March 14, 2017
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE NON-APPOINTMENT OF RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONERS BY THE YOUTH INITIATIVE FOR ADVOCACY, GROWTH & ADVANCEMENT (YIAGA), PARTNERS FOR ELECTORAL REFORM (PER) AND CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC)
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Mahmood has announced the dates for the 2019 elections. The Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 16, 2019, while the Governorship and State House of Assembly will hold on March 2, 2019. This is a positive development in our electoral process. We commend the commission on its determination to ensure proper planning for the 2019 elections. However, it seems the proactive disposition of INEC to ensure proper planning ahead of the 2019 elections may be thwarted by the inaction of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in 33 States with less than 23 months the 2019 general elections.
According to Section 153 and Section 14(1) and (2) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) the President is vested with the power to appoint the National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners for each state of the Federation subject to the confirmation of the Senate. Also, the President consult with members of the Council of State in making such appointments.
The Current composition of INEC
Just recently, five RECS bowed out of office following the expiration of their term. As at July 2016, there were 22 states without RECs and within the space of 7 months, 11 RECs completed their term bringing the total number of states without RECs to 33. With this development, only Taraba, Delta, Rivers and Kaduna have substantive RECs with 3 of these RECs also expected to bow out of service by July 2017, leaving only 1 state, that is Kaduna with a REC. This is unprecedented and worrisome considering the fact that we are less than 482 working days to the 2019 elections. Incidentally, all the states with off cycle governorship elections do not have RECs; Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states. Whilst Ekiti and Osun governorship elections are slated to hold next year, the Anambra governorship election will hold on 18 November 2017; less than 174 days away.
The Implications of the Non-appointment of RECs
The dangers this non-appointment poses to the electoral process are enormous. INEC cannot function optimally without the full complement of its members at the state level. While the Commission is planning for 2019, it is important for stakeholders to remember that the planning and design process would have received a boost with a fully constituted commission. This is so because RECS are central to election administration. This could negatively impact on the implementation of the election plan. Once a REC is appointed, he/she must understand the State they are assigned to; this involves a deep understanding of the electoral geography of each local government in the State; the demography of the State, as well as cultivation of relationships with the staff of the Commission. These tasks take time and effort. Currently, the administrative secretaries head the Commission in the States without RECs. Interestingly, most of the current administrative secretaries holding forth in these States will be due for retirement before the 2019 elections which means that there would be further loss of human capacity and resources.
Based on international standards on elections, ability to plan, organizational and management structure, access and adequacy of resources are requisites for successful elections. INEC has not been availed of the human capacity it requires for the successful conduct of the 2019 elections due to the delay in constituting its management structure at the state level. The reluctance to fully constitute INEC by appointing RECs is setting the stage for the 2019 elections to fail. The President swore the oath of office to defend the Constitution in the discharge of his duties. His reluctance to appoint the RECs is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
This reluctance has necessitated the institution of a legal action by YIAGA at the Federal High Court, Abuja against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As active citizens with high regard for the rule of law and constitutionalism, we have approached the Court for an order compelling the President to perform this very important constitutional duty of appointing RECs to INEC.
Further to this, we make the following demands;
- The President should without further delay perform his constitutional duty by appointing 33 Resident Electoral Commissioners to the Independent National Electoral Commission. A two weeks ultimatum is given in this regard.
- In appointing RECs, the President should ensure only persons of unquestionable integrity with experience in electoral policy and administration are appointed. The recent revelation on the corrupt practices by some RECs in the 2015 elections presents a justification.
- The National Assembly should rise to the occasion and compel the President to urgently fill the existing vacancies at the Commission. The Senate should ensure that all nominees are thoroughly screened and not adopt the “take a bow” model. The confirmation of RECs should adopt the precedent and process adopted in the screening of the incumbent INEC Chair and national commissioners. Such scrutiny will go a long way in improving confidence in the hearts of citizens.
In conclusion, we will like to emphasize that INEC’s ability to deliver credible and peaceful 2019 elections will be determined by the level of support and cooperation it enjoys from different stakeholders.
Samson Itodo Ezenwa Nwagwu
Executive Director, YIAGA Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER)
Awal Musa Rafsanjani Cynthia Mbamalu
Executive Director, Civil Society Watching The Vote
Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC