17 July 2017

Nigeria: 'Court Order On Melaye's Recall May Derail Electoral Process'

Abuja — A national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed fears that the court's decision which compelled it to suspend the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye, may embolden those who want to truncate the country's electoral process to always approach courts knowing they will have their way.

The newly appointed national commissioner said INEC had 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.

"By section 69 of the Constitution, INEC has a 90-day limit from the date of recall petition presentation, June 21,2017 in this case, to complete the exercise.

"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 Time Table already announced by INEC. When that happens, you can imagine the monumental distortion it will create in the 2019 elections process."

Recall that the Commission 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 determination of INEC to prosecute its constitutional mandate, another INEC Commissioner explained that what INEC 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 INEC authorities further debunked insinuations that the commission was arm twisted to suspend the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), saying there is no nexus between the probe of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, (TETFund) which the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had previously headed as Executive Secretary and suspension of Melaye's recall.

There were reports on various social media platforms that the Senate's resolution to probe TETFund prompted the suspension of the recall process.

Referring to its recent press statements on the Kogi West issue, the INEC officials said since the Senator's recall process started, INEC had not had cause to veer off its mandate as underscored in relevant laws guiding its activities.

"All INEC 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 the September 29 date fixed by the High Court for the motion on notice," national officer of the Commission said.

Also speaking on the issue, Chairman of Abuja-based League of Democracy Watchdogs (LDW), Omeresan Olayinka, lamented that people are quick to "interprete negativity into every good thing in this country."

"From what I know of this INEC under Prof. Yakubu, it has been very proactive and determined to do its work according to the laws establishing and guiding its mandate.

"I learnt the Chairman was not even in the country when the relevant committee met and resolved to suspend the Kogi West recall process in deference to the Court order. And the measures the Commission has taken to lift that order must be commended.

"Insinuation linking that decision to the resolution of the Senate to probe whatever they suspect at TETFUND, is neither here nor there. I don't see any connection there. Anything closest to that is a mere coincidence. If not why is INEC moving to lift the order? And why has INEC petitioned the CJN for protection of its mandate constitutionally guide our democracy?" He added.

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