Although Hajia Amina spoke of left-over funds which the commission has already started with, it is imperative that funds required for the elections are released in full and in time to facilitate preparations.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is now very busy getting ready for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections to be held on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively. The two elections will form the first major elections to be conducted by INEC under the leadership of Hajia Amina Bala Zakari, as acting chairman of the Commission. This is significant because it is going to earn for her a place in the Nigerian political history books as the first woman to head this important institution. Her appointment, despite some reservations expressed based on her extended family relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, has been seen more as a vote in support of the campaign to have more women in positions of responsibility at all levels of governance in the country.
As the first woman to be asked to do this job, Hajia Amina comes in with the extra burden of expectations from the public. All eyes are certainly going to be on her during those elections and she is expected to acquit herself creditably to earn respect first for herself and then for the women folk that she represents. The success of the elections will be a vindication of the decision to appoint a woman to that position.
Since assumption of duties, Hajia Amina has not left Nigerians in doubt that she is prepared for the job. She has used every opportunity she has had to assure Nigerians that INEC under her leadership would not disappoint them. Resident Electoral Commissioners in the two states, according to her, are already busy working while the INEC headquarters is also sorting out logistical issues towards a hitch free polling in November and December.
Unfortunately, while the management of the Commission is laying the foundation for free and fair elections, it is at the same time crippled by the delay in the appointment of national commissioners who constitute the major governing body of the commission. As at today, there are only two national commissioners out of 12 specified by the law establishing the commission. This has made regular meeting of the commission’s highest policy making organ impossible due to lack of quorum. This situation, at a time that the commission is preparing for two important elections, is undesirable and unacceptable. It must, therefore, be rectified without delay.
The laws governing these appointments demand that the appointees are screened and their appointments confirmed by the Senate before they can take their seats at the commission. This means that there is little time left for this process to be completed before the Kogi elections in November. It is, therefore, important that the process is started without delay. President Buhari must act fast on this issue as a way of helping the INEC’s new management led by Hajia Amina to succeed.
Given the crucial role of the national commissioners of INEC as highest governing body, a situation whereby the replacement of most of the commissioners whose appointments had lapsed is delayed unnecessarily is harmful to the job of the commission. The situation should not have been allowed in the first place. But now that it has occurred, urgent steps should be taken to rectify it before the commencement of the elections. Even though it is bad enough that a whole 10 of them would be new on the job at the time of these elections, it is good that they are there before the election to help in taking some of the crucial decisions that would obviously arise. President Buhari whose duty it is to make such appointments should do so immediately. The National Assembly should complement that effort by treating the confirmation of the appointees with dispatch when the request is received.
Full complement of INEC’s national commissioners, as crucial as it may be, is one aspect of the several important issues to be addressed by the Federal Government before the elections and for them to hitch free also. Another is funding. The commission has not received the funds needed for the prezparations for the elections so far. Although Hajia Amina spoke of left-over funds which the commission has already started with, it is imperative that funds required for the elections are released in full and in time to facilitate preparations. Late release of funds in the past had very disastrous consequences on the outcome of elections. Late printing and delivery of electoral materials, late commencement of voting in far flung states and its attendant problems of irregularities which ultimately affected the credibility of the entire electoral process are usually a fall-out of delayed release of funds to the Commission. This must also receive urgent presidential attention.