NBA 2018 Elections – J. S. Okutepa SAN Writes Open Letter to NBA President, Calls for Immediate Audit of Election

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J.S Okutepa SAN

Senior Advocate of Nigeria and ardent supporter of Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor SAN has written an open letter to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association A.B Mahmoud demanding for an immediate audit of the just concluded NBA National election.

His call is coming on the heels of allegation of irregularities and rigging at the election. He urged A.B to ensure that he does not leave crisis behind after his tenure while reminding him that his mandate is still being challenged.

Okutepa SAN’s letter below:

My dear President, AB Mahmoud SAN, as your tenure draws close, let me thank God for you. As you may recall, I was deeply involved and campaigned along with you for you to become NBA President in 2016. Till date I am still in court along other colleagues defending your mandate. My experience makes me to write this open letter to you. One of the things that made me to followed you and campaigned for you to emerge as president of NBA was the fact of your integrity and many said so. I campaigned with all the commitment and God answered our prayers and you were elected NBA President. You may recall that when you set up ECNBA for 2018 NBA elections and Chams Plc was appointed, there were protests. That led you to meet with the presidential candidates and other contestants to chart a way forward. Below was the resolutions reached after that meeting. You issued press statement. The press statement is reproduced hereunder:

“PRESS STATEMENT BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) ON THE 2018 NATIONAL OFFICERS ELECTION

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) ON THE 2018 NATIONAL OFFICERS ELECTION

  1. The Leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association has followed with great concern, the various issues that have arisen regarding the preparation for the conduct of the 2018 NBA National Elections as well as several allegations that have been made which have created perceptions of the lack of integrity in the electoral process and which may cast doubt on its outcome.
  1. To address these issues, it became necessary for the NBA to undertake an extensive and careful review of all processes and also seek clarifications and investigate all the allegations, particularly with regards to the selection of the e-voting platform service provider as well the integrity and security of the infrastructure to be deployed and the capability of the service provider.
  1. The review took place at the NBA National Secretariat in the course of the last two (2) days (Thursday 19 and Friday 20 July 2018) and all relevant stakeholders were invited including the candidates, their technical advisers and some of our members who have raised these concerns or made allegations.
  1. The review process was conducted openly with the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) in the presence of National Officers, the Presidential Candidates and some other Candidates, their IT experts and technical advisers and other stakeholders. The electronic (e-)voting platform service provider; Chams Plc., the independent ICT Adviser to the ECNBA and other observers were also present.

The process involved; an extensive review of the selection of the e-voting service provider, modalities for the NBA Elections, technical presentations on the e-voting platform to be deployed including its security architecture and deliberations on the alleged relationship between the e-voting service provider and one of the Candidates.

  1. Sequel to the review exercise, the NBA President held further consultations on 20 July 2018 with past Presidents, past General Secretaries and the Chairman of the ECNBA to which all the Presidential Candidates were invited and were attendance.
  1. These consultations became necessary in order to listen to and address all concerns and to arrive at the best decision in the overall interest of the NBA and the Legal Profession whilst ensuring the credibility of the process and the outcome.

At the end of these consultative processes, the following observations/findings were made:

a) the selection process conducted by the ECNBA for the service provider of the e-voting platform; Chams Plc. was transparent and credible;

b) the ECNBA acted independently in the above selection process and did not enter into any communication with, nor was it influenced by any elected or appointed officers of the NBA in the selection of the e-voting platform service provider ;

c) an introductory letter from Chams Plc, sent to the NBA National Secretariat on Friday 9 February 2018 was received in the normal course of business but was neither acted upon nor passed on to ECNBA and had no relevance to the decision taken by the ECNBA in the selection process;

d) the cross board membership of the current chairman of board of the e- voting platform service provider (Chams Plc.) and an aspirant for the office of NBA President did not constitute any material conflict of interest that would affect the credibility of the electronic voting process or the outcome of the elections.

e) the allegation that the e-voting service provider had conducted a flawed election for a similar professional association, ICAN was satisfactorily explained as the service provider has continued to conduct elections for that association subsequent to those issues;

The consultative meetings and the review exercise nevertheless revealed that the voter verification process was unsatisfactory and in order to address this and perception problems which have been created, it was necessary to take measures to reinforce confidence in the electoral process. The following measures were accordingly resolved to be implemented:

  1. The electoral processes shall be disaggregated into three (3) stages and each stage shall be handled by separate entities or service providers duly appointed by the ECNBA. The three stages are:

a) pre-election: process of compilation and verification/validation of list of voters;

b) election: the deployment of the e-voting platform for NBA elections;

c)post-election: an audit of the electoral process.

  1. 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 pre, during and post-elections.
  1. The current e-voting service provider appointed by the ECNBA; Chams Plc. shall be limited to the deployment of the e-voting platform for NBA elections, which it has already developed and is ready to deploy;
  1. The ECNBA will develop a post-election audit framework and process and may engage an independent entity for that purpose;
  1. The ECNBA will ensure that an appropriate review of the integrity of the election portal or voting platform is undertaken and all necessary steps taken to reinforce the security and integrity of the portal/platform and the relevant applications;
  1. The ECNBA will ensure that the 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.

In view of the above consensus and pursuant to the powers to issue guidelines for the verification of voters and the general conduct of electronic voting, vested in the ECNBA under Article 2.4 (c) of the Second Schedule of the 2015 NBA Constitution, the ECNBA will review the election time table and make appropriate adjustments, ensuring that elections are conducted not later than Tuesday 31 July 2018 as provided for in the NBA Constitution.

The President of the NBA expresses his gratitude to the candidates and other stakeholders, particularly past Presidents and General Secretaries for their participation in the review process and consultations and also for their wise counsel. It is important to note that all the candidates and stakeholders involved in the consultations and review process reaffirmed their confidence in the ECNBA and the NBA leadership.

The President also reaffirms the commitment of the NBA to conduct free, fair and credible National Officers elections and appeals to members and especially

candidates to cooperate fully with the Association and the ECNBA on this process.

DATED THIS 21ST DAY OF JULY 2018.

ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD OON, SAN, FCIARB

PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA)”. From the above press statement, it is clear that post election audit was to be done before the result is announced. Mr President, there is no doubt that as lawyers our words are our bounds. You cannot afford to leave the Bar in crises. There is no doubt Mr President that many lawyers including myself are questioning the credibility of this election, many believe and rightly too that this election particularly as relate to the office of the President of the Bar was compromised to produce a predetermined outcome as we have now. I have written extensively on this with prima facie evidence of massive rigging. The best way to assure lawyers of the credibility of this election is comprehensive post election auditing. This must be done transparently and in an opened manner. Anything short of this means you are leaving the Bar in crises. Will you afford to do so. I charge you to honour your words and do post election auditing before the true winner of the election to the office of the President is sworn in. Brave New Bar must not leave the Bar that produced a leader from election many believed was compromised and flawed. The leadership you are leaving behind must not suffer from credibility and integrity identity.   Thank you and God bless you as you read this and do the needful.         

J.S. Okutepa SAN, member NBA.

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