Senate Accuses INEC of Conducting Illegal Operations

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Warns of looming danger in aviation sector
aa Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate yesterday expressed concern over the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and alleged that the commission had been illegally conducting elections since last year.

Also yesterday, the Senate warned of looming crisis in the aviation sector as a result of economic crisis in the country which it said had left the sector “gasping for survival.” It said the situation portended grave danger to air safety  in Nigeria.

The parliament according to a motion moved by the Deputy Senate President,  Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said whereas a reliable, effective and credible electoral commission was a symbol of viable and promising democracy, the same could not be said of the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC.

According to Ekweremadu, the current composition of INEC is illegal, bearing in mind that at least 20 states of the federation have no resident electoral commissioners in violation of Section 14(2) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Ekweremadu who further said INEC could not function optimally without its full composition, lamented what it described as the illegal postponement of elections ordered by Election Petitions’ Tribunals and courts of law in violation of the Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution. He said the act constituted a grave danger to democracy.

He also described as worrisome the habit of inconclusive elections which he said had crept into the lexicon of Nigeria’s electoral system, describing it as worrisome, whimsical, a wrong signal and bad omen which he said could not be overlooked.
He also regretted that the output of few elections conducted since Mahmood came on board  as INEC chairman had been worrisome to the citizenry, a situation which he said would spell doom for the 2019 general election.

He also said the spate of inconclusive elections had deprived both the Senate and some members of state houses of assembly of their full membership and also denying millions of Nigerians their rights of representation in such chambers in violation of Section 14(2) of the constitution.

The Senate therefore  called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately make appointments to fill vacant offices in INEC and simultaneously provide the commission with with full capacity to conduct conclusive elections.

While asking INEC to immediately conclude rerun elections in required places across the country, the Senate mandated its INEC Committee to conduct a public hearing to review the performance of the commission in the last one year with a view to ascertaining factors causing grave decline in the nation’s electoral system.

Supporting the motion, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) lamented that for over one year, Anambra Central had not had a representative in the Senate following INEC’s indefinite suspension of election in the district.

He also said the trend was the same in Rivers State as he queried the audacity of INEC to unilaterally breach the law of the land. Abaribe further said the danger of conducting elections under illegal circumstances was that aggrieved candidates could go to court to seek illegal declaration of such results.

The Senate also lamented that after INEC had spent billions of naira on elections, it would turn around to declare such elections inconclusive only to spend huge sums of money to conduct another election.

In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki said the importance of free, fair and conclusive elections could not be emphasised, insisting that it was time the nation came to the end of inconclusive elections.

In his own motion, entitled: ‘Looming Crises in the Nigerian Aviation Industry,’ Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East), said the economic crisis rocking the sector is “almost forcing some domestic airline operators out of busines and this consequently results in loss of jobs, thereby subjecting many more Nigerians and their families to intense hardship.”

Anyanwu recalled a recent statement credited to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, that the entire aviation sector was collapsing, regretting that there were no functional roads to serve as alternatives to flying. “The Senate is aware of the potential dangers on Nigerian roads and any eventual closure of the air services will spell doom to the economy…” he added.

He added that the precarious situation in which airline operators function would not only discourage air travellers but would also serve as “a disincentive to foreign investors and tourism development.”