The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, asking him to ensure that the court does not obstruct the commission in the performance of its statutory duties.
INEC, in the letter signed by its acting Chairman, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, objected to the order granted by Justice John Tsoho stopping the commission from proceeding with the recall of Senator Dino Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District in the Senate.
INEC said the order granted by the judge was aimed at frustrating its constitutional duties, contending that it was in violation of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
The commission noted that despite the fact that the judge knew that the recall process must be completed within 90 days, he decided to adjourn Melaye’s suit to September 29, effectively frustrating the process.
In the letter exclusively obtained by THISDAY, the commission said: “The conduct of referendum for recall is one of the constitutional duties of the commission, as stipulated in Sections 69 and 110 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and Sections 2(c) and 116 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.
“Pursuant to the presentation of a petition for the recall of Mr. Dino Melaye, to the chairman of the commission on the 21st June, 2017 by petitioners alleging lack of confidence in the senator, the commission in accordance with its constitutional mandate issued a timetable and schedule of activities for the recall of the senator.
“My Lord, the commission by virtue of the provisions of Section 69 of the constitution is mandated to conduct a referendum for recall of the senator within 90 days from the date of receipt of the petition.
“Section 57(10) of the Electoral Act, 2010, also stipulates that courts are not empowered to stop the conduct of primaries or general elections or processes thereof under the act, pending the hearing and determination of a suit.
“The above order and adjournment of hearing of the motion on notice to 29th September, 2017 have clogged the performance of the commission’s constitutional duty having regard to the fact that the period for the conduct of the referendum in question shall lapse on 18th September, 2017.
“The commission will highly appreciate the intervention of your Lordship to ensure that courts do not grant orders capable of hindering the commission from carrying out its constitutional duties as required by the constitution.”
The commission attached copies of the order and the processes filed by Melaye to the court to the CJ.
Justice Tsoho had on July 6 ordered the parties in the suit filed by Melaye against INEC to maintain the “status quo as it stands today, July 6, 2017 pending the determination of the plaintiff’s motion on notice”.
He also ordered Melaye to file an undertaking to pay damages to the INEC as would be assessed by the court if it “turns out that this order ought not to have been made”.
Some aggrieved voters from Melaye’s senatorial district had collected signatures and filed a petition to INEC for his recall, citing lack of performance.
Not leaving anything to chance, the senator filed the case, seeking among others, to nullify the petition submitted to INEC.
In the originating summons he filed through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), the embattled lawmaker prayed the court to declare that the petition presented to INEC for his recall was illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect in law.
He also prayed the court for a declaration that the petition purportedly forwarded to INEC was invalid and of no effect, the same being signed by fictitious, dead and non-existing persons in his senatorial district, as well as for an order of injunction restraining INEC from commencing or further continuing or completing the process of his recall.
Melaye also asked the court to make an order stopping INEC from acting on the petition submitted to it.
In the suit, which he filed pursuant to Sections 36, 68 and 69 of the 1999 Constitution and Order 3, Rule 6 of the FHC Civil Procedure Rules 2009, Melaye begged the high court to stop the electoral body from conducting any referendum predicated on the fictitious petition allegedly submitted to it by his purported constituents on the basis of the fundamentally and legally flawed petition.
He specifically urged the court to determine whether by provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the constitution, he is entitled to a fair hearing before the process of his recall, as envisaged by the provisions of Section 69 of the constitution can be triggered.
To determine whether the petition presented to the defendant is in compliance with the requirements of the constitution, same being heavily tainted with political malice, bad motive, personal vendetta and bad faith, which were initiated by top politicians in Kogi State who wield enormous power over his senatorial constituency.
Likewise, to determine whether the process of a recall as provided for in Section 69 of the constitution can be initiated against him when the number of registered and qualified voters in the constituency who purportedly signed the petition was grossly less than the number required in Section 69(a) of the constitution.