Few days ago, the election committee of the Nigerian bar Association, (ECNBA)  released two sets of voters lists schedule A and B. The communication following the list was not just non reader friendly but confusing. Since it was  released, lawyers have known no peace.

The exercise has exposed the gross failure in data management of members by Africa’s biggest bar association. It has also shown that lawyers should not expect anything better going forward.

The 2016 election which was the pilot test of e-voting was less stressful, one would have expected the 2018 process to be seamless but unfortunately it came with chaos.

Just few weeks ago, lawyers were running helter skelter to regularise their details with their branches to enable them transmit records to the National body. It was not a funny experience and when lawyers thought they have reached the finish line,the ECNBA shifted it forward. Very depressing.

Yes, the confusion on the past three days has set in depression among many lawyers who are left in the cold as to what to do with the information released by the ECNBA urging them to update their profile which the NBA should ordinarily have.Many are already fed up.

The A and B classifications did not help matters. The disorder in the list cast a dark shadow on the preparedness and eligibility of ECNBA to conduct the elections.

Promptly, different candidates interested in the election set up help desks to help lawyers with the process but the recent statement by ECNBA will poor tonnes of cold water on those efforts.

As the help desks continued with their efforts, the ECNBA responded that lawyers should send in their details personally and not through any third party. This will amount to starting the process afresh since majority of lawyers submitted their details through the various help desks. The bad news is that they have moved on and may become aggressive if called up again to undergo that procedure again, this time by themselves.

This is not good for the image of ECNBA whose reputation has hit all tome low.

The ECNBA has given a deadline of 26th of June 2018 to end the process. This deadline is impossible to meet and if the ECNBA insists on it without any reasonable extension,then the bar may be headed for its biggest election crises since 1992.

There are a few viable options left for the ECNBA, it will help control the damage already done but how it will manage its reputation is still unsure.

In the short term, the most proactive step for the ECNBA is to extend the deadline before considering any other option.

What can the ECNBA do?

Yes, it is recommended and appreciated that the ECNBA verifies the list against compliance with payment of branch dues and practicing fee to prevent any branch from submitting bogus names or unqualified names to secure an unfair electoral advantage at the same time, they should not set the whole house ablaze trying to police the list.

1.The first option is to use the list as submitted by the branches, reach out to Access bank for a “sortable” list of those who met the deadline in paying their Bar practicing fee (BPF) .When the two lists are merged, it will automatically solve the problem of collating the names of those that complied.

Unfortunately, the prompt payment of branch dues can only be verified by the branches so the ECNBA should move on from that.

When this is done, the whole names will be posted on the election website with asterisks on the names of those who are yet to send in their details with a proviso that they can only vote if their details are updated. In updating these details, the ECNBA should work with the branches (since they already have these details having called for them six weeks ago) not individuals. Individual lawyers can only reach the ECNBA if they feel their branch has maliciously failed to forward their details.

This process should continue until a week before the election while the ECNBA continue with other aspects of the election.

If this is done, it will reduce the chaos that has besieged lawyers on the past three days.

The second option may be to use the list as provided by the branches without more and find a way to conduct the election without  the requirement of emails and phone numbers.It is possible.

Anthony Atata

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