By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate President Ahmad Lawan has charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to partner with the National Assembly in reforming the country electoral system to conform with international standard to conduct credible elections.
The Senate President made the charge while considering the report of the Senate Committee on the screening of three nominees as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Commission.
According to the Senate President, “INEC and the National Assembly must work together to ensure that we continue to refine and sanitise our electoral processes, so that we are able to have the best electoral environment in Nigeria.”
Earlier in his presentation, the Chairman of the Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, said that the confirmation of appointments of the three nominees as State Resident Electoral Commissioners were made under Section 153(1)(f) of the Constitution.
Senator Gaya added that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, provides that the appointments of chairman and members of any of the bodies so established under Section 153(1)(f) shall be made by the president and the appointments shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate, he added.
Senator Gaya, however, informed that the committee received a petition from one Mr. Oyegbade Adebisi Abideen alleging that one of the nominees, Raheem Muideen Olalekan, was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).He explained that the petitioner, Olalekan was alleged to be a registered member of the APC with membership card with the number OSU-OSO-06009614 in ward 6, Otun-Jagun B, Osogbo local government area.
The former Kano State governor informed the Senate that the nominee in his response told the panel that he left politics in the year 2015 to pursue a degree programme at the University of Ibadan.
Senator Gaya said that though Olalekan denied being affiliated to any political party or being in possession of any membership card, the nominee needed to clear himself of all issues raised in the petition.
Senator Gaya also said that the committee recommended that two out of the three nominees, Dr. Alalibo Sinikem Johnson and Umar Mukhtar Gajiram be confirmed by the Senate as State Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
The Committee cited the provisions of Section 132 and 133 of the Evidence Act, 2011 (as amended), recommended that the third nominee, Raheem Olalekan, be deferred pending further legislative action since investigation is still ongoing. Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, in an attempt to sway his colleagues, appealed to the Senate to confirm Olalekan since the petitioner failed to appear before the committee to provide evidence to his claims.
On his part, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, however, objected to Omo-Agege’s position on the basis that the nominee during the screening exercise had clearly stated that he was involved in politics before 2015.
Another lawmaker, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, advised the upper chamber to adopt the recommendations of the committee.
The Senate in accordance with the recommendations of the committee unanimously adopted the recommendations and confirmed Alalibo Johnson and Mukhtar Gajiram as Resident Electoral Commissioners.The confirmation of Raheem Olalekan was differed pending the outcome of further legislative action by the committee.