By Ndidi Ekanem
All is not well at the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), because for the first time since its inception in 1958, the umbrella organization for the engineering profession in Nigeria, the 2021elections into its executive arm is raising dust.
In what appears like a similar replay of Nigeria’s political game where there are issues over electoral bill, direct or indirect primaries, the use of card reader etc., the NSE’s election held on December 9,2021 was cancelled by the immediate past President of NSE Babagana Mohammed, over an alleged “criminal cyber breach”.
The former President, who addressed journalists on December 22, 2021 in Abuja, canceled the December 9, 2021 election of the association, which was to see the election of a new Deputy President and other national executives, and ordered for a rerun, alleging that the cancelled election was marred by more flaws and criminal cyber breach.
Some people were said to have hacked the database of the organisation to manipulate the outcome of the election.
Engr. Mohammed said he nullified the election because the integrity of the society’s election process was threatened. He said: “It is with great trepidation that I inform you that the NSE election conducted on December 9, 2021 was later discovered to have more flaws and criminal cyber breach that were not available when the result was approved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM)”.
The former NSE President Engr. Babagana Mohammed, as is the norm and tradition of the NSE, handed over the running of the activities of the Society to his Deputy, Engr. Tasiu Sa’ad Gidari- Wudil, the current and the 33rd President of the association and the Executive Secretary, Engr. Dr. Okopi Alex Momoh. The Executive Secretary is the head of the Secretariat and oversees the day-to-day management of the NSE Secretariat.
In terms of hierarchy, the NSE President is the Chief Executive who directs the programme and mandate of the Society on behalf of the members. He is the Chairman at every AGM, meeting of the Council and Executive Committee of the Society. The President holds for a period of two years and is succeeded by the Deputy President. The Deputy President is elected every two years, who automatically becomes the President after the expiration of the two-year tenure of the predecessor.
The Executive Committee (EXCO) of NSE is responsible for overseeing the management and administration of its affairs and reports to Council of the Society. The EXCO is made up of a President, Deputy President, 6 Vice Presidents and 6 other Executive Committee members who are elected by other members at the Annual General Meetings every year and nominated representatives of the Divisions.
During ever AGM, the election guidelines says a winner shall emerge by simple majority. However, the elective posts presently in contention are those of the Deputy President, Vice President, Executive Council members and Auditors and the controversies saw some concerns being expressed by stakeholders revolve round the Memorandum and Article of Association (MEMART) voting system used at the elections, among other issues.
Some aggrieved members said the called for rerun is only premised on an incomplete report on the actual number of emails of members that was tampered with.
The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Society of Engineers on the 5th December 2021 sent e-mails informing members that the President of the society has approved on behalf on the Council an adjustment to the election timetable.
Accreditation of members was well circulated by the Executive Secretary via e-mails to members, adding that in 2018 some members were not able to get their voting codes, but was later manually generated because the MEMART then states that only onsite members at the AGM can participate.
According to an insider, the manipulation by what he called a ‘cabal’ was easy because they, who are divided, but understand the tricks that brought them to power, were eating from the same basket.
He said aggrieved members of the society complained through the President, who was presiding over the 2021 NSE AGM that the NSE 2021 election has been compromised, “some members of the society were unable to get the voting code through their phone numbers or e-mails. From their Zero-balance details printed by the IT department NSE HQ at the AGM, it was discovered that their phone numbers and e-mails addresses had changed to another.
“It is quite amazing that members who did not get the voting codes, got all NSE HQ information and broadcast up till the 5th/6th of December 2021. Hence, who tampered with the identities of members? Can the Executive Secretary and Head of IT NSE HQ explain to members of the society through the council or appropriate NSE medium their roles in the identity theft and manipulation of members data? ”
According to reports, the President of the society immediately directed those aggrieved members who are not satisfied by the outcome of the result to seek redress at the 2021 Election Appeal Panel and adjourned the AGM. The action of the President by adjourning the 2021 NSE AGM himself is an anomaly, can this not imply that the NSE AGM 2021 is inconclusive. The question then is who ratified the 2021 NSE election?
Stakeholders still believe however that the 2021 Election committee will work to remove the votes of those involved but how will they truthfully take out the back-end manipulation?
Can this fundamental slip-up be as a result of the squabble between the NSE President and the Executive Secretary on the ground of the President not renewing the Executive Secretary tenure or is the Executive Secretary working with the ‘cabal’ ?
Already, in line with the NSE’s MEMART and 2021 election timetable, aggrieved members have appealed to the NSE Board of Trustees and NSE Election Appeal Panel to challenge what they termed an illegal annulment of their elections by the NSE but these two arms of the Society that comprises past Presidents and senior members have not started their work.
Engr. TSG Wudil, has promised to carry out a reform that would henceforth make electioneering in the NSE rancor-free, and has made a vow to ensure the sanctity of the law and powers of NSE AGM are not abused by the people who have sworn to protect them and said he will ensure that all extant conflict resolution mechanisms provided for in MEMART are followed to resolve issues at hand.
No doubt sentiments run deep among various stakeholders who are now looking to see whether the new President will reverse the cancellation since the outcome is in favour of his candidate, the one he veraciously campaigned for, how will he manage the crisis, because the ex- President, Engr. Babagana Mohammed, has morally dropped the crisis on his feet.
Because of the crisis, there was no inauguration of the Executive Committee Members but only handing over to the new President, and because it is a matter of integrity not only for the Society but the Nigerian nation, Nigerian engineers are therefore waiting to see whether the new NSE President, Engr. T.S.G Wudil, will continue the election process to its logical conclusion because he has said the election to be done in the first quarter of 2022. His investiture is slated for January 22, 2022.
It is against this background that in the NSE, whose vision is to be one of the very best engineering professional bodies in the world, and among whose mission is dedicated to providing quality service aimed at enhancing professional competence and development of its members at all times, the big question binge asked is whether the new President will match his words with action.
Ndidi Ekanem is an Abuja based media practitioner