Pro-democracy Group Challenges INEC over Electoral Reform

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The coups of Oriz and Abuja

A pro-democracy group, the Justice Initiative for the Disadvantaged and Oppressed People (JIDOP) has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reconstruct the electoral laws of the commission through the legislature and return it to the path of constitutional democracy for stable polity.

The Convener of the group, Mr. Lawman Nzenwa said this during a recent press conference in Abuja, which he said was aimed at soliciting support on the project of returning Nigeria to the path of constitutional democracy.

He said of late the agitation for restructuring had been trailed with its own controversies, with certain quarters misinterpreting the concept of restructuring, saying that restructuring means altering an existing valid structure that has lost capacity to serve the current challenges.

Nzenwa said the existence of the legislature was provided for in section 47 and 90 of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended that says that there shall be a National Assembly for the Federation, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives.

He accused the legislature of abdicating its responsibility, adding that “what we have today is the legislature whose composition is off completely from the constitution, appearing to be a national conspiracy against the proper composition of the legislature.”

He added, “In 2010, I pointed out the unconstitutional composition of the legislature to the independent national electoral commission (INEC), but the then chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega did nothing about it.

“We went to a Federal High Court, and Justice Stephen Adah held that because I was not contesting election into legislature, I had no locus to bring action against INEC.

“We still feel very strong that the current agitations for secession, restructuring or negotiated unity are direct consequences of INEC’s refusal to perform its constitutional role of giving the nation constitutional legislature as opposed to dictatorial legislature currently in place.”

He further explained that the legislature is dictatorial because the members of the legislature were elected in contravention of the provisions of the constitution in section 91, which states that a House of Assembly of a state shall consist of three or four times the number of seats which that state has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect, as far as possible nearly equal equation.

According to the group, “The combined failure of the court and INEC to interpret these sections of the constitution has exposed the country to avoidable blood bath under the guise of military operations. The injustice complained about cut across every aspect of this nation.

“For instance, Nasarawa state with just 5 members in House of Representatives is a state in northern Nigeria, Bayelsa state with 5 seats is also in southern Nigeria. If INEC had followed the constitution in delineating the constituencies, states such as Adamawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara will have more seats in the House of Representatives than the number they occupy currently.

“Southern states of Abia, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Ogun, Ondo and Osun stand to increase their seats in the House of Representatives. Apart from the unconstitutional composition of the House of Representatives, all state assemblies remain unconstitutional to the extent that each house does not maintain the constitutional relationship with the states’ seats in the House of Representatives.

“Reconstruction involves bringing in items that were wrongly omitted while developing the system and it is the constitutional duty of INEC to reconstruct the legislature. As long as the legislature remains in this state, stability will continue to elude the polity, agitations will continue, probably mass murder of the agitators will continue.”

Also, Co-Convener of JIDOP, Cyriacus Nwagwu while presenting his action point at the press conference, said it is no doubt that the legislature and by extension the democracy we have in Nigeria is not what we deserve.

“So we want to solicit the media community on this project to wake the people of Abia, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states from deep slumber to demand for their constitutional rights. Discourage the predator states of Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Lagos, Oyo, Rivers and Sokoto from invoking any unconstitutional and regional unity to bring their prey neighboring states into submission”, he stated.

“Mount pressure on INEC to reconstruct the House of Representatives and states houses of assembly in order to conform to the provisions of 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, mount pressure on the House of Representatives and states houses of assembly to seize further legislative functions until such a time or times when legislature has been properly reconstructed by INEC.”

Drugs, Cash Worth Millions Gutted by Mystery Fire in Onitsha Market

David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

The Onitsha drug market, otherwise known as Bridge Head Market, was in the early hours of Saturday gutted by fire, leaving goods worth millions of naira destroyed in the inferno.

Sources said the fire incident started at about 6am on Saturday from Redemption Line of the market but the quick intervention of the men of the Fire Service from Onitsha Main market and Building Materials Market Ogidi prevented the fire from spilling over to other parts of the market.

When THISDAY visited the market, traders were seen in clusters clearing their shops of rubble and counting their losses. No life was lost in the incident, but goods and cash lost in the disaster were described as colossal.

A victim, Chidubem Uzochukwu, told our correspondent that he lost N700,000 cash and goods worth over N15 million.

The President of Association of Medical and Pharmaceutical Products Dealers Onitsha Market, Mr. Uche Eze, said he was called by market security men at about 6.15 am on Saturday that there was fire outbreak at Redemption Line and he quickly called men of the Fire Service from Onitsha Main Market and Building Material Market Ogidi.

He said he also alerted members of his executive, who responded immediately and were able to quench the fire to avoid it spreading to the entire market.

He said, “When I arrived at the market the fire was still raging, members of my executive were also here with me, including the President General of Bridge Head Markets Association, Mr. Sunday Obinze, Chairman of Redemption Line and his Secretary, Alvin Okpaleke, were all here helping the Fire Service officials to quench the fire.

“Several shops were affected and millions of naira both in cash and goods were lost to this fire incident. You can see for yourself the debris left in the shops. The owners equipped their shops with goods for the Christmas sales, but you can see what has happened.

“The whole market would have been engulfed by the fire if not for our prompt response in calling the fire fighting men from both markets. We are therefore appealing to Governor Willie Obiano to come to the assistance of the affected traders; they have lost all they have been working for over the years in just one incident.

“We are also appealing to the governor to provide us with fire service equipment; it is unfortunate that the entire Bridge Head Markets Association has no fire service facility to tackle this kind of problem,” he added.