Mr Tinubu nominated Etekamba Umoren as the REC from Akwa Ibom while the current REC from the state, Monday Udo-Tom, has until January 2024 before his five-year tenure expires.
President Bola Tinubu has committed a blunder by nominating Etekamba Umoren from Akwa Ibom State as a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) when the tenure of the current commissioner from the state has yet to expire.
PREMIUM TIMES investigation showed that the tenure of Monday Udo-Tom, an indigene of Akwa Ibom, and currently the Delta State REC, will expire in January.
Therefore, if Mr Umoren is sworn in as REC, having been cleared by the Senate, the oil rich state would have two of its indigenes in that position, a clear violation of the laws of the land.
Last week, the president nominated Mr Umoren alongside nine others as RECs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
PREMIUM TIMES would later find two of them, including Mr Umoren, to be members of Mr Tinubu’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), an affiliation that made their nominations and subsequent appointments illegal.
Mr Umoren also has a political link with the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, having served as chief of staff to Mr Akpabio when he was governor of Akwa Ibom.
The other person is Isah Shaka, the nominee from Edo state, who is also believed to be a card-carrying member of the ruling party.
Another two, Bunmi Omoseyindemi (Lagos) and Anugbum Onuoha (Rivers) are found to be long-term allies of prominent politicians in Mr Tinubu’s government.
The Senate confirmed all of them despite public outrage, a petition from a coalition of 17 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and a threat of legal action by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.
Meanwhile, going by the Nigerian constitution, their nominations and subsequent confirmation was illegal as the third schedule to the Nigerian 1999 constitution clearly prohibits the appointment of partisan persons into the electoral commission.
“There shall be for each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a Resident Electoral Commissioner who shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party,” section 14, 3(b) Item F, third schedule of the 1999 constitution states.
Then a blunder
Beyond this illegality, however, Mr Tinubu committed a blunder with Mr Umoren’s nomination, as the REC from Akwa Ibom, Mr Udo-Tom, has until January 2024 before his five-year tenure expires.
He was sworn into the electoral commission (INEC) on 30 January 2019, meaning his five-year tenure ends in January 2024 and that there currently needs to be a vacancy for the position Mr Umoren was appointed to fill.
The Nigerian constitution, which created the office of REC for each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), states that all REC must serve for a complete tenure of five years.
The Electoral Act also states that the REC must be appointed in accordance with section 4 of the Federal Character Commission Act, which requires the need for equitability in the appointment of public officials.
Section 1(a) of the Act states that “the functions of the Commission shall be – to work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the President, for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the civil and the public services of the duration and of the States, the armed forces, the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, bodies corporate owned by the Federal or a State Government and Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals of the Federation and States;”
Section 1(b) added that the functions include “to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;”
Meanwhile, RECs can only be removed by the president after a two-third vote in agreement from the Senate, according to the Electoral Act.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioner appointed under the Constitution may only be removed by the President, acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that the Resident Electoral Commissioner be so removed for inability to perform the functions of the office, whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause, or for misconduct,” Section 6(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 reads.
Meanwhile, INEC said its regulations prohibit any REC from serving in their states of origin. The commission, therefore, as a tradition, deployed RECs in any state in their geo-political zone other than their states of origin.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC, Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, says having two RECs from the same state of origin is not a usual practice.
“It’s not the usual practice to nominate two individuals from the same State for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners,” he said in a response to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry
The Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, which screened the REC nominees, Abdulaziz Yar’adua, did not respond to calls and messages sent to his line requesting comments on whether the committee was aware that there was no vacancy at the time it screened another REC.
The President’s spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, could not be reached for comments as his mobile phone line was not connecting and messages sent to his line were yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe