Akpata’s Election as NBA President is an injustice done to the entire membership of the NBA- Adesina reacts to the dismissal of his Petition by ECNBA

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A Former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association and a candidate in the just concluded NBA Presidential election, Dele Adesina SAN, has branded the election of Mr Olumide Akpata as the NBA president “an injustice done to the entire membership of the NBA”.

 

 

 

Mr Akpata had won the election with an overwhelming percentage of votes, with Mr Adesina coming a distant third after Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN who came second at the pools. The election which recorded the highest number of participation of Lawyers was described by participants (save Mr Adesina), Lawyers and independent observers as “Free, Open and Fair”.

Mr. Adesina’s Petition against the election was dismissed as lacking in merit by the Electoral Committee of the NBA, ECNBA and in response, Mr Adesina described the election of Mr Akpata as “Injustice”.

Read Mr Adesina’s Response Below:


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The Chairman,
Board of Trustees,
Nigerian Bar Association
C/o: 10A, Ilabere Street,
Off Macpherson Road,
Off Bourdillon Road,
Ikoyi, Lagos State.

Attention: Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN

Dear Learned Brother Silk,

RE: RESPONSE TO THE DEFENCE OF THE ECNBA TO MY PETITION

I received a copy of the ECNBA’s Reply dated August 5, 2020, to my Petition yesterday, Monday, the 10th of August, 2020 and thank you for sending same to me. After a painstaking reading of the said Reply signed by my Learned Brother Silk, Mr. Tawo E. Tawo, SAN, I found it most interesting to note that the defence of ECNBA essentially in material details either confirmed and affirmed my assertions or out-rightly admitted the allegations in my substantive Petition dated 2nd of August, 2020. As Lawyers, we do know that if you want to raise an issue of fact there must be a proper traverse and a traverse must be made either expressly or by necessary implication. There is hardly any traverse in the defence of the ECNBA. The essence of this reply in a nutshell is to draw attention to the relevant affirmations, confirmations and admissions while also debunking the feeble denials in a few paragraphs of the defence where they
appeared.

Admissions, Affirmations and Confirmations

At Page 7 of my Petition, I stated inter alia “… about forty percent of voters could not vote as they were not sent with the links to do so. Again, ECNBA admitted this fact by stating that notices were delivered in batches what ought to be delivered at once to all prospective voters. Does this not call into question the capacity of the Portal used for this Election? Out of about 29,000 prospective voters, about 14,000 were not able to vote by the reasons stated above.” At Page 2 of the ECNBA’s Defence, ECNBA stated: “the verified voters were in excess of 30,000. Of this number 18,256 voters cast their ballot, representing over 62%.” This means 38% did not vote.

Quare! What is the difference between about 40% and 38%? If 38% of verified voters were denied their right to vote by reason of the ECNBA’s failure to send links to them, can that be adjudged to be a credible election of a credible association like the NBA? It is a complete fallacy for ECNBA to be comparing the percentage of voters in 2020 with the percentage of voters in 2016 or 2018. What the issue is here is that of disenfranchisement of people who verified themselves and were willing and ready to vote but were denied in addition to those that were manipulated out of the voting process in order to achieve a predetermined conclusion.

For instance, over 2800 members of the NBA Ikeja Branch were duly verified to vote, but in the Voters’ List released a few hours to the election the number had been reduced to 1770 without any explanation. Ikorodu Branch had 233 verified voters reduced to 132; Ibadan Branch had 1072 verified voters reduced to 833; Jos had 699 reduced to 452; Markurdi had 478 reduced to 288; Ilorin had 721 reduced to 344; Akure had 447 reduced to 320; Gombe had 232 reduced to 132. Similar complaints were made by Enugu, Owerri etc. On the contrary, NBA Obollo-Afor had 39 names of verified voters increased to 662! I submit that the allegation of disenfranchisement at Page 6 to 7 of my Petition is established.

At Page 5 of my Petition, I queried the use of Stamp and Seal List to compile the Voters List; that this was contrary to the express provision of the NBA Constitution. At Page 3 of the ECNBA’s Defence, the ECNBA stated and I quote “this list was compiled from the records supplied by the NBA Branches, members and the National Secretariat. The Stamp and Seal List for 2020 was a mere hand-maiden provided by the National Secretariat…” They referred to ECNBA Statement No. 12 which I also quoted to back-up my allegation.

ECNBA Statement No. 12 stated inter alia: “It is noteworthy that a few Branches, did not submit any list of members to the ECNBA, reliance was placed on the Stamp and Seal List of the NBA to include the names of such Branches on the Final Voters List.”

What Section of the Constitution permits individual members to submit data to National Secretariat without passing through their Branches, if they have one? What Section of the Constitution permits the National Secretariat to use Stamp and Seal List as a basis for the compilation of the Voters Register? Having admitted the ownership of ECNBA Statement No. 12 on this point and relied on same in this defence, again, it is my submission that the allegation of the use of illegal Voters List is established.

At Page 4 of the ECNBA’s Defence, the ECNBA clearly admitted that there are names of Lawyers without Branches on the Voters List when it stated that: “on the issue of names of Lawyers on the Accredited List without Branches indicated, it should be noted that the said names already had their Branches indicated in the full list of all Legal Practitioners… published on the 1st of July, 2020.”

The simple question the Trustees must ask here is: Which list did ECNBA use for the Election? Was it the list dated 1st of July 2020 or the list published on the 29th of July 2020? My answer is very simple. It was the list published on the 29th of July 2020 where over 4,000 names of Lawyers without Branches were contained and it was these Branchless names that were used to harvest votes for the preferred candidacy of Mr. Olumide Akpata.

Also at Page 4 of the ECNBA’s Defence, the ECNBA admitted the existence of Lawyers’ names in Diaspora. Again, this is the ECNBA’s explanation at Page 4, Paragraph 2.0: “similarly, the names that were erroneously tagged as International Diaspora had their correct Branches indicated on the aforesaid List of 1st July 2020. The error of the International Diaspora arose from the fact that same was among the list of Branches on the NBA Verification Portal perhaps for futuristic projections.”

This is a clear and unambiguous declaration of mistake and error on the part of the ECNBA. The question I asked above is still relevant here – did ECNBA use the Voters List dated 1st of July, 2020? – The answer is No! Should a Voters Register contain futuristic projections? The answer is also No! Is ECNBA disowning the Register of Voters published on the 29th of July 2020? If Yes! Let them say so categorically.

On the allegation that members were posted to Branches other than their own at Page 5 of my Petition, this is ECNBA’s response: “the ECNBA by Statement No. 019 explained the circumstances around the complaints of members that they were put in Branches other than their own.” The ECNBA Statement No. 019 relied upon stated inter alia: “the ECNBA received complaints of members being placed in Branches other than their own. This situation is regretted.” They went further to give an explanation and then in a most reprehensible manner to justify their failure, the ECNBA went ahead to advise in their Statement 019 as follows: “Members are advised to proceed to vote and disregard any such Branches and or sex assigned to them as these do not bear on eligibility, convenience or result of the Election.”

This is an illegal and unconstitutional advice by the ECNBA. Can you be a member of the NBA without being “registered with a Branch of the Association” pursuant to Section 4 (1) of the 2015 NBA Constitution, as amended? Does the ECNBA know that there are two key factors for the eligibility of voters? One, payment of Bar Practising Fee and payment of Branch Dues, both on or before the 31st of March? How can ECNBA then direct that voters should disregard Branches in the face of Section 4 of the 2015 NBA Constitution, as amended? Are there Lawyers in the ECNBA at all?

It is my submission that the allegations with regard to illegal Voters Register and inaccurate and irredeemably flawed Voters Register as contained at Page 4 to 6 of my Petition are fully proved.

Feeble Denials

I read Page 6 of ECNBA’s Defence with sadness and sympathy for our Association. Sadness and sympathy because it reflects the pit of deprivation that the NBA has sunk. ECNBA stated inter alia on that page as follows: the Election Platform deployed for the voting is not the NBA Portal…. Rather, it is a foreign enterprise platform called ElectionBuddy…. Prior to the voting exercise, the Platform had been put through series of trials via mock elections involving the ECNBA members and National Officers (excluding the NBA

President) with a good showing.

The ECNBA wants Nigerian Lawyers and the Trustees to believe this false assertion. When did these “series of trials via mock elections” take place? Was it before the 27th of July 2020 when the ECNBA had a virtual meeting with all the Candidates and stakeholders or after? If it was before, why didn’t they inform the attendees of that meeting about the outcome of the “series of trials via mock elections”? If it was after, why didn’t they also inform the stakeholders that there was going to be that mock-trial? In any event, between the date of the meeting and the Election was only one day. Did these “series of trials via mock elections” take place on that one day? Whether before or after the meeting of 27th of July, 2020 why did the candidates and other stakeholders excluded from the “series of trials via mock elections”? What was the purpose of the series of trials that excluded the principal stakeholders, i.e. the Candidates? What was the purpose sort to be achieved by the exclusion of the principal stakeholders that is to say the Candidates from such series of trials? Can the ECNBA recall that DASAN Team made a letter dated July 9, 2020, signed by Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, my DG, to Mr. Tawo E. Tawo, SAN, on these and many other concerned issues including but not limited to: “inflation and injection of names into the Voters List of Abuja Branch, illegal use of Stamp and Seal payment as a basis for the compilation of Voter’s Register, lack of information regarding the Service Provider and the Election portal, the security of the NBA Website and the serial violations of the provisions of the NBA Constitution.”

Is ECNBA aware that the 2nd Vice President of the Association in a public statement decried the lack of transparency, lack of trust-worthy web platform secured to ensure the integrity of the Elections? Did ECNBA remember the letter dated July 20, 2020, to ECNBA by Mr. Olumide Akpata which stated inter alia: the “urgent need to avert the looming disenfranchisement of voters and possible manipulation of the forth-coming 2020 NBA Election.” Mr. Akpata’s letter further stated: “the lack of information regarding the specific modalities for the forthcoming election is quite disturbing… as of the date of writing this letter, the ECNBA has not informed me and I believe any other candidate, of the technology it intends to use in the elections, how that technology works, who will provide it, how secure it is against possible hacks or manipulation (such as the ones that currently bedevil the NBA Portal). We have not seen any demonstration or test-run of the proposed technology and are therefore not able to ascertain that it would work at all, to say nothing of guaranteeing free, fair and transparent elections.

Yet, Mr. Tawo E. Tawo, SAN, who authenticated this letter, wants us to believe that before the voting exercise, the Platform that was used to conduct the election was put through “series of tests”? That is why I sympathise with this Association.

I urge your Committee to take as proved my allegation that the ECNBA failed woefully to provide the opportunity for interrogation of the process by the Candidates and their I.T. Consultants with a view to test the vulnerability, the security and the capacity of the system. With the kind of outright lies now contained in the defence on this issue, I urge the Trustees to hold that this failure was deliberate and not an inadvertence on the part of the ECNBA.

Other Flimsy and Untenable Excuses

ECNBA stated that no complaint of the electoral process was received from the Petitioner or anyone which the Committee failed to address. I want to believe that the ECNBA was completely in oblivion of the provisions of Section 1.1 (e) of the Second Schedule to the 2015 NBA Constitution, as amended which obligated the Committee to: “upon consideration of the nominations it receives determine the qualifications of the candidates…” and Section 1 (2) (d) of the 2015 NBA Constitution, as amended regarding the qualification of Mr. Olumide Akpata. These Sections I submit are clear, unambiguous and selfexecutory. Failure to interprete or apply them amount to abdication of constitutional responsibility on the part of the ECNBA.

ECNBA also claimed alibi on the flagrant violation of their Statement No. 13 titled “Travel Across the Country or to NBA Branches to canvass for Votes: Get Disqualified.” The news was all over the social media and several Lawyers platforms that Mr. Olumide Akpata was in Uyo, Port-Harcourt, Yenagoa, that is Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa States respectively with a well-publicised commotion in Port-Harcourt on June 25, 2020. The audio recording of his meeting in Uyo was well-publicised on social media too. Like I stated earlier in my Petition: “the ECNBA for unexplainable reasons saw nothing, heard nothing and did nothing.” The reasons are now obvious and well known.

Conclusion

I submit that there is no defence for the calculated mischief, lawlessness and illegal actions that characterized the July 2020 NBA Election. Consequently, there is no credible or sustainable defence by the ECNBA to my Petition. A society may be able to endure with unbelief but it cannot endure with injustice. Please let me repeat here and I have said this before, this is not an injustice done to Dele Adesina, SAN, even if it is, Dele Adesina does not mind because I have always recognized that a position does not make a leader, a leader makes a position. Dele Adesina can serve and will continue to serve the Profession in any other capacity or capacities. It is an injustice done to the entire membership of the NBA including the present temporary beneficiaries of the NBA by depriving the Association of the leadership that its desires and destroying the credibility and integrity of the Association. The duty is trusted on your Committee to right this wrong in the overall interest of our Profession. The choice, therefore, is squarely in your hands to redeem the respect, the honour and the integrity of our Profession; but let me remind the august members of this Board, that no decision of a man ever leaves him at the same position. It will either take him forward or backward.

Signed:

Mr. Julius Oladele Adesina, SAN, FCIArb.


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