The 3 man caretaker committee saddled with conducting elections into the offices of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Aba, has been hit with a N2 million bribery scandal which has caused crisis in the foremost Bar branch in the country.
The NBA Aba Branch had conducted elections on June 30, 2017. The Chairmanship election between Bob Chidozie Ogu and Uchenna Umenne , was won by the former , but the Umenne camp disagreed and vowed that Ogu will not preside over the Association.
National Chairman of NBA, Mr. A.B. Mahmoud (SAN), had inaugurated a 3 man caretaker committee to steer the NBA Aba branch, and conduct election within 30 days. The committee include; NBA’s 3rd Vice President, Mr. Ben Orji; Chairman ,NBA Jos Branch, Mr. Raphael Monye and Chairman NBA, Enugu, Mr. Nnamdi Otukwu.
The 3- man committee headed by Ben Orji had in a meeting on Thursday, March, 15, 2018, published a list of guidelines for the polls which include that that only candidates who contested in the cancelled election will be allowed to run. They fixed the polls to hold on Friday March 23.
However, a day to the polls, the Committee changed the guidelines and announced that new aspirants are now free to buy forms and contest the elections.
The Committee has also refused to accept the list of eligible voters from the Secretary of the branch, Charles Onuchukwu, who is constitutionally saddled with the task of publishing names of members who are qualified to vote.
Investigations revealed that the Committee had been compromised with a N2 million bribe from one of the parties in the election at a popular hotel along Aba –Owerri road, Aba.
Members of the Association are up in arms against the Committee and have vowed that they will not be allowed to conduct the elections with fresh aspirants.
A candidate in the election who preferred anonymity accused the Committee of partisanship, asking how fresh aspirants got to know about the change of guidelines and had already bought forms before the Committee announced the new guidelines.
“The Ben Orji Committee is working on a plan to deliver a candidate. In fact, the committee has allowed itself to be compromised. How can the Committee publish a guideline that only candidates in the cancelled election will be allowed to contest, and within three days, changed its position and announced that fresh aspirants are free to buy forms and run for the election? This is clearly against the 30 day mandate given to them to conduct elections and handover.”
The situation had thrown up tension at the meeting convened by the committee that violence almost erupted but for the intervention of some past chairmen of the Branch. Majority of members of the Branch are divided over the conflicting guidelines and double standard being exhibited by the 3 man Committee.
The Elca Crest hotel secretariat of the Committee has been a beehive of activities as members cluster at the hotel seeking to meet with the Committee. Efforts to get the reaction of the Chairman of the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Mr. Ben Orji, as he failed to take calls placed to his mobile number.