The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has denied reports linking the halted process of recall of the Senator Representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye, to the planned probe of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
Incumbent INEC Chair, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, previously served as executive secretary of the interventionist agency way back in 2012.
According to the election umpire in a press release it issued yesterday, which was signed by National Commissioner and acting Chairman, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, the punctuation was only in obedience to an order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which directed parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the plaintiff’s motion on notice.
Insisting that reports alleging a connection between the recall process and the planned probe were “totally incorrect and mischievous,” the commission explained that it swung into action after some registered voters from the district approached it on June 21, 2017 and submitted a petition to initiate the process of recalling the senator representing their district.
“The commission formally acknowledged the receipt of the petition and also notified the senator about the development in writing. And in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Sections 69 and 110 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and Section 116 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the commission on July 3, 2017 formally announced the timetable and schedule of activities for the recall of the senator.
“However, on the same July 10, 2017, the commission received an order given by the Federal High Court, Abuja and dated July 6, 2017, directing the “parties to maintain the status quo till the determination of the plaintiff’s motion on notice,” in respect of the suit filed by the concerned senator, seeking orders of injunction against the commission to stop it from acting on the petition by the registered voters of Kogi West Senatorial District.”
INEC added that, “the judge in granting the relief sought by the senator, also fixed September 29, 2017 as the date to hear the Motion on Notice. By this date, the 90-day timeframe established by the constitution for the entire recall process to be completed would have lapsed.
“Deeply concerned by this situation, the commission at its weekly regular meeting held on July 13, 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 long-standing tradition, it should not be seen as disobeying a court order, however inappropriate it may consider the order,” the electoral umpire stated.
It added that in this particular case, the commission also decided to take immediate steps to vacate the court order and for the matter to be heard and determined expeditiously. “This is because the court adjourned hearing of the Motion on Notice to September 29, 2017.
“The commission also decided to draw the attention of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to the order, in view of its effect on the performance of its constitutional duty to conduct the referendum for the recall in Kogi West Senatorial District. Besides, the commission considered it important to draw the chief justice’s attention to the matter for immediate judicial intervention, because if similar cases arise in the future, the commission’s work may be imperiled as any individual can rush to court to stop what is clearly a constitutional process,” said INEC.
It therefore, stressed that “the insinuation that the commission’s decision to obey the court order was somehow related to the Senate’s intention to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) is not only false and misleading, but also a deliberate attempt to portray the commission in a bad light, and cast aspersions on it.
“Surely, the decision of the Commission to obey the court order, pursue its timeous vacation and lay a complaint about the nature of the Federal High Court order to the Chief Justice of the Federation cannot, in any way, mean a secession of the process of recall of the senator, which has already commenced.”