The staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that is investigated and accused of receiving various sums of money to influence that last general in 2015 by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is still working and receiving salaries from the commission.
INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmoud, said recently that over 100 staff of the Commission is under investigation. He said “So far, over a hundred staff of INEC has been invited. At a point, we toyed with the idea of speaking to the EFCC to see the weight of evidence they have so that we can take administrative action against our staff, but they are innocent until they are proven guilty. They have to be charged to court, but we have taken notice and we have a complete list.”
A total of N23.29b was disbursed under the poll bribery scam allegedly facilitated by the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party. The EFCC had indicted the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the 2015 election in Rivers State, Mrs. Gesila Khan, for allegedly collecting N185.8m from the money. She is still holding sway in her official capacity.
Just last week the anti-graft body was reported to have seized two choice shopping malls from her, allegedly acquired with money believed to be from her share of the bribe.
A sum of N49 million found in an bank account belonging to her was said to have also been frozen by the EFCC.
One Fidelia Omoile, who was the INEC electoral officer in the Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State, allegedly got N112.4m and apart from tracing over N112m to her, the Commission also recovered some sensitive electoral materials during a search on her apartments in Edo and Delta States. The Commission also arrested one Oluchi Brown, who was the INEC administrative Secretary in Delta State. She allegedly received over N111m.
Further investigations by detectives revealed that Brown had about $75,857 in an account in the United States. She is currently at large. The anti-graft agency also arrested one Edem Effanga, who is a retired INEC official, though he was arrested alongside his alleged accomplice, Immaculata Asuquo, who is the Head, Voter Education, INEC, Akwa Ibom State and he was alleged to have received over N241.1m, which he allegedly shared among INEC ad hoc workers during the last election.
In Gombe too, 11 officials of the Commission were quizzed in connection with the receipt and sharing of N120 million to compromise the election. The bribe was allegedly negotiated and collected on behalf of the INEC staff by the electoral officers for Akko and and Gombe Local Government Councils , Ahmed Biu, and Mohammed Zannah from one Yunusa Ali Biri, a retired INEC official in the state, who acted as Gombe State coordinator for electoral officers during the poll.
According to the anti-graft agency’s finding, Biri was ingeniously designated and addressed as the “Coordinator of NGOs” in a bid to cover his identity for the dubious assignment. The EFCC sources said: "The Electoral officers for Akko LGA and Gombe LG, Ahmed Ali Biu, and Mohammed.B.Zannah, admitted to have collected the bribe from one Yunusa Ali Biri, also a retired Electoral officer who acted as Gombe State coordinator of bribes for electoral officers in the State."
The names of other electoral officers who reportedly collected the bribe, according to EFCC records were given as: Godwin Maiyaki Gambo, Balanga LGA, Bukar Alone Benisheik, Dukku LGA, Jibril. B. Muhammed,Billiri LGA, Dunguma Musa Dogona, Funakaye LGA, Mohammed. A. Wanka, Kaltungo LGA, Ishaku Yusuf, Kwami LGA, Suleiman Isawa, Nafada LGA, Babagana Malami, Shongom LGA, and Nuhu Samuel, Y/Deba LGA.
However, all of them are still in the payroll of the Commission, investigation revealed.
Civil Service Regulations Handbook, under Section B - Disciplinary Procedures: No. 9. Withholding Pay during Suspension: states: "Only in cases where there is strong primal facile evidence relating to the misappropriation of public funds or where a civil servant has been charged and remanded in custody awaiting trial, or the civil servant has been convicted of a criminal offence, should pay be withheld, in whole or in part, when suspension occurs under this paragraph..."
Meanwhile at INEC headquarters in Abuja, a source who did not want his name in print, told The Street Journal that the staff are still with the Commission. He said until they are found guilty by the court punitive action cannot be taken against them. When asked whether it was proper for them to still be receiving salaries and entitlements, considering the huge sums of money they were alleged to have got from the bribe, and if they ought not to go on suspension pending investigation and trial, he said it was matter of civil service rule and also the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC; Rotimi Oyekanmi also confirmed that they are still staff of Commission. He said "Yes, they are still staff of the Commission. There other names still coming up. The EFCC too has kept coming up with new names. Over a 100 of them now are under investigation; until they are proven guilty there is nothing we can do about it now.
"It is administrative rule and again we don't know yet the next because lots of things are coming up. We are studying the situation carefully before any action is taken," he said.
Ofcourse those who already confessed to the crime and whose properties seized and account frozen, he said: "We cannot treat one case in isolation. As far the case is the same, we cannot for now isolate one. Don't forget there is legal basis to it too, we don't want to go against the law", he summed.