Despite protests from civil society groups, the Senate on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, confirmed Engr. (Prof.) Rhoda H. Gumus, a nominee from Bayelsa State, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, representing South-South geo-political zone.
Gumus was one of the seven nominees appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC.
Civil Society Organisations had alleged that she is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, an allegation which if it is true, contravenes the law.
The 1999 Constitution specifically declares that appointees to the electoral body must be non-partisan and also not card-carrying members of any political party.
Specifically, Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended states that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
Prof Gumus was alleged to have registered as a card carrying member of the APC on March 27, 2021, and was issued with an APC membership card.
The confirmation of the nominees on Wednesday followed the consideration of a report by the Senate Committee on INEC.
Those confirmed alongside prof Gumus include: Mallam Mohammed Haruna (Niger – North Central, National Commissioner); Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu (Delta – South South, National Commissioner); Ukeagu Kenneth Nnamdi (Abia – South East, National Commissioner); and Major General A. B. Alkali (Rtd) (Adamawa – North East, National Commissioner).
Others were Mr. Sam Olumekun (Ondo – South West, National Commissioner); and Olaniyi Olaleye Ijalaye (Ondo – South West, Resident Commissioner).
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, in his presentation, recalled that the confirmation request was made by President Buhari in compliance with the provision of Section 153(1)(f) of the Constitution, and pursuant to the provision of Section 154(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
He disclosed that the Committee received a petition from the Taraba Elders Forum against the nomination of Maj. Gen. A. B. Alkali (Rtd.) over “the seeming inconsistency in the rotation of the nomination”.
According to Gaya, the Taraba Elders Forum stated that the nomination started from Taraba (2003 – 2008), Adamawa (2008 – 2015), and Gombe (2015 – 2021).
He added that the petitioners observed that it was the turn of Taraba State to produce the nominee against the backdrop of the principle of rotation.
Gaya, however, explained that the Committee resolved that all the states (Taraba, Adamawa, and Gombe) had been nominated between 2003 and 2021, therefore, it was the prerogative of the President to pick his nominee from any of the three states.
Lawmakers, including the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and Senator James Manager, spoke highly of the competence and credibility of President’s nominees.
The Senate President, in his remarks after the nominees were confirmed, congratulated them while noting that the 2023 general election would be a “baptism of fire” to test their efficiency.
He added that the National Assembly would support the electoral body to ensure the conduct of free and transparent elections in 2023.
Lawan said, “They (confirmed nominees) would have a baptism of fire because 2023 is just by the corner.
“In fact, the process has already started, as INEC may soon announce the dates of elections and then the subsequent process.
“We expect nothing less than excellence from our electoral body.
“This Senate has confirmed National Commissioners and Resident Commissioners before.
“We have done this today, and INEC now has full compliment of the people that need to do the work.
“INEC also gets the support of the National Assembly through appropriations and, therefore, it would have no reason not to perform.
“We are also expecting that the Electoral Bill amendment will be signed, and if that happens, INEC would have a document to guide it through, even in the off season before the 2023 general elections.
“Therefore, Nigerians are expectant that INEC will perform creditably well.
“And for us in the National Assembly, we will always be there for INEC because we believe that it is in the interest of Nigeria and our citizens to have free and transparent elections to determine the leadership of this country at all levels.”
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, had delivered a petition alleging that Prof Gumus was a card-carrying member of the APC.
HURIWA, in the petition dated January 26, 2022 and signed by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, addressed to the Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, said Prof Gumus’ nomination was in breach of the 1999 constitution as amended and the Electoral Act.
The rights group enjoined the leadership of the National Assembly to reject the nomination in the interest of the country.
The rights group warned the National Assembly to guard against the confirmation of Gumus so as not to set the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing the country’s democratic process.
HURIWA said: “We have uncovered material evidence (copies attached) revealing that Prof 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 All Progressives Congress will participate.
“Prof Gumus’ confirmation by this 9th Senate will be a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Two days later, another Civil Society Organisation, Concerned Nigerians, petitioned the Senate over the nomination of Prof Gumus.
The petition was addressed to the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawal with subject, ‘Prof. Rhoda H. Gumus’ Nomination as National Electoral Commission Commissioner: Request to Halt the Gradual Descent Into an Irreversible Dangerous Slope’, and signed by the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju.