By a unanimous vote the Senate Wednesday resolved to suspend plenary if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to conduct rerun elections in River State on or before December 10, 2016.
The resolution followed a motion by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on conclusion of all pending elections in Rivers State.
The motion described as “very important” by Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was co-sponsored by Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume.
Ekweremadu in his lead debate, observed that in spite of 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.”
He noted that the Senate also observed that “the failure of INEC to conduct the rerun elections in Rivers State within the time frame ordered by the respective elections tribunals and the courts is in breach of the Electoral Act and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution does endangering the nations democracy.”
Ekweremadu further observed 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 States 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.”
The Deputy Senate President added that the failure of INEC to conduct elections in Rivers State has continued to deny the people of Rivers State their constitutional guaranteed rights to be represented in the legislative houses where laws affecting them are being made and endangered probable anxiety amongst people of the state.
Ekweremadu prayed the Senate to resolve to ask INEC to conducts all the rerun elections in Rivers State before the end of September failing which the Senate shall suspend plenary until such a time the elections are conducted.
Ndume urged the Senate to note the content, intent and the urgency of the motion.
The Senate Leader said that since the emergence of INEC new leadership, the history has been inconclusive, suspension and confusion in electoral matters.
Ndume said, “You can imagine today we are about to discuss Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) without any member from Rivers State. You can imagine our colleagues that were seated with us here, conducted election they believe they won, somebody elsewhere say they didn’t win.
“But the truth of the matter is that anyone of us here could have been in that position. Let us remember this: whatever happens to you, you should think of another person. If it is our colleagues from Rivers today, it could be you any day.
“You can imagine for whatever reason, for example, myself who had been a victim and our people who have been victims of insurgency, if elections were not conducted I will not be here, let alone being the Senate Leader.
“How would it be for my people who are ravaged by insurgency not to have somebody to tell my colleagues what is actually on the ground. Just imagine the motions we raised that led to the passage of the bill on the North East Development Commission. Our colleagues are out there and you cannot genuinely say it’s their fault.
The second 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 election. If we cannot conduct one election in Rivers, I know there are problems in Rivers but elections must hold. We have a government that is capable. It is not that this government is not capable or doesn’t have the will to conduct the election but the voice should come out from here, just as it is everywhere that it is better to take a wrong decision than not to take a decision at all.”
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa suggested that instead of suspending plenary, the Senate should resolve not to consider any issue that has to do with INEC until the elections were conducted. The suggestion was dropped because it was not seconded.
Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari rose to inform the Senate that members of his committee approached INEC Chairman Mahmoud Yakubu who assured that the Rivers State rerun election would be conducted on December 10, 2016.
Many Senators said that the INEC boss should not be trusted since he had promised and failed in the past.
Saraki asked Ekweremadu in view of the information by Kyari whether he (Ekweremadu) wanted to amend his prayer to reflect the information provided by Kyari.
Ekweremadu said, “The INEC Chairman has given his word, we have to take him by his word. It is a test for him to ensure that the elections are conducted as promised because we are not properly constituted.”
Saraki put the question “to urge INEC to conduct all rerun elections in Rivers State on or before December 10, 2016 failing which the Senate shall suspend plenary until such a time the elections are conducted.”
There was no opposition to the prayer as it was adopted unanimously.
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