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SERAP, 35 Others Sue Tinubu For Appointing ‘APC Loyalists’ As RECs

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Two civil society organisations – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT – and 34 concerned Nigerians, have dragged President Bola Tinubu before the Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly appointing four persons suspected to be members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

SERAP is asking the court for an order setting aside the nominations and confirmation of the suspected APC members as RECs for INEC, for being unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.

Joined in the suit as Defendants are INEC; the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, for himself and on behalf of the Senate, and Etekamba Umoren; Isah Shaka Ehimeakne; Anugbum Onuoha; and Bunmi Omoseyindemi.

The Plaintiffs, in the suit which is yet to be assigned to a Judge, are also seeking an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu and Senator Akpabio to remove the suspected APC members from the list of nominated RECs for INEC, in line with Section 157 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

They are further urging the court for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the President to appoint qualified Nigerians who are persons of unquestionable integrity and non-partisan to the position of REC for INEC, in line with Paragraph 14 (3)(b)(c), Third Schedule and Section 156 of the Nigerian Constitution.

In an affidavit attached to the suit, the Plaintiffs argued that the status, powers, independence of INEC, and the impartiality with which it acts and is seen to be allowed to act, are fundamental to the integrity of Nigeria’s elections and effectiveness of citizens’ democratic rights.

They also averred that as public officers, President Tinubu and the Senate President are required to act in conformity with their oath of office and the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The Plaintiffs contended that treating INEC as a line department accountable to bureaucratic higher-ups and high-ranking politicians rather than as an independent and impartial body is antithetical to constitutional and international standards and the rule of law.

They also stated that the use of the word ‘non-partisan’ means that those appointed to conduct credible elections must not be people who openly identify as belonging to a political party, whose occupation is politics or who are perceived by ordinary Nigerians as having political biases.

The Plaintiffs argued that Section 153(1) (f) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that “There shall be established for the Federation the following bodies, namely – (f) Independent National Electoral Commission.

“Section 156(1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides, among others, that, ‘in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, he[she] [the person to be appointed as a REC] shall not be a member of a political party.

“Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution provides, among others, that ‘2. A member [of INEC] shall –a. be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity… 3. a Resident Electoral Commissioner shall –b. be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.

“Under Section 6(4) of the Electoral Act 2022, ‘The appointment of a Resident Electoral Commissioner shall comply with section 14 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution.”

They further insisted that the nomination, confirmation and appointment of the suspected APC members as RECs for INEC was a breach of Section 6(4) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Section 156(1)(a) and Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

The Plaintiffs also claimed that the United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated that states, including Nigeria, should establish independent electoral authorities to supervise the electoral process and to ensure that elections are conducted fairly, impartially and by established laws and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The African Union’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, to which Nigeria is a state party, also calls upon state parties to establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections.

“Those recently appointed as RECs and confirmed by the Senate include an individual who was formerly a member of the PDP before allegedly ‘decamping’ to the APC and who served as the Chief of Staff to Mr Godswill Akpabio when he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

“The alleged APC members or loyalists also include individuals who reportedly campaigned on social media for the election of President Tinubu and who were appointed as chairman of the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board in 2001 when Mr Tinubu governed the state,” the Plaintiffs stated.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.


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