BY DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA — PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, bowed to pressure and refused to swear in the Chairman of the Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, ICPC, Mr Francis Elechi, from Rivers State over what he described as “disturbing calls.”
The President, who swore in other members of the board, immediately announced Mr Nta Ekpo as the acting Chairman of the Board, perhaps pending the completion of investigation into allegations of partisan politics against Elechi.
Jonathan explained that “the chairman couldn’t follow the oath taking this morning (yesterday) because, from about Wednesday last week, I started receiving disturbing calls and reports. And a body like INEC, ICPC and EFCC, the president should be very careful about the opinion of people.
”A minister can come in and go the next day, but INEC, EFCC and ICPC you cannot gamble with it and that is why when we were to inaugurate the board of INEC, the same thing happened, there were protests that there were some PDP members.
“To make sure that people had a proper perception of INEC and to make sure that the perception is correct, we dropped those people.”
He, however, said while the chairman was not being fired even before he would be sworn in, government would ascertain the authenticity of the allegations, adding: “I am not saying we are going to drop the chairman, but we are going to look into the reports we have and re-confirm.”
The President maintained that the decision was to ensure that “we do not do anything that will bring any stain to any of these bodies no matter how painful it may be to anybody. So the chairman is not taking his oath of office today. The SGF will formally write a letter, but Nta Ekpo will act until we sort out the issue of the chairman, but he will get a letter from the secretary of the government once we leave here.”
He congratulated them for the appointment and for accepting to take up the responsibility, saying that “both ICPC and INEC are extremely sensitive bodies that you are not only watched by Nigerians but by the whole international community”.
He reminded them that “from today you are no longer going to be people that are hiding. The moment you travel out of this country, they will be beaming search light on you.
“That is the cross all of us have to carry until we leave the board. For INEC, we welcome you on board. I charge you work with the chairman to ensure that subsequent elections are even better than what we had in April this year.”
Remarking the sensitive nature and assignment of the ICPC, Jonathan said “I remember after the elections when I travel out, some of the world leaders who chatted with me said, Jonathan we are very happy with the elections you conducted in Nigeria, but the remaining thing is corruption”.
He agreed that “yes we have done well in election” but added that “until the monster called corruption is dealt with in this country we will still not get our appropriate place in the committee of nation”.
”So ICPC AND EFCC are all bodies that must work day and night, that is why we took pains to select you, we believing that you will work very hard to complement
what the EFCC is doing to bring down corruption. Please that is the only thing that you will do that Nigerians both at home and abroad will move to dignity and pride wherever they go”, he declared.
Also sworn-in yesterday is a commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, Ebonyi.