reference to the coronavirus pandemic. He however sought clarification on when the election protocols would be made available to the candidates as well as the modalities for deploying election agents in the ECNBA Situation Room.

Responding, the ECNBA Chairman promised that “We will communicate (this) to candidates in the shortest possible time.”

Aside from the presidential candidates, others that attended the virtual meeting are Messrs Adebayo Akinlade, Sulayman Adamu, Kazeem Adeyemo and Alex Muoka. Others are Joyce Oduah, Okey Ohagba, Christopher Yakemewerigha, Anne Agi, Uche Nwadialo, Sabastine Anyia, Kunle Edun and Olayinka Sokoya.

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.