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Committee to review 2018, 2020 NBA elections divide lawyers

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Akpata receives certificate of returns
Mr. Akpata(right) receiving the certificate from Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Mr. Tawo Tawo(SAN)

By Innocent Anaba and Onozure Dania

Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, has set up a five-man committee to work with the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in the review of the 2018 and 2020 elections, which have been subject of controversy because of the electronic process.

The BOSAN election audit committee comprises Joe Gadzama, SAN; Osaro Eghobamien, SAN; Chief Yomi Aliu, SAN; Prof. Offornze Amucheazi, SAN, and Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, SAN. The body, meanwhile, commended Mr. Dele Adesina, SAN, one of the candidates in the just-concluded national election of the NBA, on his decision not to contest the result of the election in court.

The BOSAN communiqué by Chief Folake Solanke, SAN, and the Secretary, Seyi Sowemimo SAN, has put a stop to insinuations that the body set up a parallel committee to the one set up by NBA.

Lawyers in this edition of Law and Human Rights, react to the decision by BOSAN, which set up a committee to review the NBA elections.

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, said: “It’s very good to review the electoral process of NBA, which is exactly what we, the Trustees recommended.”

Mr. John Odubela, SAN, said: “For me, it’s a good decision because the issue of NBA elections has been a problem for some time now and a lot of members do not have confidence in or believe in that process. Therefore, all efforts either coming from the body itself, I mean the NBA or BOSAN, are a welcome development. What is important, however, is that the two committees must not see themselves as rival groups but must work hand in hand so as to achieve their purpose which is to ensure, going forward, that members’ confidence is restored in the electoral process and the election itself as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Kenneth Ahia, SAN, in his reaction said: “It is not a new thing and it’s within the right of BOSAN to do so. The intention is to discover what went wrong and be better equipped to advise the Bar or take a position for the future. This is not the first time BOSAN or other groups would take such a position.”

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Also, Mr. Babatunde Awe on his part said: “BOSAN is a very key institution in the legal community in Nigeria. While I have not had the benefit of seeing the terms of reference of the committee set up by BOSAN, I think it is commendable that they have recognised a need to inquire into what have become the most divisive events in the life of the NBA – 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. This is in itself a noble venture.

“However, perception is everything. BOSAN is not enjoying its most popular moment in the legal community. It is also subject to the NBA and the policies of the Bar leadership. Seeing as the NBA leadership immediately upon inauguration set up a team to inquire into the controversies surrounding the last three Bar election cycle, what BOSAN should have done is to have made representations to this team inquiring into the elections rather than set up what is widely viewed as a parallel and perhaps even insubordinate committee for the very same purpose.

“BOSAN should immediately collapse its said committee and instead submit memoranda to the team set up by the Bar leadership on what the Body believes the issues to be and as senior members of the Bar, what they propose to be the direction to tread in securing more credible elections in future.”

But Elvis Asia said: “I do not understand the decision. Only the NBA has the legal right to set up a committee to carry out any form of review. The Body of Senior Advocates is not known to law. Perhaps as a pressure group within the NBA but to maintain the unity of the Bar, we must not continue to give the impression that SANs are against a non-SAN leading the bar. The senior members of the association need to come to terms with what true democracy entails.

“Majority of lawyers have spoken. Mere seniority does not decide who wins elections anymore, the majority of lawyers who are mainly younger members of the Bar do. Younger members of the Bar are the ones dissatisfied with the welfare system being protected by the senior members of the Bar. This is the reality.

“As it stands today, with universal suffrage and electronic voting, no senior member of the Bar who is out of touch with the grievances of the younger members of the Bar will win an election. The decision is not in the interest of the association.”

Evans Ufeli, Executive Director, Cadrell Advocacy Centre, said: “BOSAN ‘s resolution to set up a committee to review the 2018 and 2020 elections is commendable. This will give the Bar an opportunity to rework and retool its political process or system and fine-tune the same for optimal functionality.

“NBA needs a veritable political system that is reliable before its members can be proud to defend what is wrong or right outside the association. The Bar must lead the way to democracy for meaningful impact and social change.

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“A sanitized NBA will improve the socio-legal structure of the association and place it on a pedestal for social re-engineering, clinical impact, and social relevance.”

Chief Morah Ekwunoh said: “For all intents and purposes, if the gravamen of the audit is for futuristic purposes, and not to further shackle young Olumide Akpata’s incoming tenure, at a time advent of new NBA is smoldering like fire, all hands should be on deck to support same, as it will, among numerous others, inspire confidence in the NBA electoral system and, in the manner of hydraulic engineering, build adequate embankments and dykes to stem the tide of electoral frauds in the interest of all.

“But if it is intended to further place his administration in an inbuilt bottleneck, then it should be roundly condemned and discouraged by well-meaning members of the Bar.”

On his part, Ige Asemudara said: “It is a good decision. BOSAN is a very strategic stakeholder in the NBA and in the affairs of the Bar generally. If we complain about flawed elections, any step towards solving the problem should be applauded by every right-thinking member of the Bar and all stakeholders. We do not need to demonize these people unnecessarily. Let us wait and see their interventions. That is what I expect them to do.”

Also, Kabir Akingbolu said: “It is a right step in the right direction but it is a step taken too late. How better would it have been if the decision had been taken long ago especially to redress the 2016 and 2018 electoral fraud in the NBA? It is because nothing was done in the past to correct the anomalies that it continues to happen and makes the NBA election synonymous with fraud and rigging.

Meanwhile, taking this decision is one thing, implementing it is another thing. They should not only be heard taking this decision but also be seen to implement it. If, however, they fail to address it as quickly as possible, then the NBA we used to know may become history due to corrupt practices and electoral fraud arising out of desperation. For BOSAN, no better time to act than now.”

Vanguard

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