In a Historic Zoom Election, Ujah Emerges NMA President

Innocent Ujah

*Physician Says Virtual Voting Illegal, Seeks Nullification

Martins Ifijeh

A former Director General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Prof. Innocent Ujah has emerged President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

Ujah, who is the Vice Chancellor of the newly created Federal University of Medical Science, Otukpo, Benue State, polled 347 votes to beat his closest rival, Dr. Oguzie Jerry-the-First, who got 19 votes during the association’s first ever Zoom election held Saturday evening.

In his acceptance speech, Ujah said despite the challenges occasioned by COVID-19, NMA successfully used technology to conduct its meetings and national elections, adding that the welfare of doctors will be his priority for the next two years as President of the association.

He said: “We face a crucial time with the COVID-19 pandemic which is not just a health crisis but a socioeconomic crisis. Hence, NMA must be innovative in its approach. We will look at how to reduce the cost of running the association by adopting technology for some of our meetings. We will manage our resources with integrity and ensure that international standards of financial management are adopted in NMA in order to enhance accountability and transparency in the day-to-day operations of our Association. In addition, we will seek innovative ways for sustainable funding for NMA. I want to appeal to our members with such ideas to please reach out to the NOC with their contributions.”

However, an Abuja based Urological Surgeon, Dr. Obiatuegwu Kenenna has filed a fresh application before an Abuja High Court accusing NMA of violating the court’s Civil Procedure Rules as amended.
He is also asking the court to hold that the association was in violation of its constitution when it adopted e-voting which was not recognized by the constitution..

Obiatuegwu had commenced an action in court against NMA alleging constitutional flaws which he said disenfranchised over 99.5 percent of medical practitioners in Nigeria from participating in the election of the national officers of the association despite fulfilling all financial obligations.

Hearing of the fresh application will come up on June 10.
He argued that the defendant’s constitution did not recognise any online electoral process as the proposal for online voting was rejected by the defendant’s congress at its 2017 Annual Delegate Meeting held in Calabar, Cross River State.

He is therefore asking the court to declare that the Annual Delegates Meeting/ Elections conducted by the National Organising Committee of the Defendant on May 30 via virtual technology during the pendency of his suit in court was illegal, void and a nullity.

He also sought an order declaring that the elections conducted by the National Organising Committee of the Defendant on May 30 via virtual technology same unknown to the constitution of the Defendant was unconstitutional, illegal, void and a nullity.
He also asked the court to hold that the Annual Delegates Meeting/ Elections conducted by the National Organising Committee of the Defendant/Respondent on May 30 via virtual technology amounted to a gross misconduct and disregard for the rules of court.

He asked the court to revert the parties back to status quo. His counsel Ahuruonye Johnson argued that conducting the election was not only prejudicial but daring to the court of law.
He said: “We are taking the proper lawful and legal steps to void the unconstitutional online election as well as punish all those that participated in the said unconstitutional prejudicial process.
“The rules of the court has precluded the need for interim or interlocutory injunction. We will not lose faith until justice is served to my client and by extension all medical practitioners in Nigeria.
“The defendant has also displayed gross misconduct and disregard to the court of law.”

He said the defendant also disregarded the admonitions and wise counsel of its own legal adviser.

According to him, the legal adviser of the defendant via a letter addressed to the Secretary General of the defendant association and dated 14th of April, 2020 advised against the e-voting as same was not prescribed by the constitution of the defendant.

He said: “Ironically, when the matter for the inclusion of electronic voting system involving all medical practitioners came up for consideration during the constitution review in 2017, the congress of the defendant declined and rejected the idea.”

Meanwhile, a Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Ekpe Philips Uche emerged Secretary General of NMA, scoring 264 votes, while his closest rival, Dr. Galadinma Usman got 113 votes.

Lagos’ immediate past NMA Chairman, Dr. Saliu Oseni emerged Deputy Secretary General of the association scoring 98 per cent to beat his closest rival.