Independent National Electoral Commission May Be Facing Serious Issues Of Property Grab As Terminal Date Of The Incumbent Nears With Lobby For Extension
Patrick Osadebamwem, Abuja
As the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prepares to wind up its five-year tenure ending this month, some of its commissioners have allegedly engaged in a last-minute move to mop up public assets and converting same for private use.
The Union can authoritatively report that whilst the Federal Government monetization policy is still operational, some national commissioners of the commission have devised a means to ensure private ownership of homes built for INEC staff in the Guzape District of Abuja as parting gifts. This is even as intense lobby has mounted for tenure renewal for top INEC officials, whose tenure would elapse by end of the month.
Information available to The UNION indicates that INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who had publicly stated that he woouldn’t seek a tenure extension, might have been nudged into the extension scheme by commissioners. It was further learnt that some political influence wielders from the northern part of the country, might have joined in the lobby. The lobbyists, it was gathered, are also dropping card readers and PVCs as bait, arguing that a change of guard at this time, might negatively affect future election as the card readers may be jettisoned.
As at press time, it was yet to be known if the lobbyists are pulling through though Jega is said to be insistent on not seeking a tenure renewal. Meanwhile, the INEC chairman’s body language, The UNION was told, may have caused the panic grab of available property by commissioners who, it was alleged, fear that his refusal to go for a tenure renewal would mean an end to their offices.
To this end, it was learnt that the commission had accelerated completion of its estate in the Guzape district of Abuja with the aim of allocating them to the officials for the purposes of private ownership through curious sales. The Federal Government had in 2005 enunciated the monetization policy to reduce the cost of governance and check abuses and corruption in a system where officials of government would collect money for accommodation and yet live on the facility provided by government.
Deputy Director Publicity and Voters Education for INEC, Mr. Nick Dazang, told The Union that he was not aware of any such move but admitted that work was at advanced completion stage at the estate as at the last time he visited it. Responding to a question that construction was accelerated for pecuniary reason, Dazang said: “I do not know about the last one you are talking about.
I do not have the details; I know that I have been there at a point at which those houses were nearing completion. I have been there; I do not have the details as to who is occupying which flat”. He further stated that: “It is within the purview of the estate and works director” to speak on the matter. On the justification for the last-minute foreign trips by top echelon of the commission, Dazang said that the essence was to share experience and better the Nigerian electoral process from the development so far.
He stressed that the visit of the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and other commissioners to Mexico was based on the invitation of the Mexican government to observe the elections adding that the experience sharing would better the country’s electoral process. He pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Jamaica, are holding elections soon and some INEC commissioners, under the Electoral Management Board, are participating in the process so as “to connect to innovations in these countries for possible implementation in future elections. “The Mexican government invited the chairman and some members of the commission to observe elections in that country.
They also invited them to share experiences, you would recall we just finished our own election in Nigeria. “I can tell you right away that just like when we conducted the 2015 general elections a number of observation groups were accredited for that elections, so election management bodies across the world came around to observe the elections and so that happens with a view to looking at innovations to be put in place by Election Management Bodies EMB.
“You can factor some of those features that would improve your own elections for example I can tell you that the PVC and the Smart Card Readers (SCR) that we used are innovations that were used in other countries before. For example Ghana also used the SCR in its last elections. So when you observe elections you take away the benefits of the lessons you have learnt from the observation experience to implement in your own country so that you can improve the process”, he stated.