By Nelson Ekujumi
The attention of the Committee for the Protection of the Peoples Mandate (CPPM) has been drawn to an ultimatum issued on Wednesday 2nd, November, 2016 by the Senate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to conduct pending National Assembly elections in Rivers state between now and December 10, 2016, failure of which it threatened to suspend plenary.We regard this ultimatum from the exalted chamber of the Senate which exemplifies the essence of democracy as cheap blackmail, disappointing, publicity stunt, reckless, unbecoming, provocative and an act of irresponsibility from legislators whose actions and conduct is at variance with reality and what the house represents.
According to the senate, “The failure of lNEC to conduct the re-run elections in Rivers within the time-frame ordered by the respective election petition tribunals/courts is in breach of the Electoral Act and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution.
In view of the above quote from the constitution, it reveals clearly that this action of the Senate on INEC, ought to have been guided by constitutional provisions and thus, the following questions become pertinent:
- Under which provisions of the Nigerian constitution, did the Senate derive the powers to issue ultimatum to a constitutionally established body in the discharge of its functions?
- By issuing this ultimatum, is the Senate not indirectly indicting itself as incompetent in view of the fact that, there is a house committee which performs oversight functions on INEC and election related matters?
- Is the Senate not aware that INEC, in the discharge of its functions, is guided by the constitution and the electoral act which stipulates specific conditions that must be fulfilled, before elections can hold?
- Is the Senate unaware that the conduct of elections by INEC involves some extraneous factors beyond INEC such as the provision of adequate security to guarantee the sanctity of the ballot box?
- Is the Senate unaware of the violence that trailed the March 19 rerun in Rivers state as widely reported in the media, which resulted in the wanton loss of lives of over 5 persons including an INEC ad hoc staff, properties, injuries to many, and dramatization of the electorate by this assault on democracy and our collective psyche as a country in the comity of nations?
- Following the brutal violence that trailed the March 19, 2016 rerun and the palpable attention and threat of violence that has dogged every reasonable attempt by INEC to conduct the remaining elections, may we ask that, what steps has the Senate as the bastion of democracy taken to arrest the assault on democracy in Rivers state since then?
In a civilized clime, one would have expected the Senate to be very much concerned about the sanctity of the democratic process through the conduct of credible, free and transparent elections in an atmosphere devoid of fear and intimidation of the electorate, by inviting the electoral umpire to explain reasons for the delay in conducting the remaining elections in Rivers state, other than this cheap blackmail and reckless threat.
Also, in view of the violence that has bedeviled elections in Rivers state, a responsible legislature of which the Nigerian senate is supposed to be one, would have in tandem to its legislative responsibility, immediately summoned the security agencies to brief the house on the violence that pervaded the March 19, 2016 re run election and how to prevent a reoccurrence.
The Senate has acted irresponsibly as a legislative chamber by not inviting INEC to explain the hindrances to the conduct of the remaining elections in Rivers state in order to complement the electoral body discharge of its functions, but has resorted to cheap blackmail and publicity stunts to distract from its incompetence which is condemnable.
As for INEC, we want to commend the electoral body for remaining faithful to its oath by ensuring strict compliance to the provisions of the electoral act in the discharge of its functions and admonish it to refuse to be intimidated and blackmailed by this irresponsible threat from a Senate which has lost touch with reality and the constitution which ought to be its guide.