President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Wednesday, 4 December, 2019, charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to work with the National Assembly towards sanitising the country’s electoral process.
Lawan stated this in his remarks after the consideration of a report by the Senate Committee on INEC on the screening of three nominees as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Commission.
The Senate President said, “INEC and the National Assembly must work together to ensure that we continue to refine and sanitise our electoral processes, so that we are able to have the best electoral environment in Nigeria.”
The Chairman of the Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, in his presentation, said the confirmation of appointments of the three nominees as State Resident Electoral Commissioners were made under Section 153(1)(f) of the Constitution.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, provides that the appointments of Chairman and members of any of the bodies so established under Section 153(1)(f) shall be made by the President and the appointments shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Gaya, however, informed his colleagues that the committee received a petition from one Mr. Oyegbade Adebisi Abideen alleging that one of the nominees, Raheem Muideen Olalekan, was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to the petitioner, Olalekan was alleged to be a registered member of the APC with membership card number OSU-OSO-06009614 in ward 6, Otun-Jagun B, Osogbo Local Government Area.
Gaya informed the Senate that the nominee in his response told the panel that he left politics in the year 2015 to pursue a degree programme at the University of Ibadan.
The lawmaker said that though Olalekan denied being affiliated to any political party or being in possession of any membership card, the nominee needed to clear himself of all issues raised in the petition.
Accordingly, the Senate Committee recommended that two out of the three nominees, Dr. Alalibo Sinikem Johnson and Umar Mukhtar Gajiram be confirmed by the Senate as State Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
The panel, citing the provisions of Section 132 and 133 of the Evidence Act, 2011 (as amended), recommended that the third nominee, Raheem Olalekan, be deferred pending further legislative action since investigation is still ongoing.
But the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, in an attempt to sway his colleagues, appealed to the Senate to confirm Olalekan since the petitioner failed to appear before the committee to provide evidence to his claims.
The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, however, objected to Omo-Agege’s position on the basis that the nominee during the screening exercise had clearly stated that he was involved in politics before 2015.
Another lawmaker, Senator Ibn Na’Allah who belongs to the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the Senate, advised the upper chamber to adopt the recommendations of the committee.
The Senate in a committee of the whole, thereafter unanimously adopted the recommendations of the committee and confirmed Alalibo Johnson and Mukhtar Gajiram as Resident Electoral Commissioners.
The upper chamber deferred the confirmation of Raheem Olalekan pending the outcome of further legislative action by the committee.