At least four of the 19 nominees appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for INEC, either belong to a political party or have been previously indicted for corruption.
This was revealed in an analysis by a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Mr Buhari on 26 July, wrote to the Senate nominating the 19 RECs. He also sought the upper chamber’s confirmation of the nominees.
Of the 19 nominees, five were reappointed for a second and final term of five years while 14 others had new appointments.
The five nominees reappointed are Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa); Obo Effanga (Cross River); Umar Ibrahim (Taraba); Agboke Olaleke (Ogun); and Samuel Egwu (Kogi).
The other 14 nominees are Onyeka Ugochi (Imo); Muhammad Bashir (Sokoto); Ayobami Salami (Oyo); Zango Abdu (Katsina); Queen Elizabeth Agwu (Ebonyi); and Agundu Tersoo (Benue).
Others are: Yomere Oritsemlebi (Delta); Yahaya Ibrahim (Kaduna); Nura Ali (Kano); Agu Uchenna (Enugu); Ahmed Garki (FCT); and Hudu Yunusa (Bauchi);
Also to be confirmed are Uzochukwu Chijioke (Anambra); and Mohammed Nura (Yobe).
The president said the request for confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provisions of Section 154 (1) of the 1999 Constitution Nigeria (as amended).
‘Unqualified nominees, breach of the constitution
In a press conference on Friday, the CSOs faulted some of the nominees for being partisan and of questionable past.
In his address, Lanre Arogundade, the Director, International Press Centre, said Muhammad Bashir, the nominee from Sokoto State, was a governorship aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 elections cycle.
Sylvia Agu, the nominee for Enugu State, he said, is believed to be the younger sister of the APC Deputy National Chairman, South-east.
The nominee for Imo State, Pauline Onyeka, who is a former Head of ICT at INEC in Imo state, gained notoriety for alleged corruption and connivance with politicians to undermine elections.
He said Queen Elizabeth Agwu, a former Accountant-General in Ebonyi State, was suspended allegedly on the grounds of incompetence and corruption in 2016.
The appointments, he noted, have grave implications for the credibility, independence and capacity of INEC to deliver credible, transparent, inclusive and conclusive elections.
Mr Arogundade also said their appointments will significantly undermine the neutrality and impartiality of the Commission and will increase mistrust in Nigeria’s electoral process.
“By the combined effect of Section 156(1(a) and Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14(1), these individuals are constitutionally prohibited from any appointment as members of INEC.
“It will be against the sacred spirit of the Constitution to accept their nomination. Given their antecedent and close affinity with political parties, it is improbable that they will remain neutral and objective if successfully screened as INEC REC.”
The nomination comes months after the controversial appointment of Lauretta Onochie who is a presidential aide, and card-carrying member of the APC and was appointed as an INEC national commissioner.
Although Ms Onochie denied being a member of the APC, her appointment was rejected by the Senate.
Lopsided appointment, need for withdrawal
Another member of the group, Jake Epkelle of the Albino Foundation, worried that the appointments did not reflect the principles of non-discrimination and inclusivity – with regard to Persons with disabilities (PWDs).
While he stressed the need to make the electoral process more inclusive, representative and qualitative, he said the appointment of PWDs would provide the pulse required to give effect to the provisions of the Discrimination Against Persons Living with Disabilities Act, 2018, and other legislations and guiding principles in that regard.
The CSOs, therefore, rejected the appointments and urged Mr Buhari to withdraw their nomination in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to leave a legacy of a truly independent electoral institution.
They also called for a thorough examination and background checks of the credentials of the nominees.
The Senate was also asked to reject the nominees that fall short of the threshold of non-partisanship and impeccable character.
“In making nominations into INEC, President Buhari should be guided by the judgment of the Federal High Court on affirmative action wherein the court directed that all appointments must comply with the 35% affirmative action for women.
“In the same vein, the President should ensure the representation of Persons with disability (PWDs) and young people in the appointments,” the CSOs said.
The signed organisations are Yiaga Africa, International Press Center, Center for Media and Society, the Albino Foundation, Elect Her and Nigerian Women Trust Fund.
Others are Partners for Electoral Reform, Inclusive Friends Association and the Kukah Centre.