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.

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