…We cannot be umpires and be partisan – Okoye
…Says INEC neither sacked nor dismissed embattled Commissioner
Tunde Opalana, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that the action of its recently resigned Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Cross Rivers state, Frankland Briyai is untenable and unacceptable considering the manner with which he resigned his appointment to join partisan politics.
The electoral body knocked the REC for using the Commission’s facility to make his resignation announcements.
The Commission, though acknowledged that it was the REC’s right to join a political party and to contest election, but frowned at the unlawful way the REC made public his intention to join partisan politics without following the due process.
Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Barrister Festus Okoye, registered the Commission’s displeasure over the development when he made some clarification on the matter at the opening of a National Strategy Meeting on Capturing Disaggregated Data of Persons with Disabilities [PWDS] held in Abuja.
The IVEC Chairman said “what happened was that our REC in Cross River did not forward any letter to any of the appointing authorities, did not have any communication with the supervising National Commissioner, did not have any communication with the Chairman of the Commission,
but organized a sendoff party for himself on the 8th of August, invited staff of the Commission, invited the media, invited political parties and he used that particular opportunity in the premises of the Commission, announced his resignation, announced the fact that he had joined partisan politics
and announced that he has formally joined one of the registered political parties in the office and thereafter he entered an official vehicle of the Commission and drove out to his official residence”.
He continued: “we consider this unacceptable; we have a code of conduct that binds every National Commissioner and REC. We cannot be partisan and at the same time be umpires.
In another development, the commission has denied sacking or dismissing any of its serving commissioners.
Contrary to reports that the commission has sacked a Resident Electoral Commissioner, the Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee of the Commission, Festus Okoye Esq said “”The truth of the matter is that the Commission does not have the power to sack or dismiss any REC because we are not the appointing authority,
so what the Commission has done is to withdraw the powers donated to him (REC Cross River State) by the Commission but he still remains a REC until he resigns properly or until he is removed by the president who is the appointing authority” .
Barrister Okoye gave the clarification at the opening of a National Strategy Meeting on Capturing Disaggregated Data of Persons with Disabilities in Abuja and used the opportunity to explain the procedure and process for a REC to be removed from office.
His words: “the Resident Electoral Commissioners in all the federation are appointed the way National Commissioners of INEC are appointed. We are appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria subject to confirmation by the Senate.
“The way National Commissioners are removed is the same way RECs are removed. A REC or National Commissioner of INEC can only be removed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on an address to the Senate supported by two-thirds majority and the National Commissioner or REC can only be removed for inability to perform his or her functions or for misconduct”.
On resignation, he said: “A REC or a National Commissioner of the Commission can resign his appointment to the appointing authority, in this case the president of the Federal Republic.
Before you are appointed as a National Commissioner or REC, the law or the Constitution requires that you should not be a member of any political party and the implication is that for the 5 year period you remain as a REC or National Commissioner,
you are not supposed be a member of a political party because you have become an umpire and an umpire cannot be seen or said to be a card carrying member of any political party”
“Since he (REC Cross River)has done what he has done and compromised his independence, we have removed all the powers donated to him by the Commission and all those powers now reside with the Administrative Secretary in the state”, the IVEC Chairman said.