2015 general elections appear to be under threat as some senior officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, vested with the responsibility of planning and implementing the vote, are enmeshed in a dispute with the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
The affected staff, who had taken their promotion examination since May 2012 and had been expecting their promotion letters having passed the test, are angry that the Commission has not only withheld the result but has also gone ahead to use extraneous criteria to promote selected staff from some states in the country.
The action has given rise to the fear that some staff are systematically being positioned to give a section of the country undue advantage in the 2015 presidential election.
"The structure of the place (INEC) remains skewed, biased and worrisome as we approach 2015. Promotion has been swayed more by regional control of the place to the extent that the criteria are not certain. Recently, at a meeting, a suggestion was put forward for what was termed 'special promotion' without giving details of what constitutes special promotion and if there is any promotion in the civil service called by such name. It all turned out to be more people from a section of the country who would be promoted.
It is still in the cooler because it could not be defended but the move may come under a new strategy", a source said.
Findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that apart from scoring a minimum of 60 percent in the May 2012 promotion exam, INEC also considered state quota in promoting most of the 669 senior staff who took the exam and were recommended for promotion.
Trouble started when some of the affected staff awaiting their promotion letters got to know that they had been stagnated because of what INEC described as "lack of vacancies in the affected employees' states".
On the promotion list, which Sunday Vanguard sighted, last night, some staff who scored 60 percent in the examination were recommended for elevation while others who scored 67 percent were stagnated because there were "no vacancies" in their states.
Some of the aggrieved workers have, however, dismissed the claim of lack of vacancies as an afterthought by the electoral body's authorities to deny them career advancement since the issue was not a criterion before the examination was set.
Their grouse is that Jega invented a 'strange rule' to promote people in some states to the detriment of those from other states who passed the examination in flying colours.
The breakdown in some states shows that the staff from many states were denied promotion because of their number. For instance, of the 15 senior staff from Abia State recommended for elevation, only three were denied due to lack of vacancies.
Only eight of the 30 staff of Akwa Ibom origin in INEC,who were successful in the exam, were promoted due to the fact that the state has had it's fair share in the Commission.
Similarly, in Anambra, only nine persons out of 25 who passed the test were promoted. The situation was the same in Imo, where only seven out of 37 were lifted to their new ranks while six were elevated out of 17 who made it in Benue.
But some states were lucky. Lagos got 12 out of 12, Delta got all its 11 workers lifted, Zamfara, all four, Yobe, all eight, Sokoto got all seven recommended, Ekiti, nine, Nasarawa, all seven, Gombe seven, and Taraba, all 12. Bayelsa, Ondo, Enugu and Kebbi got close to getting all that was recommended for promotion in those states.
Only one out of the nine recommended for elevation in Bayelsa did not get it just as two out of 13 in Jigawa lost out. "0ur worry is that the chairman is inventing a segregative measures to favour those he likes and stagnate the others from certain states in the country", one of the aggrieved INEC staff said.
This strange tactic is unknown to the civil service rules, which emphasise the promotion of staff based on performance at the promotion examination and not on state of origin.
"Let it be known that this policy is an afterthought since it was not made before the promotion examination. It, therefore, amounts to shifting the goalpost after the game had been concluded. "It is on record that the welfare policy of the Jega administration in INEC is at zero level. His lot has been unfulfilled promises and this has led to an all-time low morale of staff across the country.
The staff are feeling betrayed and deceived since Jega has only two years to the end of his tenure in INEC." The aggrieved staff also accused the administration of using consultants to undertake jobs, which could be handled by staff at exorbitant costs, thereby depleting the resources of the Commission.
The workers said the recent recruitment of 1,500 workers by the electoral body did not follow due process, leading to the querying of the process by the National Assembly. The workers accused Jega of smuggling the new staff into INEC with the active connivance of a national commissioner and a level 13 officer.
But the Commission's Chairman dismissed all the allegations as baseless and a figment of the imagination of those bent on discrediting INEC and its objective management policies. Jega, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, stated that, contrary to the allegation of favouritism levelled against him, he did his best to ensure that those who passed the examination were promoted based on available vacancies and taking into cognisance the Federal Character principle.
On the recruitment of the new staff, he said it was done openly and in accordance with the rules. "It was because the recruitment followed due process that the National Assembly did not invite INEC to answer questions when some other agencies of the government were summoned last week," Idowu explained.
The spokesman also defended the use of consultants by the Commission to create Asset Register, saying that nine existed before the appointment of the Jega-led administration. "Look, let me tell you that all these allegations are often fuelled by people who do not want things done the right way. Prof Jega is determined to change the ways things were done shoddily and move the Commission forward for the best interest of the nation," the spokesman stated.