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Why young lawyers chose Akpata – Ubani

Barrister Monday Ubani is the immediate past First Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a former chairman of the Ikeja branch of the…

Barrister Monday Ubani is the immediate past First Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a former chairman of the Ikeja branch of the association.

In this interview, he speaks on the divided views over the credibility of the NBA 2020 elections, agitation to form a parallel association, the choice of Akpata, the electronic voting system of the NBA, and others.

Were you able to vote during the election?

Yes, and it was the easiest. This is the third one and it was so easy. The other two were marred with issues of accreditation and voting.

But a lot of people said that they could not vote, how were you able to vote?

You will receive a code after sending in your SCN, I understand that some never got their code. I don’t know anyone who was qualified to vote but did not vote after paying their Bar practicing fees and branch dues. But there are some who said that their names never appeared in the final voters list that came out.

What could be responsible for that?

Electronic voting is still something new in Nigeria, we are still grappling with our infrastructure and internet, so it could be that we do not have the capacity to manage the number of voters.

How would you assess the election, was it credible?

This year we had a lot of qualified voters who did not vote. So many people were not serious with the voting. A lot of lawyers found it so easy to vote but still there were issues such as the diaspora branch and also there were some branches that some of their members could not vote after paying the annual dues and branch dues. They had to report that these names were not on the voters list.

Having said all this, the NBA 2020 election was better than the previous ones. I am very happy that some lawyers are raising issues about the election so that we can correct them in subsequent elections and it will be perfected so we can now ask the nation to borrow from NBA electronic voting experience.

What is your take on the 86 votes from the diaspora branch?

The anomaly in the diaspora branch is that most of them would have belonged to a branch before they left so they should have been assigned to the branch where they were before they travelled because NBA Constitution does not have provision for diaspora branch.

The Electoral Committee said the election was not rigged, but that it was not perfect. What is your take?

It would be surprising for an electoral body that conducted an election to say that it was rigged. But we have to understand that they said that it was not perfect and that there is room for improvement. I would have been angry with them if they said that it was perfect. It was only late President Yar adua in Nigeria that came out to say that the elections that brought him in was clearly flawed but I doubt if any other person in Nigeria would come out to say that the election that brought him in was flawed.

What is your take on Dele Adesina SAN and Egbe Amofin allegation that there were 4, 000 ghost voters?

I cannot deny or affirm that allegation because this is an electronic voting system, until we get opinions of experts who can confirm how those 4, 000 ghost voters emerged.

While the election was going on, Adesina asked that the elections should be cancelled. If he had won the election do you think that he would have made that request?

If I am the one leading in an election despite all the anomalies, I would not ask that the election should be cancelled. Why would I ask that it should be cancelled? In fact, Mr. Olumide Akpata was even the first who wrote complaining about the election process. I am too sure that if Akpata lost, he would have been the one doing what Adesina is doing now. He was the first person to complain but he has won.

Should Akpata call for a re-run of the elections to show leadership?

No, this elections if you cancel it and ask for a re-run, from the feeling I get from the young ones who are with Akpata and felt that the SANs have cornered the leadership of the NBA and they may not have got what they expected from NBA in terms of welfare, in terms of NBA being there to speak for them. There is a particular feeling that NBA has not lived up to the expectation of the lawyers generally. Coupled with the fact that there was a memo written by Chief Awomolo, a foremost SAN where he actually sought the support of the SAN to ensure that the leadership of the Bar does not slip out of the hand of the SAN. That letter leaked to other constituencies and a lot of people who had not actually made up their minds as to who they would vote for, these lawyers now made up their minds to show that the leadership of the Bar is not a preserve of the SAN. Even though constitutionally speaking there was no such provision. They now carried out a protest vote. So, if you conduct this election as many times as you like, Akpata will still win. He may not win with such margin but he will still win because the general feeling is to try a non-SAN as the leader of the Bar. The feeling has not changed. Even senior lawyers actually voted for Mr. Olu Akpata.

Is it legal to form another association out of NBA?

It is illegal to form a parallel association alongside NBA. If you form another association today and tomorrow and there is a conflict or disagreement or some of the crisis we are experiencing now, will you then go and form another association? To me it is not feasible, first you will have to register such association with the CAC and I doubt if the CAC will register such association. The only association recognized today as the umbrella of lawyers in Nigeria is the NBA, so anyone contemplating such should realize that there is going to be a lot of hurdles for them. To register it is going to be a problem and operating an illegal association can put you in trouble. The best thing is to ask for reform and elect leaders who understand the yawning of lawyers. I don’t believe in splinter groups, it is unnecessary.

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