December 15, 2008

Yar’Adua may lose power to appoint INEC chairman, IG

President Umaru Yar’Adua and his successors may lose some of their executive powers going by fresh facts in the report of the presidential panel on electoral reform submitted to him last week.

The panel, which was chaired by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Uwais, recommended that Nigerian Presidents be stripped of powers to appoint the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

It also suggested a modification to the way in which the Inspector-General of Police was appointed and supervised.

Yar’Adua, while receiving the report on Thursday, promised its full implementation as part of his administration’s commitment to break with the past on the conduct of elections in the country.

The panel, in the 297-page report obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, said the existing method of appointing the INEC chairman and the IG was at the heart of Nigeria’s persistent electoral crises.

It, therefore, suggested that the power to appoint the INEC boss should be vested in the National Judicial Council so as to eliminate Executive meddlesomeness in the activities of the electoral body.

The committee believes that to safeguard the independence of the electoral commission, the NJC should be empowered to advertise and shortlist candidates for the proposed 13-member INEC.

Furthermore, the panel said Section 84 of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to read, “The election expenditure and the recurrent expenditure of INEC officers (in addition to the salaries and allowances of the chairman and other members) shall be First Charge on the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation.”

Under the constitution, the INEC chairman is appointed by the President subject to the confirmation of the Senate, while the IG is also appointed by the President based on the advice of the Nigerian Police Council.

By the new membership composition proposed by the panel, the electoral commission would comprise a chairman and deputy chairman (one of which must be a woman) nominated by the general public but shortlisted by the NJC and six commissioners representing the six geo-political zones but shortlisted by the NJC after nominations by the public.

Others are one nominee of civil society organisations working in the area of elections, one nominee of labour organisations, one nominee of the Nigerian Bar Association, one nominee of women organisations and one nominee of the media.

The report added that once appointed, no organisation shall have the power to recall its nominee.

The NJC, according to the panel, should be made to advertise the positions of the INEC chairman, his deputy and those of six other commissioners whom, it said, should come from the each of the six geo-political zones.

In detailing the nomination and appointment process of the INEC boss and other members of the commission, the committe stated as follows:

“ For the INEC chairman, vice-chairman and six commissioners representing each of the six geopolitical zones, the National Judicial Council should:

- Advertise all the positions, spelling out requisite qualifications;

- Receive applications/nominations from the general public;

- Shortlist three persons for each position; and

- Send nomination to the National Council of State to select one from the shortlist and forward the name to the Senate for clearance.

“For the nominee of civil society working in the area of elections, one nominee of labour organisations, one nominee of the NBA, one nominee of women organisations and one nominee of the media.

“Each of the professional bodies should send three nominations to the NJC which shall screen them and make appropriate recommendations to the NCS. The council of state shall further screen and recommend one name for each category to the Senate for confirmation.

“The chairman and member of the board of INEC may only be removed by the Senate on the recommendation of the NJC by two-thirds majority of the Senate, which shall include 10 members of the minority parties in the Senate,” the report added.

On IG’s appointment, the panel recommended that he or she “should be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Police Service Commission to the National Police Council, which in turn shall forward the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.

It said, “His or her removal from office should also be by two-thirds votes of the Senate after investigation establishing his or her misconduct.

“The independence of the Police Force should be guaranteed by strengthening its autonomy from control of government of the day. The security of tenure of top police officers and prevention of harassment of police officers on account of professional discharge of their duties should also be guaranteed.

“Provisions of the Police Act which vests the operational control of the Police in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are in contravention of the 1999 Constitution. They should, therefore, be amended.”

The 22-man committee had, while submitting the report to Yar’Adua, recommended the adoption of proportional representation, the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission, Political Parties Registration and Regulation Commission and Constituency Delimitation Commission, and the introduction of independent candidacy, among others.

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