The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] has fired no fewer than 30 of its personnel accused of aiding electoral malpractices across the country during the 2011 general election, the electoral body has said.
Sixteen of the dismissed staff were punished for their alleged involvement in election-related offences in Anambra state, the South-East state which elections are usually tainted by rigging and thuggery.
Other states, whose elections led to the dismissal of INEC officials, are Imo (3), Edo (1), Zamfara (1), FCT (1), Delta (1), Oyo (2), Rivers (1), Lagos (1), and Osun (2).
A staff based at the INEC Headquarters in Abuja was also shown the door for allegedly colluding with politicians to perpetrate electoral fraud.
Besides, the Commission is prosecuting nine out of its 12 staff apprehended for committing various forms of electoral offences during the governorship elections in six states.
Two out of the 12 electoral offenders have been discharged and acquitted while one was convicted.
According to a letter to a civil society group, Say No Campaign, in response to a Freedom of Information request, INEC said those dismissed or whose appointments were terminated committed offences such as refusal to carry out lawful duties and misleading the Commission, misconduct, disappearance with money meant for payment of allowances of ad-hoc staff, withholding ballot papers, manipulation of election results and possession of DDC machines.
Others offences listed are allegation of illegal entries in the register of voters and attempt to make use of left-over money.
The letter, dated July 14 and signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Augusta Ogakwu, was in response to a request by the civil group on June 9 in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, for the list of the electoral offenders.
Say No Campaign is a coalition of civil society organisations committed to fighting corruption, impunity, poverty, violence and other governance challenges in the country.
According to the document, made exclusively available to PREMIUM TIMES, the 16 officials axed in connection with the Anambra election committed the same offence: “Allegation of wrong entries in the register of voters.”
All 16 staff, who were either electoral officers or those drawn from ICT and Audit Units of the election body for election duty, had their appointments terminated by the Commission.
The remaining 14 staff were either compulsorily retired or dismissed in 2011.
The most senior officer among them who hails from in Imo State was on Grade Level 16. He was retired for “refusal to carry out lawful directives and misleading the Commission.”
Another officer dismissed while on Grade Level 15 is from Edo State. He was found guilty of wrongful recruitment and deployment of a collation officer whose name was given as Dr. Paul.
Those being prosecuted in court for electoral offences, according to a document attached to the letter and signed by S.O. Ibrahim, the assistant director in charge of the commission’s legal services, (prosecution) are Chukwujekwu Okeke (Anambra) and Osunlola Akinyinka (Oyo).
Mr. Akinyinka is being prosecuted at the High Court in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.
Chinedu Nwankwo, Henry Anozie and Obiora Enebeli committed their own offences in Edo State and their cases are also in court.
In Ekiti, although Ojo Oluwafemi and Olusola Oladipo have been dismissed from service, their cases are pending in court. Two other officers, Oni Babajide James and Ajayi Gbenga whose, cases are pending in court, are however on interdiction.
Isa Amana, an ad-hoc staff and Omolade Raphael, who allegedly committed offences in Ondo State, have since been discharged and acquitted at a Magistrate Court while Sani Dada who has since been convicted, committed the offence in Niger State.
Kayode Idowu, media aide to the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega could not be reached to comment for this story. He did not answer or return calls made to his mobile telephone call.
But Mr. Jega had in 2013 admitted the presence of corrupt officials and staff in INEC, who were not only aiding and abetting rigging, but also committing other electoral malpractices
“INEC officials are not immune to prosecution. Since we came here, as a Commission we have prosecuted INEC officials, who have been clearly found guilty of breaching established laws, rules and regulations and we have also quietly shown people the way out. Probably, it was not well advertised,” he said during the public presentation of Strategic Programme of Action of INEC covering 2012 to 2016.
“There were many people that were indicted who were not faithful due to criminal activities which clearly were incompatible with the objectives and responsibility that they were supposed to bring to this job. We have retired people.
“We have dismissed people and asked people to withdraw their services. We have done a lot quietly and it is not something that really should have been advertised.
He said INEC made it clear it would draw the line and that though the leadership was not looking for fault, it would not do anything wrong or ask anybody to do wrong, but if anyone was found doing wrong, he would have himself to blame.
The INEC Chairman added, “No doubt, I must share with you that my own assessment of what has happened is that in INEC previously, certainly there were a few bad eggs, who had done things and things they had done had more or less damaged the image of the entire members of the Commission.
“It is really a terrible thing that has happened. And it is very, very clear that majority of staff of INEC are honest people doing honest job under very difficult circumstances. All they required was motivation and encouragement and inspiration from the conduct of those who are placed in positions of responsibility.”