The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, has fumed over alleged plots by the Presidency to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, from office before the expiration of his tenure in June.
The plot to purportedly remove Jega from office heightened as media reports at the weekend claimed that four INEC national commissioners have been penciled down by the Presidency to take over from Mr. Jega, who might be directed to proceed on pre-retirement leave any time this week.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, on Sunday, the CNPP cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan against sacking the INEC chairman as that would amount to illegality.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Jega as chairman of INEC is neither a civil servant nor has been indicted and therefore conditionalities applicable to civil servants are not applicable to his appointment as chairman of INEC”, the group said.
It said the removal of the INEC chairman has been explicitly stated in Section 157 of the 1999 Constitution, which says “person holding any of the offices to which this section applies may only be removed from that office by the president acting on an address supported by two-third majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office….”
Reminding the president that the month of March is a notorious date in the Roman calendar, the CNPP said “Mr President should beware of Ides of March, go ahead and allow Jega to conclude the elections, unless he wants to fan the embers of some doomsayers that had predicted the disintegration of Nigeria”.
The group also reminded Mr. Jonathan of the unintended consequences of the endless transition programme initiated by former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, during which he mangled and manipulated the presidential election in 1993.
It said, “Granted that General Babangida survived the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections, it tainted irretrievably his regime and cost our dear countrymen blood, sweat and tears, this is avoidable as it definitely will be more disastrous, and may lead to bloodshed.
“Unfortunately, like in 1993, Jonathan Must Stay Campaigners typical of the defunct Association of Better Nigeria led by self-serving Senator Arthur Nzeribe are mutating and intensifying their campaigns for the elongation of Jonathan’s regime for less than altruistic motives”.
The CNPP further recalled that in 2010 when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was incapacitated, in coalition with other patriots, civil society organizations and the Save Nigeria Group, it went to Abuja streets and other major cities in the country to canvass the confirmation of Mr. Jonathan, then vice president, as acting president and eventually full president.
It said, “In gratitude, President Jonathan promised SNG delegation to implement fully the core ingredients of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee recommendations, among which is public recruitment of chairman, National and Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Elections (INEC) and burden of proof to rest with INEC.
“On assumption of office via doctrine of necessity and on the eve of the 2011 general elections, Mr. President reneged on the promise of public recruitment of the chairman and officials of the INEC and appointed Professor Jega as chairman. Jega returned him as president, with tons of praises by Chief Edwin Clark and co, same clan, who are today calling for Jega’s head. The rest they say is history”.