The leaderships of Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs), comprising: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), 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) are deeply concerned and dismay over continuing rigmarole of the INEC with respect to non conduct and non conclusion of the outstanding re-run elections in the Imo North and the Anambra Central Senatorial Districts as well as other affected areas in Rivers State; one year or 12 months after Nigeria’s federal legislative polls were held. The Nigeria’s Federal Legislative polls were held on 28th of March 2015. The macabre dance of the Commission with respect to recent turbulent and inconclusive legislative rerun polls in Rivers State also worries and saddens us. The source of powers of the Commission to conceal and possibly doctor election results weeks after they were conducted, before releasing them in bits as it is the case in Rivers State remains surprising and confusing, because we are not aware of any such provisions in the INEC Establishment Act of 2004, the Electoral Act of 2010 and the 1999 Constitution.
By this strange and brigand act of the Commission, the country’s democracy is endangered and the universally entrenched culture of one-person-one-vote rapaciously threatened. It is our deep fear that Nigeria may most likely have returned to “Iwu’s dark era” in the country’s electoral industry and midwifery when goats, cows, plants, dead persons’ names, house chattels and fixtures and other inanimate objects were registered and encoded in the country’s National Register of Voters as “registered voters”; when electoral results were being written on dining tables, in shrines and at altars of occultists. Unless INEC is urgently called to order to refrain from its present chaotic approach, otherwise the Commission may most likely set Anambra, Imo and Rivers States on fire.
Abuse & Misrepresentation of Supreme Court Verdict on Submission of Party Candidates’ List to INEC
In Anambra State, INEC further appears to be tinkering, experimenting with, and misrepresenting the recent judgment of the Supreme Court with respect to the competence of the National Working Committee of the PDP (and by extension other such committees in other registered political parties in Nigeria including APC and APGA) in the submission to INEC of the list of its candidates in any election in Nigeria. The Supreme Court has in its “explanatory notes” following its earlier majority judgment given on 29th of January 2016, clearly maintained that “while the Ejike Ogubego-led State Executive of Anambra PDP is the authentic State executive of the Party, but the National Working Committee of the Party remains the sole or only party organ entrusted with the responsibility of submitting the list of the Party’s nominated candidates for any election in Nigeria”. We understand that the Commission is reportedly under pressure from forces at top to read a different meaning into the Apex Court verdict (i.e. revocation of certificates of return of serving members of the National Assembly) and possibly use it to create further confusion and plant anarchy into Anambra State politics.
The aim, reportedly, is to foist “Amaechi electoral saga” on the affected constituencies; whereby, for instance, those who did not participate in the election proper, will be issued with new certificates of return, in return for mass defection to the party from which reported pressures on INEC are being mounted. The improperly constituted Independent National Electoral Commission under Prof Mahmud Yakubu seems to have become an outlaw since its improper constitution in June 2015. By Section 287 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, “the decisions of the Supreme Court (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”. The Commission, in this respect, among other unfolding dramas, has moved from “disinterested and unbiased electoral football referee” to “interested, biased and electoral football player”.
INEC Rigmarole & Partisanship Over Rivers State Rerun Polls
Till date, INEC is unable to conclude the outstanding legislative rerun polls in Rivers State and has further floundered or found itself in a state of confusion by seizing, concealing and possibly doctoring before releasing results of those it recently conducted under turbulent and controversial circumstances. The latest corporate malicious act of the Commission is unknown to any electoral law in Nigeria and the 1999 Constitution. Rivers State, which is a strategic State and partner in Nigeria’s social, economic and political landscape; by virtue of its oil-wealth contributions to the Federation and the State’s socio-political fragility, has been denied quality and popular representation in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria till date, on account of judicial sacking of its three former Senators: Osinakachukwu Idoezu (Rivers South-West), John Olaka-Nwogo (Rivers South-East) and George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East, who was sacked by same Appellate Court on 10th of December 2015). The inability and failure of INEC to conclude rerun polls into the three vacant offices as ordered by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division since 10th and 11th of December 2015 as well as other outstanding Federal and State legislative rerun polls in the State has continued to sadden our heart and make further mockery of the Commission. The 90 days court orders within which to conduct and conclude the rerun polls under reference expired since 10th and 11th of March 2016; yet the Commission has not fully announced the winners of those it conducted particularly the results of the State’s three Senatorial seats. Apart from concealing and possibly doctoring the results under reference, the Commission has dangerously kept mute and jeopardized the electoral fate of the affected constituencies and constituents by refusing to announce a new date for conclusion of election in eight LGAs it claimed it cancelled during its recent controversial and turbulent rerun polls in the State.
Non Conduct & Conclusion of Imo North and Anambra Central Senatorial Rerun Polls
In Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State, INEC was mandated by the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division to conduct a rerun election into the seat nullified by the Court on 11th of December 2015. The Court, in addition to nullification of the election of Senator Athan Nneji Achonu as Senator for Imo North; further ordered INEC to conduct a rerun into the vacant seat within 90 days, which expired since 11th of March 2016. In Anambra Central Senatorial District of Anambra State, the Commission has continued to goof unpardonably on account of its failure to conduct and conclude a rerun election into another court-ordered rerun on account of judicial sacking of Senator Uche Ekwunifie by the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division on 6th of December 2015. The 90 days court order within which to conduct the rerun expired since 6th of March 2016.
The affected population in the legislative areas of the three States under reference are estimated at over seven million, on average of 2.5million population each. The patience of all Nigerians and the electorates of Imo North and Anambra Central Senatorial Districts as well as the electorates of the remaining electoral constituencies and districts in Rivers are speedily running out against the Commission. That the electoral constituencies and constituents under reference have continued to be denied quality, deliberative and popular representations in the Senate and House of Reps branches of Nigeria’s National Assembly on account of INEC’s gross incompetence and partisan dispositions is not only inexcusable, but have also called for a closer evaluation of the character, integrity and competence of the new chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmud Yakubu. It may most likely be correct to say that Nigeria has returned to Iwu’s dark epoch in INEC.
INEC’s Phantom Exclusion of Parties in Anambra Central Rerun & Court Reversal of the Exclusion
As if these were not enough, the Commission further goofed and floundered by announcing, magisterially and incompetently the exclusion of some major political parties from participating and fielding their candidates in the proposed Senatorial rerun for Anambra Central Senatorial District and went further to suspend the rerun indefinitely, in utter defiance of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, delivered on 6th of December 2015. The Appellate Court had in the judgment, ordered INEC to conduct the rerun within 90 days, which expired on 6th of March 2016. Instead of obeying the court judgment and its order, the Commission announced the exclusion of some parties including the PDP from the court-ordered rerun.
On 31st of January 2016, on account of INEC’s magisterial exclusion announcement, the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, voided the Commission’s policy announcement and ordered in its judgment that those parties earlier excluded should be allowed to participate and field their candidates. INEC responded condemnably and announced indefinite suspension of the rerun. As if that was not enough, the Commission strangely and shockingly filed an appeal against the judgment, for clear purposes of provoking Anambra electorates in general and those of the Anambra Central in particular. Till this moment, we are yet to come to terms as whose interest the Commission is protecting or representing and how the court-ordered participatory and all-inclusive rerun poll will negatively affect the Commission. Is it the duty of INEC to handpick a Senator for Anambra Central Senatorial District and its electorates or to referee a participatory and all-inclusive rerun and allow the electorates of the area to elect the best and most credible candidate to represent them and the entire State in general?
INEC Becoming An Outlaw & Corporate Brigand
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a constitutionally established executive body of the Federation by virtue of Section 153 (1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution with several fully staffed departments including legal department, is aware that all policies, pronouncements and conducts of the entire 17,500 top public office holders in Nigeria include the Commission and its Executive Chairman; are expressly subject to judicial reviews and pronouncements particularly by the High Courts of the 36 States and the FCT; the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria; and that by Section 287 (1) of the 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”; that 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”.
Further, the 1999 Constitution by its Section 287 (3) also directs all authorities and persons in Nigeria including INEC and its Chairman as follows: “the decisions of the Federal High Court, a (State and FCT) High Court 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 and those other courts, respectively.” It is, therefore, our informed position that INEC has observed in gross breach decisions of the Supreme Court, various divisions of the Appellate Court (cited) and that of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division with respect to electoral issues under discussion.
If INEC cannot competently and credibly organize ordinary and common staggered legislative polls in those areas under reference, which by law, do not require spread and other technical hurdles, how sure are all Nigerians that the Prof Mahmud Yakubu led Commission will organize the forthcoming contentious and staggered governorship polls in Edo, Ondo and Anambra States in nonviolent, popular and credible manners and circumstances? It is therefore, our firm demand that the Commission must conduct and conclude all the outstanding rerun polls in Anambra, Imo and Rivers States without excuses of any type. To this effect, the Commission must, as a matter of extreme urgency and inexcusability withdraw all proceedings it lodged before any court in Nigeria pertaining to the said polls, or part of same and promptly announce new dates for the outstanding rerun polls in the three States under reference.
The Commission must also release all outstanding results in the Rivers State legislative rerun polls, which it is currently withholding and possibly doctoring. Such results must tally with those collected and signed by all agents of parties that participated in the polls. The Commission and its Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu must henceforth obey all the decisions of Nigerian courts (i.e. Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Federal/State High Courts) in accordance with Sections 287 (1), 297 (2) and 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. Our firm position remains that electorates of Nigeria and particularly those in the affected areas under reference must be allowed to elect and choose those who will govern or legislatively represent them; irrespective of party affiliations, and to achieve this, INEC must remain a neutral and impartial umpire or disinterested electoral third party and refrain from being seen or perceived by outsiders including majority of Nigerian electorates as “serial sympathizers of power-corridor political party, masquerading as overseers of supposedly independent electoral commission”. The Presidency and the National Assembly of Nigeria must also properly constitute INEC board and ensure that its members are truly disinterested third party in the country’s electoral and demographic midwifery.
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) & Coalition (SBCHROs) Coordinator
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Email: [email protected]
Comrade Aloysius Attah, Chairman, Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) & Coalition (SBCHROs) Media Coordinator
Mobile Line: +2348035090548
Email: [email protected]