A Federal High Court in Lagos Thursday remanded two lawyers, Sarah Ajibola and John Demide, in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), following their arraignment for allegedly rigging the August 2018 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) national elections. Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered that they remain with the anti-graft agency for seven days in order to fulfil their bail terms, or be transferred to the custody of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS).
The EFCC accused Ajibola and Demide of manipulated the 2018 NBA election in favour of Mr Paul Usoro SAN, who was eventually elected 29th NBA President. Mr Usoro polled 4,509 votes to defeat his other contenders, Okafor Obi, and Ernest Ojukwu, who got 4,423 as well as 3,313 votes respectively. One of the candidates, Mr Ojukwu, condemned the election saying it was characterised by fraud.
The EFCC filed the 14-count charge, marked FHC/L/118c/2020, against the defendants on May 5. EFCC lawyer Bilikisu Buhari Bala, told the court that the defendants committed the offences in August 2018 and that they conspired and altered personal details including email addresses and phone numbers of about 1,004 eligible voters for the elections, with the intent that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election. Some of the voters’ names allegedly falsified were: Gabriel Abijo Oladipo with Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN) No. 043280; Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun with SCN No. 088449; David Anakor SCN No. 015233; Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu, SCN No. 114439 and Bankole Isaac Toyin with SCN no. 024643.
The two lawyers were alleged to have used a smoke model on IP address 188.8.131.52 to commit the electoral fraud. The offences, according to the prosecutor, contravened and were punishable under sections 27(1)(b), 13, 22(2), 22(3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc.) Act, 2015. Both Ajibola and Demide pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers, N. E. Ogeibe and Deborah Ogundele prayed the court to admit them to bail “in the most liberal terms.” In a bench ruling, Justice Obiozor admitted each defendant to bail in the sum of N500,000 with one surety each. The judge adjourned the matter until April 14, 15, 16, 20, 21 and 22, 2021, for trial.