INEC chairman admits presence of corrupt staff

By The Citizen

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor AttahiruJega, has admitted the presence of corrupt officials and staff who aid and abet rigging and other electoral malpractices during elections in the commission.

Jega made the admittance at the unveiling/public presentation of Strategic Programme of Action of INEC covering 2012 to 2016.

According to INEC boss, many staff of the commission who compromised standards, have been either prosecuted or dismissed from their duties. He, however, said the exercise was done without usual media hype.

Jega said: 'INEC officials are not immune to prosecution. Since we came here, as a Commission we have prosecuted INEC officials, who have been clearly found guilty of breaching established laws, rules and regulations and we have also quietly shown people the way out. Probably, it was not well advertised.
'There were many people that were indicted who were not faithful due to criminal activities which clearly were incompatible with the objectives and responsibility that they were supposed to bring to this job. We have retired people.
'We have dismissed people and asked people to withdraw their services. We have done a lot quietly and it is not something that really should have been advertised.

'We made it very clear as a Commission and I think in one of the interactive sessions we had with staff of INEC, we made it very clear to them that we are drawing the line.

'We said we were not looking for fault. We will not do anything wrong or ask anybody to do anything wrong and if anybody should do anything wrong, he will have him or herself to blame. And that has been our guiding principle. It has helped tremendously.

'No doubt, I must share with you that my own assessment of what has happened is that in INEC previously, certainly there were a few bad eggs who had done things and things they had done had more or less damaged the image of the entire members of the Commission.

'It is really a terrible thing that has happened. And it is very, very clear that majority of staff of INEC are honest people doing honest job under very difficult circumstances. All they required was motivation and encouragement and inspiration from the conduct of those who are placed in positions of responsibility.'

Earlier, three different chairmen of political parties, including Chiefs Sam Nkire of Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, ChekwasOkorie of the United Progressive Party, UPP, and Victor Umeh of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, had taken turns to stress what they termed as rots in INEC which, according to them, inhibited efforts of the commission to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country.

While Nkire harped on the need to checkmate some corrupt INEC officials whom had given it a bad image, Okorie emphasized the need to expedite action on the Electronic Voting System (EVS), saying it would limit the mistakes of the commission.

Umeh on his own, asked INEC to review its position on the recruitment of adhoc staff, noting that given some of their actions, they posed great threats to the success of INEC's efforts in conducting credible elections.

He said:  'There are bad soldiers/policemen who forcefully change results or make things untidy. I have never heard INEC staff reporting them. It robs off negatively on INEC's image, giving INEC a bad name.
'I don't know if INEC staffs are immune to prosecution. Before now, they are the ones who give result sheets before elections. There are bad eggs who help to doctor results.

'Election officers, Collation Officers, Returning officers are usually not the staffers of the Commission. And from our experience, most times, these people are recruited without the Political parties knowing about it. You have Professors even in some embarrassing situation; members of political parties are recruited as Collation Officers of INEC.

'If you don't take care on the way you recruit adhoc staff and they are the people who manage elections on the day of the elections; You may have done very good restructuring in the Commission, prepare your permanent with the right attitude but these adhoc staff pose great threats to the success of your efforts.'

Speaking earlier, Chairman, Senate Committee of INEC, Senator Andy Uba, who was represented by his Deputy, Senator AbdukadirJagere, said that Democracy could only be said to have been sustained in Nigeria if INEC improves on the gains of 2011 general elections.

He said: 'Democracy can only be if we achieve anything higher than 2011, we would have achieved a lot.'

Other speakers at the event which included the Governance Advisor of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Professor Sam Egwu and the Country's Representatives, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) commended the present leadership of INEC under Jega and urged them to be focused towards 2015 elections.