The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may redeploy the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, before the forthcoming governorship and house of assembly elections across the country, top sources in the commission have told PREMIUM TIMES.
An official in the commission told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday afternoon that the chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, has been under pressure from the federal government to redeploy Mr Igini from Akwa Ibom.
The official, who did not want his name mentioned in the report, told this newspaper that Mr Yakubu has already succumbed to the pressure.
“He (Mr Yakubu) is working on the (redeployment) plan,” he said. “The announcement will be out few days to the governorship election.
“People in the office (INEC headquarters) are surprised, and are worried at the same time why the chairman could give in to such pressure when he knows the consequences it could have on the commission’s image and on the remaining elections,” he said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been campaigning for Mr Igini’s transfer from Akwa Ibom, weeks before the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is the ruling party in Akwa Ibom, won the presidential and all the national assembly seats in the state.
The APC has been accusing Mr Igini of being biased, in favour of the PDP in the state.
APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has repeatedly demanded Mr Igini’s removal from office and restated his position at an APC meeting attended by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
Apart from Mr Igini denying the accusation, the PDP in Akwa Ibom said the APC was frustrated with the commissioner because “he refused to help them rig the elections”.
Mr Igini is generally regarded as a forthright and respectable public officer within and outside INEC.
Besides Mr Igini, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the INEC chairman, Mr Yakubu, was also under pressure to redeploy resident electoral commissioners in Rivers, Imo, Benue, and Plateau states.
The APC lost the presidential election in all five states including Akwa Ibom despite governing two of the states, Imo and Benue. The ruling party’s dilemma in Imo is worse as its governor, Rochas Okorocha, is supporting a separate party for the governorship election and has been suspended by the APC.
Another source close to the INEC chairman in Abuja lamented the pressure being mounted on him by the federal government.
“The problem is that while he is a good man, he does not have the conviction of a Jega (Attahiru, ex-INEC chairman),” one source said. “He appears to be caving in.”
But INEC, however, says there is no such plan.
“It’s not true. It is just speculation,” Rotimi Oyekanmi, the spokesperson to the INEC chairman told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The INEC chairman has not told me of any pressure, and I don’t see any pressure on his face, except for the normal pressure of planning for the general elections as we all know, but not pressure from anybody to transfer anybody.
“There is no such plan to redeploy any of the RECs before the elections,” Mr Oyekanmi said.