ABUJA – Members of the All Progressives Congress caucus in the Senate have alleged fresh plots to prevent the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, from conducting the forthcoming general elections.
Addressing a news conference in the company of his fellow APC senators in Abuja yesterday, Senate minority leader, George Akume alleged from “a reliable source” that the Head of Service of the Federal Government, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, was set to direct Prof. Jega to proceed on his pre-retirement leave next week.
“We have received information from a very credible source that next week,  the Chairman of INEC will be given a letter from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service directing him to proceed on terminal leave”, Sen. Akume alleged.
According to him, the federal government was basing its decision on a circular from the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation dated 11th August, 2010 to place Jega on compulsory pre-retirement leave.
“Whether the letter emanates from the HOS office or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, it does not make sense. Even if we go by the terms of the civil service circular of the 11th of August, 2010, it is not applicable whatsoever to the INEC chairman.
Akume explained that the  circular, with reference number HCSF/CMO/1772/TI/11, was talking about clarifications on pre-retirement leave, which is only applicable to tenured officers who are career civil servants.
He noted that anyone who had spent 30 years in service or had attained 60 years of age is bound to disengage officially from the service which did not apply to Jega.
Akume said Jega’s offense was that he was ready to conduct the election when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled federal government was not ready.
He insisted that using the issue of card readers to discredit Jega will not work because the National Assembly appropriated money for that purpose and the sensitive items had been acquired.
“We want a credible election but  in a situation where we are being informed that because the postponement of the election attracted no reaction from the people, Jega could be removed and a person who will do the bidding of the government be planted, doesn’t hold water.
You can not start a game which is about to end, and suddenly you want to change the goal post. You don’t want a referee that is fair to all so as to subvert the whole system for sinister or personal purposes.
We will continue to say no to impunity. We will continue to say no to any attempt to undermine the credibility of the forthcoming election.
We therefore want to appeal to Nigerians to be steadfast, to keep watch so that their labour will not be in vain. If Ghana and other countries got it right,  Nigeria can also get it right.
We are opposed to the removal of Jega because it is criminal, illegal and unconstitutional. They want to remove him through the back door”, Sen. Akume continued.
Akume maintained that President Goodluck Jonathan reserved the right to remove Jega but that he could not unilaterally do so without seeking the permission of the National Assembly through a two-third majority.
He added that Jonathan does not also, have the legal powers to suspend the INEC boss under whatever guise.
According to him, “Section 157(1) clearly states that the president can only remove Jega with the vote of 2/3 majority of all senators. Under whatever guise Whether suspension, retirement or voluntary leave, he cannot be removed.
”Section 157 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),  the President cannot remove the INEC Chairman from office without getting approval of the Upper Chamber.
“Section 157 (1) of the constitution reads: “…a person holding any of the offices to which this section applies may only be removed from that office by the president acting on an address supported by two-third majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office”.
The senators reiterated their opposition to the clearance of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as minister at the senate and the deployment of soldiers for elections.
Giving further clarification on the fate of Obanikoro, Spokesperson of the group, Sen. Babafemi Ojudu, noted that the position of the opposition senators is that the ministerial nominee was not qualified to hold public office.
He said, “We are going to oppose that, and the three  senators from Lagos have written to Mark opposing that. Obanikoro is not qualified to hold public office based on his antecedent and a case which will be coming up on March 6 in Lagos.
“When  any case is in court under our rules, the senate president will use his power to ensure that it is not brought before the senate.