Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, has strongly opposed the approval of seven out of the ten newly appointed Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the Nigerian Senate.
On Wednesday, Senate President Godswill Akpabio announced the confirmation of these seven RECs through a voice vote during the plenary session.
The confirmed RECs include Etekamba Umoren (Akwa Ibom), Isah Shaka Ehimeakne (Edo), Oluwatoyin Babalola (Ekiti), Abubakar Ahmed Ma’aji (Gombe), Shehu Wahab (Kwara), Mohammed Yelwa (Niger), and Aminu Idris (Nasarawa). Some of these individuals are reportedly associated with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
During an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Wednesday, Itodo voiced concerns about the political affiliations of some of the confirmed RECs.
He criticised the Senate’s decision, pointing out that Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the individuals appointed by President Bola Tinubu as RECs within the electoral commission.
“Some of those nominees did not meet the constitutional test of non-partisanship because the constitution is very clear—Section 156 as well as paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule,” he said.
“The people we appoint into the electoral commission must not have partisan affiliations. It is public knowledge that some nominees who were confirmed today are not just party members, but they have been seen, there are videos and images to show that these individuals have also campaigned for political parties.”
In a similar vein, Itodo put forth the assertion that politicians have developed a profound preoccupation with the notion of exerting control over INEC to gain a significant edge in future electoral contests.
During a recent discussion, he underscored the significance of a statement made, emphasising the keen interest displayed by politicians in the strategic endeavour of “capturing” INEC as a means to guarantee electoral triumph in forthcoming elections.
This assertion highlights a growing concern about the undue influence and manipulation of the electoral process by political actors who seek to exploit INEC’s pivotal role in ensuring fair and impartial elections for their own partisan advantage.
He said, “How do you expect Nigerians to be confident about the integrity of the electoral commission? if INEC is manned by those with political leanings.”
Prior to the recent Senate proceedings, a noteworthy development emerged when the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) issued a stern cautionary advisory to the Senate regarding the confirmation of the nominees for the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
Their concerns centred on the potential issue of partisanship that could compromise the impartiality of the electoral commission.
This call to action took the form of a comprehensive petition jointly endorsed by a collective of 17 CSOs. In the petition, the coalition explicitly implored the upper legislative chamber to exercise prudence and reject the nominees hailing from Akwa Ibom and Edo States.
The reason behind this specific request was the perceived engagement of these nominees in overtly partisan political activities, raising red flags about their capacity to fulfil their roles as unbiased electoral commissioners.
This petition, a formidable document articulating the concerns of the CSOs, was delivered to both the Senate President and the Chair of the Senate Committee responsible for overseeing matters related to INEC.
It served as a formal and collective expression of apprehension regarding the potential ramifications of confirming these particular nominees.
Furthermore, the coalition’s plea extended beyond the confines of the Senate chambers. They urged President Bola Tinubu to reconsider the nomination of these individuals, not only in the interest of transparency and the sanctity of the electoral process but also in adherence to the principles enshrined within the constitution and the Federal Character Act.