A group of civil society organisations under the platform of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Tuesday expressed worry over what it described as “personalized attacks” on the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, as well as persistent call for his removal ahead of the general elections by politicians.
This, according to Situation Room, in a statement on Tuesday, violates Section I57 of the Nigerian Constitution which guarantees the independence of INEC.
It said the attacks fell far outside the bounds of fair exchanges, adding that political stakeholders should show “appropriate respect for the role of INEC, its independence, and the channels for appropriate discourse”.
The Situation Room said if Mr. Jega is actually sent on a disengagement leave before March 28 and April 11 elections, the public would lose confidence in the Commission.
“Situation Room believes that the persistence of rumours of the Chairman’s removal is damaging to the polity and public confidence that the entire national leadership of INEC is free from threat.
“There are other National Commissioners appointed at the same time as the Chairman and stories implying that the Chairman should proceed on terminal leave lead to an inevitable conclusion that INEC’s leadership faces a threat at a time when no hint of interference should even be implied,” it said.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday on Aljazeera TV, insisted that he has no plan of sacking Mr. Jega ahead of the elections, noting that there will be public outcry if that happens.
“I have never discussed with anybody on this earth about changing INEC Chairman,” Mr Jonathan said.
To this, the Situation Room said, “We welcome the President’s statement on Al Jazeera TV that he has no intention of removing the INEC Chairman and hope that he can extend this assurance to make it clear that no back door attempts to remove or undermine the leadership INEC will be tolerated by his administration.”