By JIDE AJANI
A power struggle is brewing between Professor Attahiru Jega, the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and some of his National Commissioners.
At the centre of the struggle is the contention for relevance by the National Commissioners who see themselves as “mere board members” without any form of executive powers.
Then there is the allegation slammed on the face of Jega, that “there appears to be a systematic domination by people of northern extraction via appointments made by the INEC boss”.
The danger in this, as pointed out by some National Commissioners, is that this new paradigm of domination can not be unconnected with a plot to use the instrumentality of the electoral process to ensure the emergence of a northern president in 2015.
In an interview with Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to Jega, the allegation of domination was dismissed with a wave of the hand; while the other issue of power struggle was explained as “not being true”.
But information made available points to a seeming contest for power, relevance and clarification on the roles of National Commissioners, heads of departments/units and Secretary to the Commission.
Pursuant to enthroning a “paradigm shift” for effectiveness in INEC, “PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS, PwC”, according to a memo by Professor Jega, signed and dated Wednesday, June 13, 2012, “was appointed as a consultant by the Commission in October 2011 and tasked with the development of recommendations on restructuring INEC. I completed the task and submitted four volumes of its Report between February and May, 2012”.
This Report, said, forms one of the many inputs from bodies with a view to repositioning INEC – at least, that was the position canvassed by Jega.
Apart from the PWC Report, had gathered that another independent committee, Registration and Election Review Committee, RERC, chaired by Professor Adele Jinadu, was also set up and its report submitted to the Commission.
However, the Report at the centre of the brewing power tussle in INEC is the Senior Staff Establishments Committee (SSEC) Report on the PWC Report, which was submitted.
The INEC National Commissioners’ position was that they ought to exercise some executive functions and control, just as they sought to press home the point that Jega was merely a first among equals.
Jega scoofed at that suggestion, submitting that “the understanding of the Committee that all National Commissioners including the Chairman, are “Executive”, with the latter as being the Chief Executive”, is wrong and has no basis in law or in existing practice”.
”Since the establishment of INEC National Commissioners are National Commissioners, and the Chairman is Chairman and Chief Executive Commissioner, as well as the Chief Executive in law and in practice. Even more surprising is the laboured attempts to depict National Commissioners and the Chairman as equals. One wonders why drawing this awkward parallel should become a preoccupation of the SSEC”, the INEC Chairman thundered.
He added: “It will be unconstitutional for the National Commissioners to exercise any ‘management and control of any employee in the discharge of his day-to-day responsibilities in the Commission”.
The response of Jega, though hinged on a plethora of logic, legalese and common practice, is being frowned at by some of the National Commissioners.
In fact, at the recent Retreat by INEC at PROTEA HOTEL, Maryland, Lagos, last month, an air of unease was pervasive.
In Jega’s memo, titled INEC Chairman’s comments on the Senior Staff Establishments Committee (SSEC) Report on the PWC Report, the commissioners “were made to understand that there is a world of difference between what they desired and what was practicable in law”, a source at the meeting said.
Whereas the commissioners had raised the issue of executive responsibilities, Jega, in his memo, explained that there were “responsibilities very important to the discharge of the Commission’s mandate, time consuming and (enough to) justify the full-time nature of appointment of the National Commissioners”.
The INEC boss added: “If these additional responsibilities are well conceptualized and done properly, at both the strategic and policy levels, the National Commissioners would be very busy indeed, with tremendous value-added to the overall attainment of the mandate of INEC; these responsibilities, though very important, are not “executive” in nature; and challenges have arisen when the distinction is blurred and some National Commissioners see themselves as “executives” over and above the head of departments/units (and the Secretary) in the day-to-day running of the affairs of the Commission.
(There are examples where National Commissioners felt that directors and heads of unit cannot deal directly with the Chairman without going through them, or where Chairmen of Committees tried to take procurement decisions and impose them on the departments). I received reports of such complaints and perhaps in its interactions with the staff of the Commission, the PWC also received such complaints.”
‘NATIONAL COMMISSIONERS ARE NOT EXECUTIVES’
“For the avoidance of doubt”, Jega continued, “nowhere in the Constitution or the Electoral Act is it stated or implied that National Commissioners are “executives” or have “executive” duties/responsibilities. Certainly, Sections 14(1) and 15 of the Third Schedule 1999 Constitution neither explicitly state nor implied so. In other words, there is nowhere that full time Commissionership is equated to executive role.
“The essential point is, the Commission cannot be called a Board, even though some of its regular meetings at the highest level are akin to those of what is normally called a Board and the National Commissioners are not akin to “mere Board Members”, given their enormous additional roles/responsibilities. However, they have no “executive” roles as the SSEC implies in its use of the terms “management and control”.
“It is a misnomer to place the Chairman and Chief Electoral Officer on the same level of executive responsibilities or “management and control” in an Organogram with the National Commissioners. The legally defined responsibilities and job descriptions (and even remunerations!) are not the same. This is taking the notion of “first among equals” to a ridiculous extreme.”
Jega concluded his response with some recommendations.
“Arising from my review of and comments on the SSEC Report on PWC Report, I wish to recommend as follows|:
“1.At this Retreat we should not conflate the issues of restructuring and reorganisation of the administrative structure of INEC and those of making National Commissioners as Executives. If we have to do the latter at all, the best forum might be in our interactions with the members of the National Assembly as they undertake the review of the Constitution and the Electoral Act. We may then wish to ask them to make explicit provisions in the laws as to who is the Accounting Officer of INEC, whether National Commissioners are also Executives and so on.
“2.Let us then review the recommendation of the PWC, those of the SSEC and mine and see what kind of trim structure we may come up with, to reduce over departmentalization and sectionalisation, to remove duplication of functions and responsibilities, and to make for efficient and effective service delivery of INEC’s programmes and projects even before the Constitution and the Electoral Act are further amended”.
The correlation being drawn between preparations for the 2015 elections and the seeming over-concentration of people from a section of the country in INEC, is the “possibility of using the personnel to engender a systematic process that would determine a particular outcome for that year’s election”.
In a recent advertorial signed by ELECTION INTEGRITY NETWORK, and titled THE TAKE-OVER OF INEC, the group quoted a publication where it was stated that INEC’s nine-man Strategic Planning Committee is made up of seven person of northern extraction with just two people from the south, just as its committees on Logistics, Operations, Procurement, Finance and General Purpose, ICT and Political Monitoring are all allegedly chaired by northerners.
In the conversation with Idowu, yesterday, he said “some of the things being published by some people in that regard are laughable because the decisions taken at the Commission reflect a collective, hinged on consensus”.
INEC is composed of the National Chairman and 12 National Commissioners, along with Resident Electoral Commissioners in each of the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
Culled from Sunday Vanguard