THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is currently in a fix over upcoming elections later this year in Anambra State and next year in both Osun and Ekiti States.
This is because 34 and 36 Resident Electoral Commissioner positions are vacant just as the electoral body wants on the Federal Government to fill the positions, some of which had remained vacant since 2015.
Only three states – Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Gombe – currently have Resident Electoral Commissioners, whose tenures will expire on July 25.
A set of five RECs bowed out on February 16, on completion of their five year tenure. They had assumed office on February 16, 2012.
They include the RECs from Nasarawa, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Kwara states.
It was, however, gathered that while the tenure of the RECs lapsed on February 16, some were allowed to stay one week longer and would be leaving on March1. One of them is Segun Agbaje, who hails from Ekiti but serves as REC for Ondo State.
His set assumed office on February 16, 2012 and were expected to leave office on February 16, 2017.
The three remaining RECs who are from Rivers, Gombe and Akwa-Ibom assumed duties on July 25, 2012 and are expected to complete their tenures on July 25 this year.
Vacancies started occurring in the ranks of RECs from June 9, 2015 when 16 RECs bowed out of INEC.
The 16 Electoral Commissioners include those from Bauchi, Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi, Delta, Ebonyi, Katsina, Oyo, Kano, Adamawa, Kogi, Yobe, Osun, Lagos, Abia and Zamfara. They were all appointed into office on June 9, 2010.
The REC, who represented Kaduna State in the service retired on July 29, 2015,while his counterpart from Enugu left on November 3, 2015.
Three other RECs including the one from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Benue and Ogun states also bowed out on December 16, 2015 while eight others bowed out on October 20, 2016.
The eight included the RECs from Plateau, Jigawa, Taraba, Imo, Cross Rivers, Anambra, Ondo and Bayelsa.
The latest to bow out are those from five states including Nasarawa, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Kwara whose tenure lapsed on February 16, 2017.
Section 153 of the 1999 constitution as amended as well as Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution establish INEC and also define the functions of its operatives.
Section 14(1) and (2) of the Third Schedule establish the office of the National Chairman of INEC, the 12 National Commissioners as well as the RECs who shall be appointed by the President after the confirmation of the Senate.
Section 14(2) of the Third Schedule indicates that: “There shall be for each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a Resident Electoral Commissioner who shall-
(a) be appointed by the President;
(b) be persons of unquestionable integrity;
(C) not be less than forty years of age.”
Meanwhile, INEC has declared that the statutory responsibility vacant REC seats rests squarely with the Federal Government and not the commission.
There has been growing concern among political parties and critical stakeholders in the conduct of elections that failure to fill vacant seats of REC in some states in the federation could jeopardise conduct of general elections.
Speaking with Sunday Tribune, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu said:
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to appoint RECs.
“The commission has implored the government to act on it and we expect that action will soon be taken.”