If there were doubts as to he real intentions behind the determination of Professor Attahiru Jega, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to foist on Nigeria an electoral process that gives unparalleled advantage to his northern part of the country through the instrumentality of
a lopsided allocation of some 21,000 Polling Units, PUs, as against slightly over 8,000 PUs for the states of the South, the doubts disappeared at his ast week’s meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs.
At that meeting, like a “pulpit bully”, and against convention where decisions at INEC are reached through consensus, Jega insisted that RECs should be involved in the admittedly primitive mode of open voting on a matter that was as controversial as PUs allocation.
This report presents Jega’s systematic approach to see through his scheme, starting with his attempt at power mongering.
MEETING WITH RECs
Driven by a messianic desire to confer electoral advantage on northern Nigeria against states in the South, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, upped the ante last week at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs.
The meeting took place at the INEC Headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
It was a stormy meeting, held Wednesday, October 15, 2014.
Inside sources at the meeting expressed shock at what was described as the “pulpit bully” attitude of the INEC Chairman.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that what was meant to be a meeting of minds, where the main focus would be the now controversial lopsided allocation of Polling Units, PUs, turned out to be a farcical engagement, with Jega, practically “coercing the commissioners”
There were 30 RECs in attendance.
What was strange, however, was that the RECs did not know that they were being led into an ambush by Jega, whose proclivity for maximum control of INEC had, sometime last year, seen him write to the Attorney General of the Federation, seeking clarification about the powers of his office (details are provided below).
CONCERN RAISED BY RECs IGNORED
REC after REC, most of those in attendance expressed concern on the PUs controversy and “actually counseled that the idea be shelved until after the 2015 general elections.
“The meeting, which also reviewed the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and the distribution of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC), witnessed several expressions of concerns by State Electoral Commissioners whose appraisal of the PVC distribution process was mostly unsatisfactory,’’ a source at the meeting said.
“They insisted that the Commission was moving too slowly and that the limited time barely three months left for the election may be insufficient for the exercise if things were not fast-tracked”.
THE DICTATOR CHARGES
The source further disclosed that Jega waxed dictatorial:
“Jega insisted on conflating the time pressure by pressing forward with the much criticized allocation of new Polling Units.
This came against sound advice by some commissioners who warned that given the prevailing public perception regarding the Polling Units allocation, it may raise unnecessary ethnic tensions’’.
“Even when he was reminded of the letter from the Senate Committee on INEC”, the source continued, he was said to have reacted angrily that the letter was not a decision of the whole Senate and has no effect.
Similarly, he was said to have been reminded of the fact that some groups of Nigerians and even a political party have gone to court over the matter and there was need to suspend the exercise, but he bluntly responded that, except there was a court order, the Polling Units must be created.
He may be right on that score: only a court order, in the strictest sense, can stop him, especially based on the seeming messianic inclination.
But more was to come.
For a Chairman who treats some of the commissioners as his staff, Sunday Vanguard learnt that even the letter from the Senate Committee calling for the suspension of the allocation was read on the pages of newspapers like most Nigerians.
The letter has not been discussed at any formal meeting apart from the tangential mention it got last week.
Jega, it was gathered, had also been sent a security advisory given the dangerous dimension the lopsided PUs had taken; but this was ignored.
Even then, it was gathered that RECs from the South-West, South-South, South-East and, interestingly, North-Central, verbally cautioned Jega.
Sensing that the tide was turning against his desperation, the INEC Chairman, the source went on, called for voting which was agreed to.
PRIMITIVE OPEN VOTING
But he ambushed the commissioners by directing that the voting process should be open.
“In the end”, the source went on, “voting was conducted – in which three, RECs who had previously advised against the policy and still maintained their objections, abstained from participating in the voting because they were angry and disappointed that, despite the clear voices of the majority who advised against it, the Chairman surprisingly called for vote thereby allowing the matter to degenerate and brought to a clear-cut sectional dichotomy.
“After the voting, Jega got 13 votes for his lopsided PUs, and 13 votes against.”
But this was a stalemate. Althou it would have been 14 for him but one vote was voided because the administrative secretary who represented the REC from Benue State had his vote voided.
Now, had the three abstaining RECs been counted and the votes of six who did not attend as well as some Administrative Secretaries who did not vote, because they erroneously thought the voting was for commissioners only were taken to account, it was clear even to Jega that he was swimming against the tide of internal and external stakeholder opinion.
Despite this, less than 24 hours after the stalemate, the INEC Chairman directed a Director, one Musa H. Adamu, through a letter dated, Thursday, October 16, 2014, to all RECs, to submit report on the implementation of the PUs in their respective states on or before Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Nuru Yakubu, who is seen as the architect of the allocation, Musa Adamu and Jega himself are all from the North and appear to be pushing an agenda that places undue advantage in the hands of the North against the states of the South.
This was the same way the northern dominated military regimes created for Nigeria the lopsided 774 local governments with the North preponderantly favoured against states of the South; just as state creation has left the South-East geo-political zone with just five states whereas the North-West has seven states.
Meanwhile, the lopsided local governments creation engenders a regime of unequal resource allocation in a nation of clashing socio-political and economic interests.
It is under this same condition that Jega had sought extra-legal platform to capture all available powers in INEC, part of a grand scheme to ride rough shod over his colleagues.
JEGA SEEKS MORE POWERS
To get the legal backing to his enormous power-grab, Jega had written a letter dated June 19, 2013, to Mohammed Adoke, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, asking for clarification on who should be the accounting officer of the body.
He noted: “Since our assumption of office as a new Commission in July 2010, having regard to the fact that neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act defined the role of the Secretary to the Commission as the Accounting Officer, I have considered myself as such, relying upon provisions of the Procurement Act, particularly Sections 18, 19 and 20 of the Act and Regulations issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement to the effect that in an MDA/Corporate procuring entity, the Chief Executive is the Accounting Officer.
“I have also done this, given the weighty personal liability which the Procurement Act places on the shoulders of the Accounting Officer.
The tradition in INEC had been that a Permanent Secretary was posted as the Secretary, until 2008, when INEC, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution and Electoral Act appointed its Secretary. The functions/roles of the Secretary as specified did not say or imply that he is the Accounting Officer”.
Jega told Adoke that the clarification was necessary in the light of the restructuring and reorganisation going on in the commission as it prepares for what he described as “better, effective and efficient service delivery towards 2015 and beyond”.
He insisted that it was “pertinent to seek this clarification for the avoidance of doubt and in order to put lingering matters to rest.”
The “lingering matters” Jega spoke about, it was learnt, might not be unconnected with what a source described as the frosty relationship between the Chairman and other commissioners over the chairman’s powers.
ADOKE CLARIFIES LIMITS OF CHAIRMAN’S POWERS
In a July 26, 2013 reply to Jega’s request, Adoke declared categorically that the Chairman is not the accounting officer of INEC.
Adoke said: “I have examined relevant provisions of the law particularly, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the Electoral Act, the Public Procurement Act and extant Financial Regulations in order to determine whether the law has expressly provided for the position of either the ‘Chief Executive Officer’ or ‘Accounting Officer’ of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Regrettably, it would appear that no such terminology was used in the statutes examined. Item 14(1)(a) of Part 1 to the Third Schedule of the Constitution only provides that the Chairman shall be the Chief Electoral Commissioner.
The provision does not state that the ‘Chief Electoral Commissioner’ is the ‘Chief Executive Officer.
“I have similarly examined the functions and powers of the Commission as provided for in item 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution and sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Electoral Act and wish to observe that these are functions and powers that can only be exercised by the Commission and not by the Chairman or any individual Commissioner except as may be delegated by the Commission under Section 152 of the Electoral Act or item 15(h) of Part 1 to the Third Schedule to the Constitution.”
“Consequently, in the absence of any clear donation of the powers of a Chief Executive Officer or Accounting Officer by the relevant statutes, and in the absence of any evidence to indicate that these functions and powers of the Commission have been delegated to the Chairman, I am unable to come to the reasoned conclusion that the law contemplates that the Chairman of INEC shall be the Chief Executive Officer or Accounting Officer of the Commission,” Adoke explained.
He added that the Electoral Act confers on the Secretary enormous administrative powers akin to those of Directors-General, who are “statutorily the Accounting Officers and Chief Executive Officers of their various Commissions”.
Adoke pointed out that this is what obtains in similar commissions, such as Police Service Commission, National Population Commission and Federal Judicial Service Commission.