The Independent National Electoral Commission has formally suspended 205 personnel of the commission for allegedly receiving part of the N23bn alleged to have been disbursed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, ahead of the 2015 general elections.
A National Commissioner and member of the Information and Voter Education Committee at INEC, Mallam Mohammed Haruna, who briefed journalists after a meeting of the leadership of the commission on Tuesday, said the commission also decided to place the 205 affected officials on half salaries in accordance with the terms and conditions of service of the commission.
Haruna said the commission had referred the cases of a former National Commissioner and five former Resident Electoral Commissioners (one late) to the Presidency and the EFCC for further action and investigation.
According to him, the decision to refer the national commissioner and the RECs to the Presidency and the EFCC was because it was not within the powers of the commission to deal with the cases involving them.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively in its March 26, 2017 edition that the leadership of the commission had placed 202 inducted staff of the commission on suspension and half salary for allegedly receiving part of the N23bn alleged bribe.
Also Sunday PUNCH had reported exclusively that the commission had written the Presidency over the indictment of some RECs in the 2015 electoral bribe scandal in its April 3, 2017 edition which was confirmed in the briefing on Tuesday.
Haruna said, “The commission met today (Tuesday) to consider the report of its expanded Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee on the EFCC Interim Report on Bribery, Corruption and Money Laundering Charges during the 2015 general elections.
“You may recall that late last year, the commission received an interim report from the EFCC detailing allegations against 202 serving and retired INEC officials and staff in 16 states of the federation.
“In furtherance of its zero tolerance for corruption in the electoral process, the commission ordered a thorough investigation into the allegations to establish the culpability or otherwise of those named in the EFCC report.
“The committee’s work was thorough and painstaking, involving issuance of queries to the 202 officials mentioned in the report and interviewing them individually in accordance with the principle of fair hearing and in consonance with INEC Staff Conditions of Service.
“As a result of the initial findings of the committee, an additional 80 serving officials of the commission, who were not named in the EFCC report but whose names came up in the course of the investigation, were also queried and interviewed.
“The cases of one former National Commissioner, five former Resident Electoral Commissioners (one of them deceased) have been referred to the Presidency and the EFCC for further necessary action.
“Based on their level of involvement, 205 serving INEC staff will be immediately placed on interdiction, which entails suspension from duties and being placed on half salary, pending the final determination of the cases they have with the EFCC.”
Haruna added that a non-governmental organisation identified as West African Network of Election Observers made up of retired INEC officials was used to bribe INEC staff to influence the outcome of the 2015 general elections.
He stated also that the committee was able to establish that INEC staff received N3,046,829,000 in 16 states of the federation to influence the outcome of the election.
“There was a clear attempt to bribe INEC staff to influence the outcome of the 2015 general elections using an NGO, West African Network of Election Observers, made up mainly of retired senior INEC officials.
“Out of over N23bn, which the EFCC report said was used to influence the elections, the committee established that N3,046,829,000 was received by INEC staff in 16 states,” he added
He stressed that a decision was taken to refer the 70 members of staff to the EFCC because of insufficient information on their involvement in the scandal.
However, he refused to mention the names of the retired national commissioner and five RECs alleged to have colluded with the NGO to pull through the bribe.
He explained that the ex-officials of the commission were deemed innocent until after their prosecution.
He restated the commitment of the commission to defending the integrity of the electoral process, stressing that it would not hesitate to take a stern action against officials “who compromise its core values of integrity, transparency and impartiality in the conduct of elections.”
He said the NGO involved in the scandal had been barred from all INEC activities.