‘Fears over Kogi and Bayelsa guber elections misplaced’
INEC Deputy-Director (Publicity), Nick Dazang, said there are no legal implications in Hajiya Amina Zakari conducting the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states. Terhemba Daka reports.
Legitimacy of an election conducted by acting Chairman There are no issues If you want to appreciate the legitimacy of the Acting Chairman’s appointment, in addition to going through the 1999 constitution as amended.
From Sections 153 to 9 of the constitution, the conditions for appointment are enunciated in those sections. There is also the fact that a quorum of the commission implies the number of National Commissioners that exist at that moment.
So, it is a function of the number of National Commissioners that are in existence in the commission. And once that quorum is formed it means that the commission can take a decision that is binding and legal.
In addition to Sections 153-9, you also read Section 318 sub section 2 of the 1999 constitution as amended. Read the relevant sections 153-9 with Section 318 (2) of the 1999 as amended plus the interpretation Act Section II (1) (c)) ii of that interpretation Act.
You will see that they are clearly stated that the President can appoint someone in an Acting capacity to serve as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
That is legal. Secondly in terms of precedence, we have had a situation where the commission had only two National Commissioners and one of them acted as Acting Chairman.
When Professor Iwu’s tenure expired, if you recall, one of the National Commissioners proclaimed himself as the Chairman of the Commission and his appointment was set aside and the oldest commissioner then, Prince Solomon Soyebi was appointed by the then Head of State as the Acting Chairman of the Commission.
And that was what happened before the nomination and inauguration of the Jega-led commission on 10th June 2010. And the two commissioners ran the affairs of the commission before that time. In fact, they were the ones that procured all the non-sensitive materials for the 2011 general elections.
So, there is no fear as to the legality of whatever election that will take place between now and whatever time that the President deems it fit to nominate a Chairman for the Commission and then for the Senate and the Council of State to approve the appointment because normally the President will nominate the Chairman.
Such a person must be vetted by the Council of State, which is the body of former Presidents, Chief Justices of the Federation, Governors, and then the person will have to be vetted by the security agencies and also go through screening by the Senate. So, these are the protocols.
But for now the situation does not preclude, legally, our holding any election or conducting the affairs of the Commission. Zakari not going through the rigours No, It is when you are nominated as the Chairman.
For example if the Acting Chairman were to be nominated as the Chairman now, the National Assembly even though they screened her before, might want to invite her, to hear from her, what her vision for the commission is and how she intends to tackle the challenges confronting the commission.
So, these are the issues. Having the quorum, presently, to conduct polls Yes we have! Irrespective of the depletion of the commission, what is important is that a quorum is formed based on the number of commissioners that exist at a time.
If there are ten commissioners, then you will now calculate the quorum based on the number of commissioners existing then. If it is two then you also arrive at the number of commissioners existing at that time.
So, once the two commissioners sit they can take a decision that is binding. But what is important is that for the two elections, even before the depletion of the commission to its present status, the commission had approved the budget for the Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
So, what we are doing now is to implement the budget for the elections. They had approved budget for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), they had approved budget for procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, and other activities like training, publicity and so on.
All these had been approved before now. But it is now to just get what we call administrative approval for implementation and the Acting Chairperson can grant that.
So, those expressing fears over likely legal issues after the elections can go to sleep, as there are no challenges. In addition to that, the human resources, the people to implement these activities are here in the commission.
We the civil servants, the Directing Staff and the other officers are the human resources of the commission. And as I speak to you there are directing staff who have seen and conducted more than five elections.
So, they can draw from that experience. There are Directors I know who have conducted elections since 1993. And since 1993 we were at the Abiola election under Prof Nwosu, then after that we now had the elections that brought Obasanjo to power, that’s three, then the election that brought Yar’Adua to power, Jonathan to power and now Buhari to power.
So, we have had six elections. They have conducted such elections so they are very experienced and capable. So, there should be no fear at all.