The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday confirmed the nomination of 19 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Their confirmation comes despite reservations from individuals and groups through petitions and complaints that some of the nominees are card-carrying members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
At least two of them are allegedly under investigation for electoral malpractice.
A statement made available to SaharaReporters on Wednesday evening by Mohammed Isa, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Senate President, said the Senate also confirmed the nomination of Muhammad Sabo Lamido as Executive Commissioner, Finance and Accounts for the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (NUPRA).
According to the statement, the confirmations followed the consideration of the reports of its Committees on Electoral Matters, and that of the Upstream Petroleum Sector respectively.
The Resident Electoral Commissioners confirmed include Ibrahim Abdullahi (from Adamawa); Obo Effanga (Cross River); Umar Ibrahim (Taraba); Agboke Olaleke (Ogun); Samuel Egwu (Kogi); Onyeka Ugochi (Imo); Muhammed Bashir (Sokoto); Ayobami Salami (Oyo); Zango Abdu (Katsina), Queen Elizabeth Agwu (Ebonyi) and Agunndu Tersoo (Benue).
Others are Yomere Oritsemlebi, Delta; Yahaya Ibrahim Makarfi, Kaduna; Nura Ali, Kano; Agu Uchenna, Enugu; Ahmed Yushau Garki, Federal Capital Territory; Hudu Yunusa, Bauchi; Uzochukwu Chijioke, Anambra and Mohammad Nura from Yobe.
Presenting his report, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, Senator Kabiru Gaya said, "To determine their suitability for the positions which they were nominated, nominees were asked questions that bordered mostly on partisanship, membership of political parties, and how they hoped to improve the electoral process if and when their nominations for appointments are confirmed."
The nominees, Gaya said, assured the committee of their non-partisanship, non-membership of any political party, and promised to discharge their responsibilities diligently according to the laid down laws.
He said the committee found no merit in the petitions against four nominees that bordered on alleged membership of political parties, partisanship, compromise and incompetence.
"The committee did due diligence on the petitions by listening to the defence of the nominees and carrying out a detailed examination of the petitions to determine the validity or otherwise of the allegations against the four nominees," Gaya said.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had in a letter dated September 3, 2022, and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare urged President Muhammadu Buhari to use his “leadership position to urgently withdraw the names of nominees recently submitted to the Senate for confirmation as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who are allegedly members of the All Progressives Congress (APC)”.
The organisation had argued that the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act and international standards require that elections must be organised by a truly independent and impartial electoral body.
SERAP said, “Withdrawing the names of those nominees who are allegedly members of the APC and replacing them with people of unquestionable integrity and competence, and who are not members of any political party would improve the independence of INEC and promote public confidence in the appointment process.
“Your government has a legal responsibility to promote and guarantee the integrity, credibility, and independence of INEC, and to ensure that the electoral body is free from political and other interferences.
“As its name suggests, INEC is expected to maintain independence or absolute neutrality. INEC must not only be independent and impartial but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.”
Also, the Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Falana (SAN), had observed described the list of REC nominees as defective, arguing that the President forwarded the nominations of 14 persons for confirmation without any prior consultation with the Council of State.
Falana, a human rights lawyer, also noted that apart from the constitutional infraction the list of the nominees has been challenged on the ground that some of them are card-carrying members of the ruling party.
He affirmed that at least two other nominees were alleged to be under investigation for serious electoral malpractice.
Falana noted that since 2015, “President Buhari had consulted the Council of State whenever he wanted to appoint the Chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission including Resident Electoral Commissioners in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 154(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999”.
"On each occasion, the President consulted the Council of State before submitting the names of nominees to the Senate for confirmation in line with Section 154(1) of the Constitution. But for some undisclosed reasons, the President has forwarded the nominations of 14 persons for confirmation as Resident Electoral Commissioners without any prior consultation with the Council of State," he added.