It is impossible to Remove Jega, the INEC Chairman

February 11, 2015 5:16 pm

Amid speculations of plots by the Presidency to remove the Chairman of
the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, from
office, it has been established that the president has no powers to do
so.
According to the 1999 Constitution (amended), the president can only
remove the Chairman on the strength of an advice from the Senate.

Mr. Jega, a former vice chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, who
was appointed in June 2009, completes his five year tenure on June 30
this year.

However, there are reports that the presidency is already shopping
for a replacement for the embattled INEC chairman over allegations that
he has been compromised.

The presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are
believed to be uncomfortable with the INEC chairman and have allegedly
vowed to remove him before the March 28 and April 11 dates for the
general elections.

Mr. Jega had last Saturday announced the shift of the polls from
February 14 and 28 citing security challenges in the north east. He also
said the military had told the Commission it would not be available to
provide security on the Election Day.

Last week, some southern elders under the aegis of Southern Nigeria
Peoples Assembly, led by a former Federal Commissioner for Information,
Edwin Clark, demanded Mr. Jega’s sack and arrest.

The elders, who are rooting for the re-election of President Goodluck
Jonathan, alleged that INEC was favouring the North in the distribution
of Permanent Voter Cards.

However, should Mr. Jonathan succumb to pressure to remove Mr. Jega,
he cannot do so unilaterally. In accordance with the Constitution, the
president will have to rely on the nod of the two-third members of the
Senate, the nation’s highest law-making body, which is currently on
break.

Section 157 (1) states that “Subject to the provision of subsection
(3) of this Removal section, a person holding any of the offices to
which this section applies may only be removed from that office by the
president acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the
Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the
functions of the office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body
or any other cause) or for misconduct.”

Subsection 2 states “This section applies to the office of the
chairman and member of the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Federal Civil
Service Commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the
National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the
Federal Character Commission, the Nigeria Police Force, the National
Population Commission, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal
Commission and the Police Service Commission.”

Although none of the nation’s law gives the president powers to ask
the INEC chairman to proceed on retirement leave, he could however want
to rely on Part D Section 171, under Public Service Rules of the
Federation, to move against Mr. Jega.

Section 171 (1) states, “….Power to appoint persons to hold or act in
the office to which this section applies and to remove persons so
appointed from any such office shall vest in the President.

Subsection 2 listed such officers to include the secretary to the
government of the federation, ambassadors and high commissioners,
permanent secretaries or head of any extra ministerial department of the
government of the federation however designated.

Appointment

In appointing an INEC chairman, the president consults the Council of
State but the appointment will be subject to the confirmation of the
Senate.

Section 153 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (amended) listed 14 bodies,
including the INEC to be established by the Federal Government.

According to Section 154 “Except in the case of ex officio members or
where other provisions are made in the Constitution, the Chairman and
members of any of the bodies to the provisions of the Constitution, be
appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to
confirmation by the Senate.”

Section 154 (3) says “In exercising the powers to appoint a person as
Chairman or member of the Independent National Electoral Commission,
National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission or
the National Population Commission, the President shall consult the
Council of State.”

Precedence

As he did in the case of the immediate past Governor of the Central
Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, the president might ignore the laws to
oust Mr. Jega.

On February 20, 2014, the president, via a statement by his media
aide, Reuben Abati, accused the former CBN Governor, who was on an
assignment outside the country of “Various acts of financial
recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the
administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values
of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial
disciple”.

The statement also said the president was “deeply concerned about far
reaching irregularities under Mallam Sanusi’s watch which have
distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its
statutory mandate.”

Before his suspension, which was to allow the Financial Regulatory
Council, FRC, to conclude investigations on the allegations, Mr. Sanusi
had alleged at a Senate public hearing that the sum of $20 million was
missing from the Federation Account.

But the action of the president raised questions as to whether he had
the power under the nation’s laws to suspend the CBN chief.

In a media chat few days later, Mr. Jonathan said he had full powers
to suspend the CBN Governor because of his oversight functions he
exercises over the bank.

“Yes, I have absolute power. The CBN is not well defined in the
Nigerian Constitution,” he said while responding to a question by the
panel of journalists.

Though under the CBN Act, 2007, the president cannot suspend the CBN
Governor, it however provides that he has powers to remove a CBN
Governor subject to the approval of two-third majority of the Senate.

The Act states that the Governor, Deputy Governor or Director of CBN
shall cease to hold office if he “is removed by the President Provided
that the removal of the Governor shall be supported by two-third
majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.”

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