Through its Justice, Development and Peace Centre (JDPC), the Catholic Church yesterday called for the total independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It urged that the electoral umpire be detached from the apron-strings of serving politicians by fully implementing the recommendations of the Justice Muhammed Uwais Commission.
The commission had recommended among other things that the Chairman of INEC should be appointed by the judiciary rather than the President.
The JDPC gave the recommendation at a press conference in Lagos.
Its Executive Director, Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo, who spoke under the theme: “State of the Nation: Political Logjam Trails Nigeria’s ‘First’ Election in the Fourth Republic”, frowned at the call by members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its supporters for the sack of INEC chair, Prof. Attahiru Jega for asserting the independence of the commission.
He said the call for the removal of an electoral chief was neither new nor strange, as “there had never been one since 1960 who was not handed a quit notice by politicians and their followers”.
But, the strange thing about the call for Jega’s removal, he explained, “is that the calls are coming from the ruling party”.
The JDPC director noted that the call from the employers of the INEC chief was the first of its kind in the nation’s political history.
Anoliefo said it was curious that unlike in Ghana, Sierra Leone and South Africa, that in Nigeria, an electoral chief must be obedient, pliant public servant, who must bend the rules to favour his employers or paymasters.
“On rare occasions when an umpire acts independently, without kow-towing the bigwigs, they are done for,” he said, wondering whether the presidency has really contemplated the consequences of removing the INEC chairman abruptly without any justifiable reason.
His words: “How odd it will be that a referee is changed at the middle of a match for reasons that are speculative and largely unfounded. Where were these people when Prof Maurice Iwu was acting as an employee in the presidency? How did the President get the conviction that he can sack Jega handily if he feels that he is not doing well?’
“Did his handlers let him into the constitutional provisions, especially Section 155, 157 (1a) and 158, which clearly spell out the involvement of the Senate in both the recruitment and termination of the INEC chair? Did somebody think that it is easy to dispense with Jega the same way that the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was thrown into the garbage just because he raised concern about the mismanagement of the country’s common patrimony?”
Anoliefo also called for the establishment of special courts that will be saddled with the responsibility of handling corruption-related cases.
“These ‘special courts’ must be independent of any government infractions and super-impositions,” he said.
According to him, the general elections were not shifted because of the reasons adduced by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) or the inability of the military to guarantee security as Nigerians were told.
Rather, the JDPC director said: “The postponement was one of the fallouts of the 2014 primaries, which caught some of the parties unawares” and that it was done to buy time to engage in some sort of damage control.
He said the results of the general elections will be shocking because the era of landslide victory when an octopus party gets 90 per cent of the votes and the seats, leaving other parties to share a miserable 10 per cent was gone for good.
“Whenever the elections hold, the country may likely witness another strange scene that it is not used to at the centre and in the states. Only a few elected executives may garner more than 55 per cent of the votes; meaning that the usual era of landslide victory when an octopus party won 90 per cent of the votes and the seats, leaving the others to share a miserable 10 per cent is over.
“Again, at both levels, different parties may control different arms of government (the legislature and the executive). These are strange scenarios, which need astute managerial skills, failing which there will be many post-election pressures on the executive to ‘settle’ or be impeached.”