March 1, 2010

Senators disagree over Uwais panel’s report on INEC chair’s job

By Emmanuel Aziken
The Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, SCRC, has rejected the recommendation by the Justice Mohammed Uwais Committee on Electoral Reform that the President be removed from a direct role in the appointment of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The Senators, who considered the recommendation by the Uwais panel in their just-concluded retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, yesterday, were understood to have, after fierce arguments, rejected the recommendation by the panel that the National Judicial Council, NJC, should appoint INEC chairman.

SCRC, which adopted the Uwais panel report as one of its working documents, according to Vanguard sources at the closed-door affair, was stirred by debates for and against the President appointing INEC chairman.

The hot debate on the issue, it was learnt, saw elements of the Senate leadership divided over the issue, with the Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, urging the retention of  the power that gives the President the role of nominating INEC chairman before ratification by the Senate.

He was reportedly strongly countered by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Deputy Minority Leader, who wanted the appointment of INEC chairman to be coordinated by NJC.

Mamora was supported by some Turks in SCRC including senators Lee Maeba (PDP, Rivers), Sulieman Nazif (AC, Bauchi North) and Ehigie Uzamere (PDP, Edo South) among others.

Senator Folarin, it was learnt, was supported by Senator Iyiola Omisore, who, it was learnt, helped mobilise other South-West senators to vanquish over those desirous of excluding the President from a role in the appointment of INEC chairman.

Canvassers for a role for NJC, it was learnt, are, however, still scheming to upturn the decision through mobilising the majority of senators to reject the clause on the appointment of INEC chairman when the report is debated by the Senate later this month.

Before now, the Justice Uwais recommendation that NJC coordinate the appointment of INEC chairman was equally rejected by the Executive arm of government in the review of its report.

The Federal Government panel on the review of the Uwais Panel’s report chaired by erstwhile Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed and the Permanent Secretary in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Hakeem Ahmed, as members, had, in their review report, submitted that the status quo should prevail.