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Lawyers call for law to stop president from nominating INEC chair, top officials

…want Constitutional amendment to place power in NJC to suggest names to president

Lawyers yesterday called for a law that will strip the President of the power to nominate members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The views of the lawyers were premised on the nomination of Presidential Aide, Lauretta Onochie, as an INEC Commissioner by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Though, the National Assembly has consequently rejected the nomination. However, commenting on it, an Abuja – based lawyer, Ubaka Obiefuna, noted that it is an incontrovertible fact that the independence of INEC is seriously undermined by the fact that the President makes the nomination of the chairman and other federal commissioners.

‘‘It’s not unlikely that the President would nominate somebody that wouldn’t do his bidding or the bidding of his party. ‘‘Although the nomination is subject to the ratification by the Senate, however, in order to ensure full independence of INEC, a body like NJC should be responsible for the suggestion of names of suitable persons from which the President can choose and then forward to the Senate for approval. “Most importantly, the independence of INEC, Judiciary, and other relevant bodies can only be ensured with a constitutional amendment because what obtains today is unfortunately unconstitutional.

“Like what played out from the nomination of Lauretta Onochie as a federal commissioner, chances of having people with unquestionable character or any affinity with the President or party will be reduced if the nomination is made independent of the President. “Also, the independence of the electoral body can be achieved when we have patriotic legislators who will see beyond partisan interests. What transpired during the Electoral Act amendment on electronic transmission of votes is an eye opener to the unpatriotism of our lawmakers.

“In conclusion, I’m of firm view that if the President is stripped of the power to nominate the INEC chairman and commissioners by way of constitutional amendment, it will in no small measure go a long way in ensuring independence of INEC which will undoubtedly engender credible elections and other electoral processes”. Also reacting, another lawyer, Dinne Israel, noted that even going by the name alone, independent, has said it all. “The nomination of an umpire by a participant in a contest obviously negates and defeats the presumption of fair play or level playing ground because it will not be out of place to consider or say that the nominated/ engaged/employed or even contracted umpire and the person that nominated/engaged him/her is that of a master/servant or employer/ employee relationship. And the issue of bias cannot be ruled out. “It will very germane and good for electoral system if INEC, their dealings, nominations and activities are indeed truly independent and devoid of any intervention or involvement by the President.”

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