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NASS’ re-ordering of elections constitutional – Aduwo

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Mr. Olufemi Aduwo is the Country Director of the Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI). He speaks on the re-ordering of the 2019 general elections by the National Assembly, ongoing continuous voters’ registration exercise, among other issues. WALE ELEGBEDE reports

What is your take on the re-ordering of the 2019 elections by the National Assembly?
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has empowered the National Assembly with the responsibility of making laws that will ensure societal order, peaceful coexistence of Nigerian people; and good governance of the federation. The National Assembly is not restricted by any law and constitutional provision as to when any law could be made. It is against this background that l felt uncomfortable by the jaundiced criticism and remarks made against the effort of National Assembly to streamline the electoral process in some quarters for unknown motives.
The House of Representatives amended section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new section 25 (1). According to the section, the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election. Similarly, section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with a marginal note “time for primaries of political parties among others, by so doing the House has not violated any sections of the Constitution which is the organic law of the land. The House only amended an existing electoral law, why the hullaballoo?

Does the National Assembly have the constitutional right to alter the elections timetable already fixed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
As stated above, the National Assembly is absolutely right to amend the electoral law and possibly the constitution. There is no law restricting the National Assembly on when and how to perform its duties

Do you agree with those who think that the altering is more of self-serving and political?
From the 1999 general elections to the last one held in 2015, INEC has not adopted a fixed order that the general elections timetable must follow. In 2003, the governorship and states House of Assembly were the first to be conducted and in 2011, National Assembly elections were conducted as the first election. More importantly, the amendment is not limited to the INEC timetable guidelines alone, some other lacunas were resolved like the issue of a candidate’s death before the final election results are announced, as was the case in Kogi State governorship election. Also, the spending limit of candidates for election was also touched by the lawmakers. Those who said it was self-serving should then say the INEC who also set up the timetable was on self-serving to help the President as well.

What is your assessment of INEC’s preparation for the 2019 elections?
INEC’s performance so far is below average. In 2015, within the same period, the commission was able to register about 11 million voters, but as at today, only four million voters have been registered. Don’t forget that this is a period that many Nigerians are willing to register. In many local governments that members of my organisation visited, the registration was limited to INEC offices at local governments. INEC should be able to move their personnel and materials from local governments to the ward levels.

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Politics

Rivers: Obuah rallies PDP for council polls

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EMMANUEL MASHA reports on the forthcoming local government election in Rivers State and efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to seize the opportunity to consolidate its grip of the oil-rich state

 

Voters in Rivers State will on June 16, go to the polls to elect candidates of their choice, who will be in charge of governance at the local government level. It is one election that some don’t want to hold, especially those in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But 62 other opposition parties in the state under the aegis of Inter- Party Advisory Council (IPAC) have made it clear that they will participate.

The state’s electoral body, Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RISIEC) has given the green light for the conduct of the election. RSIEC chairman, Justice Chukwuneye Uriri, who recently addressed representatives of political parties during a stakeholders meeting at the commission’s secretariat had noted that for long there has not been council elections despite the fact that the law abhors vacuum. He, therefore, declared that there was need for a democratically elected council administration in the state even as he reaffirmed the commitment of the commission to perform its obligations to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.

His words: “Given the 90-day mandatory notice as stipulated by the electoral laws, the next election ordinarily comes up in June this year. It is therefore imperative that we fix a date for the election in accordance with the said rules.

“By the powers conferred on me, as enshrined in the Rivers State Independent Electoral Law No 2 of 2018, I therefore declare Saturday, the 16th day of June 2018 as local government election day in Rivers State. It is accordingly so fixed.

I reaffirm the commitment of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission to perform its obligations, to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.” There is no doubt that it is exactly three years since Governor Nyesom Wike took charge of the state after the triumph of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 general elections and in a normal political setting, that is a long time to conduct council election.

But, for the past three years, attempts to achieve this have continuously been resisted by the APC, which appears to be comfortable with the caretaker committee arrangement adopted by the Wike administration.

The caretaker arrangement itself is however a child of necessity as few weeks before the immediate past Chibuike Amaechi administration left office, it conducted council election after which chairmen and councillors were hurriedly sworn in.

The main flaw about that election is that the PDP and many other parties refused to participate in it on the ground that its outcome had been predetermined by the then APC-led government in the state. Observers claimed that the election was nothing other than a political landmine laid by the Amaechi administration for the then incoming Wike government.

But, the law took its course in September 2015, when a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt presided by Justice Lambo Akanbi, invalidated the May 23, 2015 council election won by the APC chairmanship and councillorship candidates.

In his judgement on Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/84/2015 filed in April 2015 by the PDP claiming that RSIEC did not comply with the 90-day mandatory notice stipulated by the electoral laws, Justice Akanbi declared that the May 23 polls were null and void. He further ruled that the conduct of the election by the Amaechi administration was lawless, provocative and disregard for the rule of law.

The judgement paved the, way for Governor Wike to dissolve the boards of RSIEC and the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission following the recommendation of the State House of Assembly. But, like the PDP did in 2015, the APC has declared that it will boycott the June 16 council polls.

The chairman of Rivers APC, Davies Ikanya, who announced the party’s decision to boycott the elections, described as shocking RSIEC’s decision to hold the polls in June, arguing that the issue is a subject of litigation before the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Ikeanya, who would be handing over to Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, a former chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, by the time his tenure elapses at the end of June, maintained that it was subjudice for the commission to fix a date for the election, even at a time when the courts had not decided on the cases filed by the main opposition party in the state.

He said: “We have been in a protracted legal battle over previous election that the RSIEC conducted, which Wike sacked elected officials and the case has not been vacated. It is wrong for a respected citizen to announce that their tenure has elapsed,” he said.

“Would RSIEC turn itself to Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court? Why can’t they wait for the court to determine the matter before fixing a date for council election? We are also saying that RSIEC, as presently constituted, cannot conduct election.”

IPAC chairman in the state, Sam Ihunwo, who condemned APC’s position, lauded RSIEC for its plan to conduct the election. He described the decision as a bold move to entrench democracy at the grassroots. He added that it was rather unfortunate and an illconsidered decision for the APC to withdraw from the exercise.

Ihunwo insisted that there was no truth in the claim by the state APC that local government election held in the state on May 23, 2015. “As you can see, 62 political parties are present to express their happiness with the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission for putting the machinery in place to conduct free, fair and genuine local government election on June 16, 2018,” he said. He argued that the judgement of the High Court of Rivers State on the matter put paid to whatever hope the APC had on the validity of the said May 23, 2015 local government election.

The APC’s planned boycott, notwithstanding, the state chairman of the PDP, Bro. Felix Obuah, during the re-registration of old and new members of the party, promised a level-playing field in the council election. He has been urging party members to be peaceful and play by the rules of the game throughout the process that would lead to the election.

While addressing party leaders recently, he advised that “even the persons who will be defecting today and wish to join our party must be registered. Do not restrict anyone from becoming a member. We need everybody and we do not want anyone to stop them from registering, due to personal interests.” Already, Obuah, a grassroots politician, who is also the chairman of Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has been rallying party faithful for the election and remains optimistic that the exercise will be free and fair.

Wike, who made a similar pledge, said imposition of candidates would not be allowed in the PDP. The governor, while addressing an expanded state stakeholders meeting of the party, said: “We will use the local government elections to test the waters. Let people come out and vote, so that we know that we are doing well.”

The Rivers governor also charged party members to ensure that those who would emerge as chairmen and councillors would defend their constituencies during elections. No doubt, while Governor Wike continues to deliver sound governance, and projects, Obuah has stepped up his game in instilling discipline within the party, while preparing the grounds for a triumphant council poll and a successful outing in the 2019 general elections.

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Politics

…Stop blackmailing Fayose, PDP warns

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Reacting to the claim by All Progressives Congress (APC) that Governor Ayodele Fayose ordered the demolition of its governorship candidates campaign billboard, Ekiti State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jackson Adebayo, accused the APC chairman in the state, Chief Jide Awe and members of his party of attempting to blackmail Fayose.

Adebayo said: “We don’t habour hoodlums in our party, it is APC that harbours hoodlums and you can see it from their recent congresses. “PDP is a party of peace, our rally in Oye that day was peaceful and the governor and our members were not responsible for the destruction of the billboard.

“APC should search its ranks for those who destroyed the billboard if ever it was destroyed because I am hearing it for the first time. Governor Fayose knows nothing about it and our members know nothing about it.”

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Politics

Fasanmi canvasses support for Fayemi

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Kayode Fayemi

Former Deputy Leader of pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, has called on members of Afforenifere and electorate in Ekiti State to support the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, during the July 14 election in Ekiti State.

Speaking to journalists in Osogbo, Fasanmi, an indigene of Iye Ekiti, implored the people of Ekiti State to give their support to Fayemi for APC to seize power from PDP and return the state to the progressives’ fold, which he said it rightly belonged.

The former Afenifere deputy leader also commended all APC governorship aspirants in the state, especially the party’s Deputy National Chairman (South), Engr. Segun Oni, for their maturity, selflessness and the belief in the doctrine of party supremacy which he said was not common among popular politicians.

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