ISSUES around the lopsided appointments in the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have been long lasting, and also long-ignored, but they persist because they are not simple matters. They would not go away by being ignored.
For more than two years, groups have been drawing attention to the anomaly. It advertised messages that the North occupied 11 of INEC’s 16, the South has only five. National Commissioners heading INEC’s key committees are from the North. A nine-man Strategic Planning Committee has only two from the South.
Section 14(3) of the Constitution states, “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
The Constitution created the Federal Character Commission, FCC, to ensure implementation of fairness in the allocation of federal appointments. INEC does not have a coherent response to the petitions that have gone to the National Assembly.
INEC’s best defence is that its chairman Professor Attahiru Jega did not make the appointments. The other is that the appointees were civil servants posted to INEC. None of these reasons suffices for subverting the law and the silence of the two FCC committees of the National Assembly.
The responses are appalling. They are unacceptable. The issue should be addressed. INEC is too strategic to be immersed in controversy. It should not be distracted by the issues that pre-dispose it to credibility challenges.
Is there a State today that cannot produce qualified officials from the same civil service poll INEC gets staff? How does INEC explain the lopsidedness in its top staff? Why would INEC chairman, secretary and officials manning major positions be from the same zone? Even if the officials are people of integrity, would that be reason enough to break the law?
Most other federal government agencies are in the same position. They should be addressed. The resolution of the lopsided appointments INEC is critical to improving INEC’s rating ahead of the 2015 elections.
We may also ask what FCC really does. We expected that its radars would be scanning federal agencies for compliance with the law. Aguments that the appointments at INEC have stood for years indict FCC and leaves the organisation with little option than to act in line with its constitutional responsibilities.
A healthy respect for the law would build healthy institutions