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Storm at INEC

Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2007/02/16 | Views: 773 |

Storm at INEC

The last may not have been heard of the arrest, Wednesday, of three federal commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of corruption and manipulation of contracts awarded by INEC.

The last may not have been heard of the arrest, Wednesday, of three federal commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of corruption and manipulation of contracts awarded by INEC.

Rather than any misdemeanour over contracts, information gathered by Daily Sun from sources within INEC indicate that the arrest of the three men may have been a direct fallout of the refusal of the commission to operate with the list of candidates indicted by the EFCC and handed down to it by the Presidency, in its clearance of candidates for this April election.

The commissioners were said to have figured prominently in the frustration of the Presidency’s bid to get INEC to adopt its white paper on indicted candidates and disqualify them from standing election. Their arrest, therefore, is seen as a ploy to probably use the EFCC to break their resolve. But beyond this, the action has further thrown both the presidency and the PDP, as well as INEC into confusion.

The presidency had hand-picked some of the 135 candidates on the EFCC list, invited them to appear before an equally controversial administrative panel of enquiry, pronounced 35 of them guilty, set up a white paper committee on receipt of the report and within 24 hours, came out with a white paper, held an emergency Federal Executive Council meeting to consider it and immediately gazetted it. The Presidency ordered INEC to disqualify the affected persons from contesting the next general elections. Everything was done within five days of the publication of the controversial list.

However, it would seem the smooth sail of the indictment list ran into rough waters at the electoral commission where top officials were said to have put their feet down against using the bogey white paper. Of the commissioners, including Chairman Maurice Iwu, who were said to have sat to deliberate over the matter, an overwhelming majority was said to have voted against it.
Said the Daily Sun source: "They did not vote against using the list to disqualify candidates on the ground that they liked any of the listed candidates, rather, it was that there was no due process followed and they, therefore, considered the indictment defective".

Insisting that it was only an indictment from a court that the commission would recognize, the INEC bosses had, however, agreed to bend a little to consider the white paper only if the Presidency could find a way of vacating the court orders conveyed in the injunctions already obtained by the likes of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

They said that without the vacation of those orders, there was no way INEC could defend its action if it went ahead to disqualify the affected politicians.
But the Presidency, probably sensing the position of the judiciary on the matter, outrightly refused to approach the courts.
Incidentally, the trio of Mr. Sam Ekpenyong, Mallam Mohammed Abubakar (Legal Services) and Anuka Ochella Emmanuel (Logistics and Transport) were said to have voted against the white paper indictment.

On the said contract scam, the source insisted that no one had raised any eyebrow over the contract, as everything was done in accordance with the Due Process philosophy. "Even at that", the source maintained, "I think the final approval was even referred to a higher authority who also gave his consent". He said the arrested commissioners could not be said to be directly responsible for the contracts, noting: "They are not key to contract awards."

Meanwhile, it appears that the desperation of the presidency to get formidable opponents out of the way ahead the April polls has also backfired on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party is now said to be at a loss as to how to replace candidates, especially gubernatorial candidates, it had hoped to change at the eleventh hour.

With the expiration of the deadline for the substitution of candidates, some party bigwigs were said to have approached INEC with fresh additions to their list – a move INEC spurned.
According to a Daily Sun source, the substitution was supposed to be secretly done in such a way that the new names would just emerge on the INEC final list as though they had been there all along. But INEC refused, leaving the PDP in a big fix over the gubernatorial candidates in such states as Imo.

"While it was planning on disqualifying Atiku, Kalu and so on at the last minute so that they would not have the opportunity to go get redress in court, the presidency apparently forgot that it also had candidates who it wanted to use the indictment thing to substitute. "So, they were so blinded by the nail-Atiku, nail-Kalu pursuit that they have now stepped on their own trap. They have been caught in their own error…

"As at late Thursday, there was still confusion at the PDP and the presidency over what to do next. It would appear most of what is happening now is happening on a spur of the moment basis. Nobody appears to have any laid out plan. There is confusion everywhere, INEC, presidency, PDP and, I am sure, even within the camps of the indicted politicians," the source concluded.

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