Published On: Mon, Jul 17th, 2017

Melaye’s recall: INEC petitions CJN, seeks reversal of court order

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Independent National Electoral Commission INEC

Independent National Electoral Commission INEC

By Ali Alkali

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has petitioned the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) seeking to defend its constitutional mandate in respect of the suspended recall process of Senator Dino Melaye.
Sections of the media had reported that INEC was brow beaten to suspend the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District due to pressures mounted on the commission by the Senate.
The threat by the Senate to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND where current INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu headed as Executive Secretary was cited as reason for the suspension of Melaye’s recall process, suggesting that Yakubu may have erred while at TETFUND.
According to a top official of INEC who spoke in confidence, “ 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.”
He said 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.
He 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.”
A commissioner at INEC also insisted that there was no link between Senate moves to probe TETFUND and the Commission’s decision to put on hold Melaye’s recall process.
He 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.
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.
He said 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.
Chairman of Abuja-based League of Democracy Watchdogs, Omeresan Olayinka also observed that “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?”
Meanwhile, a statement by Okechukwu Ibeanu, a national commissioner and acting Chairman of INEC issued on Saturday in Abuja said the reports relating INEC’s decision to the Senate’s intention to probe TETFUND, where the present INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, previously served as executive secretary, was false and misleading.
He stated that the commission, in line with its issued timetable for the recall, pasted the Notice of Verification at the Kogi West Constituency (INEC Office in Lokoja) on July 10.
“However, on the same July 10, INEC received an order given by the Federal High Court, Abuja, and dated July 6.’’
He said that the order in respect to suit filed by Melaye, directed the “parties to maintain the status quo till the determination of the plaintiff’s motion on notice.’’
Mr. Ibeanu added that the Judge, in granting the relief sought by the Senator, also fixed Sept. 29 as the date to hear the Motion on Notice.
He said that by this date, the 90-day timeframe established by the Constitution for the entire recall process to be completed, would have lapsed.
He said deeply concerned by this situation, INEC 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.
He stated that after weighing all the options, the commission, as a responsible organization, decided that it should not be seen to be disobeying a court order, “however inappropriate it may consider the order.

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