â€¢ Asks INEC to propose virement for recall funding
â€¢Commission: Only valid court order can stop recall process
Damilola Oyedele and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday indicated that the fate of Senator Dino Melaye who is currently being threatened by a recall in his constituency in Kogi West would ultimately be determined by all 109 Senators.
This is as the upper legislative chamber urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to submit a virement request from its 2017 Appropriation for the funding of the recall process to guard against extra budgetary spending.
Melaye, raising a point of order at plenary, had informed the Senate of what he described as a plot orchestrated by Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, to recall him.
He noted that some of the constituents, whose signatures were captured in the register have sworn to affidavits that they never signed the register.
â€œ86 of the signatories, have also sworn affidavits that their Personal Voters Cards, (PVCS) were collected on the premise that they were to be given fertilisers,â€ Melaye added.
He added that the state governor was angry that he has continued to demand that the 17-month salary arrears of the state workers should be paid.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, speaking on the development, said the recall process was an exercise that would end in futility, and is therefore a waste of scarce resources of the state.
The process of recall, Ekweremadu said, is a long one, which would also require the Senate to verify the collated signatures before a decision is reached.
He added that an amendment to Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution, which was done in 2010, particularly makes the ongoing process, one that is dead on arrival.
The deputy Senate President noted that the amendment would require all signatories to the recall, to physically line up for verification.
â€œThe number of those who are seeking the recall of Senator Melaye from the Senate are supposed to line up somewhere in Kogi State with him and his lawyers, and each person will verify his signature. When they are done with that, they will go back to Section 68 which states that the Senate President receives from the chairman of INEC (a notice on) the recall of the member. They would also present evidence satisfactory to the House or the Senate.
â€œSo, they (constituents) need to come back here and convince every one of us that they have done the correct thing. Unless they do that, they cannot even give effect to it. So, why are we wasting our time? Let us move on and allow them to waste their time,â€ Ekweremadu said.
Presiding, Senate President Bukola Saraki, said the Senate has to be satisfied that the process was satisfactory.
â€œLet the process speak for itself. I really donâ€™t know why a lot of efforts are being wasted that should have gone to more important things. Eventually, it must come back here for us to decide whether it is satisfactory or not,â€ Saraki said.
The spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), also indicated that the upper legislative chamber would determine Melayeâ€™s fate, just as the recall of a member of the House of Representatives would be finalised in the House.
â€œThe process of recalling a senator ends in the chamber here. You need to bring it to convince all senators that the man is not performing,â€ he said.
Briefing journalists after plenary, Abdullahi cautioned INEC against extra-budgetary expenditure as there was no provision of funds for recall in the commissionâ€™s budget.
â€œTheir (INEC) budget that we have passed does not have any item for recall, so they have to come through virement. We shall be willing to take their request for virement,â€ Abdullahi said.
He, however, noted that the Senate cannot interfere in the recall process, which must be done in accordance to laid down processes.
â€œWe were elected, we went through a process and if the people are not satisfied, people can remove us at the polls. That is democracy in action. Beyond the four years, there are options as is being touted in the case of one of our colleagues. Yes, that is democracy in action,â€ he said.
Abdullahi however, noted that a recall is not a tea party, and was made a serious business by framers of the constitution, who were aware that it could be manipulated by some individuals who want to assume emperor status.
It is not a thing that can be easily achieved, Abdullahi added.
Meanwhile, despite the various suits so far filed in courts to stop the process for the recall of Melaye, INEC yesterday said only a legitimate court order could stop process.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the commission, Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said filing a lawsuit was not enough to stop the recall process.
The cases so far filed to stop the process of recall include those by Melaye and Concerned Kogi Registered Voters, filed separately at a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order to halt INEC from conducting the verification of signatures and the recall.
Oyekanmi said the actions of the commission were being guided by the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
â€œThe constituents came with sacks of documents which they said were `the signaturesâ€™ of more than half of the voting population of Kogi West Senatorial District, which Melaye represents.
â€œThey also presented a register of the said signatories and a letter, asking INEC to begin the process of recalling the senator representing that particular district.
â€œSubsequently, the commission, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Sections 116 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), on Monday issued a timetable and schedule of activities for the recall of the senator.
â€œThe first stage is a verification exercise slated for July 10, 2017.
â€œTo that extent, filing a lawsuit is not enough to stop INEC from carrying out its legitimate duty.
â€œOnly a legitimate court order or an injunction can be considered by the commission,â€™â€™ he said.
On claims by Mr. Melaye that some of the signatures submitted to INEC were forged and that names of dead registered voters were also included, Mr. Oyekanmi said that the process of verification would clear all that.
On the method INEC would adopt in verifying thumbprints of registered illiterate voters who are part of the signatories for the recall, he said that it would be handled.
â€œThe commission will adopt its normal way of conducting the verification exercise, which will be applicable to both the literate and not-so-literate.â€™â€™
He said that the commission would apply its standards in a situation where people believed to have signed the recall letter, failed to show up for signature verification.
â€œIf the verification fails to meet the established standards, the commission will not proceed to the next stage. The recall process automatically terminates there,â€™â€™ he stated.
However, Kogi State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and 12 others have asked the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to stop INEC from commencing the recall process of Melaye.
In the originating summons filed at the registry of the court yesterday, other plaintiffs listed alongside APC are Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, Hon. Shaibu Osune, S.T Adejo,Â Yahaya Ade Ismail, Chief Gbenga Ashagun, Ahovi S. Ibrahim, Ghali ND Usman, Isa Abubakar, I. Molemodile, Abubakr M. Adamu and Daniel Sekpe.
In the application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/601/2017, the plaintiffs, through their counsel, Solomon T. Ologunorisa (SAN), want the court to declare that the petition presented to the INEC chairman for the recall of Melaye is illegal, wrongful and of no effect whatsoever.
Â They also want the court to declare that the recall process initiated vide a purported petition against Melaye by some of his constituents pursuant to Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution is illegal, and of no effect whatsoever for being contrary and in contravention to the rules of natural justice and constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 constitution.