Northern Elders’ Council Question APC's Stand On Jega
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, an elder statesman and chairman of the Northern Elders’ Council (NEC) has expressed concern over the All Progressives Congress (APC)'s insistence that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, must remain in office and conduct the elections.
Yakassai, who spoke in an interview with Nigerian Pilot on Monday, told the opposition to distance itself from Prof Jega, saying that the APC's joining in the clamour for the INEC chairman to remain in office is suspicious.
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The elder statesman said the insistence of the APC showed that the party has vested interests in Prof Jega as regards the forthcoming general elections.
He said for the country’s major opposition party to show concern and defend the INEC chairman on all fronts, was not good for him, the country and the current electoral process, because Jega is an umpire hence it is wrong for any party to indicate special preference for him.
“If I were the opposition, I will not indulge myself in this kind of thing because it will indicate as if there is some proximity between the APC and the INEC Chairman. The way they are talking about it has shown they have some concerns. Jega is an umpire; therefore, no side should indicate special preference for him. It’s safer for him and for everybody. For them (APC) to engage on a campaign in his defence would appear to the ordinary man as if they have a vested interest in his remaining in office. They shouldn’t have done this. They are not helping him. Jega’s tenure in office is about to end and it is up to Mr. President to re-nominate him or not. I’m neither here nor there since I have no power to do anything about it. The President cannot dismiss him like that. This people would have read the Constitution, the method of removing any chairman of any executive body like INEC, Civil Service Commission. These are bodies created by the Constitution and to remove the chairman or any member, you need to submit a complaint to the Senate by allegation of say misconduct and the Senate would investigate and it will require two-thirds majority of the members before he can be removed even if he is found guilty. So there is a process for removing him,” Yakassai said.
When asked his opinion on pre-retirement leave for Jega, the NEC chairman said he did not know, explaining that he has never worked in the civil service before, hence cannot say whether it is optional for someone to go on pre-retirement leave or not.
When asked if he would advise President Goodluck Jonathan to yield to the pressure from the opposition and allow Jega to conduct the polls, Yakassai said: “I will not advise anybody on hearsay. Offering my piece of advice is tantamount to believing hearsay.”
Similarly, in separate interviews with Nigerian Pilot, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeifea, former governor of Old Anambra state; Bishop Abraham Chris Udeh, General Overseer of Mount Zion Global Faith Liberation Ministries in Nnewi, Anambra state; and Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, have all condemned the campaign by the APC against any move to sack the INEC chairman.
Ezeife, Udeh and Umeabalasi requested that Jega should honourably take a bow from office or be removed from office by President Jonathan for his alleged unholy romance with the APC.
They told Jonathan to treat Jega as he did the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and former president of the appeal court, Justice Ayo Salami, if Jega fails to embark on his pre-retirement leave.
According to Ezeife and Umeagbalasi, if they were in the president’s shoes, Prof Jega would have embarked on his terminal leave by now.
“Prof Jega should proceed immediately; if I were the President, there is no need of asking. I am not the President but if I am the President of Nigeria, Prof Jega should have started his terminal leave immediately. Why should anybody query my decision on that when I have the right to hire him, then I do not have the right to fire him? This is not even firing but going on terminal leave because I do not want him to continue in office. But that is the prerogative of President Jonathan and nobody else’s,” Ezeife said.
Umeagbalasi asserted that civil service or public service procedures should not be the subject of noise-making by those who do not know the rules and regulations, adding that section 153 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the president the power to hire and fire, and that those making noise and threatening fire and brimstone are empty drums.
“The truth is that rules are criticised when they do not favour certain sections of the country. This section, with media exposure, embarks on campaign of calumny, false alarm, media propaganda to actualise its desire which is to intimidate the President, but I am happy that despite the human face President Jonathan applies to his administration, he knows what is right for the country and is doing his best in that direction. The truth is that if I am the President of Nigeria, I will ask Prof. Jega to immediately embark on his terminal leave without apologies because those panicking over a constitutional matter have shown suspicion and that there is an unholy alliance with the APC and INEC Chairman, in collaboration with a section of the Civil Society Organisations, CSOs to undermine the office of the President,” he said.
Speaking further, Umeagbalasi said the APC and CSOs, the media and lawyers on their payroll made such noise to undermine the military in carrying out its constitutional roles, engaging in blackmail and media propaganda as well as court actions to derail the military but they also failed.
“There are rules guiding civil service and public service, the same rule applies to Prof. Jega of INEC as applicable to the CBN when Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was asked to proceed on terminal leave. President Jonathan has the sole power to ask Jega to proceed on terminal leave or to continue and once he takes a decision for or against, nothing would happen, even if APC and its cronies in the media and the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA shout from today till thy kingdom come,” he said.
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Umeagbalasi further stated that if the same rule could be applied to the former CBN governor, it should also apply to the INEC as well as other offices, because the president has the right to appoint and dismiss.
He insisted that the APC and their noisemakers are only trying to bend the rules because of their unholy alliance with Prof Jega, which he said he regarded as noise making because the entire thing is at the discretion of President Jonathan.
“The noise is to undermine the President, intimidate his office and cow his towering personality. I ask again, is Prof Jega’s office different from that of Prof. Maurice Iwu, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Ayo Salami, then President of the Court of Appeal? Why would Jega’s case be different? The present noise could continue but whatever decision President Jonathan takes stands on the issue of Jega and there is nothing anybody can do about that,” Umeagbalasi said.
Meanwhile, the Tanko Yakassai-led Northern Elders Council had earlier posited that no one could sack Jega apart from the National Assembly.
Recall that Yakassai, leader of the Northern Elders Council, had earlier said it is too late for Northern leaders to oppose President Goodluck Jonathan, saying those who argue against the current presidency are, to Yakassai, mere “noisemakers” incapable of actual action.
But the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has warned the presidency to discard any plot to remove Jega before the start of the country’s general elections.