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CSOs say Buhari nominated APC members, corrupt persons as RECs

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A COALITION of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has said some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees for appointment as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) are not only partisan but also have questionable integrity.

The allegation was made in a statement issued by YIAGA Africa on behalf of the CSOs on Friday.

Buhari had, in a letter to the Senate in July, requested the screening and confirmation of 19 persons to fill the vacancy left by some retired RECs.

Those nominated include Pauline Onyeka Ugochi (Imo), Muhammad Lawal Bashir (Sokoto), Ayobami Salami (Oyo), Zango Abdu (Katsina), Queen Elizabeth Agwu (Ebonyi), Agundu Tersoo (Benue), Yomere Oritsemlebi (Delta), Yahaya Ibrahim, (Kaduna), Nura Ali (Kano) and Agu Uchenna Sylvia (Enugu).

Others are Ahmed Garki (FCT), Hudu Yunusa (Bauchi), Uzochukwu Chijioke, (Anambra); and Mohammed Nura (Yobe), Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa), Obo Effanga (Cross River), Umar Ibrahim (Taraba), Agboke Olaleke (Ogun) and Samuel Egwu, (Kogi).

However, the CSOs said evidence abounds that some of the President’s nominees were either partisan, politically aligned, or previously indicted for corruption.

Specifically, the group said: “Muhammad Lawal Bashir from Sokoto was a governorship aspirant under the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2015 elections cycle; Sylvia Uchenna Agu, the nominee for Enugu State, was believed to be the younger sister of the APC Deputy National Chairman, South-East.

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“The nominee for Imo State, Mrs. Pauline Onyeka Ugochi, a former Head of ICT at INEC in Imo State, gained notoriety for alleged corruption and connivance with politicians to undermine elections. Mrs. Queen Elizabeth Agwu, a former Accountant-General of Ebonyi State, was suspended allegedly on the grounds of incompetence and corruption in 2016.”

The statement noted that their nomination contravened Section 156(1)(a) of the amended 1999 Constitution and would have grave implications for the INEC’s credibility, independence and capacity to deliver credible, transparent, inclusive and conclusive elections.

“It will be against the sacred spirit of the Constitution to accept their nomination. Given their antecedents and close affinity with political parties, it is improbable that they will remain neutral and objective if successfully screened as INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).”

While calling on the President to withdraw the indicted nominees, the CSOs asked the Senate to reject them.

“To this end, we, the undersigned, reject their appointment as RECs entirely and urge President 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 that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.

“Also, we call for a thorough examination and background checks of the credentials of the nominees.

“The Senate is urged to reject these nominees that fall short of the threshold of non-partisanship and impeccable character. Electoral commissioners must be individuals with impeccable character, unquestionable neutral inclinations, dispositions, and competence.

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“The nominations and process of confirmation must be inclusive and representative of all segments of the society.”

The coalition further called on the Senate to accelerate the process of screening nominees without compromising due diligence and comprehensive scrutiny of nominations forwarded by the President.

Similarly, the group also noted that the appointments did not reflect the principles of non-discrimination and inclusivity that the Civil Society Community has continued to advocate, particularly concerning Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), who represent about 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population and have been completely left out of the process.

According to the coalition, it was critical that as the nation strives to make the electoral process more inclusive, representative and qualitative, 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.

Therefore, in making future nominations to INEC, the CSOs urged the President to ensure the representation of PWDs and young people.

It enjoined the President to 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 per cent affirmative action for women.

The CSOs in the coalition include YIAGA Africa, International Press Center, Center for Media and Society, The Albino Foundation, Elect Her, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Partners for Electoral Reform, Inclusive Friends Association and The Kukah Centre.

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