2023 polls: Anxiety in INEC over shortage of commissioners
• South-South without representation
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is troubled by the depletion of its national commissioners as the 2023 elections approach.
There are six vacancies waiting to be filled, The Nation gathered yesterday.
The commission is supposed to have a 13-man management team, but only seven including Chairman Mahmood Yakubu are currently in place.
The six national commissioners helping Yakubu to run the electoral body for now are Mr. Festus Okoye (South-East); Dr. Bala Bila (North-East); Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru (North-West); Prof. Sani Adam (North-Central); Prof. Muhammad Kalla (North-West) and Prof. Kunle Ajayi (South-West).
The Souh-South has no representation on the management board.
Sources also told The Nation that some of the immediate past national commissioners are lobbying to return to INEC.
The electoral commission is waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari to fill the vacancies in the 13-man team.
Although the seven-man team can hold a meeting, the non-representation of the South-South may raise legal issues on vital decisions.
It was gathered that there were concerns in INEC that the Presidency was “slow in appointing new national commissioners.”
A top source said: “INEC has already entered into the calendar of its next election year with the announcement of February 18, 2023 as poll commencement date by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on April 28, 2021.
“With seven commissioners, the commission will form a quorum and operate, but it should not be dragged into legal issues on some of its decisions.
“For instance, the management is not properly constituted without a representative from the South-South.
“A little slip in the Electoral Management Board will draw it back. For instance, if any of the present seven national commissioners is unavailable, no meeting can hold.
“The activities of INEC are also partially crippled because the organisation has about 16 standing committees which cannot function to optimal level.
“We are entering into 2022, which is critical to the next general election, without key committees in operation. This is really challenging for the INEC chairman and his team.”
The source said the Presidency can avert any major crisis by filling the vacant positions, which it had known about in the last few months.
“This is necessary because with the exception of Yakubu and Okoye, most of the national commissioners now are greenhorns in electoral management.
“The earlier all the appointments are made the better, so that INEC can put these new members through the challenges ahead.”
Another source in INEC said: “The commission has notified the Presidency of the vacancies. We believe the authorities are aware. We believe they are doing something about it.”
A source in government said: “Action is being taken because some of the national commissioners just completed their tenure on December 6
“This is a sensitive agency. The government must do its homework to ensure that Nigerians with integrity are appointed into INEC.
“I think there is no cause for alarm in the light of Section 159 of the 1999 Constitution on INEC and 12 other agencies.
The section says: “The quorum for a meeting of any of the bodies established by Section 153 of this Constitution shall be not less than one-third of the total number of members of that body at the date of the meeting.”
Those who just completed their tenure are Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, Mallam Mohammed Kudu Haruna, Mrs May Agbamuche Mbu and Air Vice-Marshal Ahmed Tijani Muazu (rtd).
It was learnt that some of the former national commissioners were lobbying to return.
“Some of them are constitutionally entitled to second term in office. So, no one can rule out the ongoing lobbying.”
The INEC chairman had on April 28, 2021 said: “By the principle established by the Commission, the 2023 General Election will hold on Saturday 18th February 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today.
“We hope to release the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Election immediately after the Anambra governorship election scheduled to hold on 6th November, 2021.”