A Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who completed his tenure on Friday, collected about N140million of the N23.29 billion 2015 election bribe, it was learnt at the weekend.
A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allegedly coordinated the bribe that has sparked a big scandal.
There were other startling revelations in the report of the probe committee headed by National Commissioner Baba Shettima Arfo, which will be considered today and tomorrow by INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and 12 National Commissioners.
Most of the 202 indicted officials may be dismissed from service for gross misconduct and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for trial.
The corrupt officials who have retired with their loot may either be blacklisted by INEC or have their entitlements withheld. Besides, the bribe may be deducted from their benefits.
INEC had in January raised the seven-member Arfo panel to “investigate the fallout of the 2015 General Elections with regards to staff indicted by EFCC”.
Other national commissioners in the committee are Prince Solomon Soyebi; Hajiya Amina Zakari; Alhaji Mohammed Haruna; Mrs. May Agbamuche Mbu(SAN); and Prof. A.T. Simbine.
A director in INEC, Mr. Musa Adamu, is the secretary to the committee.
The panel discovered many startling revelations from the 202 officials and others.
Some of the shocking findings are that:
- an NGO, West African Network of Electoral Observers, was used to share the bribe to INEC officials
- a former chairman of INEC coordinated the bribe;
- many former Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and retired administrative secretaries were used to funnel the bribe to INEC officials in all the 36 states to alter the results of the poll;
- some RECs and directors benefited from the bribe as confirmed by EFCC’s investigations;
- a REC, who completed his tenure on Friday, collected between N107million and N140million;
- some RECs and other INEC officials collected as much as N100m; others were given as low as N150,000 to compromise the electoral system; and
- some of the indicted officials admitted that they had refunded their share of the bribe cash.
- A source, who spoke in confidence, said the “revelations were stunning and unimaginable” in an electoral agency.
The source said: “The panel had 10 sittings. It queried staff members waited for their responses and invited each of the 202 for interaction. It insisted on fair hearing and took time to ask questions on record from those indicted.
“It adopted a painstaking administrative process to learn from the past.
“The panel invited those who were mentioned in the course of the interaction with the affected officials conducted a water-tight investigation to avoid leaving room for any excuse by the 202 officials.”
The source gave an insight into how the bribery was perpetrated.
The source added: “From the interaction with the indicted staff, the N23.29b bribe cash was distributed through West African Network of Electoral Observers. The INEC system was infiltrated through a former chairman of the commission who recruited former RECs and retired Administrative Secretaries.
“They penetrated the system and made sure the bribe cash was distributed a day after the election when they were sure that the results would have been altered.
“But because the cash came late to the electoral officers, it did not have effect on the results. Those who shared the money were confident that the results paid for would be announced. But it turned the other way.
“It also discovered that some RECs and INEC officers refused to collect the bribe even under threats of dismissal after the general elections.”
Asked of the next step, the source, who pleaded not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media, added: “The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and his 12 National Commissioners will begin the consideration of the report of the committee as from today and tomorrow.
“Most of them have admitted collecting bribe but we are going to apply the service rules in taking disciplinary action. You know in our own case, if there is gross misconduct, you can be dismissed from service.
“There are other forms of disciplinary measures in the service rules, depending on the weight of the offence. We have already told the EFCC that we are ready. After the disciplinary action, the anti-graft commission can then take appropriate action.”
On the indicted RECs, the source added: “By the Act which established INEC, we cannot invite them for interrogation because we did not appoint them. They were appointed by the President.
“We can only make recommendations to the President.”
Section 3 of INEC Establishment Act says:
(1) “ The chairman and members of the Commission shall each hold office for a period of five years and on such terms and conditions as may be specified in their letters of appointment.
(2) “ A member may at any time be removed from office by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for any act of misconduct but shall not be removed from office except in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.
(3) ”A member may resign his membership by notice in writing addressed to the President and that member shall, on the date of the receipt of the notice by the President, cease to be a member.”
Some NGOs are likely to be blacklisted from taking part in any election conducted by INEC. Some of the retired officials can also be blacklisted; their names will be sent to the Presidency to prevent them from being appointed as RECs in the future.
“For some retired INEC officials who have not collected their entitlements, they can be punished through the stoppage of the payment of their benefits or their bribe cash can be refunded from their entitlements,” the source said.
Some INEC officers already grilled by EFCC are the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Abia State, Sylvester Ezeani, who has refunded N20million credited to him from the poll cash; ex-REC Gesil Khan for collecting N185, 842,000 out of a N681million bribe; 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 official, Sani Isa, was grilled for alleged N 406,206,000 bribe, allegedly collected on behalf of the deceased Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), in Kano State, Alhaji Mukaila Abdullahi.
Those grilled in Gombe are: 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.