By Adebayo Hassan
Members of the Nigerian Senate on the platform of the opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC, have accused President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party of a fresh plot to prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Attahiru Jega, from conducting the forthcoming general elections.
The APC senators, led by the Minority Leader, George Akume, told a news conference in Abuja, Thursday, that they reliably gathered that the Head of Service of the Federation would direct Mr. Jega to proceed on pre-retirement leave next week.
“We have received information from a very credible source that next week, the Chairman of INEC will be given a letter from the office of the Head of the Civil Service to proceed on a terminal leave,” Mr. Akume said.
The lawmakers alleged that the Federal Government was trying to use a circular from the Head of Service dated August 11, 2010 to place Mr. Jega on compulsory pre-retirement leave.
He said, “Whether the letter emanates from the HoS office or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, it does not make sense. Even if we go by the terms of the Civil Service circular of August 11, 2010, (it) is not applicable whatsoever to the INEC chairman.”
The lawmakers explained that the circular, with reference number HCSF/CMO/1772/TI/11, talks about clarifications on pre-retirement leave, which is only applicable to tenured officers who are career civil servants not public official like INEC chairman.
They said anyone who has spent 30 years in service or has attained 60 years of age was bound to disengage officially from the service. The senators however said that the case of Mr. Jega did not fall into any of these.
The lawmakers claimed that Mr. Jega’s offence was his readiness to conduct the elections when the Peoples Democratic Party-controlled Federal Government was not.
The opposition senators insisted that card readers must be used for the elections since the National Assembly appropriated funds for that purpose.
“We want a credible election but in a situation where we are being informed that because the postponement of the elections attracted no reaction from the people, Jega could be removed for a plan-less person who will do the bidding of the government, doesn’t hold water,” Mr. Akume said.
“You cannot start a game which is about to end and suddenly you want to change the goalpost. You don’t want a referee that is fair to all. You want to have someone who will subvert the whole system for sinister, personal purposes.
“We will continue to say no to impunity. We will continue to say no to any attempt to undermine the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“We therefore want to appeal to Nigerians to be steadfast to keep watch so that their labour will not be in vain. If Ghana and other countries can get it right, Nigeria can also get it right.”
He said although Mr. Jonathan reserved the right to remove Mr. Jega, but such authority could not be unilaterally exercised without the permission of at least two-thirds majority of the Senate.
Section 157(1) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended provides that the president can only remove the INEC chairman, with the vote of 2/3 majority of all senators.