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 Jega’s removal: More confusion as FG remains non- commital

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PostSubject: Jega’s removal: More confusion as FG remains non- commital   2015-02-28, 05:43

The Federal Government on Friday
further compounded fears in some
quarters that the Chairman of the
Independent National Electoral
Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega,
could be sacked before the general
elections.
In an answer to enquiries on
government’s stand on allegation
that the INEC boss would soon be
asked to proceed on a terminal
leave, the Federal Government
through the Minister of Culture,
Tourism and National Orientation,
Chief Edem Duke, gave a rather
ambiguous answer.
He said the exit of Jega from the
chairmanship of the INEC would
take a natural course. Duke, who is
also the supervising Mtinister of
Information, spoke with journalists
at the headquarters of the Ministry
of Information in Abuja on Friday.
While answering a question on
whether the Federal Government
planned to send Jaga on terminal
leave before the expiration of his
tenure in June, Duke said Jega
would not be sacked as President
Goodluck Jonathan had pledged,
but added that his exit from the
electoral body would be a natural
sequence.
The minister said, “On the issue of
the INEC chairman, I align myself
with what the President said that
he has no plan to sack the INEC
chairman.
“That is not to say that if it is time
for the INEC chairman to naturally
exit his office, then the natural
course of things will not take place.
“It is like saying a civil servant has
done 35 years or achieved the age
of 60; we now begin to say that he
must not retire or he must retire. I
think all of that is in the terrain of
the Presidency and he has spoken. I
have nothing to add to that.”
Duke added, “I will also like to say
once on that issue. I recall that for
several weeks now; people keep
threatening the President on the
shift in the date of the poll. You
begin to wonder that parties have a
couple of extra weeks in order to
reinvigorate their campaigns and
try to reach as many voters as
possible. Rather than do that, you
begin to identify imaginary pockets
of unlikely developments and then
focus your attention on them and
then when you lose election, you
begin to complain.”
But members of the All
Progressives Congress in the
Senate and the Northern Elders
Forum said that they would resist
alleged plot to sack the INEC boss.
The senators had on Thursday
alleged that there was a fresh plot
by the Federal Government to
prevent Jega from superintending
over the forthcoming general
elections.
The Northern Elders Forum warned
against attempts to remove Jega
and insisted that the elections
must hold within the timeline
allowed by the law.
The APC senators, led by George
Akume, told a news conference in
Abuja that they heard from a
reliable source that the Head of
Service would direct Jega to
proceed on his pre-retirement
leave next week.
“We have received information
from a very credible source that
next week, the INEC Chairman will
be given a letter from the Office of
the Head of the Civil Service to
proceed on a terminal leave,” they
said.
The opposition senators alleged
that the Federal Government was
trying to use a circular from the
HoS dated August 11, 2010 to place
Jega on compulsory pre-retirement
leave.
They threatened to resist any
attempt by the presidency to either
suspend or remove Jega before the
March 28 presidential election.
Some of the senators, who spoke
with one of our correspondents on
the issue on Friday, said they would
employ legal and constitutional
means to ensure that Jega conducts
the next general elections.
Akume said President Goodluck
Jonathan has the right to remove
Jega, but could not unilaterally do
so without seeking the permission
of the National Assembly through a
two-third majority.
He, however, said that Jonathan
does not have the legal powers to
suspend the INEC boss under
whatever guise.
He said, “Section 157(1) clearly
states that the President can only
remove Jega with the vote of 2/3
majority of all senators. Under
whatever guise whether
suspension, retirement or
voluntary leave, he cannot be
removed.
Akume said, “ Section 157 (1) of the
1999 Constitution (as amended),
the President cannot remove the
INEC Chairman from office without
getting approval of the Upper
Chamber.
“Section 157 (1) of the constitution
reads: “…a person holding any of
the offices to which this section
applies may only be removed from
that office by the president acting
on an address supported by two-
thirds majority of the Senate
praying that he be so removed for
inability to discharge the functions
of the office.”
He said, “We will resist any attempt
by the presidency to sack jega for
any sinister reasons. We will
continue to say no to impunity and
any attempt to undermine the
credibility of the forthcoming
general elections. We would never
accept.
“We condemn what the Federal
Government is trying to do. We will
rise up and defend our democracy.
This is the Road to Golgotha, the
road to Armageddon. These people
want to destroy this country
completely and we will resist it.
“We are waiting for the president
to bring the notice before the
National Assembly and we will
decide on its legality or otherwise.”
Also Senator Ahmed Lawan, (APC
Yobe North), admitted that the
President has the constitutional
powers to remove Jega if he so
wishes but that there is a
procedure contained in the
constitution.
He said, “The National Assembly
must pass a resolution backed by
two-third majority of members
either giving accent to the request
or not. That is the only way that the
Chairman of the INEC could be
removed. The President cannot do
it alone.”
Senator Babafemi Ojudu, (APC Ekiti
Central) said, “The President cannot
suspend Jega because he has no
such powers in the constitution.
There is no law which empowers
the President to suspend anyone
who was legally appointed to
occupy a position for a period of
time.”
Ojudu said his colleagues were
raising the alarm because the
information about the plot to sack
Jega was made available to them
hence they would not ignore it.
He said, “We have met, and we are
still going to meet over the issue.
We are watching and already
considering all lawful and
constitutional options even pre-
emptive strategies to make sure
that this democracy is not
truncated through Jega’s sack”
Addressing a press conference, the
spokesman for the Northern Elders
Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said
that sacking Jega now would be a
recipe for disaster.
Abdullahi said, “With regards to
Jega’s tenure, any attempt at this
last minute by this government or
its agency to remove the INEC
chairman is a clear message that
the Presidency is determined to rig
the presidential election in which
its sees Jega as an impediment
simply because he thinks that the
commission must follow the rules
for a free and fair and credible
election.”
While lamenting that the February
elections were postponed on
“flimsy, clumsy and indefensible”
reasons, he said the electoral body
had for several months now been
consistent and emphatic on its
readiness to organise and conduct
the 2015 elections in February.
He noted that the insecurity excuse
given for the postponement of the
elections must “fail because only a
small fraction of the security
personnel in the country are
directly engaged in the fight
against insurgency within the
North-Eastern enclave of the
country.”
Abdullahi said, “Assuming that the
soldiers are needed, we need to
know that of the about 180,000
soldiers in uniform only about
20,000 are currently in the North-
East of the country.”
Meanwhile, most national and
resident electoral commissioners
have expressed their support for
Jega over his readiness to conduct
the polls.
They asked him to reject alleged
plan by the Presidency to send him
on terminal leave.
Saturday PUNCH reliably learnt that
the commissioners were disturbed
that the removal of Jega would
erode the credibility of the polls.
One of the national commissioners,
who spoke with Saturday PUNCH on
condition of anonymity, said there
was no way the results of the
elections would be fair, if the polls
were not conducted by the
commission’s current chairman.
He said, “The whole world is
watching us. Anyone who’s
thinking about sacking Jega is not
working for the interest of the
country.
“Yes, there are plans and attempts
at dividing us, but we need to
remain resolute in this task. We
should not allow anyone to put the
country into shame.”
Asked if there was division among
the ranks of the officers, he said it
was possible as witnessed during
the meetings on the
postponement of the elections.
Another national officer, who spoke
on the issue said, “We are all the
same. There is no seniority among
us. We are all national officers.”
It was learnt that not many
commissioners were happy with
the predicament of the chairman.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH
showed that those in this category
included commissioners that
supported the postponement of
the elections and some who were
against the use of card readers and
permanent voter cards for the
elections.
Jega’s term ends on June 30, 2015
but the All Progressives Congress
on Thursday alleged that the
Federal Government planned to
send him on a three-month
terminal leave starting from next
week.
The chairman, who spoke to The
PUNCH through his Chief Press
Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, had
on Thursday said he had yet to
receive any letter asking him to
proceed on terminal leave.
Also, Idowu told one of our
correspondents on Friday that the
electoral body was not prepared to
join any conversation on the
chairman’s exit.
He said the commission is
absolutely focused on preparation
for elections. “It is the last thing on
the mind of the chairman now,” he
added.
An INEC commissioner, who
confided in Saturday PUNCH,
identified, “the move to send the
chairman on leave as one of the
reasons that forced INEC to shift the
elections to March 28 and April 11.”
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