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REAL REASONS INEC STAFF ARE ANGRY WITH JEGA

By NBF News
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I read with consternation the complimentary piece on the INEC Chairman on page 4 of Sunday Sun of January 23, 2011, entitled 'INEC staff angry with Jega'. I have no problem with someone paying compliments to his or her Chief Executive friend on his six months in office. After all, six months means so much in a country where people even celebrate 100 days in office.

However, I take exceptions to anybody wanting to use INEC staffers as a present, making us objects of cheap blackmail and caricature. The writer claimed INEC staff were angry because of Jega's shrewdness and prudence. He tended to portray INEC staff as a bunch of never-do-wells who have nothing to offer. He portrayed us as a collection of nonentities over-pampered by previous administration at INEC and whose only goal and preoccupation was to sap INEC's resources and run the country's democracy down.

The writer did not also spare civil society organisations whose partnership with INEC he claimed had been dependent on the grants awarded to them for election monitoring. He claimed they too are angry with Jega for stoppage of such allowances. The truth, however, is that if we are angry, it is not because of what Jega has managed well, but what he failed to manage well. It is on record that Jega runs the costliest personnel and administration in INEC. For instance, whereas personal aides of former INEC Chairmen earned a little over N100,000 and some even below it, Jega's aides earn in dollars ($10,000), well over a million naira monthly. They were also given official residencies in contravention of the Federal Government's monetisation policy.

Besides, while there are a few bad eggs at INEC, as in every other governmental and non-governmental organisations in Nigeria, it is not a credit to Jega that he does not deem it fit to tap the experience the bureaucracy of INEC has gathered over the years. Whereas there are quite some bad eggs whose preoccupation is to sabotage every efforts at doing things better and to line their pockets, there are overwhelming number who have gathered quality experience, who are embittered about the bad name INEC is saddled with and are therefore bent on improving the efficacy and image of the organisation. But in an organisation of hundreds of numerous personnel, it is foolhardy for one person to claim custody of knowledge. The same style carried over from Bayero Univerisity, Kano, is at play now.

For instance, Jega removed the former Head of IT Department he met on ground and imported a Kenyan consultant affiliated to Google who in turn replaced the Microsoft system hitherto in use with Google system. That part of why INEC runs into avoidable problems as seen in the voters registration.

I also felt insulted by the over dramatisation of the return of unspent funds to public treasury. If the writer knows anything about INEC as claimed, he would have known that it has been the established tradition here. Beside the return of unspent funds by previous INEC administrations, we have also had several occasions in the immediate past where billions wrongly credited to INEC by the CBN or Ministry of Finance were returned to public treasury rather than share such funds as some other government institutions do.

Besides, such stipends given to them are provided for in the national budget. So, how does withholding funds appropriated to civil society organisations by the federal government and National Assembly amount to frugality?

Moreover, the article in question is not doing Jega any good. If it was designed as means of diffusing and diluting the outcry and frustrations among the citizenry over what INEC has so far made of the N87.7bn windfall it got, then it was a big miscalculation. As an INEC staff, what really angers me these days is that I return home at the close of work everyday into the waiting combative arms and abusive tongues of my neighbours who see me as the mastermind of their inability to have a DDC machine in our area.

Friends and relations who call me or send text from all over the country have one harsh word for me and the commission. Students and pupils in our area also see me as an enemy of their progress. And this massive voters registration embarrassment has come despite critical reforms in terms of the amended Constitution and the Electoral Act as well as far-reaching internal reforms and partnerships undertaken by INEC after the 2007 elections were inherited by Jega. All should combine to give INEC an unprecedented independence and capacity to deliver credible elections. There lies our real anger.

•Muhammed Umaru writes from Kano.