To hand over to most senior officer
By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”ACTING President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, yesterday, ordered the immediate sack of the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu.
The Presidency said the INEC boss was to proceed on pre-disengagement leave without further delay.
Debate over whether or not Iwu should be allowed to stay in office a day longer, has continued to dominate the public discourse among Nigerians in recent times, especially since Jonathan assumed the responsibility of an Acting President.
Addressing newly sworn-in cabinet members on 22 March, 2010, the Acting President had warned that he took public perception very seriously; saying that public officers must, therefore, watch what constitutes public perception.
Jonathan said: â€œI take public perception seriously because I believe that citizens always matter. We must, therefore, strive to maintain public confidence at all times. We owe this much to our people.â€
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President, Mr Ima Niboro, said Professor Iwuâ€™s tenure expired on 13 June, 2010.
The statement said: â€œThe Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has directed the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, to proceed on pre- disengagement leave with immediate effect.â€
It added that â€œthe Acting Presidentâ€™s directive is in consonance with Section 155(1) (c), which stipulates that the Chairman and members of the Independent Electoral Commission shall hold office for a period of five years.â€
Iwu, the statement noted, â€œhas also been directed to hand over to the most senior National Commissioner, who shall oversee the activities of the commission pending the appointment of a substantive chairman.â€
It added that the â€œActing President thanked the outgoing Chairman of INEC for his service to the nation and wished him success in his future endeavours.â€
Lawyers, others react to Iwu’s sack
Prominent lawyers including two members of the inner bar, ChiefÂ Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) and Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) yesterday applauded the removal of Prof Maurice Iwu from office.
Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN)
According to Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) who spoke with Vanguard on phone last night, he said â€œif it is true that Iwu has been removed, it is the best news for the year. We only hope that the person that will replace him will be one hundred percent better than Iwu.
â€œWe do not want a situation where you replace a dog with a monkey because in the end, both of them are two animals with tails,â€ he added.
But an Ibadan based member of the inner bar, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) who also spoke with Vanguard yesterday on phone said that the removal of Iwu, if it is true, should be the beginning of the electoral reforms.
He said that Iwu was not the only problem but that the wholesale adoption of the recommendations of Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Committee on electoral reform would would clean the nationâ€™s electoral system.
His words: â€œI am just hearing that news from you. If the news is correct, I will simply say that it is a good news.
â€œAnd it will appear that we can expect good things after all. This is because the way people have been talking about Iwu, one would have thought that the hawks in PDP would prevail on the Acting President Goodluck to retain Iwu at all costs.
â€œThis seems to be the thinking of people because even most of the people heading the National Assembly have been routing for him (Iwu). And they have been doing it in such a way to show utter contempt for Nigerians.
â€œBut now that the Acting President has removed him, I think we must commend him.
â€œBut beyond that, I think there is still a lot to be done. The Electoral Act must be amended in such a way as to incorporate the Uwais recommendations to the fullest.
â€œI am seizing this opportunity to call on the state assemblies to use their numerical strength to reject the aspect of the recommendation of the National Assembly as it affects the appointment of Chairman of INEC,â€ he rang off.
Emeka Ngige, SAN, said â€œ Iwuâ€™s removal was a good riddance to bad rubbish. Iwu was a disaster and an epitome of rigging in Nigeria election. However, his removal should not end there.
The government must immediately embark on the probe of all the contracts awarded by him and the ongoing employment exercise he embarked upon. In fact, the exercise be reviewed or cancelled in its entirety, because it may be another means of recruiting those they will use in 2011 general elections.
â€œWhoever, that must replace him must be a Nigerian that has reputation and accepted by Nigerians.Â The person must be credible enough to hold that office. This will show to us that the Acting President meant well for Nigerians.
Bamidele Aturu said: â€œThe decision by the Acting President to send Professor Maurice Iwu on pre-retirement leave, obviously an unnecessary euphemism for a long overdue sack, is doubtless an act of courage for a regime that is a continuing beneficiary of Iwuâ€™s acts of electoral infamy. Iwu was a terrible yoke on a nation already wobbling under a tiny cabal whose politics was defined and limited to venality and abuse of power.
â€œAlthough I must confess to being overjoyed at Iwuâ€™s belated ouster from superintending elections or anything, and I would certainly look for the next opportunity to raise a glass with some of my comrades, it would be extremely unwise, nay irresponsible, to suggest that by removing Iwu, the Acting President has signed on to electoral reforms. We need to know who is now in charge of INEC and how long that fellow would act and in whose interest he or she would act.
â€œWe also must remind ourselves that not one of the existing INEC Commissioners can be said to have shown any courage that can lead to the conclusion that a useful as opposed to a usable replacement to Iwuâ€™s unabashed misbehaviour might be found in their rank.
The conclusion is obvious: the Acting President has to disband INEC as constituted and show in all ways possible that the body becomes an independent umpire. Unless this is done, I doubt if anyone would take him seriously. The Acting President may be playing his own games, but let us face it, Iwuâ€™s removal shows some courage.
â€œBut then should Iwu just go like that? I think not. He should be asked to render a financial and political account of the period he was imposed on us. Whatever the game in Abuja may be, we deserve some celebration for this riddance, even if momentarily as I suspect.â€
Tokunbo Mumuni, executive director of the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SEPAP) said â€œ the removal of Prof. Maurice Iwu from office is long overdue.Â We have been clamoring for that for sometimes now. He conducted the 2003 and the 2007 general elections, which were nothing to write home about. As an electoral umpire, he has the history of a disaster umpire.
â€œWhat is left for us is to look forward and consider who is going to replace him. The person to be picked by the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan must be somebody, who has the pedigree and who has not been in government circle.
â€œIt is no doubt that we have Nigerians, who have clean records and indisputable credentials, who can man the leadership of the electoral commission. So, for us to have a credible election in Nigeria, the Acting President Jonathan should take his time and look for such people who have been tested in the replacement of Professor Iwu.â€
Jiti Ogunye says: â€œThe eventual removal of Maurice Iwu from the Chairmanship of INEC signifies a symbolic move to break away from the tradition of electoral fraud that has characterized and bedeviled our democratic process since 1999.
This removal is very welcome because it is good riddance to bad rubbish. But this removal must be a stepping stone to a thoroughgoing electoral reform in order to save democratic rule in Nigeria . 2011 is a litmus test that the political process in Nigeria must pass, otherwise civil rule may come to grief. Without a credible electoral system, people like Iwu are still likely to be found to do a terrible job
â€œBut the removal of Iwu should be followed up with the investigation of INEC activities in the past five years of Iwuâ€™s chairmanship to determine if economic and financial crimes were committed by him, alone, or in conspiracy with others, with a view to prosecuting him.Â This is the only way other persons, who may be called upon to serve in the electoral commission, can be deterred from perpetrating acts of electoral brigandage against the Nigerian people.
â€œAs for Iwu, Nigerians are waiting for his rented crowd that will besiege Abuja and protest his removal.â€
Good riddance…, says Balarabe Musa
Balarabe Musa, former Governor of Kaduna State and Chairman of CNPP said Iwu’s sack was good riddance to bad rubbish. Those who demonstrated recently that Prof. Iwu should be re-appointed for a second term are those who benefited from his rubbish.
It is a certainly a positive development. It means that despite the unfavourable condition the Acting President is facing, he would try to make the 2011 general elections at least tolerable. But you know he has to battle with the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) which is his party.
This is because the PDP would not welcome free and fair election; with a free and fair election the PDP would lose power. The leadership of PDP would certainly be afraid of the prospect of losing power. By removing Prof.Iwu, Jonathan is giving the impression that he would do his best.
Odigie Oyegun, former Governor of Edo State
I think the removal of Prof. Iwu is the best thing that has happened in this country in recent times as far as the electoral system is concerned.Â The number one problem has been removed. This is because there is no way he could have conducted any election that could have been described as credible. It is a positive action on the part of the Acting President because many people under-rated him.
Vanguard has learnt that Iwu, who was appointed on June 13, 2005, is keeping mum.
Sources close to the ousted INEC chairman informed Vanguard that â€œthe chairman is just watching developments but there are concerns on his mind.
â€œFirst is the fact that this is the first time that the national chairman of INEC, contrary to the provisions of the 1999Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would be removed before his tenure albeit, unconstitutionally.
â€œAdded to this is the fact that the procedure for his removal, which must have the involvement of the senate, has not been so followed.
â€œAlsoâ€, the very close source added, â€œthe man does not seem to be fazed by what has happened but has simply decided to just look and watch.Â What he is saying is that is Nigeria really ready for constitutional democracy or the same whimsical approach to doing things.
â€œIf you look at the provisions of the constitutionâ€, the source maintained, â€œonly the senate through a vote can cause the chairman of INEC to be removed.
â€œWith what has happened now, shall we then say that when it suites what we want, we talk about democracy, constitutionality and due process but when it does not suite us, we do what we wantâ€?