Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chair Prof. Attahiru Jega has lost out in his battle to hold tight to executive powers at the agency.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mohammed Adoke has advised Jega to quit his role as the accounting officer of INEC.
There has been a running battle between Jega and some of the National Commissioners over the INEC chair’s alleged “acquisition of wide powers to himself”.
At a recent retreat in Lagos, the commissioners reportedly took the chairman up on such powers, which, in their view, are open to abuses.
They also said if the chairman continued the way he had been running the body in “a one man show arrangement”, it could lead to a major crack in the leadership and endanger the agency’s future.
Some of them buttressed their argument that Jega had been obsessed with power with his request for sweeping powers for the INEC chair in his proposal for an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
Jega, had last May, requested the National Assembly to amend the 2010 Electoral Act to allow for electronic voting in 2015 and to give him powers to appoint the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) because, according to him, “there is no clear sense of the relationship between RECs and the commission at the national level.”
He added: “We will like to be given a role in order to streamline authority structure within the commission.”
The INEC boss said he wanted the electoral body to be allowed to sanction political parties that violate internal party democracy with a view to enhancing the democratic process.
He spoke at a retreat for members of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Jega, who urged the National Assembly to expunge Section 52 of the Electoral law which prohibits the use of electronic voting machine in elections, was represented by Mrs Thelma Iremiren, a National Commissioner.
To get the legal backing to his enormous powers, Jega had written a letter dated June 19, to Adoke, 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.
In a July 26 reply to Jega’s reply, 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.
Some of the commissioners were said to have warned that unless Jega is checked, he could become a “dictator” as demonstrated by his actions after the Kogi State governorship election when Jega, who should be a disinterested party, directed that one of the contending candidates be sworn in as governor, fueling speculations that the electoral body has metamorphosed into a “game changer”.
Jega’s actions are according to sources, believed to have been buoyed by his membership of the Justice Mohammed Uwais panel on Election Reform.
Source: The Nation.
jega must be careful not to lose credibility. Inec if a place where he could himself on the pillars of creditable bi partisanship.
When you preoccupay yourself with only pleasing power, history would count you of those who displeased. Be aware of the harshnes of the anger of history.