Civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country have dismissed concern over the recent redeployment of some staff of the ndependent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Specifically, the CSOs said they advocated the changes in the commission to improve transparency and accountability.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP last night, chairman of IPAC, the umbrella body of all the political parties in Nigeria, Yabagi Sani, said there is no cause for alarm over the changes in INEC.
“There can’t be anything wrong with that. It is a normal managerial activity. The management of INEC has the right to move their staff from one office to another to improve their work in the commission.
“One cannot question that because it is not against their rules and the constitution. It is in order; they have the right to always reshuffle,” Sani said.
On the issue raised concerning the change in the office of the director of ICT, a department overseeing the electronic voting and transmission of election results, Sani said nobody is indispensable.
“Is there anyone that cannot be changed? Nobody is indispensable. Even though everybody’s contribution is required, nobody is indispensable. INEC as an organisation is alive to its activities. As you know, anything can happen. Individuals can die, or resign from office. What will you do in that case? IPAC commends the effort of INEC which shows that it is alive to its responsibilities.”
Also, the CSOs have toed the line of IPAC, saying such changes are good to enhance efficiency and transparency at the commission.
The CSOs who spoke to LEADERSHIP are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the groups said INEC must go a step further at monitoring its employees to ensure that anyone found working for politicians or political parties is punished.
“It is in line with what we have recommended to INEC, that they must change some of their personnel in order to give confidence to Nigerians and prevent connivance with politicians.
“We have advised INEC on the possibilities of carrying out such reform and staff audit to create more confidence in the system. In the past, there have been some allegations (of collusion to manipulate elections) involving some staff.
“We were of the opinion that to bring some level of sanity, some staff should be redesigned so that Nigerians will know that no staff connive to undermine the electoral process.
“This reshuffling is in line with what TMG and some other CSOs wanted. If INEC is in doubt with some staff members, it needs to redeploy them since we were asking INEC to do something that will give more confidence to Nigerians because we didn’t want any suspicion that would emerge in the 2023 general elections.
INEC recently redeployed its director of ICT, Engr Chidi Nwafor, from Abuja to now serve as the commission’s administrative secretary in Enugu State.
Nwafor was replaced by Engineer Paul Omokore who was director, Planning and Monitoring Department.
Besides the change in the ICT department, INEC had also redeployed two Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and eight directorate level staff members.
The commission had also redeployed 385 employees nationwide, as part of efforts to ensure efficient and optimal performance. The affected workers were either serving in their states of origin or had served for between 10 and 32 years in the same state.
INEC, in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, signed by the chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye, said the redeployment was in line with the Commission’s extant policy.
The statement said the REC Cross River State Dr Cyril Omorogbe was posted to Akwa Ibom State, while Dr Alalibo Johnson Sinikiem the REC Edo State was posted to Cross River State.
INEC in the statement entitled: Redeployment Of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECS) and Posting of Staff said the redeployments/postings take immediate effect.
“Handing and taking over should be concluded on/or before Friday 26th August 2022,” the statement said.
Also redeployed are: Engineer Paul Omokore director, Planning and Monitoring Department, Headquarters, Abuja now director ICT, Headquarters, Abuja; Engr Chidi Nwafor, director, ICT now administrative secretary, Enugu State; Mr Chima Duruaku, administrative secretary, Anambra State now director, Planning and Monitoring Department, Headquarters, Abuja.
Others are: Mr Jude Okwuanu, administrative secretary, Enugu State now administrative secretary, Anambra State; Usman Musa Wase, acting director, Human Resource Management, Headquarters, Abuja now acting administrative secretary, Nasarawa State; Mr Salisu Garba, director in the Electoral Operations Department now director Procurement, Headquarters, Abuja; Barr. Waziri Zanna, acting administrative Secretary, FCT now acting director, Human Resource Management, Headquarters, Abuja; and Godwin Wada Edibo, acting administrative secretary, Nasarawa State now acting administrative secretary, FCT.
However, the change in the ICT department had sparked concerns in some quarters following the timing and sensitivity of that department to the electoral process.
The removal of the ICT director comes barely weeks after the Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections which were used to test the electronic transmission of results which was recently passed into law by the National Assembly.
Also, there are concerns over the need to avoid hiccups in the department which has become critical to the entire electoral system ahead of the 2023 general election.
Nwafor, sources said, has been one of the central figures driving the ICT revolution in INEC since the tenure of Prof Mahmud Jega as the commission’s chief executive. His movement from a technical to a clerical position away from the headquarters has raised some questions.
However, the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) and some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on Nigerians not to panic over changes at INEC ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“This change is apt and there should be more monitoring of the staff on anything that will bring doubt to the integrity of INEC. So, Nigerians should not panic, ” Rafsanjani added.