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Group Warns Against Attahiru Jega’s Removal
On the heels of unconfirmed reports of a high-level plot by the Presidency to remove the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, has warned, in strong terms, against any attempt to remove him from office before the expiration of his tenure in June.
A statement signed by the spokesperson of the group, Osita Okechukwu, on Sunday, warned President Jonathan against any attempt to sack INEC chairman, saying that such a move would amount to illegality.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Jega as chairman of INEC is neither a civil servant nor has been indicted and therefore conditions applicable to civil servants are not applicable to his appointment as chairman of INEC,” the group said.
It said the ways by which the INEC chairman can be removed had been explicitly stated in Section 157 of the 1999 Constitution, which says “person holding any of the offices to which this section applies may only be removed from that office by the president acting on an address supported by two-third majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office …”
“Mr President should beware of Ides of March, go ahead and allow Jega to conclude the elections, unless he wants to fan the embers of some doomsayers that had predicted the disintegration of Nigeria,” the parties said.
The group also recalled the unintended consequences of the endless transition programme initiated by former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, which saw him manipulating the presidential election in 1993, and eventually truncating the people’s mandate.
“Granted that General Babangida survived the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections, it tainted irretrievably his regime and cost our dear countrymen blood, sweat and tears, this is avoidable as it definitely will be more disastrous, and may lead to bloodshed.
Recalling also the era when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was incapacitated in 2010, the group relived how in coalition with other patriots, civil society organizations and the Save Nigeria Group, it went out on Abuja streets and other major cities in the country to canvass the confirmation of Jonathan, who was vice president at the time, as acting president and eventually president.
The group noted that despite a promise made by Jonathan to the SNG delegation that he would implement fully the core ingredients of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee recommendations, among which was an open and transparent process of recruitment of chairman and Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, the president eventually reneged on the promise and singlehandedly appointed Attahiru Jega as chairman.
“Jega returned him as president, with tons of praises by Chief Edwin Clark and co, same clan who are today calling for Jega’s head. The rest they say is history,” the group noted.
The INEC chairman has experienced much opposition from many politicians, with calls for his removal coming from the likes of Edwin Clark, a South-south leader, Femi Okoroumu a Fourth Republic senator from Ogun State, and Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra State during the Third Republic.
Reports were rife over the weekend that the presidency had already perfected plans for the INEC chairman’s ouster, and had already shortlisted four national commissioners of the commission, amongst whom one would be selected to take over from Jega who might be directed to proceed on pre-retirement leave this week.