There is uncertainty about the fate of the chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and five commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as their tenure ends on November 9, this year.
This comes as 31 days to the end of their tenure, processes for the renewal or appointment of a new chairman and commissioners have not commenced.
The appointment of the chairman of INEC and commissioners entails nomination by the president, ratification by the Council of State and confirmation by the Senate. A process analysts say could take some time to conclude.
However, it was gathered that underground scheming over the position of chairman has commenced.
There are speculations that an influential politician is responsible for the inaction on the matter.
Reports say the politician is plotting to plant someone in that position as part of efforts to actualize his 2023 ambition.
Also, a senior government official told Daily Trust in confidence that two national commissioners are in the front line of those working to take over from Yakubu, in the event that his tenure is not renewed by President Buhari.
However, when contacted, the presidency told Daily Trust that “We are now in October’’, insinuating that there was still time to take action on the matter.
Civil Society groups have expressed concern over the development, saying any delay could affect the successes recorded in the conduct of elections in the country.
They noted that those in charge at the moment need to know their fate so that they can concentrate properly on the job and that if new appointments are going to be made, the process should have started to avoid a vacuum and also ensure that only the right persons are given the job.
If Yakubu gets the president’s nod, he would be the first INEC chairman to have a second term.
It would be recalled that the appointment of Yakubu, a professor of Political History and International Studies, was ratified after the president’s nomination during an emergency Council of State meeting held on October 21, 2015.
It was at the same meeting that the council ratified the appointments of five national commissioners; Mrs Amina Bala Zakari (Jigawa) who had acted as INEC chairman.
She now represents the North-west; Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbine (Kogi), North-central; Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo (Borno), North-east; Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Lecky (Edo), South-south and Prince Adedeji Solomon Soyebi (Ogun), South-west.
The appointments of the chairman of the electoral body and five commissioners were confirmed by the Senate on October 29, 2015.
Daily Trust reports that President Muhammadu Buhari swore in Yakubu alongside the five commissioners on November 9, 2015, at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, for a five year tenure.
The affairs of the country’s electoral body was handed over to Yakubu on same day by Amina Zakari, who had acted as the chairman of the commission, following the expiration of Professor Attahiru Jega’s tenure on June 31, 2015.
Except for Amina Zakari and Prince Adedeji Soyebi, Yakubu and the three national commissioners are qualified for re – appointment.
The commission is being run by the chairman, 12 national commissioners and 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) who are in charge of the 36 states and FCT.
The seven national commissioners whose tenure is not lapsing on November 9 are; Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Mu’azu, Malam Mohammed Kudu Haruna, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Engr. Abubakar Nahuche, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, and Barrister Festus Okoye.
- ‘Silence on renewal, appointment dangerous’
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said “it has become a pattern with this government that appointments and confirmation of so many agencies are not being done on timely basis, creating acting positions or not even appointing anybody though it is mandatory to appoint persons into those agencies’’.
According to him, failure to do that creates accountability gaps and affects efficient and effective running of these offices.
“Therefore, there is need for government to respect laws mandating appointments of public officials to comply with legal provisions for proper governance.
“Places like INEC must not be without proper renewal or appointments of its leadership both at the level of commissioners and chairman,” Rafsanjani said.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Young People’s Initiative for Credible Leadership (YPICL), Comrade Abdulwahab Ekekhide, said the president should not be slow in making the appointments, as such could be dangerous for the polity.
He noted that INEC was a very important institution in the country and no vacuum should be permitted.
“INEC cannot even conduct an election without a chairman and even forming a quorum.
“We have governorship election in Anambra after Ondo, and elections can’t hold without the composition INEC.
“We urge the president to avoid a constitutional problem that could compromise our electoral process,” Ekekhide said.
The trio of the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan; the Chairman Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER) and Co-convener, Say No Campaign (SNC) Ezenwa Nwagwu; and the Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi, also faulted the development and called on the government to take the right action on the matter.
A political strategist and communication consultant, Dr. Abbati Bako, on his part, said the presidency may be taking its time on the appointment to ensure that things are done properly in such a way that Nigeria gets commendation from all stakeholders.
- Options for Buhari – Lawyers
Speaking on the issue, Yusuf Ali (SAN), said since the tenure of the current INEC chairman is lapsing in November, an acting chairman could be appointed in his place, explaining that there is no time limit for the acting role.
Also speaking, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN), said section 156(3) of constitution allows reappointment of the chairman and members for the same period of time.
Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq said Section 318 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 highlights the role of the Interpretation Act to the constitution which explains the powers of the president to either reappoint the INEC chairman and the commissioners, appoint other individuals or appoint persons in acting capacity.
- Five INEC chairmen in 22 years
Set up by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in 1998 to replace the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), INEC in the last 22 years has had five chairmen including Yakubu.
The first person to head the commission was Justice Ephraim Akpata, who was in office for only two years (1998-2000). Akpata conducted the 1999 general elections.
Following Akpata’s death in 2000, Dr. Abel Guobadia was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo, making him the second chairman of the commission.
Guobadia, who conducted the 2003 general elections bowed out of the commission in May 2005.
In 2005, Professor Maurice Iwu took over the chairmanship of the electoral body.
He was also appointed by Obasanjo.
Iwu, who was the third chairman of INEC conducted the 2007 general elections.
He was in charge of the commission between 2005 and 2010.
When Iwu was ousted, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan nominated a renowned political scientist from Kebbi State, Professor Attahiru Jega, as the INEC chairman on June 8, 2010.
Jega conducted two general elections, 2011 and 2015.
It was after the completion of Jega’s five years tenure that Professor Mahmood Yakubu from Bauchi State was appointed in 2015.
He conducted the 2019 general elections.
- We’re in October – Presidency
Contacted on the development, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “We are now in October”.
The Council of State is expected to advise President Buhari on the appointment of new INEC Chairman.
A meeting of Council of State to be convened and chaired by President Buhari is expected to hold virtually.
The council had on August 27, 2020 ratified the appointment of two new legal practitioners as members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
Before the August meeting of the Council, its last meeting was on January 23, 2019, where it deliberated on issues around the 2019 general elections.