*Insists there is no tension in the Commission
By Jide Ajani, General Editor
Festus Okoye Esq., National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared that Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, are not recognised as members of INEC.
Okoye also made it clear that he is not aware of any tension in the commission, nor between RECs and National Commissioners.
He made the disclosures yesterday on Channels Television morning programme, Sunrise Daily, in reaction to Vanguard’s lead story of Monday where it was revealed that underhand moves were being made at the Commission’s national headquarters in Abuja to ensure the participation of some politicians who neither participated in party primaries nor were defeated. The story also maintained that some RECs were not comfortable with disclosures from the election management body’s headquarters that the reports of party primaries monitored by RECs and, initially, given primacy, are being ignored.
But, while making some clarifications yesterday, Okoye insisted that the RECs were not members of INEC and, as such, could not appropriate collegiate powers in the affairs of the Commission.
Laying the foundation for his thesis, Okoye said:
“Let me just say this and say it very clearly and unequivocally, if you look at the constitution of Nigeria, which is the grund norm, the Commission is made up of the Chairman, who is the Chief Electoral Commissioner of the federation, and 12 National Commissioners. These are the ones that the Constitution refers to as the Commission.
“Now, RECs are not the Commission. The powers given to National Commissioners and the Chairman of the Commission are delegated to the RECs. In other words, RECs operate in a delegated capacity. So, if we do not delegate powers to a REC, a REC will not have powers to act.
Furthermore, when a REC is appointed, the Chairman of the Commission swears in the REC, and the REC is assigned responsibilities by the Commission. In other words, he goes to represent the Commission, which is the Chairman and the 12 National Commissioners.
“You also have Electoral Officers in the 774 LGAs of the federation. All of them carry out the intendment and carry out the functions of the Commission as represented by the Chairman and the National Commissioners”.
Pressed further that the Third Schedule, paragraph 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, says there shall be for each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a Resident Electoral Commissioner, who shall be appointed by the president…. and that this is under the same section which talks about the body, INEC, as established, Okoye maintained that “you have to begin to read from paragraph 14 where it says INEC shall comprise the following members – A Chairman, who shall be the Chief Electoral Commissioner, and 12 other members to be known as National Electoral Commissioners; and then, in paragraph 15, it says the Commission shall have powers to ….
“They are not recognised as members of the commission. In 15(h), it says that the commission shall have powers to delegate any of its powers to any REC. That’s the point I’m making. The Constitution says that the Commission shall be the Chairman and 12 National Commissioners and these Commissioners shall have powers to delegate any of its powers to a REC, so, there is no dispute.”
On whether some RECs were not happy with developments surrounding publication of names of candidates who did not emerge from primaries monitored by the RECs in the states, the National Commissioner said he is not aware of any such discontent leading to tension.
“I’m not aware that any REC is complaining.
“But I’m trying to clarify issues relating to whether the Commission is bound under any circumstance, to accept the monitoring reports that have emerged from any REC. This is because if a REC has been directed by the Commission to monitor a party primary and he has submitted a report and within the intervening period, there is a court order saying don’t accept that report emanating from the one the REC monitored, accept the report from a different primary, I’m saying that as a Commission, we have the power and the right to take that decision without reference to the REC who must have monitored that primary in question.”
He maintained that the Commission is the National Chairman and the 12 National Commissioners and, from what he knows, there is no in-fighting or tension among members of the Commission.