Controversy as Company hired to conduct NBA elections is linked to an Associate of Paul Usoro SAN, a Presidential candidate

The Nigerian Bar Association is currently immersed in a scandalous controversy as an online blog, City lawyer magazine investigations has revealed that the ICT Partner selected by the Association to anchor its forthcoming National officers elections has as its Chairman, a co-director with one of a leading presidential candidate, Mr Paul Usoro SAN. The role was performed by Grace Infotech Limited, owners of the Law Pavillion trademark, during the 2016 NBA Elections.

Investigations by the blog showed that Mr. Paul Usoro SAN and Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika are currently non-Executive Directors of Access Bank Plc. Awosika is the pioneer female Chairman of CHAMS. While Awosika was appointed a Director of Access Bank since April 2013, Usoro joined the board a year later in January 2014.

According to the bank’s 2017 Annual Report and Accounts, the duo jointly belong to four committees of the bank. While Usoro is a member of the Board Audit Committee, Awosika is the Vice Chairman of the committee. Both Usoro and Awosika also belong to the Board Governance and Nomination Committee, Board Credit and Finance Committee and Board Remuneration Committee.

In the last financial year alone, the paths of both ranking directors crossed at least 34 times either at board meetings, committee meetings, annual retreat or Annual General Meeting (AGM), the blog investigation revealed.

Both directors not only attended the bank’s annual retreat held on March 3 and 4, 2017 but were also present at the Annual General Meeting which held on March 29. The duo scarcely missed any of the bank’s board meetings. In fact, they attended all the board meetings held on January 26, April 26, June 23, July 26, October 25 and December 15 respectively.

They were also conscientious in attending committee meetings. Being members of the Board Governance & Nomination Committee, the duo again did not miss any of the quarterly meetings of the committee held on January 10, April 11, July 11 and October 9, 2017.

As regards the Board Credit & Finance Committee, both directors again never missed any of its monthly meetings. In fact, there were two meetings in June, bringing the total to 13 meetings in 2017.
During the year under review, the Board Audit Committee held six meetings. The two directors characteristically attended all the meetings. The same is true of the Board Remuneration Committee meetings which held on April 12 and April 25, 2017.

The record of attendance of meetings by the duo is a carry over from the previous year where both attended the General Meeting, 10 board meetings, 6 Board Governance & Nomination Committee meetings and one Board Remuneration Committee meeting. However, while Usoro attended 15 Board Credit & Finance Committee meetings as against 14 by Awosika, the CHAMS Chairman attended 7 Board Audit Committee meetings as against 6 by Usoro in the bank’s 2016 financial year. This indicated 38 meetings at which the directors’ paths crossed, bringing the total within two years to 72.

A boardroom czar of sorts, Mr Usoro is also a Director of AIRTEL Network Limited where he doubles as Chairman of the Audit Committee, having survived all the pioneer directors that midwifed the mother-company, ECONET Wireless Networks Limited. Coincidentally, CHAMS Plc proudly announces that “The company (CHAMS) also carried out Data Revalidation and Call Centre projects for telecommunications giants MTN and Airtel respectively.” Mr Usoro is rumored to be sponsored for the election by the incumbent NBA president, Mr AB Mahmoud SAN with notable members of Mahmoud’s administration, including Mahmoud’s powerful “Chief of Staff”, Mr Muritala Abdurasheed, A.K.A “Murray” working as the heads of his campaign team.

The City Lawyer Magazine blog investigation also showed that CHAMS also “championed the SIM Card Registration Exercise for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).” Usoro, reputed as perhaps Nigeria’s foremost communications lawyer, is the self-acclaimed “primary adviser to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in most of its reform initiatives till date.”

Awosika, a seasoned technocrat, retired from the Federal Civil Service as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power in January 2013. Prior to her retirement, she had traversed the ministries of Niger Delta Affairs, Interior, Science & Technology as well as Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

It was unclear at press time whether the Professor Auwalu Yadudu SAN-led Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) advertised for bids for the role of ICT Partner and Administrator for the elections. However, a source who is familiar with the process told City Lawyer blog, that at least one other ICT company, Grace Infotech Limited, was asked to bid and also made presentation to the NBA. The committee also did not announce the successful bidder until a notice on commencement of the verification exercise indicated that CHAMS Plc has been selected for the highly sensitive role.

The ECNBA verification notice had stated that “All complaints should be mailed to nbaenquiries@chams.com.” The ICT firm put the matter beyond debate when it stated on the verification portal (https://nbaelectionprofileupdate.com.ng/) that “e-VOTA is powered by Chams Plc.” e-VOTA is the company’s electronic voting product. CHAMS also prides itself as a pacesetter in electronic voting and identity management, having delivered several cutting edge projects.

It was unclear at press time how these relationships could impact CHAMS in delivering on its mandate as the ICT Partner and Administrator for the elections. It was also unclear whether the NBA was aware of the directorships prior to appointing CHAMS as the ICT Partner for the elections.

The City Lawyer blog revelations has cast the Association’s Electoral Committee ECNBA, independence and ability to organise the elections in doubt with Many lawyers asking the Committee to resign immediately.

The election is billed to hold at the end of July 2018.

 

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