Kudos, Knocks Over Senate’s Decision On Rivers Rerun Election | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Kudos, Knocks Over Senate’s Decision On Rivers Rerun Election

Mahmood Yakubu
Posted: Nov 2, 2016 at 8:03 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Augustine Adah

Lagos The decision of the National Assembly mandating Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct rerun election in Rivers State before December 10 this year has been applauded and rejected by politicians and lawyers.

 The Senate on Wednesday issued INEC five weeks to conduct National Assembly re-run elections in Rivers State.

Following a motion presented on the floor of the Senate by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, the senators resolved to suspend their sitting if INEC failed to conduct the re-run poll by December 10.

According to Ekweremadu, ?”INEC has failed and refused to conduct rerun elections into the senate and house of representatives in the Rivers state. “I, therefore, urge the senate to ask INEC to conduct the elections by December 10, failure of which the senate will suspend plenary pending the time the elections are conducted.?”

 Commenting on the threat by the National Assembly members, Yunusa Tanko, National Chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP) expressed support over INEC’s threat. He stated that the inability of INEC to conduct the rerun election in Rivers State has denied the people the right to elect their representatives.

I completely support members of the National Assembly on the decision to stop plenary if the electoral umpire fails to conduct the election by December.

“It is wrong for   INEC under any guise to refuse to conduct the rerun elections close to two years after the general elections.” Tanko described the reason of insecurity given by INEC as its failure to conduct the rerun as untenable and diversionary.

 “The governor of Edo State gave a similar reason for the postponement of the governorship election and within two weeks, the situation was rectified and INEC went there and conducted the election.” 

He advised the commission to liaise with the governor of the state who is the chief security officer to ensure that the needed security is provided.

Tanko urged members of the National Assembly not to relent in their effort in ensuring that the right thing is done in case of Rivers State and other parts of the country where INEC is supposed to conduct rerun elections. “How can we be talking of rerun election at this time when the general elections were conducted in March last year”?

The former President of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) expressed worry over growing impunity in the present APC led government and urged the party to cleanse itself. “If what we are seeing continue, impunity would become the order of the day in the country.”    

On his part, Chief Goody Uwazuruike, President, Aka Ikenga an Igbo think tank organisation described the security excuse given by INEC as hollow.

He said, “When late President Umar Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan were in power, we did not hear of security threat but it has become a common phenomenon with the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“During the last general elections, not less than 14 local government areas in Borno State were captured by Boko Haram insurgency, yet President Buhari got almost two million votes in the area.”  He urged INEC to look for a better reason to advance why they could not conduct the election instead of security threat. He described the failure of INEC to conduct the election as a violation of people’s right.  

However, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State did not agree with the decision of the senate. He said, “I think we are gradually approaching anarchy in the country because I don’t understand why it should be the Senate to sanction INEC.”

According to Musa, the inability of INEC to conduct the rerun should be sorted out by various political parties and INEC.

 When the commission during a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt Rivers State last August disclosed that it would not be able to conduct the aborted rerun elections in the state before October, it was not cheering news to politicians and stakeholders.

Amina Zakari, National Commissioner in the commission who addressed the meeting gave the growing insecurity in the state as one of the main reasons especially the burning of INEC office in Khana local government area by suspected political thugs.

 Amina said, “We need to understand that elections are not just getting up and go. It is not like going to the race track. In fact even a race track, the athletes have to prepare. So we must prepare and that is the reason why we cannot just come back to Rivers without ensuring that we are prepared and you are prepared because the election is for you. The electorates are your electorates. If there is continuous violence, there cannot be elections.”

 The last rerun election conducted in Rivers State last March was marred with violence and other election malpractices which made INEC to declare the election inconclusive. At that time a youth corps member who was INEC ad hoc staff died.

Based on the magnitude of the violence, the commission promised to conduct the remaining elections only when it is satisfied that the security arrangement is conducive to hold an election.

Whether it is the role of National Assembly members to compel INEC to conduct the election or not, the threat could be a wakeup call for the commission to conduct the rerun election and put everything that has to do 2015 election  behind them as the preparation for 2019 general elections is expected to begin from 2017.  

Many Nigerians have expressed doubt over the ability of INEC to conduct the 2019 general elections judging its slow or lack of preparations. At a public function in Abuja recently, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, raised alarm over the preparation for the election.

He said,  “I’m sorry to sound alarmist. But, continuing the way we are going, we will not be able to have elections in 2019. If it happens, there would be too many broken heads and dead people.

  The judiciary has gone rogue and destroyed everything that was supposed to guarantee fairness in the 2015 elections.  Judges are speaking from too many sides of their mouth. There are no underlying principles”.