Delay in rerun polls may cause chaos, groups tell INEC
International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, (Intersociety) alongside Southeast-based coalition of human rights organisations, have cautioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that non-conduct of re-run polls in Anambra, Imo and Rivers States could lead to anarchy.
In a letter addressed to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu and signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman; Chinwe Umeche, (Head, Democracy & Good Governance Programme); and Obianuju Joy Igboeli, (Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Programme), the groups accused INEC of flouting court orders.
Titled “Non-Conduct Of Outstanding Legislative Reruns In Imo, Anambra & Rivers States Is An Invitation To Anarchy”, with reference number: Intersociety/SBCHROs/001/04/016/INEC/ABJ, the letter recalled that nearly one year after the federal legislative elections, nine federal constituencies were without representatives.
“Over 12 months after the country’s federal legislative poll was conducted, a number of outstanding reruns abound. Presently at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, five Senatorial Districts with combined electoral population of 10million to 15million have been denied quality and deliberative legislative representation since December 2015.
“Similar sad fate has befallen other vacant House of Reps seats particularly those in Rivers State. All the five vacant Senatorial District seats and those of the House of Reps in Rivers State are in the realm of “primus inter pares”(first among equals); considering their strategic importance to national cohesion, unity and development.
“As important as Rivers State is to the country’s national wealth and politics, yet it does not have serving Senators till date; likewise Anambra State and its Central Senatorial District and Imo State and its North or Okigwe Senatorial District,” Intersociety observed.
The right groups maintained that “there are no legal, administrative or political excuses that can impeach the right of the people of the areas to enjoy quality and deliberative representation at the National Assembly of Nigeria”, stressing that the right of a people to vote is “sacrosanct, constitutional and justiciable.”
It noted that the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act of 2010, stipulated that judicial enquiries into any dispute associated with the outcome of any legislative poll must end within eight months, but disclosed “these laws and judicial orders have been observed in gross breach by your electoral Commission till date.”
Intersociety disclosed that Anambra Central Senatorial rerun remains outstanding mainly because INEC decided to appeal a Federal High Court ruling by Justice Anwuli Chikere that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), should be included on the ballot, adding that by that action the commission made itself a partisan operator.
“The 90 days court order within which your commission was mandated to conduct the rerun expired on 6th of March 2016. Instead of INEC retaining its role as a neutral third party or disinterested third party/referee; the Commission became grossly partisan; featuring as a plaintiff party in a politically motivated and ill-conceived appellate suit, questioning the grounded decision of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on 1st of March 2016, which rightly ordered the Commission to include “wrongly excluded parties and their candidates” in the Court-ordered re-run,” the group informed Prof. Yakubu.
While reminding INEC to set dates for the remaining re-run polls, the rights groups cried out that “it appears the Commission has allowed itself to be remote-controlled and stampeded by some malicious and riotous political actors.”
Part of the letter read: “Till date, Rivers State has no Senatorial representation at the Senate and nine of its 13 House of Reps seats are currently vacant on account of failure and incompetence of Your Commission to conduct and conclude reruns into the vacant seats.
“How come outstanding reruns and FCT municipal polls were recently conducted and concluded by your Commission in Osun State and Abuja (FCT), yet the Commission has adamantly refused to fix new dates and conduct reruns for those of Rivers (three senatorial and nine house of reps seats), Imo (Okigwe or Imo North senatorial seat) and Anambra (Anambra Central senatorial seat)?
“Is it not correct to say that your Commission is reluctant to conduct the outstanding reruns in the affected areas for political reasons, (i.e. they are perceived to be the federally opposition party strongholds likely to be won by same if conducted)? Could it have been the same if they are in the areas perceived as federally ruling party strongholds?”
The groups therefore enjoined the INEC boss, “as a matter of uttermost immediacy and extreme public importance, fix new dates for the outstanding reruns immediately and also apologize to all Nigerians and the electorates of the nine federal constituencies and three senatorial districts in Rivers State as well as those of Imo North and Anambra Central senatorial districts.”
“We also demand that your Commission must file notices of withdrawal in its politically motivated and ill-conceived appeal before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division challenging the Federal High Court judgment baring the Commission from excluding the plaintiff and its would-be candidate in the Anambra Central Senatorial rerun,” the letter added.
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