The on-going rumours regarding the removal of Prof Attahiru Jega will not cease soon, as a national daily has now learnt that the Federal Government have shortlisted 4 possible candidates to replace the INEC boss.
ThePunch learnt from inside sources that Jega might be asked to hand over to one of the commissioners in INEC and also proceed on a three-month terminal leave.
During the presidential media chat on February 11, President Goodluck Jonathan had reassured Nigerians that he had no plan to remove the INEC chairman from office. The president’s reassurance came at a time when speculation was rife that government had perfected plans to remove Jega.
But some stakeholders who spoke after the interview had dismissed the President’s reassurances as needless, adding that the laws of the land do not confer on the president powers to remove the INEC chairman.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the Supervising Minister of Information, Mr. Edem Duke, had also said the President had no plan to sack Jega.
“On the issue of the INEC chairman, I align myself with what the President said that he has no plan to sack the INEC chairman.
“That is not to say that if it is time for the INEC chairman to naturally exit his office, then the natural course of things will not take place.
“It is like saying a civil servant has done 35 years or achieved the age of 60; we now begin to say that he must not retire or he must retire,” Duke had said.
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Earlier, there had been reports that Prof. Femi Mimiko, brother of the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, had been pencilled in for the position. But investigations by The Punch confirmed that the former Vice Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State was no longer in contention.
Sources said the national commissioners that might take over from Jega could come from a list made up of Dr. Mohammed Wali from Sokoto State, Mrs. Amina Zakari from Jigawa State, Colonel Mohammed Kurmi Hammanga (rtd.) from Adamawa State and Dr. Ishmael Igbani from Rivers State.
It was learnt that the person that would take over would act as chairman till June 30 when the tenure of Jega would expire.
The Federal Government, it was learnt, had decided against appointing an ‘outsider’ because preparations for the elections had reached an advanced stage.
Investigations further showed that the FG had yet to decide on whether to appoint the acting chairman from the North-West, where Jega hails from or to take the post to another zone.
It was learnt that Wali and Zakari were shortlisted because they hailed from the North-West.
Igbani and Hammanga were included on the list because of the argument among some top government officials that the INEC chairmanship should not be subjected to the principle of zoning.
A top Federal Government official on Saturday,was reported to have said: “None of the commissioners have been informed because the government has not decided whether to retain the post in the North-West or take it to another zone.
“The terminal leave letter that the All Progressives Congress senators were talking about has not been written, but I cannot deny the fact that government wants Jega to proceed on terminal leave.
“Anytime the letter is written and Jega gets it, it will contain the name of the person he will hand over to.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in response to an e-mail sent to him by The Punch on Saturday said he believes that Jonathan and the PDP will remove Jega, so the new chairman can postpone elections again.
Mohammed, who is in London on an official assignment, said: “The plain truth is President Jonathan and the PDP don’t want elections at all.
“If Jega is removed, his successor will simply claim that as a new helmsman, he should be given more time to prepare for the elections. Therefore we don’t want Jega removed because we don’t want elections postponed again. There is no other ulterior motive.
“Is it not strange that President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP who appointed Prof. Jega and praised his handling of all elections since he came on board as transparent is now suddenly afraid of him and want him out by all means.”