Electoral Officers Hold Jega Hostage
Emerging indication reveals that expectation of a free and credible election in April 2001 may be dashed, as electoral officers have become 'mini gods' in INEC, while they remain at the beck and call of state governments and on their payrolls. Huhuonline.com understands that the Electoral Officers of the Commission have basically hindered the execution of well-articulated restructurings intended by the Prof. Attahiru Jega led INEC, aimed at making the elections credible.
Our checks reveal that Electoral Officers are the 'foot soldiers' as they head the commission at the local government areas, thus are responsible for execution of the commission's agenda. Now, these electoral officers are said to have become so powerful that they wade a cult like influence within the commission.
Huhuonline.com learnt that upon his assumption of office, Professor Attahiru Jega put in motion a plan of cutting down the influence of this group, when he found out that certain Electoral Officers had spent more than eight years in their positions. Also report also had it that many these electoral officers had compromised their offices, by engaging in electoral mismanagement and subsequent fraudulent acquisition of wealth.
In the word of a source who elected anonymity, 'the restructuring was to instill some assurance in political stakeholders. However, this may have evaporated'. He affirmed.
Nevertheless, aware that Prof. Jega`s reform will severely diminish their affluences and influence, the electoral officers allegedly swung into action, to neutralize the reforms.
Sources reveal that they contacted some Commissioners, both at the national and state levels of the organization as well as prominent and powerful politicians (who has the ears of people in government), whom they had partnered with in the past in committing electoral misconducts.
These political partners in crime allegedly deployed their funds and influence to scuttle the planned reform. According to sources within the commission, the electoral officers may have succeeded in their plan to scuttle the INEC reform through the distribution of several millions of naira to compromise some national commissioners and RECs.
Mr.Adekunle Ogunmola, the REC in Lagos state recently had a family social event, which was fully bankrolled by the twenty electoral officers in his state. Such is the financial strength of the electoral commission that they will never allow any reform that will adversely affect their status.
Having accomplished their mission, INEC came up with the excuse that short time for new electoral officers to adjust before elections was responsible for the non-implementation of the reforms. This however, cannot be farther from the truth, as electoral officers have been replaced few weeks before elections in the past to insulate them from being compromised.
Our checks reveal that Commissioners and Administrative Secretaries are swooped on the eve of elections and yet elections have been conducted successfully.
In the words of a source, 'As long as these electoral officers remain entrenched in their local government offices, the hope of free and fair election would remain an illusion'.
'During the recent display of voters' lists by INEC, the EOs were said to have deployed one person instead of the approved two personnel that were supposed to have accompanied the lists. Also instead of the 15,000 naira salary approved for the exercise for each of the display centers, the electoral officers short changed them by paying only 12,000 naira each thereby pocketing the difference'.
'The electoral officers not satisfied with these atrocities also deployed personnel to some centers and not all the centers in their constituencies. 'If you take into consideration the fact that they have pocketed the difference between the approved funds and what they paid the few personnel instead of the full strength list approved, you will realize how much they have made. The source added.