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Falana asks federal government to withdraw list of REC nominees, says it is constitutionally defective

Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana has kicked against the nomination of 14 persons for confirmation as Resident Electoral Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Recall that while Buhari has asked the senate to confirm 19 nominees as INEC RECs, some civil society organisations (CSOs) kicked against the list while claiming that some of the nominees are partisan and have “questionable character.”

Reacting to the controversy trailing the list in a statement released on Sunday September 11, Falana said Buhari is mandated to consult the council of state before submitting names of nominees, in line with the provisions of section 154(3) of the constitution.

He added that relevant security agencies need to investigate the nominees before confirmation.

Stressing that the move contradicts President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to ensure a free and fair general election next year, Falana also drew Buhari’s attention to the gender discrimination on the list. 

The statement reads; 

Since 2015, President Buhari had consulted the Council of State whenever he wanted to appoint the Chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission including Resident Electoral Commissioners in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 154(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. On each occasion, the President consulted the Council of State before submitting the names of nominees to the Senate for confirmation in line with Section 154(1) of the Constitution. But for some undisclosed reasons, the President has forwarded the nominations of 14 persons for confirmation as Resident Electoral Commissioners without any prior consultation with the Council of State.

Apart from the constitutional infraction, the list of the nominees has been challenged on the ground that some of them are card-carrying members of the ruling party. At least two other nominees are alleged to be under investigation for serious electoral malpractice. Instead of subjecting the nominees to integrity test, the Federal Government has dismissed such grave allegations with a wave of the hand.

Curiously, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed (who had been in the forefront of the campaign for electoral reforms before 2015) said last week that, “As to the nominees that are being challenged by social media warriors and by some critics, I don’t think it is the business of the President to immediately throw out a nominee based on allegations which have not been proven.”

Having repeatedly assured the Nigerian people that the Administrators will support the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible elections in 2023 we call on President Buhari to withdraw the controversial list from the Senate and ensure that the nominees are investigated by relevant security agencies. After security clearance, the President is advised to comply with section 154(3) of the Constitution by consulting the Council of State with respect to the qualification and competence of the nominees. It is after the consultation that the names of the nominees that are qualified should be presented to the Senate for confirmation.

However, in view of the opposition to the list of nominees by a number of women’s groups on ground of gender discrimination it is pertinent to draw the attention of the President to the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court on April 10, 2022, in the case of Women Empowerment and Legal Aid & Ors v Attorney-General of the Federation (Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/ 2021) wherein the Honourable Justice Donatus Okorowo ordered the federal government to comply with the 35 per cent affirmative action for women, which allows women to occupy 35 per cent of all appointments. Since the judgment is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria pursuant to section 287 of the Constitution the President should ensure that the women in the list of nominees should not be less than 35 percent.

Femi Falana SAN,
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB).
September 11, 2022.

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