• The president could remove him if he so desires, but he must follow due process – APC Senators
Baring any last minute change of mind, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega is to proceed on mandatory three months terminal leave preparatory to his retirement from office.
The leave ought to start today, but it was not clear as at press time, last night, if he had submitted his leave papers in line with the civil service rules.
This is even as the federal government reassured Nigerians that Jega’s exit would follow due process.
Already, rumours of his possible departure were rife yesterday with people holding divergent views on the matter. While some said Jega must go, others said he should be allowed to stay and conduct the forthcoming elections. 
It would be recalled that Jega assumed office on June 8, 2010 for a five-year tenure following the resignation of former INEC chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu.
Apparently aware that the INEC boss’s tenure has come to an end, All Progressive Congress, APC, senators on Thursday, acknowledged that President Goodluck Jonathan could remove him if he (Jonathan) so desired but insisted that he must follow the due process in doing so.
Leader of the opposition in the Senate, Senator George Akume told Journalists that they heard from a reliable source that the Head of Service would direct Jega to proceed on his pre-retirement leave next week.
“We have received information from a very credible source that, next week, the Chairman of INEC will be given a letter from the office of the Head of the Civil Service directing him to proceed on terminal leave”, he added.
Though Jega’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu had two weeks ago, said his boss was busy preparing for the conduct of the elections scheduled for March 28 and April 11, 2015 and has not contemplated going on terminal leave, it was gathered that Jega is not about to breach the norm in the civil service.
He said, “Jega is busy preparing for the elections and you are asking about terminal leave. Does anyone planning to conduct elections go on terminal leave? There is nothing like that.”
However, by established norm, political appointees had at several times in the past, been directed to go on terminal leave even though they were not civil servants.
The provisions of Public Service Rules 100238 states “that officers are required to give three months notice of their retirement from service terminating on the effective date of their retirement.”
The importance of this is that, Jega has to proceed on terminal leave before the elections.
For instance, the tenure of Jega’s predecessor, Prof Maurice Iwu, was due to expire on June 13, 2010 but on April 28, 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan directed him to proceed on terminal leave.
The terminal leave will also be in line with the entrenched tradition in INEC since the first republic where none of the chairmen of the electoral body ever presided over the conduct of two general elections in the country.
Jega presided over the 2011 general election and he is expected to hand over the baton to enable another person preside over the 2015 general election.
Though the 2011 general election was adjudged by both local and international observers as free, fair and credible, controversy has dogged some of the steps taken by the INEC chairman in preparation for the conduct of the 2015 polls.
Last year November, Jega was forced to beat a hasty retreat following public outcry over 30, 000 additional polling units he created nationwide.
The exercise had generated so much criticism, especially from southern groups who faulted the decision of the electoral body to allocate over 21,000 units to the north.
As the controversy trailing the suspended additional polling units was abating, Prof Jega came under fire again over his insistence on the use of only permanent voters’ cards, PVCs, for voting when over 30 percent of voters have not received the PVCs.
Jega was also accused of favouring states controlled by the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the distribution of the PVCs as the large chunk of the PVCs were sent to these states, including the states ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgents.
For instance, while the three North East states under state of emergency had nearly 80 percent PCV distribution, despite the fact that most of the people have fled their homes, states in the south had less than 40 percent PVC distribution before the postponement of the polls.
While the controversy over the PCVs was still raging, Jega announced the shift of the February 14 and 28 polls, citing advice from security agencies as the main reason for the shift.
Jega later confessed, when he appeared before the Senate last week, that, INEC was not actually ready for the February 14 polls and described the shift as a blessing in disguise for INEC.
According to him, “The period of extension has offered us an opportunity to further perfect the electoral process for the delivery of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections to the satisfaction of the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.”
Jega also told the Senate that there would be field evaluation, assessment of additional needs, election security, collection of Permanent Voters Cards and organisation of mock tests for card readers.
The extension, he added, will also enable the commission to “organise additional training for ad hoc staff especially those who are to handle the card readers and that the commission’s electoral institute has already been mandated and they have already provided methodology and budget for doing this, to intensify voter education and public enlightenment on election day procedures, to intensify arrangement for election day transportation in consultation with the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, which we have already been signed with the union.”
The INEC boss may be ending his tenure in the midst of controversy as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has openly accused him of collaborating with the APC to skew the 2015 election.
Director of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode told a press conference in Abuja about two weeks ago, that the party has evidence of secret meetings between Jega and leaders of APC in Dubai and other places outside the country.
On the other hand, the APC, which has not denied the claims of the PDP has been defending Jega at every turn, just the same way the party became the mouthpiece of former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Salami.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has reassured that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, will not be sacked as being insinuated in some quarters.
The Supervising Minister of Information, Edem Duke gave the assurance while reacting to the alarm raised by the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He however, hastened to add that the INEC chairman will be eased out of office through the natural civil service law at the appropriate time.
Duke told reporters in Abuja on Friday that; “with respect to the issue of the INEC Chairman, I want to align myself with Mr. President’s view on it. This is not to say that, if it is time for the INEC chairman to ease out of office, the natural civil service law would not be allowed to take its course.”
While denying the report, Mr. Duke anchored his position on the recent assurance given by President Goodluck Jonathan during the last presidential media chat.
While he enjoined the media to focus on issues that could promote unity and peaceful co-existence, Duke maintained that it is natural for anybody who reaches the terminal date in service to ease out, adding that, everything is now “within the terrain of the President.”
Source: Nigerian Pilot


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