By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Barely a month to the August 9th governorship election in Osun state, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Rufus Akeju, over his alleged sympathy for one of the candidates at the poll.
INEC’s Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Nick Dazang, who made the disclosure said the Kogi REC, Segun Agbaje, has been redeployed to take over from Akeju to conduct the oncoming governorship election.
Speaking to this reporter, Dazang, said “in one of the INEC’s meeting with stakeholders in the state before the governorship elections, they accused the REC of partisanship on favour of one of the parties in the election, which can affect the outcome of the elections.
“So the Commission met and decided that the REC should proceed on leave, to enable another person to handle the election. Because whichever way the result of the election goes, it is going to affect it.”
Recall that there were media reports last week that Akeju had been redeployed, but the Commission refuted it, insisting that the commission was not aware of any redeployment.
Controversies and allegations of partisanship had trailed the INEC’s commissioner, including a court appeal order for his removal over partisanship claims against him by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
To this end, Federal High Court in Osogbo court on March 23, 2014 presided by Hon. Justice Babs Kuewumi gave an interlocutory order of injunction restraining INEC from recognising the REC pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Summons in the suit.
But INEC’s lawyers filed an appeal for a stay of execution of the interlocutory order appeal at the Court of Appeal in Akure, which is yet to be determined.
The INEC boss also confirmed that the removal was formally approved on Tuesday after INEC’s executive meeting in Abuja.
He further noted that it was clear that the Osun State REC would be removed following the barrage of petitions and protests against his continued stay as REC by some stakeholders of the election as well as a court ruling ordering his removal.
He added that at a stakeholders meeting last Feburary in Osogbo, there were vehement protests, even in the presence of the chairman, with documented evidences confirming Akeju’s partisanship.
He also recalled at an interface with Editors in March this year, Akeju’s credibility to conduct the election against the background of allegations was questioned.
“Since then nothing has been done, but an executive meeting to that effect on Tuesday, eventually saw to the ratification of his removal. I called and it was confirmed that the man had been removed as REC of Osun State”, Dazang further said.
Meanwhile, he said the suspended REC has not been given any state to manage since he is on compulsory annual leave.
This is even as he said the REC has not been sacked but suspended, adding that he may be called to return to Osun state after the August 9 governorship election in the state.