President Goodluck Jonathan has once again refuted allegations that he plans to remove the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega.
The rumour of such a plot took the centre stage at the House of Representatives on Tuesday where a resolution rejecting it was passed by the members.
Also on Tuesday, the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, opposed any plan to remove the INEC chairman as well as a rumoured plot to impose a Interim National Government of the country.
Speaking with Aljazeera Television on Monday, President Jonathan said there was no truth to the speculations. He had made a similar declaration during his recent Presidential Media Chat.
Dr Jonathan noted that INEC is a sensitive and important institution and that removing its chairman arbitrarily would spark public outcry.
“Except somebody is insinuating that the Chairman has done something wrong. You cannot change an officer, except the person has done something wrong,” the president said in response to a question on the INEC boss.
He continued: “Government, whether at the federal or state level, president or governor, does not wake up and change somebody, especially somebody like the INEC Chairman, except that person has done something wrong.
“INEC is a very sensitive body. For me to change INEC Chairman Nigerians will ask questions. So, you cannot wake up and change INEC Chairman.”
He added that he had never discussed with “any human being on earth about changing INEC Chairman”.
The House of Representatives opposed any attempt to relieve Jega of his post and any plan to further postpone the general elections from March 28, 2015.
The members unanimously passed the resolution, following the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance moved by Hon. Ali Ahmad (APC/ Kwara).
Attempts by the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP/ Delta) to prevent the House from considering the motion, by raising Order 62 failed as Speaker Tambuwal ruled him out of order. Hon. Ogor had observed that the motion by Hon. Ahmad was speculative and contained no facts to support his claims that Prof. Jega would be removed from office or that the Federal Government was considering shifting the general elections to a new date.
In passing its resolution, the House advised the government, the political class and security agencies to heed the warning of imminent and present danger in the event the elections are shifted further. Furthermore, the House resolved to hold accountable anyone or individual that foists on INEC any decision or action whatsoever that will make it impracticable to conduct the elections on March 28, and April 11 respectively, including the unconstitutional attempt to remove Prof. Jega from office.
Moving his motion, Hon. Ahmad said the postponement of the general elections by six weeks because of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, has heightened the likelihood for pre-election violence in the country.
He expressed alarm over the possibility to further alter the time-table for the elections as well as the planned illegal sack of the INEC chairman by certain forces.
“There is already documented evidence from several sources that any change in status quo arrangements, especially removal of the INEC chairman, presents a possibility of violence and would occasion the sowing of seeds of a major crisis”, the lawmaker said.
He added that he was apprehensive that such deliberately induced violence might snowball into post-election violence, widespread and systematic attacks, arson, murder and persecution as happened in the aftermath of the 2011 general elections.
Hon. Ahmad averred that the planned sack of Jega will be unconstitutional pursuant to Se3ction 157 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates two conditions under which the INEC boss can be removed from office.
Also on Tuesday, the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, branded those allegedly mooting the constitution of an Interim National Government (ING) as enemies of Nigeria.
The speaker who, on Tuesday, received a delegation from the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCS-SR), in Abuja, expressed fears that dark days could return to Nigeria following the ominous signs beclouding the nation’s political landscape.
He declared: “There is no inter im government in the constitution. Those talking about interim government; are they planning a coup? It is outside the constitution and I don’t know why our security agencies are condoning it. It is a treasonable offence. We should respect the wishes of the people and the will of God.”
The Speaker continued: “It is very clear that certain individuals are not interested in a free and fair electoral process,” just as he appealed to politicians and Nigerians to respect the outcome of the coming polls as being the wishes of the electorate.
His words: “We should always remember that power belongs to God and He gives it as He wills. We should appreciate that not up to 10 per cent of us (Nigerians) are politicians. What then happens to the remaining 90 per cent? If you do what pleases you and at the end of the day crises break out, what happens?”
The speaker further advised politicians to look at the ordinary people of the country, querying: “Are we as a nation where we ought to be? Are we doing the right thing?”
Tambuwal also had a word of caution for some electronic media outfits which he accused of sponsoring advertisements that attack opposition political parties, wondering whether leaders of such media organisations ever think about the future.
Also, the speaker described as unconstitutional and counter-productive the reported plan to sack the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, adding that the persons involved were playing a script that Nigerians are familiar with.
“When the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, was removed as governor of the Central Bank, I had cause to condemn the act. Those contemplating Jega’s removal from office are acting along the same line,” he said.
Tambuwal continued: “Jega is not a civil servant. We should be careful. We shouldn’t send the wrong signals to the people of Nigeria”.
Earlier, leader of the NCS-SR team, Clement Nwankwo, expressed worry about the current economic situation in the country, as well as the fate of the constitution and the preparations for the coming general elections.
“We are making the point that the dates of the elections are so close to the handover dates, so it will be intolerable to postpone the elections again”, Nwankwo said.
He also criticised the idea of foisting an interim government on the nation and the suggestions that Jega should proceed on pre-retirement leave.
The team leader cited Sections 156, 157 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which, according to him, do not provide for such option and asked the National Assembly to ensure that the membership of INEC remains sacrosanct.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Aviation has commenced an investigation of how the ministry of Aviation spent its 2014 budget.
Chairman, the committee, Hon. Nkiruka Chidubem Onyejeocha disclosed this on Tuesday during an interactive session with officials of the ministry in Abuja.