The Council of State is scheduled to meet in Abuja Thursday next week to discuss key appointments proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The council is expected to consider names of nominees to fill vacant positions of National and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC currently has six national commissioners out of 12, while 21 out of 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners are yet to be appointed.
A top Presidency source confirmed to our correspondent last night that the meeting will hold inside the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa at 11:00am.
Another Presidency source, who also preferred not to be mentioned, equally confirmed that the meeting would hold next week.
He also hinted that “pending issues” relating to the appointment of top officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be discussed.
It was gathered that President Buhari would brief the council on the nomination of Ibrahim Idris as acting Inspector-General of Police. The Nigerian Police Council (NPC) is expected to ratify the appointment thereafter.
The Nigerian Council of State is an organ of the Nigerian government whose functions include advising the executive on policy making.
The council comprises the president as chairman; vice president (deputy chairman); all former presidents and all former heads of the government of the federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; state governors and Attorney-General of the Federation.
The responsibilities of the council include advising the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to the appointments of INEC commissioners, members of the National Population Commission, the National Judicial Council, prerogative of mercy and award of national honours;
The council also advises the president whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order and on such other matters as the president may direct.
The meeting of the council is coming at a time of concerns in various quarters that vacancies at the INEC would pose a threat to the 2019 general elections.
Former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Professor Chidi Odinkalu said the 2019 elections may not hold due to present realities regarding INEC.
Odinkalu, who was speaking in Abuja at a town hall meeting and presentation of the findings of a post- 2015 elections research conducted by ActionAid Nigeria, acknowledged that INEC had recorded some gains in 2015 elections but said 2019 may be different.
“There is absolutely no reason why the executive should allow the number of vacancies we have in INEC to be. By next month, INEC will have 28 vacancies among RECs (Resident Electoral Commissioners) and seven commissioners. The Executive is carrying on as if this is normal. It isn’t”, Odinkalu had said, adding “I’m sorry to sound alarmist. But, continuing the way we are going, we will not be able to have elections in 2019. If it happens, there would be too many broken heads and dead people.”
INEC can be sued –Ex-REC
A former INEC commissioner told our correspondent yesterday that without full complement of relevant Commissioners, the electoral empire is weakened and could be taken to court by anybody.
He said if the needful was not done and the tenure of more commissioners expires, the INEC would be in a fix.
“Once the Commission is unable to form a quorum in accordance with the provisions of Section 159(1) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), there would be constitutional crisis,” he said.
A legal practitioner, Barrister Aminu Mohammed, said allowing “holes” in INEC is a threat to democracy.
“In other climes, a vacancy will never be left for a day in the electoral agency because it is back bone of democracy. Even President Muhammadu Buhari derives his legitimacy from pronouncements in INEC.
“I have no doubt that vacancies in INEC contributed a lot to the spate of inconclusive elections that we have in many states which is very unusual,” he said.
We’re fully prepared for 2019
However, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, told Daily Trust yesterday while responding to the statement that the responsibility of appointing commissioners is vested with the president.
He said the commission had since made representations to the Presidency. He also said the absence of full compliments would not affect the planning and conduct of the 2019 elections.
Professor Yakubu said it is not within the jurisdiction of INEC to appoint commissioners, adding that the Constitution vests such powers of appointing National Commissioners and Resident Commissioners with the presidency.
“We have no power to appoint. The President nominates in consultation with National Council of States for the National Assembly’s screening”, he said.
He said it was not correct to suggest that INEC cannot plan the conduct of the 2019 general elections simply because it does not have the full complement of National Commissioners and RECs, stressing that the Commission was fully prepared in anticipation that the existing vacancies would sooner than later be filled by the Presidency.
Funding not a problem
On whether or not funding would be a challenge to the 2019 elections, Professor Mahmood said: “INEC is on first line charge, so, we won’t have funding issues.”