Forty-eight hours after Prof Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), vowed to crack down on negligent staff of the commission, he has apparently matched his words with action.
At a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, Yakubu issued a stern warning to officials of the commission, vowing that some of them would not be part of Saturday’s governorship and state house of assembly elections over actions tantamount to misconduct.
“As we approach the governorship and state assembly elections, we must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. Nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians.
“All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including collation and returning officers (ROs), must not be involved in forthcoming elections,” he had said.
In a letter dated March 6, 2023, and signed by Secretary to the Commission, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, INEC directed the administrative Secretary of the commission, Hauwa’u Kangiwa, to take full charge of its office in Sokoto with immediate effect.
“This is to inform you of the commission’s decision for you (Dr Nura Ali), Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sokoto State, to stay away from the commission’s office in Sokoto State immediately until furthermore notice.
“The administrative secretary is directed to take full charge of INEC, Sokoto State office with immediate effect.”
In another letter, Kangiwa was asked to liaise with the Supervisory National Commissioner, Professor Muhammad Sani Kala, for further clarifications.
“Please note that a National Commissioner (Major Gen. A. B. Alkali) and four (4) senior officials (names attached) are deployed to your State to assist you in the preparations and conduct of the forthcoming Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election,” the letter read.
Although none of the letters stated the reason for the action against the REC, INEC sources told Daily Trust that it was as a result of the conduct of INEC officials under Ali during the Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
The elections in Sokoto were marred by hitches such that aside from the presidential, which was won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the parliamentary elections were declared inconclusive, including those of the three senatorial districts.
The main opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC), had alleged that the PDP connived with some staff of the commission to rig the election but the APC denied this and in turn accused the PDP of working to subvert the will of the people.
Daily Trust learnt that the elections were the first conducted by the commissioner since his appointment last year.
Commenting on the development that led to the removal of the REC, a source said, “You know a lot of hitches were recorded during the last elections; late arrival of materials at polling units and improper conduct of poorly trained adhoc staff.
“And you know Sokoto is a very difficult state when it comes to the conduct of elections. The state requires a highly experienced and capable hand to manage its elections. The controversy during the last election is the major reason the commissioner was asked to step down while a highly experienced team was deployed to manage Governorship and other elections in the state.”
A senior INEC official, who pleaded not to be named, as he was not authorised to publicly comment on the matter, said Dr. Ali, was not left alone by all the commission staff due to his leadership style.
“It was authoritatively learnt that the Sokoto REC was acting like a sole administrator and this led to the break down of administrative structure of INEC in the state.”
“For instance, there was no results of National Assembly elections in Sokoto State, as the commission staff in the state refused to work with him, due to his high-handedness.”
It was also learnt that the suspended Sokoto State REC did not show remorse or give satisfactory explanation on the failure under his watch.
The official said, “There are other reasons that the commission does not have option than to ask the administrative Secretary of the commission in the state, Hauwa Aliyu Kangiwa to take full charge with immediate effect so the coming governorship and state assembly elections would be successful.”
Daily Trust understands that members of the redeployed team were already in the state.
When contacted, the spokesman of the Commission, Dr. Shamsuddeen Sidi, confirmed the change of guard but declined further comments.