From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) says it has delivered a petition alleging that an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nominee from Bayelsa State, Prof Rhoda Gumus, ‘is a card-carrying member of the All progressives Congress (APC).’
HURIWA, in a petition dated January 26, 2022, and signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, said Prof Gumus nomination was in breach of the 1999 constitution as amended and the Electoral Act.
The rights group enjoined the leadership of the National Assembly to outrightly reject Gumus nomination in the interest of the country.
The rights group warned the National Assembly to guard against the confirmation of Gumus so as not to set the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing the country’s democratic process.
HURIWA said: ‘We have uncovered material evidence (copies attached) revealing that Prof. Rhoda H. Gumus; INEC National Commissioner nominee for Bayelsa State, South South is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and by confirming her as a National Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), tasked with the mandate to conduct elections in Nigeria wherein the All Progressives Congress will participate.
‘Sir, research and experience has shown that one of the factors that have compromised the credibility of elections in Nigeria is said to be the lack of structural independence of INEC. This was one of the main issues taken up by the Electoral Reform Committee in 2007.
‘You would recall that among the recommendations that the Committee made was the necessity for guaranteeing the independence of INEC, both through the way that the Commission is funded and through the appointment process for its members.
‘Beyond this, Prof. Gumus’ confirmation by this 9th Senate will be a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Constitution specifically declares that appointees to the electoral body must be non-partisan and also not a card-carrying member of any political party.
‘Specifically, Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended states that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
‘And Section 14(3b) of the same Schedule states that “there shall be for each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, a Resident Electoral Commissioner who shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.” This, however, directly applies to members appointed as Resident Electoral Commissioners.
‘While preceding paragraphs empowers the president to make appointments and the Senate to make confirmations, 3b, demands that the integrity of an appointee must not be in question.
‘Moreso, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that: “No person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or Poll Clerk.”
‘The interpretation of these Sections of the law raises questions as to whether it was considered before the nomination of Prof Gumu was made. As a card carrying member of the ruling party or any other party for that matter, Prof Rhoda H Gumus is unfit for the position she is nominated for, a role reserved for an unbiased umpire.
‘Hence, confirming the nomination of Rhoda Gumus as a National Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission would constitute a direct violence against the relevant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the independency of INEC, the Senate is hereby called upon to reject this nomination.
‘Let it be on record that we are neither in any way against the person of Prof. Rhoda Gumus nor questioning her integrity. Rather our concern is for the Senate to ensure that any such appointment capable of derogating from the impartiality of INEC is never made. As such, the senate should see it as a concern that when constituting an umpire for elections, anything that can diminish public confidence in INEC must be avoided.
‘Consequently, the Senate, if it’s really made up of democrats, is called upon to reject this nomination or we will be left with no other option but to rally Nigerians to pour out on the streets to protest this brazen illegality to demolish constitutional democracy through insider political compromises.
‘Additionally, we are calling on the Nigerian Senate to investigate all of the other nominations by the President especially as there are concerns that some of these nominations may have been by self-serving interests.
‘We insist that it is never late to deal with any electoral commissioner who presents a likelihood of bias as it is important for Nigeria that the composition of INEC is transparently non-partisan and independent of partisan political manipulation.’