The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has implored President Muhammadu Buhari to use his “leadership position to urgently withdraw the names of nominees recently submitted to the Senate for confirmation as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission who are allegedly members of the All Progressives Congress.”
Recall that Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter dated July 25, sent the names of 19 RECs to the Senate for confirmation.
According to SERAP, at least four of the 19 nominees allegedly either belonged to a political party or had been previously indicted for corruption.
In a letter dated September 3, 2022, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “the combined effect of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act and international standards is the requirement that elections must be organised by a truly independent and impartial electoral body.”
SERAP said, “Withdrawing the names of those nominees who are allegedly members of the APC, and replacing them with people of unquestionable integrity and competence, and who are not members of any political party would improve the independence of INEC and promote public confidence in the appointment process.”
According to SERAP, the Buhari-led government has a legal responsibility to promote and guarantee the integrity, credibility, and independence of INEC, and to ensure that the electoral body is free from political and other interferences.
The letter, read in part: “As its name suggests, INEC is expected to maintain independence or absolute neutrality. INEC must not only be independent and impartial, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.”
“Promoting the independence of INEC, including by appointing people of unquestionable integrity and competence, and who are not members of any political party as RECs would be entirely be consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and your oft-stated promise to ensure free and fair elections in 2023.”
“INEC ought to be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”
“This means that anyone nominated for appointment as RECs should be persons of integrity and high standing, and should be independent and impartial, so that INEC can enjoy the public trust and confidence necessary for it to effectively and satisfactorily carry out its constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”
“The mere fact that INEC has ‘independent’ in its name does not in itself make it independent. What makes an institution truly independent are its attributes and characteristics, and the credibility and transparency of the appointment process.”
“Public perception of the independence of INEC is also essential for building public confidence in the electoral process. Where Nigerians have doubts about the independence of INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process, thereby undermining democracy.”
“The will of the people is expressed through democratic elections. This requires that elections must be free, fair, legitimate and credible. However, the credibility and legitimacy of elections depend in part on the integrity and competence of the body conducting the process, and the transparency of the appointment process for RECs.”
“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to withdraw the names of those nominated for confirmation as RECs, and who are allegedly members of the APC.”
“We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“Section 156(1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (amended) provides that any member of INEC ‘shall not be a member of a political party.’”
“According to Item F, paragraph 14(3)(b) of the Third Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution, ‘a Resident Electoral Commissioner shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.’”
“Section 6(4) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that the appointment of anyone as member of INEC shall be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, including this provision.”
“Similarly, article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights both of which Nigeria is a state party provide that the will of the people should be the basis of the authority of government.”
“Furthermore, the African Union African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which Nigeria has also ratified requires States Parties to establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies including INEC responsible for the management of elections.”
“The United Nation Human Rights Committee, established to oversee the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has ruled that states should establish independent electoral authorities to supervise the electoral process and to ensure that elections are conducted fairly, impartially and in accordance with established laws that are compatible with the covenant.”