Lagos — President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua yesterday announced a 22-member Electoral Reform Panel, with the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais, as Chairman.
It was in keeping with the promise made by the President to review the electoral syatem in order to ensure future elections are credible and meet international standards.
The panel will be inaugurated by President Yar'Adua next Tuesday at the Presidential Villa.
The list made available last night contains only 21 names, as that of the Christian clergy is yet to be determined.
The Special Adviser on Communications to the President, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, who released the list to State House Correspondents, however, stated that the President took a while to announce the names of those that would make up the panel because he was looking for "non-partisan men and women of integrity; those who have their honour at stake in the process to ensure credible elections. He was looking at those Nigerians would be proud of and command the respect of the international community."
Adeniyi explained that the list did not contain any member of a political party because "the problem that necessitated the composition of the panel was caused by the political parties and their members."
The Presidential spokesperson said the members were to "review the whole electoral process and proffer solutions. And if the constitution has to be amended to make our electoral process right, they would recommend.
"They are expected to recommend measures to make the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) really independent, not just in words but in deed."
Uwais is the chairman while members of the panel include Justice Godwin Ononiba, Alhaji Ahmadu Kurfi, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Professor Attahiru Jega and Professor Grace Alele-Williams.
Others include Chief (Mrs.) Toyin Olakunrin, Mr. Jibril Ibrahim, Professor Okon Uya, Professor Gambo Balaraba Abdullahi, Mr. Ndanusa Alao, Comrade John Odah; Hajiya Dije Bala, Major-General Oladapo Popoola.
The rest are Barrister Festus Okoye, Alhaji Aliyu Umar, Mr. Abdurahim Ujo and Barrister Steven Dike.
Muhammed Lawal Uwais
Uwais was a former Chief Justice of the Federation. Under his tenure, he tried to instill discipline into the the corp of Justices engaged in the dispensation of justice in the country as the chairman of the National Judicial Council. He retired last year following which Justice Modibbo Alfa Belgore took over from him.
Justice Godwin U. Ononiba
A distinguished legal luminary, Ononiba was Chief Judge Emeritus of Anambra State. He hails from the state.
Kurfi was a former Secretary of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). Kurfi's commission with Chief Michael Ani as chairman conducted the 1979 election. Kurfi later wrote a book on the 1979 elections and his experience in the conduct of that election.
Smith was former Inspector-General of Police. He was said to be very diligent but slow. It was under him that junior officers of the police went on strike for the first time. Smith from Lagos State was succeeded as IG by Mr. Tafa Balogun, whose tenure was rocked by large scale corruption.
Agbakoba is at present President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). A constitutional lawyer of no mean repute, Agbakoba was one time Executive Director of Civil Liberties Organsation (CLO).
Former External Affairs Minister under erstwhile military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, Akinyemi was also a former university don. He is at present chairman of the National Think Thank, a group of Nigerian professionals working to bring about a new Nigeria.
Sheikh Ahmed Lemu
Lemu, an Islamic scholar, is the Grand Khadi of Niger State. Through his teachings, Lemu is a torn in the flesh of many governments in the country.
Jega, a fiery university don, was a very though unionist and president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the eighties. He is at present the vice chancellor of Bayero University Kano (BUK).
Grace Alele Williams
A disciplinarian, Alele-Williams was a no nonsense former vice chancellor of the University of Benin. She was also a member of the National Political Conference Commission in Abuja.
A chartered accountant, Olakunrin was the immediate past president of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). She is also the Chairman of the Education Trust Fund (ETF).
Dr. Jibril Ibrahim
He holds a Ph.D in Political Science. He is the Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja, a non-governmental organisation founded by Dr. Kayode Fayemi who contested for governorship in Ekiti State on the platform of Action Congress (AC).
Prof. Okon Uya
A Professor of History, Uya was a former ambassador and a former chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). He was brought in by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida to conduct a fresh election in the wake of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.
Prof. Gambo Laraba Abdullahi
Abdullahi is former Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja.
Alao is the Managing Director of New Nigeria Newspaper based in Kaduna. An experienced media manager, Alao has participated in various electoral reform conferences.
Comrade John E. Odah
Odah is a present the General Secretary of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). An experienced Labour activist, he has attended several national and international labour conferences. He is an orator and an authority in Labour matters.
Hajiya Dije Bala
A civil society activist, Bala is the Director of Community Participation for Action in Social Sector.
Major-General Oladapo Popoola
Former Commander of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), Popoola was former Military Administrator of the Old Oyo State and Ogun State. He also served as a member of the Military Provisional Ruling Council and one time GOC , 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu.
Mr. Festus Okoye.
A lawyer Okoye was Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the local monitoring group that has been monitoring elections in Nigeria since 1993.
Alhaji Aliyu Umar
Umar was Secretary of defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) He is from Niger State.
Mr. Abdurahim Ujo
Ujo is the Director of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Abuja.
Barrister Steven Dike
Dike is a Process Review Expert.