CSO Petitions N’Assembly, Kicks against Gumus’ Confirmation as INEC Commissioner

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Adedayo Akinwale

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has petitioned the National Assembly, warning against the confirmation of Professor Rhoda Gumus’ nomination as National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the basis of political membership.

The National Coordinator of the HURIWA, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a petition dated January 26 and addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan and his Deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that it has uncovered material evidence that Gumus, a nominee for Bayelsa State, South South, is a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In the petition made available to journalists yesterday, the rights group pointed out that the National Assembly would be assisting in setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing the country’s democratic process if she’s confirmed.

It noted that beyond this, Gumus’ confirmation by this ninth Senate would be a violation of the constitution, adding that the constitution specifically declares that appointees to the electoral body must be non-partisan and also not a card-carrying member of any political party.

He said research and experience has shown that one of the factors that have compromised the credibility of elections in Nigeria was lack of structural independence of INEC.

Onwubiko noted that this was one of the main issues taken up by the Electoral Reform Committee in 2007.

It stated: “We have uncovered material evidence (copies attached) revealing that Professor Rhoda H. Gumus; INEC National Commissioner Nominee for Bayelsa State, South South, is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

“And by confirming her as a National Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), tasked with the

mandate to conduct elections in Nigeria wherein the APC will participate, the National Assembly would be assisting in setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing our democratic process.”

It is pointed out that specifically in Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended stated that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”

It stressed that Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that; “No person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a political party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or Poll Clerk.”

Against this background, the rights group, therefore, called on the Senate to reject Gumus’ nomination.

“Let it be on record that we are neither, in any way, against the person of Professo Rhoda Gumus nor questioning her integrity. Rather our concern is for the Senate to ensure that any such appointment capable of derogating from the impartiality of INEC is never made. As such, the senate should see it as a concern that when constituting an umpire for elections, anything that can diminish public confidence in INEC must be avoided,” it said.

It, however, warned that if the Senate refuses to reject her nomination, it would be left with no other option but to rally Nigerians to pour out on the streets to protest this brazen illegality to demolish constitutional democracy through insider political compromises.