A leading human rights group in Nigeria, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), has written to the international community decrying the illegalities perpetrated by President Muhammadu Buhari with respect to the constitution and conduct of the electoral body in the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The letter dated, Tuesday, May 11, 2016, is addressed to the United Nation’s secretary general, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, and foreign embassies in Nigeria, namely, those of the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Australia, and India,
Intersociety warns in the 3-page letter that the Buhari administration is using INEC as a tool in destroying Nigeria’s democracy. Specifically, the group sites the unwillingness of the electoral body to conduct legislative elections in three states, namely, Rivers, Imo, and Anambra. This decision by INEC has left the citizens of these states without quality representation in the National Assembly.
The group’s statement highlights the violations of the 1999 Constitution by INEC and the dangers that its continued refusal to obey the laws of Nigeria.
The letter is signed by signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, the board chairman of Intersociety, Obianuju Joy Igboeli, head, civil liberties and rule of law programme, and Chinwe Umeche, head, democracy and good governance programme is copied to Nigeria’s senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmud Yakubu and the attorney general of the federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Below is the full text of the letter which was delivered to The Trent by email.
Before INEC Collapses Democracy In Nigeria: Our Case Against The Commission Over Outstanding Parliamentary Polls & Call For Your Urgent Diplomatic Intervention (1)
(Onitsha Nigeria, 11th of May 2016)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety); supported by nine other group-members of the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs), comprising: Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group) have resolved to write Your Excellencies concerning the subject matter underlined above and it is upon the resolution that this is letter is rested.
Our writing Your Excellencies is in recognition of the noble roles of Your Excellencies’ home governments as the world’s leading democracies and great economies under the United Nations System and their immense contributions in the advancement of democracy, rule of law, global security and respect for human rights across the world and Nigeria in particular.
As Your Excellencies may be aware, Nigeria is a multi ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious country of estimated 174 million people, supposedly governed by democratic constitutionalism and pluralism. For purposes of democratic policies and governance, the country maintains 17, 500 top public offices and their holders, by way of election and appointment. Of the country’s 17,500 public offices and their holders, 4,017 are appointive and 13,483 elective; out of which, 11,788 are made up of elected Local Government Councils’ chairpersons, deputy chairpersons and councilors, while 1,695 others occupy all Federal and States’ elective offices in the country. There are 774 constitutionally recognized Local Government Councils in Nigeria governed by 11,788 supposedly elected officials. Elections into the 11,788 Local Government Councils’ elective offices are constitutionally handled by the States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) created by Section 197 (1) (b) of the country’s 1999 Constitution and spelt out in supplementary Sections 3 and 4 of the Part 11 (B) of the same Constitution; while elections into the 1,695 top Federal and States’ elective offices are constitutionally conducted by INEC in accordance with relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Be further informed Your Excellencies that by virtue of Section 153 (1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution (amended in 2011), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was created. The 1,695 Federal and States elective offices under reference are composed of the president and the vice president, 36 State governors and the 36 State deputy governors, 109 senators, 360 members of the house of reps and 1,152 State legislators. The powers and functions of INEC as Nigeria’s chief electoral umpire are expressly contained in Section 153 (1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution and supplementary Sections 14 and 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the same Constitution, alongside INEC Establishment Act of 2004 and the Electoral Act of the Federation of Nigeria 2010.
In all, processes and procedures for conduct of the elections above mentioned, their outcomes and judicial resolutions are governed by the trio of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act of 2010 and the decided cases mandatorily rooted in the Nigeria’s Constitution of 1999 and its Electoral Act of 2010, while the functions, dos and don’ts of the INEC staffs and management are provided in the INEC Establishment Act of 2004. In March and April 2015, Nigeria held its general elections with the exception of its Local Government Councils’ polls which are staggered in shape. The National Legislative or Parliamentary (senate and house of reps) polls were held on March 28, 2015 and the outcomes of such polls in the country are usually followed by post election judicial reviews within stipulated timeframes.
Those involving the president and the vice president originally start from the Appeal Court, lasting for six months and appealable at the Supreme Court, lasting for two months, totaling eight months. Those involving governorship and deputy governorship are originally commenced at the Election Petition Tribunal (i.e. High Court), lasting for six months and appealable twice at the appellate (court of appeal) and apex (supreme) courts lasting for four months, totaling ten months. Those involving Senate, House of Reps and State Legislative Assembly are originally commenced at the Legislative Election Tribunal (i.e. High Court) lasting for six months and appealable at the appeal court lasting for two months, totaling eight months. Judicial and procedural counting of these starts 21 days after declaration of the results of the concerned polls. Timeframe for exercising right of appeal if a party is dissatisfied with the judgment of each hierarchy of the named electoral courts is 21 days from the date of delivery of such judgment.
Constitutionally speaking, by Section 239 (1) of the Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended in 2011, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (i.e. Court of Appeal) is conferred with original jurisdiction to hear and determine legal disputes arising from the conduct of presidential election within or in six months and by Section 233 (2) (i) of the same Constitution, the case terminates at the Supreme Court within or in two months.
By Section 285 (1) (a) (b), the original jurisdiction concerning legal disputes associated with Senatorial, House of Reps and State Assembly Polls is conferred on the National/State Legislative Election Tribunal (i.e. High Court) to determine and dispose of same within or in six months and by Section 246 (1) (b) and (3) of the Constitution, the Court of Appeal is rested with final jurisdiction to be determined and disposed of within or in two months. By Section 285 (2) of the same Constitution, the original jurisdiction concerning the resolution of legal disputes associated with the conduct of Governorship Poll is rested in the Governorship Election Tribunal (i.e. High Court), to be determined and disposed of within or in six months. By Section 246 (1) (c) of the referenced Constitution, the appellate jurisdiction concerning resolution of same within or in two months, is rested in the Court of Appeal; and by Section 233 (2) (IV), the final determination of the apex appeal, within or in two months, concerning governorship poll legal disputes is vested on the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
We wish to further inform Your Excellencies that the decisions of the three hierarchies of the referenced electoral court (tribunal, appeal and supreme courts) with respect to legal disputes arising from the conduct of the referenced elections in Nigeria are constitutionally and mandatorily enforceable in Nigeria by all authorities and persons holding judicial, legislative and executive offices; to be enforced in all parts of the Federation or any part thereof.
Specifically, by Section 287 (1) of the Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution: “the decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria are final and shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdictions to that of the Supreme Court”. By Section 287 (2) of the same Constitution: “the decisions of the Court of Appeal shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons and by courts with subordinate jurisdictions to that of the Court of Appeal”. And by Section 287 (3): “the decisions of the Federal High Court, a (State and FCT) High Court; Governorship, National and State Assemblies Election Petitions Tribunals (EPTs) and of all other courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other courts of law with subordinate jurisdictions to that of the Federal High Court, a (State and FCT) High Court, EPTs and those other courts, respectively.”
The analytical breakdown above, of Nigeria’s electoral processes and code laws guiding them is to fully acquaint Your Excellencies with respect to same. With specific reference to the National Assembly polls, in which elections were originally conducted into 469 federal legislative seats (109 senatorial seats and 360 house of reps seats) by INEC since 28th of March 2015, the Commission has refused and failed, as well, to conduct and conclude elections into six vacant senatorial seats and nine vacant house of reps seats, among pockets of other vacant State Assembly seats following judicial nullifications of their original elections since December 2015. Following legal disputes associated with same, their original elections were nullified by various divisions of the country’s Court of Appeal at different dates in the month of December 2015 and judicial orders were made for rerun elections into them to be conducted and concluded by INEC within or in ninety-days. The judicial orders to that effect had expired since March 2016 and the vacant seats have remained vacant till date.
The six vacant senatorial seats are those of Owerri North (Okigwe) Senatorial District and Anambra Central Senatorial District in Imo and Anambra States, Southeast Nigeria; Rivers West, Rivers South-East and Rivers East Senatorial Districts in Rivers State, South-south Nigeria; and the Kogi East Senatorial District in Kogi State, North-central Nigeria; while the nine vacant house of reps seats are all in Rivers State, South-south Nigeria. The affected population of the six vacant senatorial seats and nine vacant house of reps or federal constituency seats is put at over 20 million people. That is to say that the referenced population and their senatorial districts and federal constituencies have been denied legislative representation and political rights to choose their leaders democratically since December 2015. In other words, their areas have remained legislatively un-represented since December 2015.
Saddening, too, are INEC’s flagrant violation of the Constitution and other laws of the land particularly the orders of the appellate court directing it to conduct and conclude within or in ninety-days the outstanding parliamentary polls under reference. In Rivers State, for instance, two sets of ninety days court order for the conduct of rerun elections into its three vacant senatorial seats were made by the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on 10th and 11th of December 2015 and they expired on 10th and 11th of March 2016. Another ninety days court order given to INEC by the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, to conduct and conclude rerun elections into the nine vacant house of reps seats in the State, was made on 12th of December 2015 and it expired on 12th of March 2016.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348180771506
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673
Address: 41, Miss Elems Street, Fegge Urban, Onitsha, Southeast Nigeria
- Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki
- Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu
- Speaker of House of Reps, Hon Yakubu Dogara
- Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmud Yakubu
- Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN