INEC: Stopping Edo Election Recipe for Constitutional Crisis

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•Assembly complex unsafe for sitting, say 17 lawmakers

By Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday walked back its threat to suspend the September 19 governorship election in Edo State over threats of violence, explaining that the rethink was based on the implication of a constitutional crisis such a decision would trigger, if the election is not conducted.

The commission also said out of 14 items required for the preparations of the governorship election, nine had been implemented.

It justified deregistration of some political parties, explaining that they have no verifiable addresses while their telephone lines were traceable to business centres.

Speaking on a television programme yesterday, the INEC National Commissioner for Information and Chairman of Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, assured the electorate that the September 19 governorship election will go ahead as planned as the political parties have complied with INEC’s notice over threats of violence.

“INEC is progressively moving ahead with the September 19 Edo State governorship election. There are fourteen items for the election and nine of them have been implemented and none sensitive materials have been deployed. We are proceeding with the election as planned.

“The political parties on their own are complying with the commission’s warning on violence and we have also observed a change from the threats of violence. So, we are moving ahead with the election,” Okoye stated.
According to him, there will be a constitutional crisis if the election is not conducted because Section 178 (2) stipulates the timeline for the election to be conducted.

He stated that the Edo State governorship election must be conducted before October 13, or else, there would be a constitutional crisis.
He added that the political parties are “pulling out of their threats of violence and INEC is, therefore, going ahead with the governorship election as planned.”

Okoye, who explained why some of the registered political parties were deregistered, said in November 2019, the commission wrote the political parties but discovered that they had no verifiable addresses.
“When INEC put a telephone call to their registered telephone numbers, we discovered that the lines were ringing as telephone lines of some business centres and some of them have no verifiable office addresses,” he said.

He said most of the political parties were deregistered because they did not meet the constitutional requirements of Section 225(a), which states that any political party that did not score a 25 per cent vote in one local government election, or 25 per cent in any local government during a governorship election breached the law.

He said the law prescribed that it should be on votes scored by the political party and not the capacity to win votes, adding that capacity to win votes is futuristic, while the extant laws are insisting on actual votes scored.

He denied knowledge that INEC deregistered some of the political parties despite court orders barring the commission from doing so.
He denied that INEC deregistered any political party that is in any tribunal challenging the outcome of any election.

According to him, “INEC allowed for a full circle of the tribunals to be finished before it commenced the deregistration processes of the defaulting political parties.”

He said there was no record before it that one of the deregistered political parties, KOWA Party, could win a councillorship seat in any part of the country.

Edo Assembly Complex Unsafe for Sitting, Say 17 Lawmakers

The group of 17 members of Edo State House of Assembly, yesterday met in an undisclosed location and condemned alleged destruction of the legislative complex, describing it as unsafe for them to sit.
They also called on security agents to evict hoodlums from the complex in order to create a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of legislative business.

They, however, set up a five-man committee to investigate the removal of three local government chairmen by the state Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

They described the sacking of the chairmen as an infringement on their fundamental human rights, abuse of office and political victimisation.

Their speaker, Hon. Victor Edoror, said the presence of the hoodlums was a desecration of the House of Assembly, making it unsafe for them to sit.

According to the resolutions of the lawmakers sent to journalists via WhatsApp, the lawmakers called on the police to sack all those they said were occupying the Assembly complex.

The lawmakers also passed a resolution, mandating the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Zone 5, Mr. Dibal Yakadi; Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Johnson Kokumo; state Director of Department of State Services (DSS) and other relevant security agencies to evict the said hoodlums from the legislative complex.

Edoror said: “The state government under the guise of consolidated renovation has destroyed the roof of the building, making the place inhabitable to the extent that the hallowed chambers have been messed up and valuables carted away.

“We hereby ask the state government to desist from such act of vandalism of the building.

“The relevant security agencies – AIG, Zone 5; Commissioner of Police, and DSS are hereby mandated to evacuate the hoodlums before they turn the state and the assembly premises into a lawless state.”

He said the lawmakers also received three petitions brought before it through the law firm of Ehiogie West-Idahosa Law Chamber, signed by Mr. Emos Osawaru, over what he described as the unlawful removal of the Chairmen of Etsako East, Mr. Oremiyu Momoh; Esan West, Mr. Patrick Aguinede; and Etsako West, Mr. Yakubu Musah.

According to him, “The petitions described the removal of the three elected council chairmen as an infringement of their fundamental human rights and abuse of office and political victimisation on the part of Governor Godwin Obaseki

“The speaker, having listened to the content of the letter, set up a five-man committee to investigate the matter and report back to the house within two weeks before adjourning to Tuesday, August 18, 2020.”
The member, representing Uhumwonde State Constituency, Hon. Washington Osifo, is the chairman of the committee.

Other members are Hon. Ebenezer Okaka, Owan East; Hon. Nosayaba Okunbor, Orhiomwon East; Hon. Dumez Ugiagbe; and Hon. Christopher Okaeben, Oredo East.

As at press time, efforts to get Edo State government and of the state police command’s reactions proved abortive as their officials did not take their calls or reply the text messages sent to them.