ABUJA JANUARY 29, 2017 – How wide spread was the move by the ousted PDP government to compromise the 2015 elections?
Fresh facts yesterday showed that 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were affected with the involvement of 202 staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A sum of $115m (N23.29billion) was allegedly provided by the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and shared to the INEC staff for the purpose of rigging the elections.
About four oil firms, 14 directors of oil companies, two banks, two RECs, more than 16 INEC directors and 186 others have been cited in the investigation.
The PDP lost the election including the crucial presidential poll.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) is currently probing the scandal.
The INEC is also carrying out its own in-house probe of the affected staff.
But the INEC investigation has run into a hitch following an uproar over the sitting and refreshment allowances for members of the Committee on Review of the Fallout of the 2015 General Elections.
Some staff of the commission are kicking over what they perceive as outrageous allowances.
Adamawa, Gombe, Anambra, Enugu, Lagos and Taraba States top the list of INEC staff with cases to answer with EFCC on the matter.
According to a document submitted by EFCC to INEC, the poll bribery was heavily deployed in the 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
About 202 INEC staff, including three at the headquarters in Abuja, were implicated by EFCC in its report to the management of the electoral body.
A breakdown of the 202 suspects now being investigated by INEC Committee, which is headed by a National Commissioner, Alhaji Baba Shetiima Arfo, is as follows: Adamawa( 86),Gombe (25), Lagos(21), Anambra(21), Enugu(17), Taraba(17), Akwa Ibom(2), FCT(1) and INEC headquarters(3).
Niger, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Delta,Edo, Ogun, Osun and Borno States have one staff each.
A top source in INEC said: “The eight-man panel, headed by National Commissioner Baba Shetiima Arfo has started investigating the alleged involvement of the 202 staff in the poll bribery scandal.
“This is just to enable INEC to take disciplinary action against them before handing them over to EFCC for prosecution.
“Although the panel is expected to conclude its sitting on 3rd February, there is every likelihood that it might extend its timeline because of the number of staff involved and the need to be painstaking and fair to all.
“Some of these staff are senior officers and their career is on the line. So, the panel needs to go through EFCC report and hear from the affected staff before arriving at any conclusion on whether they are guilty or not.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Of course, INEC management will not spare any staff guilty of infractions. The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has zero tolerance for corruption.
“He is already collaborating with the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu on this.”
As at press time, it was learnt that EFCC legal team was prepared for the trial of a former Resident Electoral Commission, Gesil Khan.
Khan is under investigation by EFCC for allegedly collecting N185, 842,000 out of a N681million bribe deal.
It was learnt that another Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sylvester Ezeani, might be prosecuted even after returning the N20million traced to him from the poll cash.
A top source in EFCC said: “We are already fine-tuning charges against these Resident Electoral Commissioners whom we have established a prima facie case against. They will soon be charged to court.
“Concerning other INEC staff and officers, we are only following due process before arraigning them in court. They have to face internal disciplinary mechanism before we can put them on trial.
“We are awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation by INEC committee.
“The internal probe by INEC may provide more clues on the bribery scandal and lead to arrest of more suspects.”
Apart from Khan and Ezeani, some INEC officers already grilled by EFCC are Fidelia Omoile( Electoral Officer in Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State)–N112,480,000 ; Uluochi Obi Brown( INEC’s Administrative Secretary in Delta State)–N111,500,000; a former Deputy Director of INEC in Cross River state, Edem Okon Effanga—N241,127,000 and the Head of Voter Education in INEC in Akwa Ibom, Immaculata Asuquo–N214,127,000.
Also, a retired INEC staff, Sani Isa was grilled over alleged N 406,206,000 bribe sum allegedly collected on behalf of the deceased Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), in Kano State, Alhaji Mukaila Abdullahi.
Those grilled in Gombe were: Godwin Maiyaki Gambo Balanga, Bukar Alone Benisheik, Dukku, Jibril. B. Muhammed,Billiri, Dunguma Musa Dogona, Funakaye, Mohammed. A. Wanka, Kaltungo, Ishaku Yusuf, Kwami, Suleiman Isawa, Nafada, Babagana Malami, Shongom, and Nuhu Samuel, Y/Deba.
Meanwhile, there are rumbles in the electoral commission over sitting and refreshment allowances for members of the Committee on Review of the Fallout of the 2015 General Elections.
While six National Commissioners in the panel are due to receive N35,000 per sitting, the other two members are to collect N16,000 and N12,000 respectively and N12,000 (PAO/Recorder) respectively.
The panel has secured approval for N336,000 as Entertainment Allowance for 7 days.
The panel also got approval for N336,000 as Refreshment Allowances( Tea break/Lunch) for seven days and N213,000 for Working materials, Camcoder and Voice recorders.
The allowance for preparation of report is N100, 100.
A memo by the Secretary of the committee reads in part: “You may please recall that the commission constituted an expanded APDC to investigate the fallout of the 2015 General Elections with regards to staff indicted by the EFCC.
“The committee has commenced sitting and it is scheduled to invite the affected officers for interview as per timelines attached and marked Annexure(A).
“Accordingly, the cost implication for the committee’s assignment is attached and marked Annexure( B ).
“Kindly consider and recommend for approval for the sum of N2,315,100 only for the committee’s assignment please.”
In Annexure B, the committee gave the details of its N2.3million budget with a caveat: “Timeline of activities (7sittings).”
It added that each of the National Commissioner in the committee will earn sitting allowance of N35,000 x7@ N245,000.
A source said: “Apart from the allowances for Working materials and preparation of report, the panel is expected to spend about N2,002,000 per week. Most staffers are unhappy with this development because the committee’s work is part of the members’ statutory duties.
“In this period of recession, INEC cannot afford such luxury. Once this template is set, every committee members will be applying for sitting allowances.
“This will weigh heavily on the finances of the electoral commission.”