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08.06.2021 investigations RIGGED! How ICAN Council Election Winners Broke All Electoral Rules

Published 8th Jun, 2021

By Socrates Mbamalu

For seven days, starting from May 20 to May 27, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), guarded by the watchwords ‘accuracy and integrity’, and one of the most prestigious professional bodies in Nigeria, conducted elections filled with malpractices.

The elections were only open to members who had paid their membership fees; many usually waited days to the elections before paying their fees.

Young accountants who graduated from various tertiary institutions viewed the organization as prestigious, and being a chartered accountant carried a weight of its own.

Many young accountants told FIJ they hadn’t paid their membership dues. For some, the organisation had no impact in their lives. For others, particularly those with no jobs yet, the membership dues were expensive.

BROKEN RULE 1: NO UNSOLICITED MESSAGES

The younger members were simply not interested in the activities of the institute. But every year, when elections are held, they would receive a bombardment of emails and text messages soliciting votes for candidates they knew nothing about.

A member of ICAN told FIJ she had paid her membership fee so she could vote. She had received messages from various candidates soliciting her votes. She was however not aware that candidates were not supposed to send text messages or any form of communication asking for votes.

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ICAN is governed by a 30-member Governing Council and Committee structure that directs the policy and general management of the institute. The Council “gives policy direction and oversight functions and holds its meeting at least once a month”.

The latest election was to vote in new council members into six vacancies. While six of the council members were up for reelection, four were members-in-practice and two members-not-in-practice. The six members up for re-election were Mazi Nnamdi Okwuadigbo, Davidson Chizuoke Stephen Alaribe, Olakisan Jamiu, Late Tola Ogundipe, Adaku Chilaka Chidume-Okoro and Deji Awobotu.

That the ICAN elections are done electronically has created room for undue influence, contrary to the ICAN election guidelines, a part of which reads: “The Bye-Law for ICAN Council Elections sets out the Ethics, Rules and Regulations to be observed by all contestants as approved by Council, and Sanctions to be imposed on erring contestants in the conduct of the Institute’s Council Elections.”

BROKEN RULE 2: NO ELECTION CAMPAIGNS

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The guideline explicitly stated that while subtle campaigns could not be eliminated, however, campaign for elections was not allowed. Campaigning involved sending unsolicited text messages, to members by contestants or on behalf of contestants. The election guidelines also prohibited contestants or their representatives from paying outstanding subscriptions for other members during the election year. The distribution of handbills, fliers and complimentary cards was also banned, just like the sending of complimentary text messages or emails during festive periods or on birthdays.

BROKEN RULE 3: NO ‘PHILANTHROPIC’ SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENT

FIJ noted that all the election guidelines outlined by ICAN were broken by contestants. In text messages seen by FIJ, contestants campaigned for elections and solicited for votes. Some of the text messages FIJ came across were from Kelly K. Ayamba, Adaku Chidume-Okoro, Tobi Abiola (the Honorary Treasurer), Uma-Onyemenam Njum, Francis Chavwuko Okoro, Oladele Oladipo, Jamiu Adeyemi Olakisan, Dr. Deji Awobotu, Chief Davidson Chizuoke Stephen Alaribe.

BROKEN RULE 4: NO VOTE SOLICITING

Among those listed to have solicited votes were members who were incumbent and served in the council. Two of those incumbent in the council are Chief Davidson Chizuoke Stephen Alaribe and Jamiu Adeyemi Olakisan. One of them, Tobi Abiola, was the Honorary Treasurer of ICAN.

Seven members-in-practice contested to be on the council. The contestants who sent text messages soliciting votes include Alaribe DCS, Jamiu Olakisan, Dele Oladipo, Francis Okoro and Kelly Ayamba. FIJ learnt from members that Banmeke Sunday and Badejo Adegbenga also sent unsolicited messages.

The five members-not-in-practice who contested and won the election sent unsolicited messages to members. The quintet are Deji Awobutu, Njum Uma-Onyemenam, Seyi Olanrewaju, Adaku Chidume-Okoro and Amachree Allison.

In an email seen by FIJ, the Honorary Treasurer of ICAN, Tobi Abiola, sent a member happy birthday wishes but instead of the celebrant’s picture, it was Tobi’s picture that was in place. This was a blatant breaking of the ICAN electoral guidelines.

BROKEN RULE 5: NO SPONSORSHIP FOR VOTERS

But this was just a tip of the iceberg. FIJ learnt that Abiola sponsored 100 members at N30,000 each (totalling N3million) to a South West  zonal conference held between March 8 and March 11 at the Redemption Camp. FIJ placed a call to Abiola and sent him messages but he failed to respond.

BROKEN RULE 6: PASSWORD COMPROMISE

An email seen by FIJ showed that at least one known member had his password changed without his knowledge, showing that ICAN elections were compromised.

BAREFACED DENIAL BY ELECTORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER

FIJ reached out to Yemi Anjorin, a member of the electoral committee saddled with the task of looking into electoral malpractices, but she refused to give FIJ the number of the Chairman of the electoral committee; she also asked why FIJ wanted to know what transpired. She said it was the committee that would investigate the elections if need be.

She however said the committee would take action if a petition was sent to it, and if it discovered any unethical practices. Anjorin told FIJ that the committee had not seen any discrepancies; this was despite an email received by an ICAN member from [email protected] with the subject: ICAN ELECTION Portal Password Request, despite the user not requesting for a password change.

Anjorin told FIJ that if discrepancies in the elections were brought to the committee’s notice, action would be taken if contestants were found wanting. Going by findings by FIJ, the currently elected ICAN council members have broken multiple electoral rules guiding the organisation.

The sanctions attached to breaking the electoral guidelines even after declaration of results include nullification of elections, which would result in the declaration and swearing in of the candidate with the next highest number of votes, or suspension from contesting in future Council elections for a period of five years.

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Published 8th Jun, 2021

By Socrates Mbamalu

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