In 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar replaced the Sumner Dagogo-Jack led National Electoral Commission (NEC) with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and appointed retired Justice Ephrain Omorose Ibukun Akpata as chairman. Justice Akpata conducted the 1998-1999 elections that ushered in the present democratic dispensation.
The retired Supreme Court jurist was taken out of office by death on January 8, 2000 and was succeeded by Sir Abel Guobadia. After Guobadia came Prof. Maurice Iwu in June 2005 but was removed from office in April 2010.
Prof. Attahiru Jega succeeded Prof. Iwu as chairman of INEC in June 2010 and lasted till July 2015 when he retired from service and handed over the baton to Mrs Amina Zakari in acting capacity. And, of course, Mrs Zakari surrendered the office to Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on November 9, 2015.
As the end of the statutory five-year tenure in November approached, President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded the name of Prof Yakubu for re-oppointment and or confirmation for a second term in office by the senate on October 27, 2020.
There are some who argue that the re-oppointment of Prof Yakubu has nothing to do with his performance as chairman of INEC and everything to do with his success in delivering the personal electoral agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Those who hold this view point to the presidents’ seeming penchant for keeping cronies, longtime associates and political friends in office, irrespective of their inability to satisfy Nigerians, while relieving some others of their positions against popular approval of their performance.
To support their argument, they quickly recall the appointment of most of his cabinet ministers for a second term in office though Nigerians openly clamoured for their replacement even before they ended their first term due to a wide spread belief of their less than satisfactory performance in the discharge of their mandates.
Furthermore, they recall the dropping of the president’s first term Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and his replacement with Timipre Sylva as Buhari’s lack of regard for expertise, competence and merit based on proven visible track record of performance.
Not least of all, this crop of citizens draw evidence in the presidents’ stiff-necked refusal to let go of the security chiefs in the country, not minding the deteriorating security situation and the hue and cry across the land for their retirement. It is on record that the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has taken three resolutions on the same subject matter within a space of one year, yet the president has not seen the need to accede to the people’s demand.
However, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) who went to the National Assembly to express their support for the screening and confirmation of Prof. Yakubu described his reappointment as a step in the right direction, adding that his achievements in office qualified him for a fresh mandate.
Bearing placards with inscriptions such as “All political parties in Nigeria accept Prof Yakubu’s reappointment as INEC chairman, commend Senate President and Senators for speedy screening action”, “All political parties in Nigeria say President Buhari’s reappointment of Prof Mahmood Yakubu as INEC chairman will help consolidate the ongoing reforms in INEC, especially electronic voting”, they urged the lawmakers to make haste in signing off on Prof Yakubu’s confirmation, adding that even as opposition, they were not prepared to play politics with everything.
Speaking to newsmen on behalf of the group at the NASS complex in Abuja, the National Chairman of Action Alliance, Kenneth Udeze commended Prof Yakubu for his innovation in the recently concluded Edo and Ondo governorship elections, pointing out that the electronic transmission of results from the polling units introduced by the INEC chairman was worthy of praise.
“He has done well. One thing is to have a team and another to have a good man at the head”, he said and urged the chairman to carry further the success achieved at the Edo and Ondo guber polls to the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Earlier, the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) had raised the alarm that it had uncovered a plot by two serving ministers in President Buhari’s cabinet to terminate the emergence of Prof Yakubu as INEC chairman a second time, using the courts.
According to IPAC, “a few desperate politicians, particularly those in the cabinet of the president, have conspired yet again to desecrate the temple of justice, the institution of the judiciary, like they did in the removal of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, to hijack the legislative powers of the Senate to screen and confirm the nominee.
“We have uncovered a deadly plot to procure a midnight court order to destabilize the electoral stability of the country and throw the electoral body into leadership vacuum and challenges. This plot is being secretly spearheaded by those who parade as loyalists of Mr President in the day time but wear a treacherous dress to undo the president and sabotage his agenda in pursuit of a desperate ambition to be president and governor”.
Speaking to the senators during his screening, Prof. Yakubu regretted his postponement of the 2019 general election, by one week. He said the postponement was a major unfortunate incident in his tenure from which he learnt a lot and expressed the hope that such a situation would not arise again.
The chief electoral umpire in the country also promised the senators that if given a second chance, he would do his best to deliver on reforming the commission to meet the needs of millions of Nigerians for transparent and credible elections in Nigeria.
Ofcourse, on Tuesday, December 1, the Senate in plenary gave its nod for a five-year second term in office for Prof Mahmood Yakubu as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, he was sworn into office at the Executive Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have clearly demonstrated in recent elections that elections are getting better and they will continue to get better.
“The National Assembly is holding a public hearing on the amendment of the electoral legal framework. This is important and this time around, working with the National Assembly, we’ll ensure a speedy passage of the amendment bill and once it is assented to, it will help us enormously in confronting the challenges ahead.
“The preparations for 2023 general election have proceeded in earnest. We need certainty and therefore the electoral framework is fundamental, without which we cannot formulate our regulations and guidelines”, Prof. Yakubu said after taking his oath of office.
While there are good reasons to be hopeful that the electoral fortunes of the country could get better, even under the second tenure of Prof. Yakubu, it is to be noted that his first tenure was characterized by a string of inconclusive elections, allegations and counter allegations of vote buying and sundry complaints of electoral offenses as INEC remained unable to address the situation decisively.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has pledged to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill in the first quarter of 2021 and also give legal backing to the use of the electronic card reader.
With this in place, Nigerians are high in expectation that Prof. Yakubu, the first to get a second tenure in the office of the chief electoral umpire, will have no excuses but to work to realize their electoral dreams and guarantee the country a stable democratic experience.
By: Opaka Dokubo
Sanwo-Olu Signs Anti-Open Grazing Bill Into Law
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, signed the bill to prohibit open cattle grazing and trespass of cattle on land in the state into laws.
With the law, Lagos has joined some states in southern Nigeria that have anti-open grazing laws in place.
The law is coming more than two weeks after the September 1 deadline set by the Southern Governors Forum for states.
The governor also signed the Lagos State Domestic And Sexual Violence Agency Bill, into Law.
Meanwhile, the state government has said it is committed to tackling the menace of drug abuse frontally to reduce the ravage among youths in the state.
Sanwo-Olu stated this on Monday at the Lagos House, Ikeja, during a courtesy visit by the delegates of Anglican Communion Church of Nigeria, led by the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate, Most Reverend Henry Ndukuba.
Sanwo-Olu said his government was building a massive rehabilitation hospital at Ketu-Ejirin to tackle drug abuse, adding that his administration would partner with the Church to ensure that the people lived a better life.
He said governance started from the leadership of spiritual homes, noting that government and church can jointly build a community that would outlive all, while restating the commitment to improve the movement of people on road, water as well as building rail infrastructure to make Lagos a livable city.
Speaking earlier, Ndukuba thanked the governor for partnering with the church in the welfare of the people and commended him for his outstanding performance in tackling Covid-19.
Also present at the courtesy visit were the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Tayo Ayinde, Secretary to the State Government, Folashade Jaji, Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, among other dignitaries.
Okowa Tasks NASS On True Federalism
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the National Assembly to embody in the 1999 Constitution being amended, true federalism and independence of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The governor made the call on Monday at a nationwide sensitisation on the review of the existing revenue allocation formula held at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He explained that an independent RMAFC would carry out its functions independently, including laying its proposals directly before the National Assembly for approval.
According to the governor, the current practice where recommendations of the commission are presented to the President has led to the non-review of the revenue allocation formula since 1992 as no President demonstrated the political will to forward the amendments to the parliament.
He commended RMAFC for ongoing sensitisation of the states before a zonal exercise where recommendations from the states would be received.
“For quite some time a lot of talks have gone on in the revenue allocation and it’s very unfortunate that in this country we are still operating a revenue allocation formula that was actually reviewed in 1992.
“As we look forward to a new revenue allocation formula, we hope that you come out with something that is fair, justifiable and equitable.
“But, the challenge is that when you have done all this work, you are going to eventually, by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lay this before the President and the President ought to lay it before the National Assembly.
“There is a challenge there and there has always been a challenge there, because what is there in our laws that will ensure that the President lays the recommendations of RMAFC before the National Assembly?
“We hope that the National Assembly takes a look at this amendment because RMAFC is supposed to be an independent commission, a commission on behalf of all federating units and component parts of the federation.
“They cannot tie your hands; the constitution ought to be amended to enable chairman of RMAFC to directly lay before the national assembly whatever review it has come up with so that nobody stands it down,’’ he said.
Okowa stated that the National Assembly must do what was right because “a nation is a nation.
Reps Query Presidential Committee Over Assets Seized From Past Leaders
The House of Representatives on Monday ordered the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on Landed Property to produce reports of all assets seized from former Nigerian leaders.
Members were more particular about the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, whose property and money were recovered by the Federal Government.
The chairman, ad-hoc Committee on Abandoned Property, Ademora Kuye, said the House wanted a report on all assets seized from Nigerian leaders in and out of Nigeria, particularly Abacha.
He said this when the Executive Secretary of PIC appeared before the committee in Abuja.
“We need to know the state of those property and to also know if the property have titles of deed,’’ Mr Kuye said.
The committee also queried the sale of federal government’s assets held in trust by the PIC.
Mr Kuye said the committee discovered that some of the property the PIC claimed to have sold were either not sold or were not paid for, contrary to claims made by the PIC.
He added that some of the seized houses which the PIC claimed were vacant were still being occupied.
He directed the PIC to furnish the House of Representatives committee with up-to-date reports of federal government’s assets sold, amount realised from the sales, those yet to be sold and those under litigation.
Mr Kuye also asked that the PIC must state the amount of money remitted to the federal government from the sales with evidence of remittance, adding that all assets pointed out to the committee but not included in its first report should be forwarded to the House of Representatives committee.
Responding to Mr Kuye’s submissions, the Executive Secretary, PIC, Bala Samid, stated that some of the people occupying government quarters had refused to vacate them.
He added that as soon as the occupants were approached for payment or to vacate the houses they went to court to obtain injunctions restraining the PIC.
“We approached the federal government to report them and the federal government said that we should give them time”.
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