ABC of proposed NBA constitutional amendment
THE title of this piece I must confess was borrowed from Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon. Justice Innocent .A. Umezulike OFR, FCIArb in his latest 586 page book – ‘ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria’.
As he disserted the Land Use Act and other statutes relating to Land Law, so I will try to bring out the new provisions in the proposed NBA constitutional amendments.
In his inaugural speech as the NBA President on Friday, August 29, 2014 in Owerri, Augustine O. Alegeh (SAN) commented thus, “the recent amendments to the NBA Constitution were ratified at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NBA yesterday, 28th August, 2014. The said amendments addressed issues that were topical of the time and have essentially served their purpose.
However, there is a further need to amend our constitution to meet present realities and take advantage of the modern developments” Hitting the nail on the head, Alegeh pledged, “I believe strongly, that the delegate election systems of the NBA needs to be reviewed and that E-voting through the NBA website should be introduced and this would require a constitutional amendments.
The wording of the electoral provisions of our Constitution and several other provisions would need to be reviewed and fine turned.” He added that,” the amendments to our constitution to introduce e-voting and other changes would be given priority and dealt with speedily with the hope that the system would be operational and members made conversant with the working long before the 2016 National Elections.
In the light of the approval of Universal Bye Laws for NBA Branches, it would be advisable for the provision of e-voting to be contained in the Uniform Bye Laws to afford Branches opportunity to implement e-voting and be conversant with its operations before the National elections”.
He therefore set up the Constitutional Review Committee chaired by Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN), with the following Terms of Reference: 1.To review the provisions of our Constitution on elections with a view to introducing e-voting at all NBA National Elections.
2. To review the provisions of our Constitution on elections and propose such amendments as may be required to make the provision more definitive and NBA National Elections more rancour free.
3. To review the NBA Branches Unified Bye Laws to bring it in conformity with the Amended Constitution.
4. To review and propose all other such amendments as it requires necessary to the provisions of our Constitution. Presenting , the Report to the National Executive Committee (NEC) members of NBA at its meeting on February 5 2015 in Abuja Tetengi’s Committee recommended : Zoning of the offices of the President, Vice –President and General Secretary; Limitation of offices and terms for services in NBA offices; Uniform Branch Bye-Law; Uniform Bye-Laws for Sections, Fora and Institute; Conduct of meeting and The Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism.
With the release of the full provisions of the proposed amendments it is necessary to highlight the new areas for purpose of robust debate among members.
It has 23 sections and nine Schedules. Section 9 which has election into National Offices in subsection (3) states “That for the purpose of election into National Offices, the country shall be divided into three zones as set out in the Second Schedule” (4) “Election into National Offices shall be by universal suffrage and electronic voting as set out in Second Schedule.”
Explaining further, section 2.2 on Elections of National Officers in the said scheduled says; A. The association shall for the purpose of election of National Officers be divided into three geographical zones namely Northern zone, Eastern zone and Western zone; B.
The position of the President , three Vice – Presidents and General Secretary shall rotate among the three zones. C. A list of the states that make up the zones shall be as follows: i. Northern Zone: Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi , Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and Abuja. ii. Eastern Zones: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Enugu, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Imo and Rivers. iii. Western Zones: Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo.
Why did the Committee recommend zoning formula for the election into the offices of the President, the three Vice-President and the General Secretary? “We had noted that the introduction of universal suffrage may invariably short change the North who evidently is mathematically disadvantage.
Thus, the need to zone the important offices will allay the minority fear that the South will manifestly continue to occupy the important offices because of their numerical strength”, the committee explained. Section 2.4 of the Second Schedule stipulates Electronic Voting which allows eligible voters to cast his or her vote “electronically in accordance with the guidelines stipulated by the Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) set up in section 2.1 of the second schedule.
Given reason for recommending e-voting, the committee said, “the NBA elections should be conducted through electronic voting (e-voting).
This will engineer transparency and widespread acceptance of the outcome of the election and obviate needless controversies tend to distract from the standing of the NBA as a leader in the fight against electoral malfeasance.
Instructively, the efficacy of e-voting has now been eloquently demonstrated by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) The age of technology is gradually making our approach to life easier and simplier and therefore the NBA must take full advantage of technological advancement to make it 21st century compliant.” It added that, “Interestingly, lawyers are social engineers who should ordinarily engineer changes in the society.
If the physical engineers have found succour in the e-voting system and have made their electoral system easy and convenient, there is no reason for lawyers to shy away from e-voting technologically changes that will make voting of NBA National Elections convenient and free and fair”.
On its recommendation of universal suffrage, the committee reasoned that, “ the delegate system of electing National Officers is not only undemocratic and a breeding ground for corruption and undue influence, but that the system has outlived its usefulness and relevance. Gbadamosi is National Publicity Secretary of NBA