Reports and insinuations in the formal and informal media platforms suggesting that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC was intimidated to halt the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District have been debunked by relevant INEC authorities.
Reports and commentaries especially in the social media had it that the threat by the Senate to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND where current INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu headed as Executive Secretary prompted the halt to Melaye’s recall process. According to the reports, Professor Yakubu may have done wrong there.
However, top INEC officials have insisted that there was no such nexus between whatever action the lawmakers intend for TETFUND and the Commission’s decision to put a hold on Melaye’s recall process.
Referring to its recent press statements on the Kogi West issue, the officials said since the Senator’s recall process started, INEC has not had any cause to veer off its mandate as underscored in relevant laws guiding its activities.
One national officer of the Commission said “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.
” 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.”
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.
Another INEC Commissioner explained further: “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.”
It could be recalled that the Commission had on Thursday, March 10, this year 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, a recently appointed national commissioner said 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 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 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.
“For instance, the Chairman did not waste time in dealing with the 202 INEC staff indicted by EFCC for misconduct during the 2015 elections. You are also aware of the Commission’s decision on the staff allegedly involved in the Kogi double registration saga. Certainly, that does not look like a man who can be intimidated,” he further said.
Chairman of Abuja-based League of Democracy Watchdogs, LDW, Omeresan Olayinka in his Wuse office wondered why people are quick to “interprete negativity into every good thing in this country.”
Olayinka continued: “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?”