THE tenure of no fewer than 20 state Resident Electoral Commissioners will start expiring with effect from Wednesday.
Findings by The PUNCH indicate that many of the RECs would retire from the electoral body between July 6 and August as their five-year tenure winds down.
The electoral commissioners were among the 27 officials appointed in 2017 by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
It was learnt that some of them had served their second term and are not eligible for re-appointment.
A REC, who confirmed the development to one of our correspondents, however, said he did not know whether INEC has notified the Presidency about the vacancy.
He said, “The 20 RECs were appointed by the President in 2017. I would be leaving INEC in August. I’m not sure if INEC had notified the Presidency so they can start shopping for nominees. I believe the president and his aides knew what to do.”
Another resident electoral commissioner, who confirmed the development said, “Some RECs are leaving on Wednesday but I’m not one of them. Because there was a delay in our screening by the Senate, some of us would not be going now but four persons are also going in August.”
The Senate is required under section 154 of the 1999 Constitution to screen those nominated to the positions of INEC National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners.
The provision reads, “Except in the case of ex-officio members or where other provisions are made in this Constitution, the Chairman and members of any of the bodies so established shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
In compliance with the provisions of section 14 (3) (a) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Buhari had asked the Senate to confirm the 27 nominees in 2017.
Those nominated were subsequently confirmed and appointed by the Senate as resident electoral commissioners.
They include Prof. Godswill Obioma (Abia); Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa); Alhaji Ahmad Makama (Bauchi); James Apam (Benue); Mike Igini (Delta); Dr Nkwachukwu Orji (Ebonyi); Dr Illoh Chuks (Enugu); Hussaini Pai (FCT); Sadiq Musa (Kaduna); Jibrin Zarewa (Kano); and Dr Asmau Maikudi (Katsina).
Others are Dr Mahmuda Isah (Kebbi); Prof. Samuel Egwu (Kogi); Amb Rufus Akeju (Lagos); Prof. Mustapha Zubairu (Niger); Agboke Olaleke (Ogun); Sam Olumekun (Ondo); AbdulGaniyu Taju (Oyo); Prof. Riskuwa Shehu (Sokoto); Kasim Geidam (Yobe); Ahmad Mahmud (Zamfara); Dr Nentawe Yilwatda (Plateau); Umar Ibrahim (Taraba); Prof. Francis Ezeonu (Anambra); Mr Emeka Joseph (Imo); Obo Effanga (Cross River) and Dr Briyai Frankland (Bayelsa).
This newspaper could not confirm if some of the retiring RECs would be re-nominated for another term in office.
It was gathered that some of them were lobbying for re-appointment ahead of the expiration of their tenures.
Some of the affected officials declined to comment when contacted by our correspondents on Monday.
Attempts to get a reaction from the Presidency were unsuccessful as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, could not be reached for comment.
But a presidential aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said the President would write to the National Assembly “at the appropriate time.”
The INEC National Electoral Commissioner for information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, confirmed the imminent vacancy in the commission.
“Their tenures would expire between now and August. Their tenures expire differentially. If you call me back, I can give you the exact number that is going this week; I need to check my books,” he said on Sunday.
But Okoye could not be reached for further details on Monday, as he was said to be meeting with Osun State stakeholders ahead of the July 16 governorship election in the state.
Last December, the President nominated five persons for appointment as national INEC commissioners and one person for the position of the resident electoral commissioner to replace INEC Commissioners whose tenures had come to an end.
Out of the five National Commissioners nominated, Mohammed Haruna and May Agbamuche-Mbu were renominated.
An ex-INEC Federal Commissioner, Prof. Lai Olurode, said the RECs and National Commissioners both have five-year tenure but can be reappointed for second term after they must have gone through the necessary screening.
But they can’t serve more than two terms, he explained, adding that a REC who served two terms can be appointed as National Commissioner to serve another two term of five years each.
He said once concerns arose on the integrity of any REC, he or she can be removed to safeguard the process.
He said, “some RECs, for reasons of ethics, the headquarters may have good information that they better not be allowed to stay and do another election. I know of a REC who was changed because reports we received from the state office were not favourable. “
A political scientist, Dr Adekunle Akinola, advised that the tenures of the RECs should be extended to ensure hitch-free elections in 2023.
He, however, said if the president decided to appoint new RECs, they should be those with no political affiliations.
The Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said, “One of the important aspects of having free, fair, transparent and credible election is have non-partisan, competent and honest people with integrity to serve as resident electoral commissioners who will not be card-carrying members of any political parties.
“As the tenure of some RECs is coming to end, it is expected that by now government should have looked for credible and non-card carrying patriotic Nigerians who will not be seen as bias and undermine the electoral process by their conduct and biases.”
The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, argued that the appointments of RECs would determine if the President is committed to fulfilling his promise of bequeathing a credible electoral process as his legacy.
He said, “The credibility of the 2023 election is hinged on the integrity, competence and capacity of key personnel of INEC such as RECs. In making appointment into INEC, the President needs to consider persons of proven integrity and impeccable character.
The Director Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, recommended the timely appointment of the right calibre of persons into the electoral agency office, especially, people with integrity and capacity.