The Senate has confirmed all the 19 nominees appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The appointees were confirmed after the upper legislative chamber overruled petitions against some of them accusing them of being partisan and of being card-carrying members of the ruling All ProgressivesCongress (APC).
They were, however, confirmed on Wednesday after the Senate said there was no concrete evidence or sworn affidavit to support the allegations levelled against some of them.
The nominees were confirmed after the Senate considered the report of its Committee on INEC.
The president in July, wrote to the Senate nominating the 19 RECs. He also sought the upper chamber’s confirmation of the nominees.
Of the 19 nominees, five were reappointed for a second and final term of five years while 14 others had new appointments.
The five nominees reappointed are Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa); Obo Effanga (Cross River); Umar Ibrahim (Taraba); Agboke Olaleke (Ogun); and Samuel Egwu (Kogi).
The others are Onyeka Ugochi (Imo); Muhammad Bashir (Sokoto); Ayobami Salami (Oyo); Zango Abdu (Katsina); Queen Elizabeth Agwu (Ebonyi); and Agundu Tersoo (Benue).
Others are: Yomere Oritsemlebi (Delta); Yahaya Ibrahim (Kaduna); Nura Ali (Kano); Agu Uchenna (Enugu); Ahmed Garki (FCT); and Hudu Yunusa (Bauchi);
Also nominated are Uzochukwu Chijioke (Anambra); and Mohammed Nura (Yobe).
Mr Buhari said the request for confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provisions of Section 154 (1) of the 1999 Constitution Nigeria (as amended).
Allegations against some nominees
After a thorough analysis and scrutiny, a group of civil society organisations faulted some of the nominees for allegedly being partisan and of questionable past.
They said Muhammad Bashir, the nominee from Sokoto State, was a governorship aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 elections cycle; Sylvia Agu, the nominee for Enugu State was believed to be the younger sister of the APC Deputy National Chairman, South-east.
The group said the nominee for Imo State, Pauline Onyeka, who is a former Head of ICT at INEC in Imo state, allegedly gained notoriety for alleged corruption and connivance with politicians to undermine elections.
It said Queen-Elizabeth Agwu, a former Accountant-General in Ebonyi State, was suspended allegedly on the grounds of incompetence and corruption in 2016.
The appointments, the group said, was against the provisions of Section 156(1(a) and Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14(1) of the Constitution.
No concrete evidence
The chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, who presented the report, recommended that all 19 nominees be confirmed by the Senate.
The lawmaker acknowledged receipt of petitions against some of the nominees which alleged that they are either card-carrying members of political parties or have served in such capacities in the past.
He said during the screening, the indicted nominees were asked if they belong to political parties and if they had affiliations with such parties and that they responded in the negative.
He said “there was no concrete evidence or signed affidavit from the nominees to support the claims that they belong to a party.
“The purported evidence of a membership card of one of the nominees was dated 2020 and signed by the current chairman – who was not a chairman at the time the petition stated,” he said.
He further said “after examining the relevant documents, their level of exposure, experience and performance, the committee recommended that all nominees be confirmed.”
Before the nominees were confirmed, the Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda, sought clarification as to how the committee realised that the evidence(s) presented were not enough to prove their partisanship.
But a number of lawmakers such as Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, James Manager and the Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, responded to him saying the screening of the nominees was properly done but that the allegations against the nominees were unproven.
While Messrs Manager and Orji said they were present during the screening and “witnessed when the nominees denied being members of political parties”, Mr Omo-Agege explained that the “Constitution does not say one should never have been a member of a party. All it says is that, you should not be one now.”
“All 19 of them, at the time of their screening, said they are not members of a party.”
The nominees were confirmed in the Committee of the Whole and the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, thereafter, charged them to serve with diligence and integrity.
While he thanked the petitioners, he warned against mischief and appealed for the support of all Nigerians.
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