Elections: Controversy as SSS summons top INEC officials

From left: Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; INEC National Commissioners, Mr Festus Okoye; Dr Mustafa Lecky and Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, during the visit of Long Term ECOWAS Observer's delegation to INEC headquarters in Abuja on Monday (21/1/19). 00705/21/1/2019/Hogan Bassey/BJO/NAN
FILE: From left: Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; INEC National Commissioners, Mr Festus Okoye; Dr Mustafa Lecky and Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, during the visit of Long Term ECOWAS Observer's delegation to INEC headquarters in Abuja on Monday (21/1/19). 00705/21/1/2019/Hogan Bassey/BJO/NAN

The State Security Service (SSS) has summoned the senior official who substantively heads the Independent National Electoral Commission’s operations and logistics, Okechukwu Ibeanu, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt

This is an indication the secret service may have moved to investigate the circumstances that led to the postponement of Nigeria’s elections earlier scheduled to hold last Saturday.

Mr Ibeanu, a professor of political science, was asked to report at the SSS office by 2:00 p.m., multiple sources close to INEC told this paper.

Apart from Mr Ibeanu, others asked to appear before the SSS include Chidi Nwafor, the Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Ken Ukeagu; Osaze Uzzi, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity and Bimbo Oladunjoye, the Assistant Director of ICT.

A Disjointed INEC

Although Mr Ibeanu heads the commission’s operations and logistics department, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that a separate team appointed by the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, handled the logistics for the election.

Three months to the election, on November 6, Mr Yakubu announced the setting up of an “advisory committee on logistics for the 2019 general elections.”

The internal memorandum announcing the committee to INEC officials was signed by Maryam Iya Musa, the Director, Commission Secretariat.

Mr Ibeanu, who officially heads the INEC logistics department, was not made a member of the committee.

“Curiously, close to the election, INEC chair created an ad hoc committee on logistics for the 2019 elections which reported directly to him. Prof Ibeanu is not a member of that committee,” said our source, an INEC insider.

Another source close the INEC leadership said such committee was unprecedented in INEC’s history.

“There was nothing like that under Jega (Attahiru, immediate past INEC chairman). Nobody knows why Professor Yakubu decided to duplicate functions and hand such a crucial task (logistics) to a committee when there is a department to handle it,” the source said.

The 15-member advisory committee is headed by another national commissioner, Ahmed Mu’azu, a retired Air Vice Marshall.

Two other national commissioners of INEC – Abubakar Nahuche and Mohammed Haruna – are also members of the committee. Other members include representatives of the country’s military services and other government institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Road Safety Commission.

The committee was given four terms of reference: “advise the commission on timely deployment of election logistics, proffer solutions to logistics challenges, coordinate logistics support from development partners and other agencies, and any other related matters.”

Curiously, no member of the committee was invited by the SSS, raising concerns the agency may not be aware of how INEC has operated or may be deliberately going after the wrong person.

Officials Keep Mum

INEC’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye, could not be reached to comment on this report. He did not answer calls placed to his phone and also did not reply to a text message.

The spokesperson for the SSS, Peter Afunaya, when contacted simply said: “I am not aware.”

The elections were called off by Mr Yakubu hours before the exercise was due to open on Saturday. He blamed logistics difficulties for the failure.

In a remark yesterday, Mr Buhari vowed INEC will explain “what caused the postponement” after the elections.

Also, the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adam Oshiomhole, accused INEC of working in cahoot with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. He said the commission had divulged the information of the postponement to the opposition much long before the decision was eventually taken.

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