Melaye recall; Discordant tunes as INEC conducts verification behind embattled senator
By John Akubo
The Nigeria Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be facing the greatest challenge ever in the history of its existence with the commencement of the recall process of the senator representing Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye yesterday being the 28th day of April, 2018.
The verification exercise which is the first in the line of activities for the recall process was carried out yesterday in 552 polling units in the senatorial district out of 556 since there were no petitions in 8 polling units.
INEC said the exercise is a response to the move by some constituents from the Senatorial District, where the senator hails from who last year, registered their names and submitted photocopies of their Permanent Voter Cards.
Over 188,000 people from the district reportedly gave their signatures in June 2017, indicating readiness to recall Melaye, whom they accused of poor representation.
The declaration of the outcome of the exercise is expected today Sunday being the 29th of April, 2018 at the INEC area office in Lokoja.
However legal minds and other stakeholders have expressed reservations as to whether INEC will live up to its name of being independent just before the verification.
Their observations may have put the electoral umpire on its toes to do the needful as the outcome may make or mar its integrity as to how prepared it is for the all important 2019 general election under the All Progressive Congress (APC) led Federal Government.
It is now left for INEC to prove nay sayers wrong as they did during the Anambra State Governorship election that was held recently that was said to be free and fair.
This is because INEC went ahead with the recall exercise when the principal actor that may be affected by the outcome of the process, Senator Melaye is being incarcerated on a hospital bed in Abuja hence his head is being shaved in his absence.
Yet INEC had pointed out earlier that Melaye is the only person that can provide agents at the polling units to monitor the exercise and not political parties as it is done during proper election, though the exercise itself is almost similar to the real election situation.
Political analysts believed that the hype by the police in the arrest of the senator may not be unconnected with the strategy to tuck him away while the verification exercise takes place so he may not be available to mobilise against his recall.
They observed that for a senator that had stepped on virtually every toes including that of the President the use of security agents is not a surprise.
If not all these while, the senator had been going out for his normal activities while the same police provided him protection even as they declared him wanted.
Legal minds who spoke to Sunday Guardian on the issue believe that at the end of the day subject to the outcome of the exercise, the umpire may be enmeshed in series of litigations that may make the process a mere waste of public funds if the right things are not done.
It would be recalled that Senator Melaye had been having a running battle with the Nigerian police over an allegation by some alleged criminals Kabiru Saidu aka Osama and Nuhu Salisu a.k.a small who named him as their political sponsor that supplied them guns for some hatchet job in lieu of 2019 election.
The case against him was filed at the Federal high court Lokoja which was later transfered to Abuja at the instance of the senator over the fear that his life would not be save in Kogi and also for the reason that the suspects in their confession said Melaye handed them the arms on airport road in Abuja.
Even though the police had paraded the suspects in Lokoja at its State headquarters earlier when they made the allegations but in a twist the police authorities announced to a bewildered public that the criminals had escape from their custody just before they were to be arraigned at the Federal high court in Lokoja along with their supposed sponsors.
The Kogi State commissioner of police Ali Janga was even redeployed for ineptitude while his successor resumed.
But in another drama the redeployed Janga was reinstated after the alleged criminals were rearrested between the two weeks deadline by the Inspector General of police expired.
Hence the current ordeal of the senator vis-a-vis the commencement of his recall process while he is being incarcerated on a hospital bed is making stakeholders to doubt the sincerity or otherwise of the electoral umpire.
A constitutional lawyer based in Lokoja Barrister Joel Usman said if INEC says that they are not aware of the senators ordeal, it may be because no letter was communicated to it.
However he pointed out that legally speaking the ordeal of Melaye is a common knowledge and must be taken judicial notice of as it was widely publicised in all media.
“If you ask me I will say it is impossible for Melaye to be in all the polling units and wards at the same time. So his presence in that regard is not mandatory but the presence of his agents cannot be dispensed in my view.
“If Melaye before his present ordeal communicated the names of his agents to INEC, I think the process will sail through without serious legal implications.”
On the other hand he indicated that if he has not before now, considering his present State of incarceration, going ahead with the process would be a complete waste of public funds as it would generate a lot of litigations which would certainly not be resolved within the stipulated 90 days.
On the appeal he has filed with the supreme court on the issue, he said he is not aware if there was any application for stay of execution of his recall.
According to him, without any of the above INEC can actually go ahead with the process but if that motion was pending they cannot go ahead.
Another legal luminary in the State Barrister Aliwo said ordinarily because it is a recall it is expected that Melaye should be present.
“As a matter of fact it is not just by reason of ill health, the sickness developed from the police incarceration. That means even in ill health he is in incarceration at the instance of the police and that of the State.
“That the State through her agency, INEC has also undertaken to recall Melaye in his absence under incarceration.
Though he said there is nothing wrong holding an election in the absence of a candidate, however in a recall process the person to be recalled would be negatively affected by the process.
He said since Melaye is being held by the same principal agent effecting the recall it appears to be a one sided affair.
He observed that a person’s hair can not be shave in his absence. “That is where I have reservations about the process. INEC appears to be more desperate than even the aggrieved by going ahead with the process of recall when the man is being held incommunicado. I think that is most unfair as INEC is expected to be an independent umpire.
“They should not cry more than the beareved. Some people purportedly complained to INEC that they wanted to recall the senator and the person is being detained.
“INEC is trying to take Panadol for the headache of the complainants.”
He however observed that INEC may try to say that they are not aware that Melaye is being held in detention.
That he said behooves on Melaye’s lawyer to put INEC on notice. “Although his ordeal is in the public arena they have to be succinctly notified that the senator is indisposed.
“It is just like convicting somebody in his absence without hearing him. Probably if Melaye is around he will mobilise his own supporters to truncate the process but here now he is being detained I think it is unfair.”
On the Appeal Melaye filed at the supreme court he said it cannot act as a stay of election unless there is a specific order of stay of execution or they have filed a motion for stay of execution.
Aliwo pointed out that merely approaching the supreme court alone can not act as a stay of execution but if he had done that it would be in the interest of the parties to keep the matter until after the issues are resolved.”
At a stakeholders meeting on the Process of the Recall (Verification) of the Senator recently the electoral body was almost overwhelmed by thought provoking enquiries over their fears for INEC and its credibility after the exercise.
They queried the credibility of the card reader as a major electronic device for the conduct of the verification exercise based on its failures during the 2015 election and other elections afterwards.
Many of the stakeholders still expressed their misgivings as to whether INEC will live up to its promise to deliver free and fair verification.
The Christian Association of Nigeria PRO, Elder James Ibitoye observed that as at the time when signatures were collated there were allegations that people that had even died appended signatures. He said names were mentioned and he watched on Channels TV program, ‘Politics Today’ where names were mentioned even from his Local Government adding that people whose names were being mentioned that signed he personally know some of them that have died.
He pondered how INEC would be able to fish out things like that.
Abubakar Ibrahim representing Democratic Peoples Party said during the collation of the signatures there were some persons who were not even aware and the forms were shared to their wards and signatures forged on their behald and those names were collated.
“What I am saying is even though the dead persons whose signatures appeared may not resurrect but we may see their PVCS at the polling units what would be INEC’S action?
“What we are saying here is that INEC must do the needful because Kogi is already a flash point politically in the history of this country, the right thing must be done so that we can have peace because we need peace in this process but if we get it wrong it would be a different kettle entirely.” “INEC has to live above board because people are going to be hired to bring PVCs of dead people to the polling units so INEC should ensure that the process is carried out in a free and fair manner so that it would not be manipulated to favor any person.”
Another stakeholder, Ultaz Zack zekeri said as spiritual leaders they have a stake, as they are bound to preach peace and harmony and the need for cooperation.
“If there is no peace we can not succeed in anything. We should eschew violence and bitterness and everyone would be accountable to God for every of his or her action on earth.
“INEC would not succeed if we don’t give them maximum cooperation; by the time we get back home let us talk to ourselves. It should not be a do or die thing, today it is Melaye, tomorrow it may be another person. “We are appealing that as enshrined in the books we should go about this exercise with the fear of God because he is watching us.”
He said God will deal with any person planning to cause problems.
“I want to appeal to INEC officials that justice should prevail. You have said it here yes let us agree on the surface but let us pray that we don’t have any issues but when justice is trampled there would be anarchy and violence.
“Again many people are expressing some fears about the death people, there are certain things that are not possible in other country but are possible in Nigeria, when we are talking about card readers the man watching you may decided to overlook many things and then the unexpected.
INEC has however continued to maintain that they would be very fair as an umpire in the recall process.
The INEC National Commissioner Supervising Kogi, Kwara and Nassarawa states, Mohammed Haruna, assured that the electoral body has no special interest in the process, other than to ensure that the process is followed through as spelt out by the law.
He urged all concerned to adhere strictly with the laid down process as spelt out by the laws guiding the process.
“If you probably voted for Melaye and you are scared of his being recalled you have no problem, there are two elements in the recall process; verification, if it succeeds; that is if we have 50% plus 1 and they are verified they will move on to the second leg which is the referendum.
“At the referendum just like election it is a yes or no thing. The result would be announced. If it succeeds there is no law that says your candidate who you voted for cannot recontest another election so there is another opportunity to vote for him again.
He stressed that INEC has absolutly no interest in the process on who wins or loses. “We have our regulations, we have our guidelines, we would adhere strictly by them.”
On the issue of dead persons who signed the petition he said if somebody is dead there is no way he can appear, if somebody has been misrepresnted his thumb print and signature would be verified and they would be different so obviously it would be detected.
“We would exercise due deligence and do everything to abide by the rules.
“As correctly observed Kogi is a flash point in this country and we don’t want to take any small single step from doing the right thing, we want to make sure every step is by the books so that at the of the day those who lose or win will see that everything is free and fair and credible.
He said the card reader would be used and it will find out if the PVC is an INEC card or not.
He said with the card reader one can see his photograph and the biometric of the owner. “It would be obvious because the photograph is in that card reader and they will use the card reader to verify your thumb print and I think going home from here there is one important point that was raised if you know people who are dead and are still on the register report so we can expunge them.”
The State resident electoral commissioner Professor James Apam said the law says the person beng petitioned have a right to submit the list of agents for every polling unit.
“We are not going to allow political parties to be at the polling units, It is only the person who has been petitioned.
“If he has chosen you as his agent of course you can be there because this is not an election.
“At no state we are going to allow parties to have agents either during verification or referendum, only the person that has been petitioned will have his agents.”
To allay the fear of the people on signatures of dead people that were collated he said those who have died would not come out on that day saying it is the essence of verification.
Apam vowed that INEC would ensure the process is free and fair as they are poised to do the needful because they cannot rubbish the reputation of the electoral umpire which it has built for itself over the years saying they would only improve on it.
“The truth is that just like the 2015 election there is no way you can take another person’s PVC for verification because first of all there are two ways of verifying; with your thumb print which will prompt your picture to appear on the screen of the card reader and the signature of each petitioner.”
When asked what would happen with the ordeal of the senator and his incarceration Apam said INEC was not aware saying there is no other obstacle to the senator’s recall process hence there was no going back.
On security, the Nigerian police said the recall process of Senator Melaye will be violence free.
This was contained in a press statement that was signed by the Kogi State command’s spokesperson William Ayah.
He said the commissioner of police calls on the people of the senatorial district to cooperate with the Security agencies to ensure that Criminal elements do not disrupt the process.
He warned Political thugs as well as those who may not have business at the Polling Unit to stay away stating the Command’s readiness to deal with any miscreants.
“The Commissioner urge the law abinding citizens of the State to go about their lawful businesses and to always avail the Security agencies with credible information on the existence of criminal elements in the State.
“The renewed commitment of the Command to guarantee protection of lives and property remains unequivocal and unwavering.”
Meanwhile the Kogi State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party, mandated its members to stay away from the verification exercise for the recall of the Senator.
They alleged that the recall was organised by Kogi State Government and not the constituents of the federal constituency.
In a statement signed by Achadu Dickson, Director Research and Documentation, the party described the recall as a hoax and politically motivated.
It urged its members to vote against the government plan to recall the embattled Senator by staying away.
The Party dissociated itself from the recall process describing it as undemocratic.
“It is an executive recklessness against opposing voices.”
The PDP says it aligns itself with the message of the APC embattled Senator in exposing bad governance, which is their hallmark since the inception of the APC led administration under Gov. Yahaya Bello.
It pointed out that Dino’s message of inept leadership and bad governance that has brought the state to its lowest ebb under the current dispensation, only goes to reinforce the PDP’s position that Kogi State is now a failed State and has been made a laughing stock amongst committee of States in the country.
The statement called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Various Security Agencies, who are umpires in the recall process, not to allow themselves to be used in the forceful plan to deny Kogi West people the right to have an elected representation.
The party urged its members to remain peaceful and law abiding, and not to succumb to intimidation from mischief makers bent on achieving the recall.
NEF drops bombshell, asks NASS to stop jamboree of constitution review
NEF drops bombshell, asks NASS to stop jamboree of constitution review
Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has advised the Senate to jettison the wasteful idea of giving Nigerians the impression that it is involved in a serious review of the Constitution.
This was contained in a statement that was signed and issued by the Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.
It stated that the Forum has taken note of the published invitation by the Senate ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to the public to submit Memorandum to assist the further alteration of the provisions of the Constitution(as amended).
“The announcement gives all Nigerians only two weeks to submit their memoranda on all aspects requiring amendment of the current Constitution.”
The statement insisted that what is needed at the moment is equity and justice, a functional structure, consistent good governance and security for all citizens not another jamboree.
It stated further that the country’s future also is predicated on a credible electoral process, growing understanding between and among all groups and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between and classes and regions.
“This cannot be achieved by a process that routinizes wasteful expenditure around false hopes.
“The Forum is convinced that this repetitive initiative of the Senate is of no value and a predictable waste of time, resources and energy of the nation, and should not be supported by Nigerians being alarmed by waste in governance at this difficult time when the economy is facing unprecedented challenges.
“Virtually every National Assembly since 1999 had spent huge amounts of Nigerian people’s money on jamborees that give them false hope that the three arms of government respect the overwhelming desire of Nigerians for a holistic and genuine review and amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
“Nothing fundamental or of any value has come out of these grand schemes to exploit our collective desire to address our political and economic fundamentals.
This National Assembly is also following suit, and it should not be encouraged on this path.”
He challenged the National Assembly to direct its energy and mandate towards convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to bring an end to the insurgency in the North East and killings in most parts of North Central and North West and other parts of the country.
“The North wants a major review of the Constitution, but it is also ready to resist attempts to create wealth for a few while it leaves parts of the country to quarrel and blame each other for the state of the nation.
“Northerners are willing to discuss current challenges of the region and the state of the country with any group, anywhere, provided it sees evidence of sincerity and respect for each other.”
According to him, the Legislature and executive branches of government have large quantities of reviews, recommendations and reports from past attempts at amending the Constitutions.
“These represent enough resources for a review if the legislature is serious about this vital national priority.
“Even this is not likely to produce a genuine effort to address the basic requirements of securing a stable, secure and prosperous Nigeria, because both arms of this administration are unlikely to accept to put through wide-ranging reviews of the Constitution.”
The statement specifically reminded legislators and other leaders from the North that security of their communities, reduction of crushing poverty and widening distrust among communities should be their priorities.
“The Northern Elders Forum recommends the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organizations and representatives of government to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representation mutual respect and integrity of the process.
“A Nigerian Peoples’ Conference on Review of the Constitution will benefit from past work in this direction in addition to contemporary challenges which the country needs to address in a context that allows free and productive engagements without pre-determined ends.
“The outcome of this Conference should be submitted to the two arms of government which should provide for a referendum in the Constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function.
“The North is willing to discuss other options that will do justice to the current Constitution and the future of our great country.
“The Forum invites attention of particularly northern groups to be wary of being railroaded into making submissions which the legislature will hold up as input, further justifying waste and deceit.
“No northern group should encourage further waste of public funds which should be channelled into battling killers, kidnappers, poverty and poor governance.”
Kidnapping still a thriving Enterprise In Kogi
Kidnapping still a thriving Enterprise In Kogi
Efforts by the Kogi State government to stem the menace of kidnapping in the state has failed woefully, as the illicit trade has continued to thrive.Even though kidnapping has marginally reduced, kidnappers now adopt new strategies, as their older strategies no longer work, especially with the efforts of security agents, who are matching them weapon-for-weapon and trick-for-trick.
However, there is still tension in the state as kidnap for ransom is gradually shifting from the highways to the interior villages, creating fears in the minds of residents who can no longer go to their farms, or get water from streams.The Guardian checks revealed that most kidnappers operating in the state infiltrate the area from some northern states. A number of times, they block highways and kidnap commuters after which they demand ransom, which usually range from N2m to N5m.
Recently Abdul Abaji was kidnapped along Ajegwu-Itobe Road on a Saturday. He was travelling from Lokoja to Idah with some people he offered a free ride, before he was intercepted at about 6pm around Ukunube Hill stretch, a spot notorious for kidnapping activities over the years.
An occupant of the car, a lady, who luckily escaped, said the kidnappers collected their money and phones and dragged Abaji into the bush because he actually attempted to make a detour on sighting them at the top of the hill, but luck was not on his side as some other gun men emerged from the bush behind and stopped him.Abaji’s car was, however, recovered by SARS same day, and the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari, while confirming the incident said three persons along with a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) official that were kidnapped along Chikara Road the previous week had been released.
In KotonKarfe Local Council, the incessant cases of kidnapping and armed robbery has crippled social life. In Gegu-Beki, Iraki, Omoko, Akpogu, Kpareke and Achara, kidnapping has also affected commercial activities of the people, making them to remain indoors.According to a community leader in Iraki, Chief Idris Salihu: “The kidnappers invaded the community at about 2am some months ago and began to shoot sporadically, causing panic among the people.“One Mallam Yunusa Zaga was kidnapped while returning home in his car and kept in captivity for about three days before he was released. Ransom was paid.
The same gang, after the incident attempted to kidnap other members of the community on two occasions, but did not succeed due to efforts of members of the vigilante group. “Since they started kidnapping in our community, we can no longer sleep peacefully, we now live in fear,” he said.The Imam of Iraki Community Mosque, Idris Ibrahim, said: “Government should please provide security. We can no longer go to our farms. Our women cannot go and fetch water and firewood because of fear of being kidnapped.”
The head of the vigilante group in Iraki community, Zakari Hussain, lamented that kidnapping and armed robbery have been a great challenge to his people for sometime now.He said a few months ago, one of his brothers was kidnapped and huge ransom was paid before he was released, adding that due to the spate of kidnapping in the area, the vigilante members under his leadership have been doing all they could to ensure that the people are safe.
“We keep vigil from 8pm to 8am every day. We hardly have time to sleep. What we do is patrol round the community all through the night,” he said.He appealed to the government to support them with security personnel and weapons to keep the kidnappers away.At Gegu-Beki, one Murtala Muhammed, a butcher and cow dealer who was recently kidnapped from his home regained freedom after parting ways with N2m ransom.
The butcher, who said the kidnappers swooped on him and took him away with N1m cash at 11pm on the night he was kidnapped, added that he was kept in captivity for about three days and a ransom of N1 million was paid before he was freed.Members of his family and other people in the neighborhood now live in fear.Also at Gegu-Beki, a woman identified as Aisha Abdulkareem, was kidnapped on March 6, at about 7:40pm, by four gunmen while selling at her provision store.
The kidnappers, it was gathered, actually came for her husband, but when they missed him they decided to kidnap the wife after which they demanded N50m ransom. Abdulkareem was with her kidnappers for five days before some money was paid as ransom and her release effected.
At Omoko Community, the wife and daughter of the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the area, Alhaji Audu Omoko were kidnapped recently.
The kidnappers released them unhurt after collecting some ransom from the family.At Kpareke, a member of a vigilante group in the area was killed during an unsuccessful kidnap attempt. It was learnt that the kidnappers abducted one person during their second attempt on the community. Achara and Akpogu communities on their parts have equally witnessed the grim activities of kidnappers in recent times.
The Administrator of Kogi-Kotonkarfe Local Council, Tanko Mohammed, who described the spate of kidnapping in the council as alarming, said government was working alongside security agencies to address the menace.He said following the combing of the kidnappers’ hideouts by security operatives and the subsequent arrest of some of them, cases of kidnapping has reduced in the past few days.The council administrator, however, appealed for more security presence and possibly, joint security operations in thet council in order to flush out the kidnappers from their hideouts.
Recently the Kogi State Police Command paraded 52 suspected political thugs and kidnappers, which he said were arrested from criminal hideouts, black spots and flash points across the state.The Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari said the suspects admitted to “have participated in political thuggery in the just concluded 2019 general elections, several kidnappings, armed robberies and attack on innocent travellers on the major highways across the state.He said his men arrested one Musa Haruna, who was involved in the kidnap of Alhaji Usman Magaji. Four other members of the kidnap gang were later arrested
Ramadan: Kogi NUJ Chair Fetes Journalists
Ramadan: Kogi NUJ Chair Fetes Journalists
In a rear show of comraderie, the Kogi State Council of NUJ Chairman Comrade Adeza Momoh Jimoh yesterday feted members to the braking of fast where Muslims and Christian journalists were seen sharing together.
Speaking at the event, he charged Nigerians to allow the lessons of Ramadan, which is that of love and sharing with the less priviledged to become their way of life even after the Ramadan.
The Chairman said the country would be a better place to live if brotherliness, love and sharing with the under privilege is made a way of life
Though he acknowledged that times are really hard, he however encouraged Nigerians to share with their neighbours, adding that tough times don’t last, rather with love and being our brothers keeper, people would overcome the difficult times.
Comrade Momohjimoh commended journalists in the state for their fairness as exhibited in their balance reports.
He admonished that being agenda setters they should serve as vanguards in disseminating and informing citizens of day to day happenings in the state.
The NUJ Chairman called on those interested in taking up courses in the journalism profession to take advantage of the presence of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) campus in Lokoja to get trained, adding that as a dignified profession, those who must practice, should be taught the rudiments of development Journalism.
The chairman decried the influx of quarks especially in the online platforms who are fond of misinforming the populace.
He advised against the use of non- professionals as media aides, saying they certainly would not be fit as effective media managers as they will end up creating more problems for their bosses.
According to the chairman the gathering is a forum to reflect on the significance of Ramadan and for journalists irrespective of religious believes to gather together to chart a course of moving the council forward.
In their separate remarks, Elder Bola Emmanuel Boro, and Ali Atabor, former Council Chairmen of the NUJ in the state respectively, described the initiative by the current Chairman as laudable.
The Former Chairmen commended the leadership style of the NUJ Chairman, urged practicing journalist to maintain decency in the course of practice.
They said so far, the pracitioners have kept the flag flying with balanced reports.
Also speaking, Kola Adeyemi, Head of the News Agency of Nigeria in Kogi state, urged journalists to serve as examples in love, adding that what the country needs at the moment is a people united in love.
There would be a repeat of the breaking of fast at the NUJ with all media practioners on Friday
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