By Dayo Benson, Political Editor & Ben Agande
ABUJAâ€” THERE were mixed reactions from staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, over the proposed appointment of the former Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mallam BukhariÂ Bello, as the chairman of the commission.
While some staff of the commission, mostly middle cadre officers and junior staff were excited about his appointment, some senior management staff expressed reservations possibly because his coming might see them being eased out of the commission.
When Vanguard visited the commission, yesterday, some staff were seen discussing in groups what the possible appointment ofÂ Bello portended for the commission.
One staff of the commission who spoke to Vanguard said: â€œFrom the record of the man in the National Human Rights Commission that we were told, if he has not changed, then he is the man that would bring positive things into INEC.
â€œWe are happy about his pedigree but we can be rest assured that some entrenched interest would not only fight him, they would try to sabotage his efforts so he must check them as soon as he is appointed.â€
The staff who had worked in the commission for more than a decade and had seen the tenure of three INEC chairmen, however, said that for the new INEC chairman to succeed where his successors failed, â€œhe must be very firm with politicians. If he tries to please any politician, that would be his undoing.
â€œHe must try to carry all the staff of the commission along and not have favourites among them. The moment he identifies some staff as â€˜my ownâ€™ and others as staff of the commission, he is on his way to failure.â€
Vanguard gathered from some of the staff that some very senior staff of the commission were already jittery over their fate when the new INEC chairman takes over.
Another staff told Vanguard: â€œSome of them were happy when Prince Solomon Soyebi was announced the Acting Chairman and had been praying that his appointment be confirmed. Now that a neutral person is coming on board, they are not happy.
â€œFor instance, interviews for the employment of new staff of the commission were hurriedly conducted and appointment letters would soon be issued to some people. Many staff of the commission believe that this employment is to â€˜settleâ€™ the former chairman who was taken by surprise when he was asked to proceed on leave. It did not follow due process and there is the fear that a new INEC chairman may review it.â€
Some staff of the commission who knew Mallam Bello when he served as Director of Legal Services of the defunct National Electoral Commission expressed hope that his return would bring good tidings for the commission.
An excited staff told Vanguard: â€œIf there is anybody who can conduct a free and fair election in Nigeria, then, Mallam Bello is that person. He knows all the electoral loopholes and would certainly block them. He is not a neophyte when it comes to electoral matters.â€
Council of State to ratify choice
Meantime, ahead of appointment of the new chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, the National of Council of State is expected to meet today to endorse the name of the chairman designate, Bukhari Bello.
The Council of State which is made of former heads of state both civilian and military, old and present chief justices of the federation and state governors, is required by Section 154 of the 1999 Constitution to meet on such issues.
The meeting will precede forwarding of the name of the appointee to the Senate for ratification.
According to the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, Section F: â€œThe Independent National Electoral Commission shall comprise the following members
(a) a chairman, who shall be the chief electoral commissioner; and
(b) twelve other members to be known as National Electoral Commissioners, who shall be persons of unquestionable integrity and not less than fifty years and forty years of age, respectively
Section 154 sub section 1 of the constitution says that â€œExcept in the case of ex-officio members or where other provisions are made in the constitution, the chairman and members of any of the bodies so established shall, subject to the provisions of this constitution, be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to confirmation by Senate
Section 154 sub section 3 states that â€œIn exercising his powers to appoint a person as chairman or member of the Independent National Electoral Commission, National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, or the National Population Commission, the President shall consult the Council of State.
President Goodluck Jonathan said, Sunday, during a state visit to France that the new INEC chairman would be named next Tuesday, adding that the candidate was somebody he had never met nor spoken with.
It is expected thatÂ the candidateâ€™s name which may be unveiled by the Council of State will get to the Senate, Friday. According to a source in the Senate, â€œwe are waiting for the name of the candidate which will be sent to us after confirmation by the Council of State which is expected to meet Thursday.â€
The new Chairman-designate was redeployed from Ministry of Justice to National Human Rights Commission as Executive Secretary from where he was returned to Justice ministry. He later left for the then National Electoral Commission.