INEC speaks on alleged sack of REC who declared for political office

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the allegedly sacked former Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Frankland Briyia, would retain his position until President Muhammadu Buhari removes him or he resigns ‘officially’ from his position.

It was reported last week that Mr Briyia declared his intention to contest in the November 16 gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

His action was immediately followed by a press release from a reportedly infuriated Commission which stated that he been “relieved of his duties.”

In his counter-statement to the Nation on Thursday, the REC said INEC “could attest” to his resignation before his declaration. He added that it is only the President that has the power to sack him, not INEC.

“Let me state this – the REC is nominated by the President and the President sends the nominees to the Senate. The Senate screens them and if they’re found worthy, confirms them and sends them to the President who eventually gives them appointments.

“The moment the appointment is given to the REC and the REC does anything wrong, INEC will investigate, send its reports and makes its recommendation to the President.

“If the President and his team investigate and see that what the REC did contravenes the code of conduct, he will send the report to the Senate. The Senate will debate it, if the two-third majority of the Senate finds the REC guilty, it will rectify it and send it back to the President.

“It, therefore, means that only the President can sanction the REC. I have contacted INEC headquarters and the news about my sack is fake. INEC said it didn’t say a thing like that. I’m sure you have watched or maybe read INEC’s publication; you won’t find anything like sack because I resigned officially,” the ex-REC had said.

INEC’s Reaction
Speaking with us, on Thursday, INEC denied ever receiving Mr Briyia’s resignation letter as claimed.

It, however, affirmed that the commission indeed lacks the power to relieve the ex-REC as earlier suggested.

This clarification was issued by Festus Okoye, INEC’s chairman for Information and Voter Education Committee.

“Let me make it clear that as at the 9th day of August 2019, the commission did not receive any letter from the REC and we were not aware that he resigned to the appointing authority.

“It is unfortunate that the REC took this discourteous path without informing his supervising National Commission and the Chairman of the commission,” he said.

He said the commission does not have the constitutional or legal power to remove a Resident Electoral Commissioner “as it is within the power of the President to appoint and subject to confirmation by the Senate.”

“By Section 157 of the constitution, a Resident Electoral Commissioner can be removed by the President on an address supported by two-thirds majority members of the Senate for inability to discharge the functions of his office or for misconduct. By paragraph 15(h) of the third schedule to the constitution the REC exercises the powers delegated to him by the commission.

“The commission withdrew the powers delegated to the REC based on our appreciation of his breaching of code of conduct,” Mr Okoye explained.

To emphasise the position of the commission, he paraphrased the Section 156(1)(a) and Paragraph 14(3)(b) of the constitution which noted that for one to be qualified for appointment as REC, one must not be a member of a political party.

He also added that the commission has mandated the Administrative Secretary in Cross River to oversee the affairs of the commission till further notice.

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