The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) on Monday, 27th July, 2020 held a stakeholders interactive session on the forthcoming NBA National Election.
Highlight of the presentation made by the ECNBA Chairman Tawo Tawo SAN during the interactive session is reproduced below.
The ECNBA welcomes you all to this interactive session to update Bar leaders, Candidates and Voters of the current state of affairs towards preparation for the NBA National Officers Elections. We had hoped that this session would take place earlier in the electoral process but the global health emergency response by Government compelled a change of the course of activities initially outlined by the Committee to accord with extant regulations on the pandemic and yet accord with the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015(as amended). We do however consider it necessary at this stage of the electoral process, to hold this session albeit remotely, due to the prevailing conditions, to enable us rub minds with stakeholders in the process towards ensuring that we all have a National election that we can be proud of as Lawyers and as an Association.
COMMENCEMENT OF DUTIES
The ECNBA was appointed by the NBA NEC and inaugurated by the NBA President of the 12th day of March 2020 pursuant to the provisions of the NBA Constitution which prescribes for the appointment of the Committee at the first NEC meeting of an election year. The Committee was given the task of conducting the NBA National Officers election within four (4) months. This was at a time when the COVID19 pandemic had just broken out in the Country. Undeterred, the Committee was set to commence work immediately, even if working remotely, knowing that time was of the essence. The effect of the pandemic however significantly slowed down responses and affected schedules and timelines.
From the time of inauguration of the Committee till date, the ECNBA has carried several activities and has kept members informed through its several releases in ECNBA Statements Nos.1-15.
It is noteworthy that in the course of its activities, the ECNBA has constantly updated members via Statements and publications in total of fifteen (15) as at date. We would however like to specifically address some areas perceived to be of concern to members and Candidates in the election.
THE ELIGIBLE VOTERS REGISTER
The importance of a credible voters list to the NBA 2020 elections cannot be over emphasized. The Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015 (as amended) in Paragraph 1.3 (d) Second schedule stipulates that the register of eligible voters is to be compiled by the ECNBA in conjunction with the Nigerian Bar Association. As such the said task is not one that could be done without recourse or input from the NBA or its Staff. In furtherance of this provision, while engaging with the National Secretariat, the ECNBA also engaged with Branch Chairmen to supply lists of members that had met the Constitutional criteria for eligibility to vote, being payment of Branch Dues as at 31st March of 2020. The National Secretariat was also requested to produce the list of members who had paid their Bar Practice Fees as at March 31st 2020. This task suffered some delays due to the fact that the NBA National Secretariat and some Branches of the NBA were closed and not fully operational due to the Government lockdown in Abuja and other parts of the country, making it difficult to access some necessary documentation for the exercise. It would also be recalled that Access Bank was not fully operational at this time and needed time to supply the data on payments of BPF. Eventually, the National Secretariat succeeded in producing the comprehensive data on the BPF payments, but the lists from the NBA Branches were however more challenging to gather as shown in the several statements already published by the ECNBA to that effect.
The challenges to the exercise ranged from but were not limited to: lack of Bank statements showing payment of dues by members, failure of members to submit their payment details to their Branches for compilation, incomplete membership information and documentation from Branches, inaccurate lists submitted by some Branches, amongst others. The general impact of the lockdown across the country is also acknowledged as a major factor that affected the exercise.
In combating these challenges, the ECNBA had to device creative solutions, to sort through the various lists and payment details submitted in order to sieve those persons truly eligible to vote in compliance with the provisions of the NBA Constitution.
It must at this stage be clarified that due to complaints by members in respect of lists submitted by their Branches and the desire to ensure that no eligible Voter is disenfranchised, the ECNBA gave an opportunity to members whose names may have been omitted or had errors, to submit same directly to the Committee with proof of payment of their Branch dues and Bar Practice fees for compilation in the voters register. It is noteworthy that these activities had deadlines assigned to them because the Committee was also bound by timelines imposed by the NBA Constitution, which still remains effective in the face of the COVID19 pandemic. While some colleagues responded to the publications and extensions given within the time stipulated, some failed to do so and only awoke much later (after expiration of the deadlines) to demand that their names be included on the final Voters list. However, there must be an end to that exercise and as such the final list of names had to be published in accordance with the NBA Constitution.
VOTERS VERIFICATION EXERCISE
By the ECNBA Statement No. 008, the Committee called on eligible voters to ensure they verified their details on the NBA website preparatory to voting in the elections. The importance of the Exercise cannot be overemphasized as it is not only a form of accreditation for eligible Voters, but also a source of authentic data about members supplied by the Voters themselves. It also ensures that Voters have access to their portal in the event that the site would be used for the voting exercise. The verification exercise for voters has now ended by 6PM on Sunday 26th July 2020. We can confirm from records of the exercise available to us now, that over 30,000 Voters on the published Voters have now verified their details.
ELECTION PLATFORM AND IT CONSULTANT
Security and integrity of the voting platform for the NBA national officers election 2020 is of paramount importance to the ECNBA. The authenticity and security of votes cast at the elections are issues that have not been taken lightly. A lot of work has gone into ensuring that all but only legitimate votes count at the elections. It would be recalled that in the ECNBA Statement No.006, the Committee outlined its efforts at engaging an IT expert to work with the ECNBA in the determination of the proper platform to be used for voting and also the modalities for the electronic voting. We can confirm that further to our Request for Proposals, applications were received from several IT firms, which went through various stages of screening and interviews and at the end, a firm which was adjudged to have the requisite experience and expertise and competence in such matters was engaged to work with the ECNBA on this project. At the time of engagement of the Consultant, the ECNBA had not taken any decision as to the platform to be used for the elections as mentioned in our Statement No. 006 and were open to exploring all viable options, inclusive of the newly developed election portal of the Nigerian Bar Association. We had intimated that the decision as to what platform would be used for the elections would be based on the recommendations of the technical experts, in this case our engaged IT Consultants, not foreclosing recommendations from other experts. The Committee therefore deprecates in strong terms the various attempt by individuals, who in an attempt to force the hand of the ECNBA some of whom are members of the profession, to gain unauthorized access to the NBA website and going further to publish a report showing perceived weaknesses of the site to the world. This action is sad to say, not expected of gentlemen of the legal profession.
The ECNBA is confident of the competence of our OT Consultants who are to advise us on the technical aspects of the electoral process and will abide by their professional recommendations.
In conclusion, and as we count down to the elections, the ECNBA wishes to express its gratitude to members of the Bar for their patience with the ECNBA, our Bar leaders for their constant advise and contributions and the National Secretariat for cooperation thus far in this process. Needless to say that we all are stakeholders in this process and must continue to work together to ensure a smooth transition process in our association for the benefit of us all. On its part the ECNBA will continue to keep its promise of doing its very best to conduct a transparent, inclusive, free and fair 2020 polls. We therefore urge you to keep an open mind on issues and make constructive contributions that will engender progress and promote the general good of our dear Association.