Nigeria Bar Association Election: Warns Against Manipulation

Ahead of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, annual conference slated for Port Harcourt, Rivers State in August and as tension mounts over its planned national elections, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, has directed the NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN to convene a meeting of past NBA presidents and Bar leaders to resolve the crisis bedeviling the planned elections. BOSAN made the call following a resolution by the body at its meeting held at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.
In the letter dated July 11, 2016 and addressed to the NBA President, former NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN informed Alegeh of the decision of the body, saying that “at the last meeting of the BOSAN held at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos on July 9, 2016, it was also resolved that Mr. President should convoke a meeting of past Presidents/Bar Leaders on the same subject, and that a level-playing field be afforded every candidate in the forthcoming elections.” Strong fears over partisanship by NBA leadership there are strong fears that the elections may be marred by partisanship by the NBA leadership, a position canvassed by one of the presidential candidates, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN. In a letter to the NBA President by the J-K Gadzama Campaign Organisation dated June 24, 2016 by its Director-General, Alhaji Garba Gajam, the campaign outfit had accused Alegeh of working to ensure that a particular candidate “emerges by all means.” It further told Alegeh that “No President in the history of the NBA has openly showed support for any presidential candidate in the manner that you are now doing.” Tracing an earlier exchange of letters between him and the NBA President, Olanipekun stated, “As earlier advised in my letter of June 30, 2016, I want to plead with you, Mr. President to allow a level-playing field for all candidates in the forth-coming elections.” Recounting his personal experience where his name was omitted from the voters register, Olanipekun, said: “While appreciating the fact that my name has now been uploaded in the voters register after my complaint in my letter under reference, I see no reason why the name of any legal practitioner who is up to date in the payment of his national and branch dues should be missing on the voters register.” Most challenging phase of NBA President’s tenure with hindsight, Olanipekun admonished Alegeh that “the most challenging phase of any NBA President’s tenure is the election/handing over period. I speak from experience as one of your predecessors-in-office. Therefore, permit me once again, to counsel that on no account should any candidate, member or branch be allowed to deride the outcome of the forthcoming elections, particularly on the ground that it was/is rigged or manipulated. It can be very embarrassing to an association of legal practitioners.” The former NBA President suggested that election results should be declared at the branch level “just as INEC does at the Polling Unit level,” adding that “All of us must consciously work and pray against a repeat of the ugly incident of 1992.” Olanipekun further advised that it would be “expedient” to invite Gadzama and Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, the two presidential candidates to the meeting of past NBA Presidents. Letter to former NBA Presidents In the letter copied to all former NBA Presidents as well as the campaign organsiations of the two presidential candidates, Olanipekun warned that “we would lose the moral and spiritual right to criticise INEC any longer” if the election is compromised in any way. The election is scheduled to hold on July 30 and 31, 2016 via electronic voting while results will be released immediately. The election has been riddled with crises as many lawyers were unable to locate their names on the voters register. Most lawyers have also not updated their profiles as part of the voter verification exercise, leading to major incidence of voter apathy.

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