Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate wednesday asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately conduct re-run elections to fill six vacant seats in the chamber.
The vacant seats are for Imo North, Anambra Central, Kogi East and the three senatorial seats in Rivers State.
The call was spurred by a point of order by Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa West) during which he observed that it took INEC one week to conclude simple elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), lamenting that the commission has failed to conduct rerun polls in the affected districts months after they were ordered by appeal tribunals.
According to Murray-Bruce, INEC owed the Senate an explanation why it had failed to conduct the-run elections.
He described non-representation of some states in the Senate as a violation of the 1999 Constitution.
The Senator urged the Senate to challenge the INEC Chairman, Yakubu Mahmood, to live up to his responsibility, insisting that people of the affected areas have the right to be represented in the chamber.
Bruce’s point of order might have been propelled by a protest last Tuesday by some people from Imo North senatorial district at the National Assembly.
The protesters condemned the delay in conducting the re-run elections in their zone.
“We have not had representation in this chamber from Rivers State, part of Anambra, Imo, Kogi and some other states. INEC concluded elections in one week in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) but in these states, they have no representation here and it does not make any sense.
“It is a violation of the constitution became the people of these states have a right to have representation here. The INEC Chairman owes us an explanation why these elections have not been concluded.
“It is a simple matter and it is the responsibility for INEC to conclude these elections so that the people of these states can have representation here in the Senate,” he said.
However, in his response, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, said he was aware that INEC would meet today to fix dates for the elections.
He said: “Let me just say that I am aware that INEC will be meeting tomorrow (today) to fix dates for this rerun or bye-elections but it is important that you have raised it so that the nation will know that we are concerned about the non-representation of some of these states.
“It is clear in the constitution that INEC should quickly conduct bye-elections within 30days where there are vacancies and so it is far past 30 days when vacancies occurred in some places. It is important that we urge INEC to ensure that as soon as possible that this elections are conducted so that every part of the country, every state would have their full representation in the National Assembly.
Also wednesday, a bill seeking to establish National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) passed second reading.
Sponsored by Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun East), the bill sets out to empower NABRO to offer professional input into budget proposals.