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‘Ibori Lawyer’ To Conduct Nigerian Bar Association Elections

June 13, 2016

Mr. Ken Mozia, lawyer to the disgraced former Delta State Governor James Ibori, has been handed the onerous duty of overseeing the election of the next president of Africa’s largest bar association, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

Appointed chairman of the NBA Election Committee through a scarcely transparent process, the choice of Mozia comes to many as a surprise, given that he has no track record in election matters.

NBA insiders say Mozia was hand-picked by Mr. J. B. Daudu, Ibori’s Lead Counsel who brought both Mozia and current NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, into the Ibori legal team. Daudu, himself a former NBA president whose tenure was marked by unmatched high-handedness and dictatorial tendencies, is adjudged the “Mr. Fix It” in NBA elections. The highly influential NBA henchman, who brooks no opposition, is believed to have single-handedly installed both Alegeh and his predecessor, Mr. Okey Wali, using his well-oiled machinery in the corruption-ridden and discredited collegiate election system.

However, the collegiate system has now given way to universal suffrage and electronic voting under the amended NBA Constitution 2015. While these twin innovations have given the critical mass of Nigerian lawyers cause for cheer, with the hope that they may for once in a long time elect an NBA leadership that truly represents their will, the appointment of Mozia is viewed by many as a grand design to truncate this hope and a clear signal that the NBA power brokers led by Daudu are not willing to let go. In fact, many NBA watchers are worried that the elections may have been compromised by Mozia’s appointment by Alegeh through the prompting of Daudu. The trio have formed what is now viewed in NBA circles as the “unholy triangle” that is bent on foisting their candidates, however unpopular, on Nigerian lawyers.

The entire process leading to the July 23 and 24 elections has been shrouded in secrecy, save for the recently released “preliminary notice” announcing the opening of nominations. Till date, Nigerian lawyers are still in the dark as to the procedures and guidelines for the conduct of the election, more so given the introduction of electronic voting. The Election Committee has kept especially “opposition candidates” guessing, prompting fears that the NBA leadership is hand-in-glove with Daudu to foist a fait accompli on Nigerian lawyers.

Aside from Alegeh’s assertion at a recent meeting of the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) that the leadership was test-running the electronic voting model with an unnamed company, little credibility has been accorded the process. The service provider for the electronic voting system is still unknown, and key stakeholders have been shut out of the entire process.

While it is difficult to determine the competency and credibility of the service provider for the e-voting, it is also unclear how accreditation of voters will be done, and whether branches in remote areas have the infrastructure to vote. The committee is also silent on the collation of results and election monitoring to foster a free, fair and credible process.

Also, the perennially controversial voters’ register may again be a tool for manipulation of the process, as feelers indicate that the number of voters for some branches traditionally deployed by the power brokers to muzzle in their candidates are being jerked up.

It is recalled that Daudu, Alegeh and Mozia were the ‘three musketeers’ that prosecuted the Ibori case, leading to the highly controversial verdict by Justice Marcel Awokulehin, which quashed the 170-count charge against Ibori. Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, one of the NBA presidential aspirants, was also involved in the case.

Sources close to the NBA leadership say it was on the basis of this relationship that Daudu installed Alegeh as a trusted crony who would do his bidding. Wali was also “elected” under similar circumstances, and due to his closeness to Daudu. The NBA power broker has devised a near flawless machinery through which he has held the entire Nigerian Bar hostage and stultified its mandate of promoting the rule of law and combating impunity. He usually engineers the election of a pliable NBA President who in return appoints Daudu’s anointed person as Chairman of the Electoral Committee. He then devises a plan with the Electoral Committee chairman to again ensure the emergence of another crony as the succeeding president and deploys his foot soldiers who he compensates with sundry NBA appointments to execute the agreed plan.

Also in the presidential race is Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, who had a bitter face-off with Daudu in 2010 for the presidency of the NBA. Many lawyers view the election as a golden opportunity to extricate the association from the clutches of the “NBA cabal” headed by Daudu whose only interest is to deploy the offices to peddle influence and corner juicy briefs while paying little or no attention to the welfare of the generality of lawyers.

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