The Nigerian Senate has confirmed the nomination of Rhoda Gumus as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Mrs Gumus, a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), replaces Lauretta Onochie, a controversial presidential aide whose nomination was rejected on account of being a member of a political party for the position which requires a non-partisan individual.
Registration documents indicating that Onochie’s replacement is also a member of the ruling party later surfaced online, same reason was given by the Senate while disqualifying the presidential aide.
One of the documents show Ms Gumus became a member of the APC on March 27, 2021, at Ward 08 in Yenagoa. Her membership number is 58315. Her name is also on the register of the party, and pressure groups within the ruling party have already congratulated her as a member.
Despite criticism from Nigerians and a civil society group, Concerned Nigerians, which petitioned the Senate over the partisan status of Gumus, the red chamber went ahead to confirm the nomination.
Also confirmed during plenary on Wednesday were six other nominees which President Muhammadu Buhari forward for the position of national and resident commissioners of the electoral body.
This followed the consideration of a report by the Senate Committee on INEC.
Those also confirmed include Mohammed Haruna (North-Central, National Commissioner), May Agbamuche-Mbu (South-South, National Commissioner), Ukeagu Kenneth Nnamdi (South-East, National Commissioner), and Maj. Gen A. B. Alkali (Rtd) – Adamawa (North-East, National Commissioner).
Others are Sam Olumekun (South-West, National Commissioner) and Olaniyi Ijalaye (South-West, Resident Commissioner).
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks after the nominees were confirmed, congratulated them while noting that the 2023 general elections would be a “baptism of fire” to test their efficiency.
Condemning the confirmation of the APC member, Deji Adeyanju, leader of Concerned Nigerians, described it as a threat to the nation’s electoral system.
“It is shameful and embarrassing that the Nigerian Senate, whose duty, amongst others, is to protect the Constitution, has chosen the inglorious path of violating the Constitution,” Mr Adeyanju said in a statement. “Even under the military rule, the military rulers had respect for their own laws.
“The present crop of lawmakers have demonstrated beyond argument that they have learnt nothing from the incidents that led to the collapse of previous democratic governments in Nigeria even as coups are happening all around us in West Africa. We hope that this lesson will not be learnt when it is too late.
“We must warn of the danger that lies ahead if the political actors continue to resist an attempt to enshrine a transparent electoral system in Nigeria. The nation’s democratic institutions rests on a transparent electoral process. We must, therefore, refrain from such actions, like the confirmation of Prof. Gumus, that threatens our electoral system,” the statement partly read.