By Innocent Anaba
The list of accredited lawyers expected to participate in the bi-annual general elections of the Nigerian BarAssociation, NBA, scheduled for August 19 and 20, will be displayed today.This is coming after the election had been postponed three times amid controversy and concerns that some lawyers,favourably disposed to vote for certain candidates were shut out in the registration and verification process and fears that the tech firm, Chams Plc, engaged by the Election Committee of the NBA, ECBNA,maybe favourably disposed to one of the presidential candidates.It will be recalled that the issue of Chams Plc had threatened the election, until several meetings, at the end of which President of the NBA, Mr Abubarkar Mahmoud, SAN, retained Chams, though two other tech firms were also engaged to be part of the process of the election proper and the post-election audit. Mahmoud at the end of the first meeting called to resolve the Chams issue, said “The following measures were accordingly resolved and are to be implemented:
Stages of the process
The three stages of the electoral processes will be disaggregated and handled separately by different entities or service providers. The three stages are:
- Pre-election process of compilation and verification/validation of list of voters;
- The provision of the electronic platform for voting exercise;
iii. Post-election audit;
- The current service provider (Chams Plc) will be limited to the provision of the electronic voting platform which it has already developed and ready to deploy.
“The ECNBA will undertake a holistic review of the voter verification process to ensure that all issues and complaints are satisfactorily resolved and may engage an independent entity or service provider for that purpose. The revalidated voter data shall be deployed on the electronic voting platform for the conduct of the 2018 NBA national elections and use of the validated voter data may be monitored by the ECNBA and representatives of the aspirants before, during and post-elections.
“The ECNBA will develop a post-election audit framework and process and may engage an independent entity for that purpose.
“The ECNBA will ensure that candidates and their technical representatives are given appropriate access to all processes and given opportunity to make inputs/observations at all stages of the process.”
Other resolutions meant to carry all the candidates along in the electoral process include fresh verification of eligible voters to be done by a new ICT company; Technical agents of candidates to approve and agree on process prior to commencement of verification;Technical agents of candidates shall be allowed to review the tools and systems of the ICT Company; ECNBA shall publish the final list of verified voters in a branch by branch model for branch complaints and confirmation; Technical agents of candidates shall have access to review the source code of the voting platform; and Technical agents of candidates shall serve as collation agents of the presidential candidates and be allowed pre-commencement access to check security of voting platform.
Also, technical agents of presidential candidates shall have remote and local monitoring access to the back-end of the voting platform as deployed by the ICT provider throughout the voting process until the declaration of final results; Real-time view of number of active voters on voting platform shall be provided to agents and technical agents of candidates; Real-time view of number of active administrators on voting platform shall be provided to agents and technical agents of candidates; Real-time view of audit trail of voting platform shall be provided to technical agents of candidates and Real-time view of number of votes cast per candidate shall be provided to agents and technical agents of candidates. The election was subsequently shifted to July 30 and 31 but when by July 29, many lawyers complained that they had not been registered as they were unable to access the portal opened for the election, another meeting was called and the election was further postponed to August 2.A new timeline released provided that the election process will commence with verification exercise on July 31, 2018
*Verification exercise will commence latest at 8p.m., July 31, 2018; A call centre will be opened to provide assistance to members who may have challenges with the verification exercise.
*Verification of members ends at 10a.m., August 2, 2018.
*Formal transfer of verified data to e-portal service provider, 2/8/18.
*Accreditation and voting will commence on August 2, 2018, at 10p.m., till August 4, 2018, while ECNBA was to announce the NBA election result immediately afterwards.”
But with the persistent complaints of inability to register by many lawyers, including ex-presidents and national officers of the association many of who complained that the new August 2 date was not feasible, another meeting was held on August 6, 2018 by the President of the NBA, Mr Mahmoud and stakeholders. The association instructed Crenet, a tech firm assigned the responsibility of verifying members, to suspend the verification process and introduce a simplified form to enable outstanding members verify easily.
The firm was also directed to:
*Re-open the verification portal on August 8, 2018; complete verification on August 11.
*Reconcile verification data by Crenet between August 11 and 15; publish final voters list August 16.
*Transfer and test voting platform on August 18, while election proper takes place August 19 and 20. It is instructive to note that the complaints of not being able to register were by active members of the association and also supporters of candidates for the presidency of the association, namely Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN and Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, whose supporters accused one another of working to profit unduly from the registration and verification exercises to the detriment of others.
With all the measures taken so far, an executive of one of the branches who spoke on the chances of the various candidates to win the NBA presidency and whether they were pleased with the efforts so far made,,responded that controversy would trail whoever wins. He said there was a lot of suspicion and distrust over the registration and verification process as nobody was sure of anything. This observation is real as the election, postponed for a record third time will finally hold on August 19 and 20, but this is sadly dependent on the acceptance or acceptability of the voters register that is to be displayed today according to the last election time-table released by the electoral committee.
The controversy that trailed the emergence of A. B Mahmoud, SAN, has not been finally resolved as Chief Joe Gadzama, SAN, his opponent in the 2016 election is still in court challenging that election. Though the case is yet to be concluded, Mahmoud’s tenure will expire in the next two months, which makes it imperative for the association to do everything to get it right this time. It was gathered that Gadzama’s suit is at address level.Apparently worried and determined to avoid a repeat of the court case that followed the 2016 election, candidates for this year’s NBA presidency have insisted on a flawless electoral process and the only way to ensure that whoever wins does not have to contend with a court case is to ensure that the final voters list is such that all parties will accept.