Femi Falana, a prominent human rights activist and lawyer, has alleged that the 2020 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) election was manipulated.
Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made the allegation in a piece published on Freedom Online while reacting to the congratulatory message issued by Augustine Alegeh (SAN), a former NBA president, to Olumide Akpata, the President-elect of the association.
Akpata had defeated two other presidential candidates, Dele Adesina (SAN) and Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), to emerge the 30th President of the NBA on 30 July.
According to the piece published by the website, Falana claimed that Alegeh had congratulated Akpata even before the conclusion of the election and the declaration of the result.
He stated that while the former NBA president is at liberty to congratulate the winner, the allegations of electoral malfeasance that characterised NBA election has affected the integrity of the election.
The senior lawyer stated that both Akpata and Adesina had in separate letters before the election questioned the refusal of the Electoral Committee of the Nigeria Bar Association (ECNBA) to produce a credible voter register and disclose the name of the service provider of the e-election platform to the contestants.
He further alleged that the verified register for the 2020 election was distorted as the list of voters for some branches of the NBA was lesser than the number of verified voters.
He also questioned why the verified list was publicly displayed a few hours to the election instead of the 28 days to the poll as stipulated in the NBA’s election rules.
Falana stated that Alegeh’s plea to both Adesina and Ajibade to support the emergence of Akpata will not be valid until the alleged electoral malpractices surrounding the election were addressed.
“Notwithstanding Mr. Alegeh’s decision to mobilise support for Mr. Akpata he ought to encourage the ECNBA to defend the allegations of electoral malfeasance,” Falana wrote in the piece published by Freedom Online.
“In particular, the ECNBA should explain the basis for releasing the Verified Voters Register a few hours before the election contrary to the mandatory period of 28 days and why the verified register itself contained a list of voters far less than the number of verified voters for some branches of the NBA!
“For instance, 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.
“NBA Ibadan branch had 1072 verified voters reduced to 833; NBA Jos had 699 reduced to 452; NBA Makurdi had 478 reduced to 288; NBA Ilorin had 721 reduced to 344; NBA Akure had 447 reduced to 320; NBA Gombe had 232 reduced to 132. On the contrary, NBA Obollo-Afor had 39 names of verified voters increased to 662!
“The ECNBA may also want to explain how the system ensured that the percentage of votes recorded for the 3 presidential candidates was consistent for 24 hours. In other words, are we to believe that all the voters throughout the country voted at a regulated percentage ratio at the same time for 24 hours!
“Some concerned members are desirous to know when the Diaspora Branch of the NBA was created since its members participated in the election. The ECNBA should equally explain why over 4,000 members without recognised branches appeared on on the List of Voters that was released a few hours to the commencement of the election.”
Falana insisted that Alegeh ought to persuade the members of the ECNBA to defend the grave allegation of a premeditated electronic fraud.
He said the allegations have serious implications for the collective honour and integrity of members of the NBA and the entire legal profession in Nigeria.
“More so, that these allegations of impropriety and impunity have serious implications for the collective honour and integrity of members of the NBA and the entire legal Profession in Nigeria.
“Since lawyers prosecute and defend election petitions conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission the NBA cannot afford to choose its National Officers through electronically manipulated electoral process.
“Therefore, Mr. Alegeh may wish to persuade the leaders of the NBA to defend the grave allegations of premeditated electronic fraud that has questioned the integrity of the 2020 election,” Falana wrote.
While Ajibade has publicly congratulated Akpata, Adesina has in a petition dated 2 August asked the NBA’s Board of Trustees to cancel the election.