2 November 2016

Nigerian Senate Threatens to Boycott Sittings

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(file photo).

The Senate has threatened to boycott plenary unless the Independent National Electoral Commission conducts rerun elections in Rivers and Anambra states to fill their vacant seats in the National Assembly before December 10.

The Senate's resolution asking INEC to conduct the rerun polls not later than December 10 was reached on Wednesday, following a motion by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Following nullifications of the 2015 National Assembly and State Assembly elections in Rivers State by the court, INEC conducted rerun polls on March 19.

But the exercise was widely violence-marred, forcing the electoral body to call off the polls.

Days after, the commission in statement by its spokesperson, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, hinted at conditions for organization of fresh elections, saying only guaranteed security for its personnel and voters could make it conduct the exercise again.

"While the Commission is committed to conducting free, fair, and credible elections, it hereby reiterates its resolve not to return to Rivers State (or anywhere else where there was a breakdown of law and order in the course of conducting elections) until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections," INEC said on March 25.

Ever since, seven months on, INEC has not returned to Rivers for the rerun polls.

In the Senate, Rivers State does not have representatives.

Also, the Anambra Central senatorial rerun, that was initially slated for March 5, was indefinitely postponed by INEC days to the poll, following a High Court ruling ordering inclusion of the Peoples Democratic Party.

INEC had barred PDP from the election because its guideline says no new candidate would be allowed in rerun polls. PDP's candidate in the first poll, Uche Ekwunife, decamped to All Progressives Congress just after the Court of Appeal nullified her election.

"It could be any of us in the case of Rivers; imagine a state like mine ravaged by insurgency without a representation," said the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, in his contribution to the motion.

Assuming the Senate was taking PIB deliberation today, Mr. Ndume lamented, it would be without a single senator from Rivers - Nigeria's oil hub.

Matthew Urhoghide (PDP-Edo) said, "there is no other way we can input inhumane treatment than what INEC is doing in Rivers."

After the motion was passed, Senate President Bukola Saraki said INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, was duty-bound to justify his words during his screening before the Senate.

Meanwhile, Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi) added an additional prayer to the motion, asking President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a new minister from Kogi State.

Since James Ochonu died in an auto accident in March, Mr. Buhari has not nominated a new person from Kogi State to replace the late junior Labour Minister in the Federal Executive Council.

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