Maurice Iwu became a Commissioner of the Independent National Election Committee (INEC) in 2003 but was soon appointed Chairman in 2005. Unfortunately, his appointment in 2005 was never confirmed by the National Assembly as required by Nigeria's constitution. Because his appointment was not confirmed, Iwu's stay in INEC should have ended in 2008, 5 years after he became a commissioner. According to Thisday newspaper,
"Iwu, who was appointed an INEC commissioner in August 2003, may have been retaining his position illegally contrary to the constitutional provision that commissioners can only serve for five years, except they are re-nominated...
"[T]he major problem is that Iwu did not return to the Senate for confirmation as chairman when he was appointed in 2005...
"If former President Olusegun Obasanjo had forwarded his name for confirmation and the man had taken a fresh oath of office, his tenure would have started counting from 2005 and not 2003."
Iwu represents just one more example of Obasanjo's dismissal of constitutional procedure. This was already illustrated in the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala scandal when he circumvented the RMAFC in determining her salary as Minister of Fincance. But, more importantly than OBJ's goofs, being that Iwu was never confirmed as Chairman, his tenure was unconstitutional and therefore, illegal. This means that Nigeria's last elections, which were deemed flawed and have resulted in many results being thrown out by the Courts, were overseen by an individual who technically should not have been Chariman in the first place.
A senator told ThisDay that Iwu's issue will be considered by the National Assembly, but one has to wonder whether Iwu, who criticized the 2008 American elections,will simply be re-instated as Chairman of the Electoral Commission. This concern is of the highest order especially now that President Yar'Adua announced that he would retain the power to choose the INEC chairperson despite the advice that INEC should be independent for democracy to truly take root in Nigeria. If Nigeria is to become a country where the citizens control their future, elections will have to become verifiable and must express the true will of a majority of the people. Nigeria will not get there when the person in charge of elections has proven that he cannot successfully manage the electoral process, is not independent of the President and should never have been Chairman in the first place. Given that Nigeria's Senators did not honor their constitutional duty to work for a minimum of 181 days in 2008, the fact that the House of Representatives aims to follow in the Senate's footsteps and the House refused to debate the Power probe report, I have little hopes that legislators will create an appropriate remedy. Constitutionally, Maurice Iwu is not the Chairman of Nigeria's electoral body and only Nigerians, not their 'leaders', can do something about that.
UPDATE: Please read Is Yar'Adua Committed To Democrcacy? to learn about the recommendations of the Electoral reform Committee as they relate to INEC and of course, Maurice Iwu.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Is Yar'Adua Committed To Democrcacy?
- Yardy To Get A Third Term?
- Nigeria's New Kingmakers
- Nigerian Curiosity of 2008 (Fashola and the 2011 Election)