.Threatens To Suspend Plenary Indefinitely
. Senators pass PIB for second reading
The Senate, yesterday, gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), ultimatum to conduct all pending rerun elections in Rivers and Anambra states not later than December 10.
The Senate also resolved to suspend plenary indefinitely, if INEC failed to carry out this directive on or before the December 10 deadline. These resolutions followed a motion jointly sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, on the failure of INEC to conduct outstanding rerun elections in Rivers State into the National Assembly and the Rivers Assembly as well as the rerun into the Senate in Anambra State. The Senate, in plenary, had passed a resolution on September 27 calling on the electoral umpire to immediately conclude all pending rerun elections in the country including those of Rivers.
But in defiance to this directive and seeming disregard to the constitutional powers of the parliament, the commission has not conducted the pending elections, particularly in Rivers State.
Worried by the attitude of INEC in this regard, Ekweremadu and Ndume brought a motion to the floor of the Senate, praying the chamber to compel the commission to conduct the rerun in Rivers so that the people of the state would be represented in the National Assembly and the state assembly as provided for in the constitution.
Leading the debate in the motion, Ekweremadu lamented that the nation’s electoral body chose to disregard the resolution of the apex chamber, noting that the negligence was in total breach of the constitution and other laws of the land.
He observed that the failure of INEC to conduct elections in Rivers had continued to deny the people of the state their constitutional guaranteed rights to be represented in the legislative houses where laws affecting them are being made.
Ekweremadu stated that: “We observe that in spite of our resolution, that is the Senate resolution 016/02/16 of 27th day of September, 2016 calling on the INEC to immediately conclude all pending rerun elections in the country, INEC has failed, refused and or neglected to conduct rerun elections in Rivers State into the Senate, House of Representatives and States House of Assembly.
“We also observe that the failure of INEC to conduct the rerun elections in Rivers State within the timeframe ordered by the respective election tribunals and the courts is in breach of the Electoral Act and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution, thus endangering the nation’s democracy.
“We further observe that non-representation of the entire people of Rivers State in the Senate and some constituencies of Rivers State in the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly is in breach of section 14 (2c) of the 1999 Constitution, which enjoined the participation of every part of this country in the governance of Nigeria, and this endangers peace and order in Rivers State.”
Contributing, the cosponsor of the motion, Ndume said that the failure of INEC to conduct the rerun polls in Rivers amounted to robbing the state of its constitutional entitlement. He regretted that the new leadership of INEC was becoming notorious for conducting inconclusive elections, leading to confusion in parts of the country.
His words: “The fear is that we have a new leadership in INEC. And we know the history now: inconclusive, suspension and confusion. And we have to do something. Very soon, we will be preparing for general elections. I know there are problems in Rivers, but elections must hold.”
Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), described the Rivers State situation as an anathema, inhuman, urging the Senate to take a decisive action against INEC, and salvage the state and the country from impending anarchy.
While the Senate was on the verge of taking decision on the matter, the Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Abubakar Kyari, rose to inform the Chamber that his committee had a discussion with the electoral body, and that INEC assured that it had fixed December 10, to conduct the Rivers rerun.
Consequently, Ekweremadu quickly amended the prayer to mandate INEC to conduct the elections in Rivers not later than December 10. When the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, put the question to voice vote, it was massively supported by members, without any dissenting voice.
In a related development, the Senate also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately appoint a minister from Kogi to replace the former Minister of State for Labour, Barr. James Ocholi, who died in a motor accident earlier in the year.