President Muhammadu Buhari is pushing to fill the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with electoral officers who have unsavoury reputations.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday during plenary at the National Assembly read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari seeking the screening and subsequent confirmation of nominees for National Commissioners and a Resident Electoral Commissioner for INEC.
The nominees are Mallam Mohammed Haruna (Niger State) North Central - National Commissioner; Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu - Delta State, National Commissioner, South-South; Okeagu Kenneth Nnamdi - Abia State, South-East National Commissioner, Maj. Gen. A.B. Alkali (retd.) - Adamawa State, North-East, National Commissioner, Engr. Prof. Rada H. Gumus - Bayelsa State, South-South, National Commissioner, Mr. Sam Olumeku - Ondo State, South-West, National Commissioner and Olaniyi Olaleye Ijalaye - Ondo State, South-West, Resident Electoral Commissioner.
However, some of these are less-than-ideal appointments; though, they are still awaiting the confirmation of the Senate.
For instance, May Agbamuche-Mbu, re-appointed as a National Commissioner, is a former girlfriend of the Emir of Bichi, Nasiru Ado-Bayero, sources told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
It was learnt that she was also nominated to the Presidency by her ex-lover, Emir of Bichi as a favour, especially with the monarch’s closeness to Buhari now as the President’s in-law.
Agbamuche-Mdu had previously served as INEC Commissioner from Delta until President Buhari appointed Lauretta Onochie, his aide and a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to take the position in October 2020.
However, the Senate rejected Onochie’s nomination in July 2021.
Buhari in the letter read by the Senate President, Lawan, during plenary on Tuesday listed Agbamuche-Mbu as representing Delta State.
Indeed, the appointments of the national commissioners came about as a direct result of ‘who they know'.
For instance, SaharaReporters also learnt that Prof. Rada H. Gumus from Bayelsa State, South-South was nominated by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
Another person said to have been brought into the government by Sylva was Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, who led interim management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
SaharaReporters in December 2019 reported how Brigadier-General Charles Nengite, a top-ranked soldier in the Nigerian Army, as well as his wife, were arrested by the United States authorities for an unexplained $16 million found in the wife’s account.
And it was learnt that Brambaifa and another former Managing Director of the NDDC, Nsima Ekere, were found to have been involved in the launder of slush funds as they both facilitated how Nengite laundered money from the commission through contracts awarded to him.
It was reported that between 2016 and 2019, Nengite was drafted to the NDDC where he allegedly benefitted from billions of naira in contracts while there.
Meanwhile, the reappointment of Mallam Mohammed Haruna (Niger State) - North Central as National Commissioner came courtesy of the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who was instrumental to the appointment of some other commissioners.
Haruna is another appointment of an oldie by Buhari as the nominee is 70 years old.
He was born in Ibadan (in present Oyo State) on September 22, 1951, had his primary education in Kano and later attended Government College, Bida, in his hometown in Niger State between 1965 and 1969.
But apart from being old, SaharaReporters learnt from a source close to Haruna that he is also “sick”.
Haruna worked with the New Nigerian Newspapers Company Ltd between 1976 and 1989, where he rose from a Reporter to Managing Director, and was later a columnist critical of INEC, until his appointment suddenly knocked the spirit of criticism out of him, it was learnt.
His appointment is somewhat similar to how Buhari re-nominated an 82-year old retired justice, Sylvanus Nsofor, over a month after his nomination as a non-career ambassador was rejected by the Senate.
Eventually, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Nsofor, who was favoured by Buhari because he was the only Appeal Court judge with a dissenting vote against the exercise that had returned Olusegun Obasanjo, then incumbent and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the Presidential race in 2003.
Buhari, who ran under the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), had challenged the result of the election. But while the other appeal court judges okayed the outcome, Nsofor accused Obasanjo and the PDP of engaging in violence and intimidation tactics.
Nsofor died in December 2020 at the age of 85.
Similarly, Mr. Sam Olumeku - Ondo State, South-West, was also brought by INEC chairman, Yakubu, along with Okeagu Kenneth Nnamdi - Abia State, South-East.
SaharaReporters on October 25 reported how the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu had been holding secret meetings with top leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Sources had explained that the INEC chair, who is supposed to be neutral and non-partisan, had been holding frequent meetings with Ahmad Lawan, Senate President and Mai Mala Buni, Caretaker Chairman of the ruling APC and governor of Yobe State.
The appointments of his choice candidates for National Commissioners are believed to be part of the results of the clandestine meetings.
It would be recalled that Yakubu himself was able to secure a second term in office through the support of a group led by Senate President Lawan, though in exchange for a huge chunk of money.
It was gathered that the trio had a meeting on Friday, October 22 at a guest house belonging to the Senate President between 10 pm and 1 am.
One of the sources had stated: “INEC chairman is frequently having private meetings with the duo of the Senate President and Buni at a private guest house owned by the Senate President in Maitama, Abuja.
“The last meeting was held last Friday between 10 pm and 1 am at the Senate President's Guest House on Yedseram Street behind the Inspector-General of Police's residence. It was between the Senate President, INEC chairman and Buni.
“These three had earlier met but with Governor (Abubakar) Bagudu of Kebbi State and Jigawa State Governor (Mohammed Abubakar) at the same venue some three months ago.”
"INEC chair, who is supposed to be neutral is now meeting secretly with top members of the ruling party (APC)," another source had told SaharaReporters.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Nnamdi has had his hands dirtied by unsavoury dealings including his involvement in the bribery that ensured Prof. Yakubu got a second term in office as INEC chairman.
SaharaReporters in November 2020 reported how Prof. Yakubu who was desperate to get a second term, was willing to meet any demands made on him to secure a second term.
He had, therefore, paid a princely sum of N2 billion to a group anchored by the Senate President, Lawan and another N1 billion to the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari.
It was learnt that the huge funds were deployed and mobilised by a civil servant and Director in lNEC by the name of Kenneth Nnamdi, said to be wealthy and in charge of a strategic department of INEC.
It was reported that the Director was also aided by a contractor to the Commission, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, who represents Niger East Senatorial District of Niger State.
“National Commissioner, Festus Okoye was also reappointed; this is a former activist who is now corrupted to the bone. Same as Kenneth,” another source noted.