The Independent National Electoral Commission is set to suspend 100 of its officials this month over various amounts of money they allegedly collected from the N23bn bribe fund facilitated by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, ahead of the 2015 general elections.
INEC confirmed to The PUNCH on Tuesday that it had received a report on the indicted staff from the investigations carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It was learnt that the electoral umpire had started reviewing the report and that those indicted in the report would go on suspension.
A source in INEC stated that those found culpable would receive their letters of suspension before the end of January.
A national commissioner, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “We are working on the report submitted by the EFCC and before the end of the month, those involved would go on suspension.”
A few months ago, reported that the commission had barred the indicted officials from participating in the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections as well as the Rivers State rerun polls.
The Deputy Director in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, confirmed that INEC had received the report on the indicted officials from the EFCC.
He stated that the commission would apply its conditions of service to the indicted staff.
Dazang explained that it was the responsibility of the indicted personnel to prove their innocence before the suspension could be lifted.
He said, “The position of the commission is that we will apply the provisions of the INEC conditions of service which are the same as the public service rules as they apply to those who are indicted.
“We will apply INEC’s conditions of service. There is a condition of service which INEC has, which draws from the public service rules. When a member of staff is indicted, then the rules apply; which means that he would now be on suspension.
“When he is placed on suspension, he has to prove his innocence. So that is how it works.”
He said the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, received the report of the EFCC investigation into the alleged bribery shortly before the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Dazang did not give the details of the outcome of the report conducted by the anti-graft agency.
He added, “What I know is that 100 staff are being investigated, and I think that before we went on vacation, the commission officially received the indictment report from the EFCC.
“It was based on that that the INEC’s conditions of service will now apply to them.
Honestly, I don’t have the exact figure (of those indicted).
An EFCC operative said that some of the indicted officials had obtained injunctions from courts barring INEC from dismissing them.
It was, however, gathered that the court order would not stop the EFCC from prosecuting the indicted personnel.
The EFCC source stated, “We heard that some of the electoral officers have gone to court to stop INEC from dismissing them. However, this cannot stop us from bringing criminal charges against them.”
Sunday PUNCH had, on December 10, 2016, reported that the EFCC report contained the outcome of investigations in five geopolitical zones.
According to the Sunday PUNCH report, two houses and two plazas had been recovered from a former Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State during the 2015 elections, Gesila Khan, while her accounts had been frozen.
According to impeccable sources in the EFCC, Khan allegedly received N185.8m ahead of the March 28 and April 11, 2015 elections.
It was also reported that the EFCC had arrested one Fidelia Omoile, who was the INEC electoral officer in the Isoko South Local Government Area in Delta State.
Apart from tracing over N112.4m to her, the commission also retrieved some sensitive electoral materials from her apartments in Edo and Delta states.
INEC had arrested one Oluchi Obi Brown, who was the INEC administrative secretary in Delta State.
She was alleged to have received over N111.5m from the bribe fund.
Further investigations by the EFCC showed that Brown had about $75,000 in an account in the United States.
The commission also arrested one Edem Effanga, who is a retired INEC official.
Effanga was arrested together with his alleged accomplice, Immaculata Asuquo, who is the Head, Voter Education, INEC, Akwa Ibom State.
Effanga was alleged to have received over N241.1m, which he shared among INEC ad hoc workers during the 2015 elections.
Also in Gombe State, 11 electoral officials, who supervised elections in the state during the 2015 elections, admitted to receiving N120m out of the N23bn.
The electoral officer for the Akko LGA in Gombe State, Ahmed Biu, and the one in charge of Gombe LGA, Mohammed Zannah, allegedly admitted to have collected the bribes from one Yunusa Biri, also a retired electoral officer, who acted as Gombe State coordinator of the Diezani poll fund for electoral officials in the state.
The detective gave the names of some other arrested officials as Godwin Maiyaki, Gambo Balanga, Bukar Benisheik, Dukku, Jibril Muhammed, Billiri, Dunguma Dogona, Funakaye, Mohammed Wanka, Kaltungo, Ishaku Yusuf, Kwami, Suleiman Isawa, Babagana Malami, Shongom and Nuhu Samuel.