This report will show that there is a serious challenge of not only ineptitude and incompetence but also ethnicity, nepotism and perception of alleged partisanship in the conduct of the affairs of the legal department of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The resultant consequence of this is that the Commission may be in danger of creating unintended problems for itself as the 2015 general elections approach. That is what Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, insists would not happen. This is a first in a series in the build-up to next year’s elections.
NEC AND THE JUNE 12, 1993, SAGA
The department stole the thunder and unleashed it.
Headed by a young, intelligent and vibrant man, the legal department of the then National Electoral Commission, NEC, played a very strategic, nay positive, role in the political chess game that served as a precursor to the eventual annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
The head of the department was one Bukhari Bello. Once the confusion over the continued release of the results of that election suggested that some vested interests, ably encouraged by the then military junta, were determined to scuttle the process, especially with the role the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Clement Akpamgbo, was playing, it was up to the legal department of the electoral body to either acquiesce to the egregious game plan or save the situation by seeking judicial redress. And whereas it had become all too clear that the courts in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, were under the jackboot, Bello headed to Appeal Court, Kaduna Division, to institute an appeal against the court order of Federal High Court, Abuja, stopping the continued release of the results.
By so doing, Bello sought to protect the integrity and sanctity of not just the Commission but its leadership as well as the professional capabilities of the Commission’s legal department.
Unfortunately, however, once the federal authorities at that time discovered that all indices suggested that the appeal would pass, an unsigned statement was innocuously issued from the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, annulling the election. But even with the annulment, Bello and his department proved one point: That it is possible to stay above the fray, keep your head high and maintain a decorum that is at once engaging but also protective of deep sense of value.
Today, Professor Attahiru Jega is Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
For a man of immense goodwill, goodwill hoisted on his pole of demonstrable integrity, a wealth of integrity that Jega himself guards with massive jealousy, there have been some unnerving developments at the headquarters of the Commission.
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
9tion 3 which gave original jurisdiction to determine whether the term of office of a governor or deputy governor has ceased or become vacant to the Federal High Court.
Yet the legal department of INEC was totally ignorant of this development.
Does this seeming lack of understanding of the provisions of the law a function of ignorance at the top or an inadvertent slipshod?
IN THE BEGINNING
Sometime on the 13th day of June, 2012, Jega, at a retreat for senior officers of INEC, was confronted with what looked like a mini-rebellion from the lot. The bone of contention was the report of the Senior Staff Establishments Committee’s (SSEC) review of the findings by the consultant the Commission had hired.
According to documents, Jega had explained at the retreat that “PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed as a consultant by the Commission in October 2011 and tasked with the development of recommendations on restructuring INEC”. The documents quoted the INEC boss as saying the consultant completed this task and submitted four volumes of its report between February and May, 2012, after conducting staff interviews, reviewing pertinent documents and drawing from comparative international experiences.
“The objectives of the Commission in requesting this consultancy from PwC were to create an administrative structure that would ensure a trim, effective and efficient electoral management body that would deliver better elections in 20I5 and beyond,” he added. The outcomes of this engagement were understood to be a recommendation on restructuring INEC’s operational functions, clarification of job descriptions and a proposal on a new remuneration scheme in line with market rates.
The SSEC Report is a response and commentary on the PwC report, offering an alternative ‘structure’.
That alternative structure, Sunday Vanguard gathered, became controversial to the extent that its objective analysis by Jega created a controversy of its own.
Indeed, it was at that retreat that the issue of “Accounting Officer” created a tussle between some senior staff and the Commission Chairman.
The INEC boss concluded thus:
“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 reorganization 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 sectionalization; to remove duplication of functions and responsibilities; and to make for efficient and effective service delivery of lNEC’s programmes and projects even before the Constitution and the Electoral Act are further amended”.
RESTRUCTURING THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT
It was while executing the recommendations of the consultants that a tsunami swept through INEC via the instrumentality of a ‘restructuring’ exercise.
What the Commission did was to attempt to put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. Some heads of department were redeployed while some were promoted.
The massive waves, which swept through the Commission, touched every department – including its legal department.
The strategic nature of the legal department was such that, very competent sources disclosed to Sunday Vanguard, that even some of the legal consultants the Commission uses to prosecute its cases “had expressed some form of concern about the department”.
In fact, that was the reason the searchlight was beamed specially on the department during the restructuring.
Some officers of the department were moved around.
The then acting head of department, Ibrahim K. Bawa, was also moved out of the department.
Indeed, a review by one Madaki concluded that there was need to re-energise and infuse fresh blood into the legal department – that was how Bawa was removed
However, by a stroke of fortune, after the waters of the tsunami receded, Bawa was returned to head the department.
Part of the concern of some sources at the INEC headquarters in Abuja, is that the counsel of some of the very senior lawyers who consult for the Commission may have been suffering injuries on account of how the department functions.
For Jega, whose integrity remains a driving force for the enthronement of peaceful, free and fair general elections in 2015, “he may have to look critically into what goes on in that department of the Commission”, a federal commissioner told Sunday Vanguard last week in Abuja.
“The legal department of a very strategic institution like INEC should be structured in such a manner as to guarantee a wholesome discharge of its responsibility. That was why the first wave of restructuring made a sweep of the department. But if the current trend is allowed to continue, the commission should be ready for whatever fallout from engagements on its behalf by its legal department”, another federal commissioner said.
No matter. It should be consoling to Nigerians that Jega’s integrity, which has been keeping the Commission afloat and above the fray, would play a pivotal role in redeeming the alleged discounts highlighted.