By Innocent Anaba, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Bartholomew Madukwe
The just-concluded national elections of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, won by Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, is the first election of the lawyers’ association to be conducted through Electronic voting. His opponent was Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN. The election took place on July 30 and 31, 2016.
The E-voting is a novelty, as it was first used in the 2014 Abuja branch election of the association and professional bodies, particularly the United Kingdom Institute of Chartered Arbitrators, Abuja branch among others.
The NBA Abuja branch election was computer generated, where members gathered at a point and voted on the computer, but had cards, which were used to cross-check the computer votes. Also, the collation of the computer votes, was transparent, as every voter saw the results as they dropped for individual candidates, which made it free and fair.
But in the just concluded national elections of the NBA, lawyers voted from different locations in the country and while agents for the respective candidates saw the votes drop in, they were not allowed to see what the individual candidates got, which was one of the concerns raised by Gadzama, even when the election was ongoing.
It will be recalled that former President of the association, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, had called for caution in the elections, while another Port Harcourt-based, SAN, Chief Sebastian Hon, had in an interview, called for the elections to be held at branch levels first, so that result are announced there and forwarded to the national electoral body.
On day one of the election, some lawyers complained of their inability to access the election portal.
On the second day, it appeared things improved, but Gadzama’s agents particularly complained of their failure to see who got what as the elections progressed.
Meanwhile, the NBA President-elect, Mr Mahmoud, following his declaration as winner of the election, promised that his executive will hit the ground running once sworn in.
He polled a total of 3,055 votes to defeat Gadzama, SAN, who polled 2,384 votes.
The position of General Secretary was won by Mr. Olagunju Isiaka who polled 2,721 votes against Yamah Desmond who scored 2,510 votes.
However, the last has not been heard of elections, as Gadzama, yesterday, rejected the results.
Gadzama is calling for a fresh election that is not internet-based, to check what he alleged was the manipulation of the process.
Gadzama Campaign Organisation in a statement by its Director General, Alhaji Garba Gajam and Secretary, Mr Steve Abar in Abuja, said “Recall that Gadzama, SAN, contested for the Presidency of the NBA in the just concluded 2016 NBA general elections wherein the Electoral Committee, ECNBA, released the results of the elections indicating that he lost.
“Having reviewed the situation and circumstances before and during the elections, to wit: the non-credibility of the elections; the lack of transparency; the non- automatic collation of the results on the display screen; the open partisanship of Mr. Austin Alegeh, SAN (who worked with the ECNBA), for the declared winner; and the delay for over one hour and20 minutes before releasing the results after the close of polls at 12 midnight on Sunday, July 31, 2016, all these in total disregard for the concerns we had hitherto raised in our previous correspondence with the ECNBA.
“We hereby, reject the results of the elections and call for the immediate cancellation of same for failing to be credible, transparent, free and fair, and for failing to comply with the provisions of the NBA constitution and the Electoral Guidelines.
“We also call for the conduct of fresh electronic, not Internet, elections that will be credible, free and fair and in compliance with the provisions of the NBA constitution and the Electoral Guidelines.”