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.
NUJ Oyo, grieves over death of Guardian photojournalist
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State Council, has been been been thrown into morning mood over the untimely death of Najeem Raheem, a photojournalist with the Guardian Newspaper in the state, who died on Monday morning.
A statement jointly signed by the council’s Chairman, Ademola Babalola and Secretary, Sola Oladapo, described Raheem’s death as unfortunate and devastating.
Raheem died after a brief illness.
The deceased it was gathered, recently lost his parents in a single day and was planning for their burial when his death occurred.
The council described late Raheem as a very humble, dutiful, diligent jovial and friendly colleague, who distinguished himself professionally in his chosen career.
It prayed the Almighty Allah to
accept him into Aljanah Firdaous and grant his family fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.
Also, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Oyo State Chapter, has commiserated with the NUJ over Raheem’s death.
The chapter in a statement by its Chairperson, Jadesola Ajibola, also described Raheem’s death as a rude shock.
“It is a painful one. Raheem was an easy going man with a heart of gold. We will forever remember you. May the Almighty God keep his family.’’
Suspend patronage of Twitter, or face sanctions, NBC threatens TV, Radio stations
The National Broadcasting Commission has ordered all broadcast stations in the country to suspend the patronage of Twitter with immediate effect.
The NBC’s decision is coming on the heels of the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government over what it perceived to be the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria.
The Commission directed the broadcast stations to “de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source (UGC) of information gathering for News and programmes presentation especially phone-in.”
The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, issued the directive in a statement on Monday titled: “Suspend Twitter handles.”
He said, “Consequent upon the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government over the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission directs all Broadcasting Stations in Nigeria to suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately.
“In Compliance to the above directive, Broadcasting Stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source (UGC) of information gathering for News and programmes Presentation especially phone-in.
“Section 2(1) r of the NBC Act entrusts the Commission with responsibility to ensure strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations. Also, Section 3.11.2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code provides that “the broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a matter depicting that law and order are socially superior to or more desirable than crime and anarchy.
“Attention is also drawn to section 5.6.3 of The Code which requires Broadcasters to be mindful of materials that may cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society in the use of a user generated content (UGC).
“Note that it will be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information therefore strict compliance is enjoined.”
Twitter Suspension is violation of 1999 constitution – Editors
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has described the Federal Government suspension of Twitter as an infringement on Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which violates the right of Nigerians to interact freely on this platform.
The NGE therefore urged the federal government to tread with caution and immediately reconsider the suspension of the operation of Twitter in Nigeria and seek other legitimate means of resolving its dispute with the company.
In a statement by Mustapha Isah (President) and Iyobosa Uwugiaren (General Secretary) respectively, the NGE said that the federal government’s action has the unintended consequence of jeopardising the economic interests of many Nigerians who rely on the social media platform for vital information to make informed business decisions daily.
The statement advised the federal government to desist from any action that would project it as a dictator.
‘’In addition, the suspension is a grave breach of Nigeria’s international obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
‘’The Guild sees the federal government’s action as an overreaction to Twitter’s decision to delete President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet early this week.
‘’If the federal government finds Twitter’s action against the President objectionable, Nigerians should not be made to suffer the collateral damage of denying them their right to freely discourse on Twitter’’, the Guild added.
The Guild noted that the federal government had in an initial reaction by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, condemned the deletion of President Buhari’s view as an unacceptable tab on the president’s right, saying this ought to have been a sufficient response.
‘’However, the ban at the weekend, of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria, is an overkill that gives wind to the sail of critics who daily accuse the Buhari administration of intolerance of opposing views.
‘’Certainly, the federal government has the responsibility to safeguard the unity, peace and stability of Nigeria and any person or group that threatens this must draw its ire. In expressing its anger, the federal government, however, ought to exercise restraints to avoid giving the impression that it is intolerant of opposing views and expression of opinion by individual and corporate citizens’’, the Guild stated.
Stressing its concern over the growing insecurity in the country, the Guild advised social media leaders, which provide micro-messaging services, to also beam their searchlight on the activities of those who want to use their platforms to cause divisions and spread hatred in the country and the global community as well.
Noting the socio-political and economic benefits of social media platforms, the NGE explained that strong democracies rely on both civic and political participation by citizens, saying that Twitter, has over the years, aided citizens’ participation in the nation’s democratic process.
‘’The Guild is aware of the democratizing influence of social media platforms, including Twitter, in helping to check dictatorship and promote democracy worldwide.
‘’Twitter also builds a market research prospect for businesses to see what customers are chit-chatting about, their feeling and what is important to them about products and services’’, the Guild said,
The Guild therefore called on the federal government to immediately rescind its decision in order not to deny millions of Nigerians who rely on Twitter to provide services and earn a living.
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