11 May 2017

Nigeria: Finally, Senate Committee Begins Screening of 27 RECs

Abuja — Over six weeks after their nominations were not first mentioned on the floor of the Senate, the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wednesday finally commenced the screening of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The nominations were transmitted to the Senate in a letter read on March 23,2017, which was dated February 27, 2017, but the commencement of the screening processes suffered delayed, after the lawmakers suspended it for two weeks.

The suspension was to protest the president's inaction on the rejection of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, despite his rejection twice by the Senate.

The process for the RECs confirmation finally got underway Wednesday afternoon after plenary session.

The Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, formally presented the nominees to the lawmakers, and appealed for a fast track of the process.

"The states have been vacant for a long time, if this is not addressed urgently, we may have a constitutional crises on our hands," he said.

Enang assured the committee that President Buhari ensured due diligence before nominating the candidates.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, called for collaboration with the nominees if they are confirmed, to ensure the desired change in INEC.

He added that the Senate was committed to contributing towards a free, fair and credible polls that would "reflect the will of the people, and not the will of a few big men."

The nominee from Abia State, Prof. Godswill Obioma, while fielding questions from the committee members, expressed commitment to adhere to the code of conduct and ethics required of a REC.

He added that his relationship with the governor of the state where he is posted, if confirmed, would be guided by law, without any bias.

"We have to be independent of any partisan relationship, ensure equity, transparency and honesty, adhere to constitutional provisions regarding INEC and its Act," he said.

Obioma, while speaking on the introduction of the card reader in the 2015 general election, said the technology can be improved on to ensure it remains credible.

Adamawa State nominee, Mr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, suggested that the lawmakers should stay in touch with their constituents, and be transparent in their activities, as a way of redeeming its negative image in the eyes of the Nigerian public.

He was responding to a question by Senator Ali Wakili (Bauchi South) on how the National Assembly can improve its image.

"Some National Assembly members are not really visiting their constituencies the way it should be. The activities of the members should be more opened," Abdullahi said.

Senator Abdullahi Gumel (Jigawa North West) however disagreed that lawmakers do not visit their constituencies often.

"Eighty to 85 per cent of the lawmakers go to their constituencies but unfortunately the demands of people are too much because of the absence of the local government. The jobs of the local government have been taken over. Some time, they (lawmakers) have to shy away until they have alert in their pockets," he explained.

The committee screened six others and adjourned to continue today.

THISDAY however, gathered that the eight nominees for reappointment have petitions against them from the states where they serve as RECs.

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