NBA Election and Its Fallout

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The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, weekend elected national officers to run the association for the next two years.

The national officers are made up of the President, 1st Vice-President, 2nd Vice-President, General Secretary, Assistant-General Secretary, Treasurer, Welfare Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Assistant Publicity Secretary and 20 General Council of the Bar members.

Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, emerged president; Linda Bala, 1st Vice-President; Mr. Clement Ugo, 2nd Vice-President and Mrs. Amanda Demechi-Asagba, 3rd Vice-President.

Others are Mr. Adesina Adegbite as General Secretary, Mr Daniel Ka-Ayli, Assistant General Secretary, Ms. Chinyere Obasi, National Welfare Secretary, Mr. Habeeb Lawal, National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olawole Ajiboye, Assistant Publicity Secretary and Anze-Bishop Ladidi, Treasurer.

Also, 20 lawyers were equally elected as members of the NBA General Council to represent the Western, Eastern and Northern zones.

The national office will resume at the end of the Annual General Meeting of the association, slated for the end of August this year.

The election has come and gone, but issues surrounding the exercise are still reverberating.
For the election in which about 60,000 lawyers were accredited to vote, only 34,000 votes were cast. Yakubu garnered 22,342, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN got 10,842 and Jonathan Taidi received 1380 votes.

This meant that 26,000 NBA members were not able to vote after being accredited to do so.
Recall that Vanguard Law and Human Rights had last week reported before the election that all the candidates for the positions were eminently qualified for the various positions in the contest, irrespective of who emerged in the race.

Announcing the election results on July 17, Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the NBA, ECNBA, Mr. Ayodele Akintunde, SAN, disclosed that out of a total of 59, 392 records of eligible voters from the NBA database, 59, 388 records were okayed to vote.

Akintunde added that while 1, 346 emails that were sent out to some of the eligible voters bounced back, only 34,809 lawyers, representing 58.61 percent of the membership strength of the association, participated in the election that was conducted electronically.

He noted that some of the common complaints the ECNBA Secretariat received include the inability of some lawyers to correctly input their Supreme Court Number, SCN, as instructed, wrong/invalid contact information, no voting links, as well as multiple email reminders.

Recall also that in a petition to the Electoral Committee Chairman, entitled: Complaints Against Fundamental National Election irregularities and Non-Compliance in the NBA National Election, Gadzama, one of the presidential candidates had demanded a forensic audit of the election result logs.

Gadzama, in the petition by his sole agent at the election, Mr. Andrew Agbo-Madaki, who is an ICT expert, alleged that the voting system and the result portal were not tested before the exercise, a situation he said, led to many glitches.

He noted that while the electoral umpire promised that access to live results would be made available to voters, the same was not done as only agents in the situation room had access to the live results.

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According to the petition, agents requested access to the back end to be able to review the voting portal as required under international best practices, but the same was denied.

“lt is also important to state that despite assurances of the ECNBA and the technology provider, INITS Limited on the suitability of the voting site, www.electionbuddy.com, between the hours of 1a.m and 3a.m., there were repeated error messages while viewing the live results (error: 502 bad gateway): The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) 502 Bad Gateway server error response code indicates that the server while acting as a gateway or proxy, received an invalid response from the upstream server.”

Insisting that the election could have been compromised, the petitioner said he had reasons to “question the credibility and efficiency of the portal which promised to handle a 100,000 voter capacity.”

Gadzama’s official reaction to outcome of election
Meanwhile, reacting officially to the election on yesterday, Gadzama, said: “As you may recall, the national election of NBA was concluded on July 16, 2022. My utmost appreciation goes to the members of the Electoral Committee of the NBA, ECNBA, who conducted our election. I respect each of them and commend their efforts. I equally salute all the contestants who vied for various positions.

Pre-election
It is pertinent to state that before the conduct of the election, my agent, Mr. Madaki tested the vulnerability of the website to conduct the election – electionbuddy.com. The report, which is attached to this release, shows that the website was susceptible to manipulation.
Thereafter, my agent and other agents present raised some of these concerns during the press briefing conducted by the ECNBA on the eve of the election.

Voting
During the conduct of the election, my agent discovered numerous irregularities and expressed same by a letter sent via email to the ECNBA at 2 pm. The same is attached to this release. In the email, he reported the frequent timeouts experienced by the site, lack of access to the backend of the server, lack of graphical representation of the results and ultimately requested to audit the election, which the ECNBA promised to provide immediately.

Post-Election
“After the conduct of the election, my agent sent a reminder to the ECNBA on July 17, 2022, to audit the election and discover if there were more irregularities but same had not been provided by the ECNBA. After the conduct of the election, my agent engaged another IT specialist to test the server. The report of the specialist which was dated July 18, 2022, also shows that there is a high likelihood that the system could be hacked and manipulated.

“A follow-up report by my agent dated July 20, 2022, confirms that this occurrence was more than likely. I have been advised that this is why the percentage score among all the three Presidential candidates remained within the same range from the commencement of voting till the end. This, as I have been advised, is not human behaviour but mechanical.

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“It is important to reiterate that auditing the election will permit independent parties and agents to discover if there were any technical interferences to usurp the will of the electorate. This access is expected to have been provided immediately after the conclusion of the poll to prevent any party from tampering with the system.

Pre-qualification of technical consultant to ECNBA
“OnJune 24, 2022, I invited numerous IT specialists to advise me. One of them was Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, who I asked to provide information security and communication strategy in the just-concluded NBA Election; however, on June 27, 2022, Mr. Mustapha declined my offer as a result of conflict of interest because he had earlier applied to the ECNBA to act as a consultant.

After declining my request, Mr. Mustapha informed me that although he had applied to be a consultant to the ECNBA before the deadline, the ECNBA did not list his company as one that had applied, rather only two companies were listed before one was selected to provide the consultancy. The two referenced letters are attached.

“Also attached to this release are: (i) the notice released by the ECNBA asking for proposals for a technical consultant titled: Request for Proposal for Technical Support Consultant to the ECNBA – Submission Reminder Notice, (ii) acknowledged copy of the bid by Mr. Mustapha titled: Re: Request for Proposal for Technical Support Consultant to the ECNBA’received by the ECNBA at 3.35pm on 22/4/22, and (iii) the notice displaying companies that applied titled: Respondents to Request for Proposal for Technical Support Consultant.

Conclusion
“On the whole, and in view of the above facts and attached documents, it is clear that the technology adopted was highly vulnerable and most susceptible to electronic fraud, rigging and pre-programming of votes. I hereby call upon the ECNBA to allow an immediate audit of the election and sever.”

The back end controversy
This brings us to the issue of the back end, which had been a major issue in previous electronic polls held by the association.

While it’s natural that one person will emerge victorious in the poll, the exercise should have been such that there would not have been any complaint, if the ICT experts/agents of the candidate had access to the live results.

A lawyer, who countered this reporter, when asked why the election committee did allow for access to the back end, had argued that it would have meant the candidates woulld know who and who voted for them.

But when told that the ICT experts/agents were not necessarily lawyers and may not even know who the lawyers were, he retorted that it has been the practice and was not just about the current ECNBA members.

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Another lawyer, who faulted the refusal of ICT experts/agents access to the back end, said: “Computer-manipulated votes were successfully cast/used in favour of a presidential candidate during this year’s NBA national officers election.

“The large number of votes cast by original voters to a candidate which was programmed not to be higher than 40 per cent created conflicting inputs of instructions to the system.

“To confirm this assertion, you will observe that the percentage of votes allotted to each presidential candidate was static and unchanged from the beginning till the end, that was why it never reduced to less than 60/30 or higher than 70/40 per cent.”

One will observe here that if the ICT experts/agents had access to the back end, such an insinuation above would have been avoided, as they would have been in a better position to counsel their principals that all went well.

NBA set up Elections Appeal Committee
Meanwhile, an NBA National Elections Appeal Committee has been set up.
It was set up in accordance with Section 14(2)(L) of the Constitution further provides that the National Election Appeal Committee shall receive and resolve electoral complaints and disputes arising from the election of National Officers and the election of the representatives of the Association in the General Council of the Bar.

Consequently, the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata set up the 2022 NBA Election Appeals Committee (NBA-NEAC).

The members of NBA-NEAC are: i. Mrs. Funmi Roberts (chairperson- Ibadan), Austin Ajineh (Secretary-Warri), Huwaila Ibrahim (Kano), Dr. Rosemary Chikwendu (Abuja), Herbert Nwoye (Gombe), Stephen Obajaja (Lagos), Okey Ohagba (Port Harcourt), Grace Mamswa (Jos) and Matthew Egbadon (Lagos).

The guidelines include:
*The NBA-NEAC shall receive and determine complaints and disputes (petition) from candidates, who took part in the elections of National Officers and Representatives of the association in the General Council of the Bar in the elections conducted on July 16, 2022.

  • A petitioner shall send his/her petition with supporting documents to NBA-NEAC by e-mail to: electionappeal@nigerianbar.org.ng within 10 days of the announcement of the election results by the ECNBA; among others.
  • For future NBA national elections, everything should be done to avoid suspicion, that way winners and losers will be at peace with the outcome, whichever way it goes.
    Aside the appeal committee set up, an audit of the election will perhaps help reassure members of the process and going forward, it’s our hope that the Appeal Committee will be able to resolve the issues the election have generated, and NBA’s national elections must be beyond reproach, as the lawyers, who will argue the politicians’ cases in court, must themselves organise an election in which no party will have any reason to make allegation of rigging.

Vanguard

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