Following the just concluded elections of the Nigerian Bar Association held on July 29th-30th, 2020, Egbe Amofin, a reputable forum of South West Nigerian Lawyers has rejected the result of the election. The election was said to have been in complete breach of the NBA constitution.
The Egbe Amofin in the communique issued after an emergency meeting held virtually with its members on the 1st of August, 2020, called on all the stakeholders of the Association to investigate its claims about the conduct of the elections and eradicate electoral manipulation that has started recurring in the association since it started electoral voting in 2016.
Chief Adeniyi Akintola SAN, Chairman, the Steering Committee, and Dr Oluwole Akintayo, the Secretary, both signed the communique and warned that “failure on the part of our great Association to urgently address the issues contained herein might, wittingly or unwittingly lead members of the Association to consider other options available in the exercise of the fundamental right of members to freedom of association”.
The full text of the communique is reads below:
COMMUNIQUE OF THE EMERGENCY MEETING OF EGBE AMOFIN (SOUTHWEST LAWYERS’ FORUM) HELD ON 1ST AUGUST, 2020
Whereas, the Egbe Amofin (South West Lawyers’ Form) held an emergency meeting on 1st August, 2020 and deliberated on the Nigerian Bar Association Elections which held from 11.00 p.m. on 29 July, 2020 to 11.00 p.m. on 30 July, 2020.
After exhaustive discussions and representations from a wide range of participants including members of both the Inner and Utter Bars, it was noted as follows that:
1. The Nigerian Bar Association is mandated by its Constitution to play a pivotal role in the defence of democracy and rule of law in Nigeria;
2. The Nigerian Bar Association cannot effectively defend democracy and the rule of law without ensuring that the democratic process of electing its officers is credible and transparent, otherwise, nobody, institution or government will take the Association serious;
3. In trying to fulfil its responsibility to defend democracy and rule of law in Nigeria, the NBA instituted an Election Monitoring Committee in 2003 to monitor, among many other independent bodies, the general elections conducted throughout Nigeria; and after the election, issued a comprehensive report, condemning the outcome of the elections in certain parts of the country, and, in addition, making far-reaching recommendations for electoral reforms in Nigeria. Since then, successive administrations of the NBA have been constituting Election Monitoring Committees.
4. Unfortunately, the elections conducted by the Nigerian Bar Association in 2016 and 2018 were seriously controverted and contested by candidates on the grounds of electoral malfeasance and manipulation, which led to litigation by aggrieved members
5. Before the 2020 NBA elections, the Egbe Amofin and other stakeholders repeatedly called on the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) to ensure that the election was devoid of any form of manipulation as the NBA owes its members in particular, and Nigerians, generally, the responsibility to deliver free, fair, credible and transparent elections; otherwise, the NBA would have no business constituting Election Monitoring Committees over general elections in the country, as one cannot sell what he does not have.
6. The ECNBA turned deaf ears to such pleas and decided to conduct the 2020 NBA election in clear breach and defiance of the mandatory provisions of the NBA Constitution and Electoral Guidelines; thus, again exposing the NBA to avoidable embarrassment, both nationally and globally;
7. Needless restating the obvious that the Nigerian Bar Association, as an association of lawyers is bound by the provisions of its Constitution, to wit, the Constitution of the Nigerian Bar Association 2015, as amended in August, 2019, particularly when such provisions are couched in mandatory terms, with the use of the words “shall”, “must” etc., which mandate unwavering compliance.
THEREFORE, the Egbe Amofin has resolved as follows, that:
I. The 2020 Election of National Officers was conducted in breach and flagrant violation of the mandatory provisions of the NBA Constitution and its Electoral Guidelines in several material particulars, including, but not limited to the following:
(a) Creation of an International Diaspora Branch of the NBA for voting – a phenomenon that is strange and unknown to the NBA Constitution;
(b) Over 4000 ‘voters’ appeared on the emergency voters’ list used for the election and these ghost voters have no identifiable branches or are not linked or traceable to any branch. From time immemorial, every member of the NBA is attached or linked or registered with a particular branch and this is very sacrosanct. It is also mandatory that any member of the NBA must not only pay the annual practising fee to the national association through the Supreme Court of Nigeria, but also pay the local branch dues and other charges; otherwise such member can neither enjoy any facility or privilege in the Association nor apply for or occupy statutory position, including applying for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) or seeking to go the Bench. Again, this appears to be the first time the NBA is witnessing this / these miracle/ miracles.
(c) Failure to make available the Final Voters’ List 28 days before the election as mandatorily prescribed by the Constitution;
(d) Whereas, the NBA constitution mandates the ECNBA to engage the Service Provider for the e-voting, after clearance from NBA NEC, and also, allow both NEC and candidates to interrogate the said Service Provider, the engagement of the Service Provider, its name, address, antecedents etc were shrouded in secrecy, and it has now been revealed that it was the NBA President who engaged the Service Provider and virtually made and dictated every arrangement for the election.
(e) Large scale disenfranchisement of a significant number of lawyers who underwent the verification process;
(f) As at the time election results were purportedly declared, not less than 13,000 verified / accredited voters had not voted; they were precluded access to the link; yet the total number of verified / accredited voters was 29,000!
(g) Removal from the Final Voters’ List of the names of voters without lawful justification which led to their disenfranchisement;
(h)The unlawful inflation of the number of voters assigned to some Branches;
(i) The unlawful return of candidates as winners of the election notwithstanding the fact that the number of verified voters who were unlawfully disenfranchised was significant to affect the final outcome of the election. Despite the random criticism of INEC in the conduct of national elections, the Egbe Amofin believes that the national electoral umpire could and would not have returned any candidate under the circumstances that the NBA foisted on itself in the last election.
II. The Egbe Amofin unreservedly condemns, the deliberate, calculated, blatant and arrogant breach of the NBA Constitution and Guidelines as highlighted above.
III. In clear terms, the Egbe Amofin rejects the purported results declared by the Election Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA).
IV. The Egbe Amofin, as a critical stakeholder in the NBA and the legal profession is worried about, and also denounces the recurrent self imposed controversies and embarrassment that have characterized NBA elections in recent times, leading to deluge of litigations, one of which is a pending criminal case of fraud at the Federal High Court, Lagos, in respect of the 2018 elections.
V. The Egbe Amofin passionately pleads and calls on the leaders of the NBA and critical stakeholders in the legal profession for immediate electoral reforms in order to bail out our great Association.
VI. The circumstances surrounding the conduct of 2020 NBA Election should also be thoroughly investigated in order to halt, curb and prevent infractions of the Cybercrimes Act and similar laws of the land.
VII. The Egbe Amofin also calls on the Body of Benchers, the Registered Trustees of the NBA, etc to urgently and/or immediately investigate, intervene and address the above complaints (which are of common knowledge) in order to stop this unwarranted drift which is inflicting incalculable damage on the image, fortunes, integrity and honour of the largest law association in Africa. In this connection, the Egbe Amofin notes and draws the attention of all and sundry to the fact that in the week preceding the election, and up to the belated virtual stakeholders’ interaction held by the ECNBA about 48 hours to the election, the declared winner of the presidential election, both on social and print media questioned, queried and challenged the processes put in place for the election, and identified and condemned the constitutional breaches attended thereto.
VIII. The NBA Constitution is the organic document that binds its members and blatant violation of same by elected leaders of the NBA is an open show of disrespect and disregard for the very basis of our mutual alliance.
IX. The Egbe Amofin issues this communiqué and makes the pleas and recommendations with every sense of responsibility, as failure on the part of our great Association to urgently address the issues contained herein might, wittingly or unwittingly lead members of the Association to consider other options available in the exercise of the fundamental right of members to freedom of association; a situation that the Egbe Amofin believes can be honestly and sincerely prevented.
Dated at Ibadan, this 1st day of August, 2020.
Chief Adeniyi Akintola SAN, FCIArb
Oluwole Akintayo, PhD Chairman, Steering Committee Secretary