Senate Defies Petition by CSOs, Clears Two Partisan Politicians as INEC RECs

Senate Defies Petition by CSOs, Clears Two Partisan Politicians as INEC RECs

The Nigeria Senate on Wednesday defied petitions by civil society organisations and a broad section of citizens, by clearing 7 out of the 9 nominated Resident Electoral Commissioners, two of whom have been identified as partisan politicians who have actively participated in the activities of a major political party. Specifically, the CSOs identified Messrs Etekamba

The Nigeria Senate on Wednesday defied petitions by civil society organisations and a broad section of citizens, by clearing 7 out of the 9 nominated Resident Electoral Commissioners, two of whom have been identified as partisan politicians who have actively participated in the activities of a major political party.

Specifically, the CSOs identified Messrs Etekamba Umoren from Akwa Ibom state and Isah Shaka Ehimeakne from Edo States, as partisan politicians citing instances to buttress their allegations and appealed to President Tinubu to withdraw their nominations. But that request came a little late as the Senate President had banged the gavel ratifying their nominations.

The 17 CSO groups rejected their nominations and called on President Tinubu to withdraw their nominations in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to ensuring a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.

The CSOs that signed the petition include the Centre for Media and Society (CEMESO); Centre for Journalism, Innovation and Development (CJID); Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); CLEEN Foundation; Elect HER; Enough is Enough; International Press Centre (IPC); Inclusive Friends Association (IFA); Justice, Development and Peace Makers Centre (JDPMC), Osogbo; and The Kukah Centre.

Others are The Electoral College; The Electoral Hub; Nigeria Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF); Partners for Electoral Reform; TAF Africa; Women Advocate Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC) and Yiaga Africa.

The petition is titled: ‘Petition against the nomination of Messrs Etekamba Umoren (Akwa Ibom) and Isah Shaka Ehimeakne (Edo) as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the civil society groups based their objections on grounds that the duo were card-carrying members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The CSOs wrote: “Messrs, Elekamba Umoren and Isah Shaka Ehimeakne are not qualified for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners of INEC as they are deeply involved in partisan politics contrary to the requirements of section 156(1) and Third Schedule, Part 1, item F, paragraph 14 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Altered).”

Citing relevant sections of the constitution for emphasis, the CSOs said the constitution makes non-partisanship a mandatory pre-condition for the appointment of a Resident Electoral Commissioner of the INEC. specifically, section 156(1)(a), clearly prohibits the appointment of any member of a political party as a member of INEC, the CSOs said, “To further ensure the neutrality of the members of INEC, the Constitution mandates in the Third Schedule, Part 1, item F. paragraph 14 (1) that a Resident Electoral Commissioner shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity. Messrs, Etekamba Umoren and Isah Shaka Ehimeakne are not only members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) but have publicly declared their membership and campaigned for the party wearing attires of the party at campaigns and public events.”

The case of Mr Elekamba Umoren, is that he is not only a member of APC but also served as an aide to the current Senate President, Dr Godswill Akpabio when he was the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. “He also served as the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate when he was the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

“Umoren, then a card-carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had served as Chief of Staff, Government House, under the administration of Dr. Godswill Akpabio as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Similarly, upon assumption of office of Governor of the state in 2015, Governor Emmanuel Udom appointed Mr Etekamba Umoren as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), still being a member of the PDP, among others facts.”

furthermore, Mr Isah Shaka Ehimeakne, it was alleged that prior to his nomination “his Facebook page, Isah Shaka, was used to campaign for the APC and its candidates.” This is contrary to expectations of neutrality and non-partisanship in line with the constitutional provisions.

Still from the petition: “24 hours after the announcement of the appointments, he quickly deleted his Facebook account where he had displayed open partisanship in his support for the APC. This is a calculated attempt to deceive and mislead Nigerians. A sensitive office like this should not be entrusted to persons who possess such character traits. That is why the Constitution specifically provides that only persons of unquestionable integrity are appointed into the INEC.”

The CSOs, however, prayed: “Completely reject the nomination of Mr. Etekamba Umoren nominated from Akwa Ibom State, and Mr. Isah Shaka Ehimeakne from Edo State as Resident Electoral Commissioners into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC);

“Urge President Tinubu to withdraw their nomination in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to ensuring a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders;

“Request President Tinubu to uphold the federal character principle in re-nominating a non- partisan, neutral, and competent Nigerian to represent the south-south region as INEC National Commissioner;

“Also, request the President to uphold the principle of diversity by ensuring gender inclusion in the nomination of non-partisan and competent Nigerians as INEC National Commissioners;

“Ensure that members of the Independent National Election Commission are individuals with impeccable character, unquestionable neutral inclinations, and competence;

“Ensure proper scrutiny and due diligence are exercised in the confirmation of nominations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); and

“As custodians of the Nigerian constitution, the Senate should ensure that the principle of Federal Character is protected to guarantee inclusiveness and promote national unity amongst Nigerians.”

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