THE NIGERIAN Senate lied in its claim that it was not aware of a petition against the nomination of an alleged card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), checks by The ICIR have revealed.
Rhoda Gumus, who President Muhammadu Buhari nominated as INEC national commissioner (South-South), was confirmed by the Senate on February 2, 2022 despite protests by Nigerians over reports that she is a card-carrying APC member.
Gumus is alleged to be a member of the APC in Bayelsa State with APC Registration Form No: BAY/YEN/08/58315.
She, reportedly, was number 27 in her APC Ward Register.
A civil society organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), filed a petition against Gumus’ confirmation as INEC national commissioner.
The petition was titled ‘Petition against the confirmation of Prof. Rhoda H. Gumus’ nomination as national electoral commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the basis of political membership.’
The petition was dated January 26, 2022, and addressed to Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
Copies of the petition were also addressed to Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Senate said it was not aware of the petition against the confirmation of Gumus’ nomination when the upper legislative chamber confirmed her on February 2.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC Kabir Gaya said a petition was only received against another nominee – A. B. Alkali, from Taraba State.
Gaya claimed that after the committee had already submitted its report, it started hearing about Gumus’ links to the APC ‘through the media.’
But, contrary to the explanation, checks by The ICIR revealed that the Senate actually received HURIWA’s petition against the confirmation of Gumus’ nomination.
Acknowledgement copies seen by The ICIR show that the Senate received the petition on January 26, 2022.
On one of the copies, the stamp of the Office of the Senate President indicating ‘RECEIVED’ was signed by an official, and dated January 26, 2022, in acknowledgement of the receipt of the petition on the date.
The copies addressed to the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were also stamped and signed to acknowledge receipt of the petition by the two offices on the same day – January 26, 2022.
The acknowledgement of the receipt of the petition suggests that the Senate deliberately ignored the petition against Gumus’ nomination as INEC national commissioner.
In the petition signed by National Coordinator Emmanuel Omwubiko, HURIWA informed the Senate that it had uncovered material evidence revealing that Gumus was an alleged card-carrying member of the APC.
The said material evidence was attached.
Urging the Senate not to confirm Gumus, the petition said her confirmation would amount to a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly provisions of Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule, which states that “a member of the Commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
“Confirming the nomination of Rhoda Gumus as a national electoral commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission would constitute a direct violence against the relevant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the independence of INEC, the Senate is hereby called upon to reject this nomination.”
But the Senate ignored the petition and went ahead to confirm Gumus’ nomination as INEC national commissioner.
APC whistleblower leaked Gumus’ party membership details
Speaking with The ICIR on February 8, Onwubiko disclosed that an APC member leaked the information concerning Gumus’ membership of the party.
The APC member wished to remain anonymous, Onwubiko explained when asked the whistleblower’s identity.
“The party member was not happy that the electoral process is being undermined with the nomination of a card-carrying member of a political party as a national commissioner of INEC. That was how the information came out; otherwise, Nigerians would have been in the dark.”
Buhari’s earlier attempt to appoint his aide Lauretta Onochie as an INEC national commissioner failed after it was discovered that she was a card-carrying member of the APC.
Sustained pressure and protests from Nigerians forced Buhari to withdraw Onochie’s nomination.
PDP asks Buhari to reverse Gumus’ appointment as INEC national commissioner
The opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has kicked against Gumus’ confirmation by the Senate, describing the development as a coup against democracy.
The PDP alleged that Gumus’ nomination by Buhari and subsequent confirmation by the APC-led Senate was designed to corrupt and compromise INEC and pave the way for the APC to rig the 2023 general elections.
“Prof. Gumus must not be allowed to be used to pollute INEC. Her mission is already exposed, and our party is ready to mobilise our members and all patriotic Nigerians across the country by taking legitimate actions to protect the integrity of the electoral body,” PDP said in a statement released by its spokesman Debo Ologunagba on February 7.
PDP warned Gumus to steer clear of INEC “as there is no way she can function in that office as a card-carrying member of the APC.”
The PDP observed that Gumus’ position as an INEC national commissioner would raise questions over the integrity of the electoral process.
“Her entry and continuing stay in INEC will be toxic and taint the Commission with bias and manipulations ahead of the 2023 elections since her appointment and confirmation is unconstitutional.”
The party asked Buhari to withdraw Gumus’ appointment as an INEC national commissioner.
The opposition party said that the reversal of Gumus’ appointment would assure Nigerians that Buhari was indeed committed to free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023.