The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it was neither intimidated nor blackmailed from carrying out the verification exercise on the recall process of Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West.
The commission specifically denied insinuations that it halted the recall verification process because the Senate intends to probe the tenure of INEC chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu when he served as executive secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
The commission noted that while it had already released dates and timelines for the recall screening process, added that it had to suspend action in obedience to a court order, which mandated all parties to maintain status quo.
The Commission however assured that “it will continue to diligently carry out its constitutional functions with candour and without fear, favour, affection or ill will”.
An online medium had reported that the commission suddenly halted action on efforts by voters in Kogi West to recall Senator Melaye because the upper federal legislative chamber decided to probe the tenure of Yakubu in TETFund.
But a statement by the National Commissioner and acting Chairman of INEC , Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, described the report as false and misleading, adding that it was a deliberate attempt to portray the Commission in a bad light and cast aspersions on it.
Ibeanu, who is holding forth for Yakubu who is out of the country, said, “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.
“In fact, contrary to the impression given by these reports, the INEC Chairman was not even at the meeting where the Commission took the decision to obey the court order.
“He is currently leading a team of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) on an official fact-finding mission to some West African countries, in his capacity as the body’s President.
“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”.
He recalled that on July 10 2017, the Commission received an Order given by the Federal High Court, Abuja and dated July 6 2017, which directed 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. Sen Melaye sought orders of injunction against the Commission to stop it from acting on the petition by the registered voters of Kogi West Senatorial district.
The statement continued: “The Judge, in granting the relief sought by the Senator, also fixed 29th September 2017 as the date to hear the Motion on Notice. By this date, the 90-day time frame 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 13th July 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 organization and in line with its longstanding tradition, it should not be seen as be disobeying a court order, however inappropriate it may consider the order.
“However, 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 29th September 2017. It should be noted that Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) sets a limit of 90 days from the date of the presentation of the petition (21stJune, 2017) for the exercise to be completed.
“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 the 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 imperilled as any individual can rush to court to stop what is clearly a constitutional process.