By Nathaniel Gana
23rd February 2022
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) today welcomed six new National Electoral Commissioners into its fold, shortly after they were sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. At the same time, the Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu administered the oath of office on a new Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) at the Commission’s headquarters also in Abuja.
The National Commissioners include May Agbamuche-Mbu, Mohammed Haruna, Sam Olumekun, Kenneth Ukeagu, Rhoda Gumus and Modibbo Alkali. The new REC is Olaniyi Ijalaye.
According to Prof. Yakubu, four of the National Commissioners are not new. His words: “Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, a lawyer, and Malam Mohammed Haruna, a journalist, have been re-appointed to serve for a second term, Mr Sam Olumekun, a retired civil servant, has served for two terms as Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in many states, including Lagos while Mr Kenneth Nnamdi Ukeagu has been a career staff of the Commission, rising to the rank of Director.” The other two National Commissioners – Mrs Rhoda Gumus, is a Professor of Engineering and Modibbo Abubakar Alkali is a retired Major General of the Nigerian Army.
With these new appointments, the Commission now has the full complement of 12 National Commissioners.
The new REC, Mr Olaniyi Ijalaye, a legal practitioner, fills the vacancy for Ondo State following the swearing-in of Mr Sam Olumekun as a National Commissioner. Shortly after taking his oath, the INEC Chairman announced Ijalaye’s deployment to Ogun to replace Mr Olusegun Agbaje, who is now redeployed to Lagos State.’
In his welcome address, Prof. Yakubu said the new appointees “bring to the Commission their cumulative experiences in diverse fields that will no doubt strengthen the work of the Commission for the reform of the electoral process and the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.”
He urged the new members of the Commission to settle in quickly for the herculean task ahead, saying: “let me draw the attention of the new National and Resident Electoral Commissioners to the reality of serving in INEC. The task ahead is challenging. It is important therefore to quickly settle in and familiarize yourselves with the rules, procedures and responsibilities of your office. I have no doubt that we will continue to raise the bar of credible elections in Nigeria”.
The INEC Chairman also urged them to uphold the tenets of integrity, rule of law and service to the nation in the discharge of their duties. He said, “as I told the last set of Commissioners shortly after they were sworn in five months ago on Wednesday 15th September 2021, our success in this arduous task draws largely from our integrity as election managers. We must be strict in the application of the law, firm in handling the public trust bestowed in us and fair in our dealings with political parties, candidates and other stakeholders and all Nigerians”.
He continued: “In discharging our enormous responsibilities, we must abide by our oaths of office. We must continue to defend the choice made by Nigerians at the polls by protecting the sanctity of the vote without which the value of democratic election is diminished”.
Prof. Yakubu further harped on the Commission’s preparations for the bye-elections to fill vacancies in three Federal and three State constituencies in Cross River, Imo, Ondo, and Plateau States scheduled for Saturday 26th February 2022. He told the new members of the Commission: “there is no election season in Nigeria any longer. Elections are conducted all-year-round by the Commission”.
He added: “In addition to the six bye-elections holding this weekend, there are three pending bye-elections in Zamfara State (Shinkafi and Gusau I State Constituencies) and Kaduna State (Giwa West State Constituency). In addition, we are right now preparing for two off-cycle Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States scheduled for 18th June 2022 and 16th July 2022 respectively as well as the 2023 General Election”.
Responding on behalf of the new appointees, Maj. Gen. Modibbo Abubakar Alkali (Rtd), said, “our task is to support the INEC Chairman to develop an Election Management Body that would be the pride of Nigerians.”
Alkali also assured that the members would key into the vision and mission of the Commission and abide by the oath of office they took by operating with honesty, without fear or favour.