Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Fresh facts emerged on Monday on the factors that culminated into the Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, handing over the mantle of leadership to AVM Ahmed Mu’azu (retd), instead of the most senior National Commissioner, to act, pending the confirmation of his reappointment by the Senate.
A reliable source at the Commission told Daily Sun in confidence that though Prof Okey Ibeano, representing South East, is the most senior National Commissioner, Mahmood could not hand over to him because he is currently on his annual leave outside the country.
“In fairness to Prof Mahmood, he had invited all the remaining National Commissioners to a meeting and asked them to chose who become the acting chairman in the absence of Prof Ibeano who is currently on his annual leave outside the country.
“The Commissioners unanimously settled for AVM Mu’azu to act. There is no need for ethnic interpretation to the emergence of Mu’azu, as the acting chairman. Ordinarily, Prof Mahmood would have loved to handover to Prof Ibeano but he was unavoidably absent,” our source said.
Speaking while handing over, Prof Mahmood had noted that though he has been reappointed, handing over to a National Commissioner to act is necessary since his first tenure ended on Monday.
He emphasised that having been appointed the same time with five National Commissioners, whose tenure equally ended on Monday, AVM Mu’azu emerged as the choice of the other remaining National Commissioners, noting that he had to transmute power to him pending the confirmation of his reappointment by the Senate.
“You may recall that the current Commission was inaugurated in three batches. The Chairman and five Commissioners were sworn-in on November 9, 2015, followed by another six Commissioners on December 7, 2016, and one more Commissioner on July 21, 2018.
“The Commission is a constitutional body whose members are appointed for five years which may be renewed for a second and final term. This means that my tenure and that of the first set of five Commissioners ends today.
“As you are already aware, the renewal of my tenure as Chairman of the Commission has been announced, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Our work as election managers requires us to enforce the law, regulations and guidelines.
“In doing so, we must demonstrate strict respect for, and compliance with, the Constitution of Nigeria and subsidiary laws. Consequently, it will be inappropriate for me to remain in office beyond today, November 9, 2020, without confirmation by the Senate and swearing to another oath of office as provided by law.
“Pending the conclusion of the statutory process, the remaining National Commissioners have resolved that AVM Ahmed Mu’azu (retd) will oversee the affairs of the Commission. It is therefore my pleasure to hand over to him in the interim. We have worked as a team for the last four years. Therefore, there is nothing new to any one of them.
“I wish to express my appreciation for the support of the Commission members, the Resident Electoral Commissioners, the Secretary to the Commission, the Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Directors, members of the technical team, heads of the various security agencies deployed to INEC and all staff of the Commission nationwide. I look forward to working with you again,” he noted.
Responding after the handover, retired AVM Mu’azu, said he has accepted the responsibility reposed in him, emphasising that it didn’t come as surprise because all the National Commissioners have acted in the absence of Prof Mahmood at one point or another.
“I want to assure you that I will handle the affairs of the commission with due diligence,” Mu’azu assured.
Meanwhile, a National Commissioner and Chairman, Estate, Works and Transport Committee, representing North West, Engineer Abubakar Nahuche, has resigned his appointment on personal grounds.
The short confirmatory message by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari has already accepted his resignation and thanked him for his services to the nation.
“INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Estate, Works and Transport Committee representing North West, Engineer Abubakar Nahuche resigned his appointment on personal reasons and the President has accepted his resignation and thanked him for his services to the nation,” Okoye noted in a succinct message.
However, investigations by Daily Sun revealed that Abubakar actually resigned on health grounds.
According to our source: “He would have resigned since last year but he was prevailed upon. However, he has been having health challenges and he left because the work is telling on his health. So, he actually resigned on health grounds.”