Femi Falana (SAN), human rights lawyer, has said that the list of nominees of resident electoral commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sent to the Senate is constitutionally defective and violates binding court decision.
Falana, who made this known in a statement issued on behalf of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) on Sunday, noted that it has been the practice since 2015 that President Buhari consulted with the Council of State whenever he wanted to appoint the chairman and members of INEC, including resident electoral commissioners, in strict compliance with the provisions of section 154(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
According to Falana, on each occasion the president consulted the Council of State before submitting the names of nominees to the Senate for confirmation in line with section 154(1) of the constitution.
He said, however, for some undisclosed reasons, the president forwarded the nominations of 19 persons for confirmation as resident electoral commissioners without any prior consultation with the Council of State.
Falana also argued that the constitutional defection of the REC nominees was that some nominees were card carrying members and are alleged to be under investigation.
“Apart from the constitutional infraction, the list of the nominees has been challenged on the ground that some of them are card carrying members of the ruling party.
“At least two other nominees are alleged to be under investigation for serious electoral malpractice.
Instead of subjecting the nominees to integrity test the Federal Government has dismissed such grave allegations with a wave of the hand.
“Having repeatedly assured the Nigerian people that the administrators will support the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible elections in 2023 we call on President Buhari to withdraw the controversial list from the Senate and ensure that the nominees are investigated by relevant security agencies.
“After security clearance, the president is advised to comply with section 154(3) of the constitution by consulting the Council of State with respect to the qualification and competence of the nominees.
“It is after the consultation that the names of the nominees that are qualified should be presented to the Senate for confirmation.
“However, in view of the opposition to the list of nominees by a number of women’s groups on ground of gender discrimination it is pertinent to draw the attention of the president to the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court on April 10, 2022, in the case of Women Empowerment and Legal Aid & Ors v Attorney-General of the Federation (Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/ 2021) wherein the Honourable Justice Donatus Okorowo ordered the Federal Government to comply with the 35 percent affirmative action for women, which allows women to occupy 35 percent of all appointments.
“Since the judgment is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria pursuant to section 287 of the constitution, the president should ensure that the women in the list of nominees should not be less than 35 percent.” In July, Buhari asked the Senate to confirm 19 nominees as INEC RECs.
The civil society organisations (CSOs) kicked against the list on allegations that some nominees are partisan and have “questionable character.”