In light of the recent allegation of religious bias in the transfer of staff of INEC in Taraba, the commission has stated that it “will vehemently resist any attempt by unscrupulous politicians to use ethnic or religious sentiments to undermine the gains so far made towards perfecting the nation’s electoral process’’.
This statement was made by the acting Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC, Taraba state, Alhaji Muhammad Umar Madagali, during a stakeholders meeting by the commission held on Wednesday in Jalingo.
According to Madagali, the decision to summon the meeting was to discuss the recent allegations raised against the Commission by the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the ongoing voter registration exercise.
He said “the commission would have dismissed the allegations raised at the press conference as non-issue. But considering the position of the organizers who are critical stakeholders in the electoral process, and the weighty nature of the allegations, the commission finds it absolutely necessary to summon the meeting”.
The acting commissioner however, assured that there was no religious or ethnic motive to the transfers and that the youth wing of can might have acted ignorantly.
“Recruitment, promotion, discipline, deployment and redeployment of staff by the Independent National Electoral Commission is purely an internal and routine administrative responsibilities, which are carried out without regard to staff ethnic origin or religious affiliation…it is now a policy in the commission to deploy or redeploy staff from GL 07 and above, to states other than their own and within their geographical zones, especially during important exercises, such as the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
“The Commission does not expect any of its staff to operate on the basis of religion or tribe; that is why they are all under oath and instruction to be fair to everybody. Probably, the fear of the youth wing of CAN is informed by ignorance of the internal workings of the Commission”, he observed.
He noted that if there was a religious motive, it would have “reflected at the registration centers, where the actual registration is taking place, not in the offices of the electoral officers”.
The acting commissioner who is the substantive Administrative Secretary of the Commission in the state, therefore advised stakeholders to verify any claim before going public in order to avoid conflict.
“Come to the Commission to verify whenever in doubt instead of running to the press with allegations that cannot be substantiated, as this is capable of not only misinforming, but inciting the public against the Commission”.
He also promised that the Commission would not hesitate to deal decisively with any staff found wanting of treating prospective registrants on the basis of religious, ethnic and political inclination.
It would be recalled that just recently in Taraba, allegations of religious bias by INEC, spread across the state and over the social media which attracted the attention of the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state. The bone of contention however, happened to be rationale behind the transfer of six Christian personnel and their replacement with six Muslim personnel.