Reports and insinuations in both formal and informal media platforms that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forced by the Senate to stop the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District, have been refuted by the electoral umpire.
There were reports and commentaries, especially on the social media that the Senate threat to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) which INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, headed as Executive Secretary before he was named the electoral boss, forced it to halt Melaye’s recall process.
The reports claimed that Prof. Yakubu may have soiled his hands during his days at TETFUND.
But in a reaction to the reports, INEC denied that it was blackmailed to retrace its steps by the Senate with a threat to probe the activities of TETFUND.
Apart from a statement issued by INEC Acting National Chairman, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, dismissing the report, other top officials of the commission said that there was no iota of truth in the sensational publications.
While Ibeanu said that INEC took the decision to suspend the recall process based on a court order, which it has moved to vacate, the top INEC officials insisted that there was no such nexus between whatever action the Upper House intended for TETFUND and the Commission’s decision to put on hold Melaye’s recall.
Referring to its recent press statements on the Kogi West issue, the officials said that since the Senator’s recall process started, INEC had not had any cause to veer off its mandate as underscored in relevant laws guiding its activities.
A national officer of INEC said: “All the commission did was to obey the Court order restraining the Commission from going further with the process. But you must note that we have gone to court to appeal the order; to get it vacated ahead of the September 29 date fixed by the High Court for the motion on notice.
“Also, INEC has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the High Court order on a strictly constitutional matter which if not addressed could set a dangerous precedent that could derail the country’s democracy beginning with the general elections already scheduled,” he said.
By Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), INEC has a 90-day limit from the date of recall petition presentation, June 21,2017, in this case, to complete the exercise.
Another INEC Commissioner explained thus: “The Chief Justice needs to address the matter promptly. If not, somebody or people could come up one day to ask a court to put aside the 2019 general and presidential elections timetable already announced by INEC. When that happens, you can imagine the monumental distortion it will create in the 2019 elections process.”
INEC had on Thursday, March 10, 2017 fixed February 16, 2019 for the next presidential and National Assembly polls with governorship and State Assembly elections scheduled for March 2, 2019.
Stressing that these are all indications of the determination of INEC to prosecute its constitutional mandate, a recently appointed national commissioner said what the Commission did by scheduling the 2019 polls two years ahead was to land Nigeria’s democratic process in the same league with other democracies in the world.
“It happens in countries like the USA that we all wish to emulate. Switzerland and Norway do same. Even nearby Ghana has adopted it too,” he said.
The official recalled: “I have always admired the courage of the chairman on the job before I was appointed as a commissioner here. I remember reading in some newspapers quoting him as declaring that nobody can intimidate him and
INEC in the prosecution of their duties. That speaks much of the character and person of the chairman. Don’t forget too, that he has made INEC to continue to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, even as he has kept faith with Nigeria’s democratic growth which is expected of a courageous chief executive” he said.
Prof: Ibeanu said that it is public knowledge that some registered voters from the Kogi West Senatorial District approached the Commission on 21st June and submitted a petition to initiate the process of recalling the Senator representing their district, adding that the Commission formally acknowledged the receipt of the petition and also notified the Senator about the development in writing.
He said that in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Sections 69 and 110 of the 1999 Constitution of the (as amended) and Section 116 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Commission on 3rd July, 2017 announced the timetable and schedule of activities for the recall of the Senator.
“However, on the same 10th July, 2017, the Commission received an order given by the Federal High Court, Abuja and dated 6th July, 2017, directing the “parties to maintain the status quo till the determination of the plaintiff’s motion on notice.
“Deeply concerned by this situation, the Commission at its weekly regular meeting held on 13th July 2017, considered the court order and its implication for the Commission’s ability to carry out its constitutional function regarding the petition to recall the Senator. After weighing all the options, the Commission decided that as a responsible organisation and in line with its longstanding tradition, it should not be seen as not disobeying a court order, however inappropriate it may consider the order.