By Damola Emmanuel
Power and leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, changed hands in the wee hours of Friday as Mr. Olumide Akpata, Senior Partner and Head of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group at Templars Law Firm, emerged its new president.
The Chairman of the NBA Electoral Committee, Mr. Taiwo Taiwo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, declared Akpata winner at exactly 12:56a.m. local time on Friday.
The President-Elect, a member of the NBA Council on Business Law and Vice-Chair (West-Africa) of the International Bar Association’s Africa Regional Forum, won the poll with over 50 percent of the total votes cast.
He defeated heavyweights like Deacon Dele Adesina (SAN) and Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN).
Also elected to run the affairs of the NBA with Akpata for the next two years are: Mr. John Martin, first Vice President; Mr. Adeyemo Kazeem, Second Vice President; Mrs Joyce Oduah, General Secretary; Uchenna Nwadialo, Assistant Secretary; Mr. Olukunle Edun, Welfare Secretary; Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Publicity Secretary; and Mr. Naza Afam, Assistant Publicity Secretary.
A total of 29,635 duly verified members, who fulfilled all requirements for voting, were accredited for the elections of the NBA National Officers.
Ballot in the election, which was done via electronic voting, opened at 11p. m. on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, and closed at exactly 11p.m. on Thursday, July 30, 2020, making a total of 24 hours.
Hours before the end of voting, it was clear where the pendulum of victory would swing as Mr. Akpata’s lead was unassailable. Indeed, he had scored about 51 percent of the vote as at 10p.m., an hour to the close of the polls on Thursday.
However, the last may yet be heard of the election as one of the front-runners, Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN, has roundly rejected the result, alleging irregularities, describing the entire process a “sham”.
In a petition it sent to Taiwo Taiwo, Chairman of the electoral committee, the Adesina Campaign, Dele Adesina Support Group, DASAN, said the election was marred by over-voting, disenfranchisement of some eligible voters and non-compliance with the provisions of the NBA Constitution.
Specifically, DASAN alleged that contrary to the provision of the NBA constitution that stipulates that the verified voters’ list should be published ‘not later than 28 days before the election’, it was released just about five hours before voting commenced.
In a pre-election interview he granted the Vanguard newspaper, Akpata had promised to breathe a new lease of life into the NBA by providing sound and accountable leadership.
As a hands-on President of the NBA, he said his administration would hit the ground running and focus on improving the lot of young lawyers.
“Should I become President,” Akpata said in the interview, “I will fashion out policies that will significantly improve the welfare and well-being of young lawyers and lawyers generally.
“Issues around welfare in terms of better remuneration, health insurance, protection from sexual and other forms of harassment at the workplace and access to finance for those seeking to set up their own practices, will be front-burner issues for me.”