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By Ismail Omipidan
Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West senatorial district, is no doubt facing what could pass for the toughest political battles, since his foray into politics. With the submission of the petition against him to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Wednesday, the stage appears set for the process of recalling the lawmaker, the outcome of which may make or mar him politically.
Historically speaking, especially since the country’s current democratic dispensation in 1999, Melaye will not be the first lawmaker to be faced with such a threat. But like all the previous attempts at recalling lawmakers, which though failed, his recall attempt is also being engineered by the “powers that be.”
However, it is only time that will tell, if like others before it, this one too will fail. But what is certain for now is that the process has begun.
According to section 69 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, there are 10 steps that must be satisfied by petitioners before the recall process could be deemed to have been completed. All these 10 steps are what INEC compressed in the Section 4 of its Act, as amended, called it “Guidelines for the recall of a member of the National Assembly or State House of Assembly.” The Section, like that of the constitution, spells out in clear terms how a lawmaker can be recalled.
The steps according to the constitution are: More than half of the registered voters in the Senator’s senatorial district write, sign and send a petition to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC alleging their loss of confidence in the senatorial; the petition must be signed, and arranged according to polling units, wards, Local Government Areas, and constituency; INEC notifies the Senator sought to be recalled, stating that it has received a petition for his or her recall, if the petition is valid; INEC issues a public notice or announcement stating the date, time and location of the verification of signatures to the petition; and INEC verifies the signatures to the petition at the designation. The signatories must be individuals who appear on the voters’ register.
Others are: INEC conducts a referendum if more than one half (50 per cent + 1) of the signatories are verified; INEC writes to the petitioners stating that the minimum requirements for a referendum were not met, if the number verified is less than one half of the registered voters in that constituency. The petition will therefore be dismissed; INEC conducts a referendum within 90 days of receipt of the petition if the minimum requirements for a referendum are met. The referendum will be a simple yes or no vote on whether the Senator should be recalled, and will be decided by simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency; If majority of the voters in the constituency vote ‘yes’ the Chairman of the INEC will send a Certificate of Recall to the Senate President to effect the recall; and lastly, the Senate President will show affected senator the way out of the Senate.
By the submission of the petition to the INEC chairman on Wednesday, the petitioners in Kogi West, operating under the name “Concerned Indigene of Kogi West,” appear to have satisfied the first two steps. They have eight more to go.
Of the four recall cases that have been witnessed in the country since its return to democracy in 1999, only one failed to get to the referendum stage. And that was the one involving Ibrahim Mantu. It was in 2006 and the process was arrested by INEC itself on the pretext that the petition was submitted outside the number of days allowed by law. Mantu’s recall was allegedly engineered by the former Plateau State governor, Senator Joshua Dariye, in 2006. But at the time, Mantu was still in the good books of the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Before that of Mantu, in the same Plateau State, the then Speaker, who is now the governor of the State, Simon Lalong, had gone through the process, but survived it at the stage of the referendum, following the inability of the voters to meet the requirement. Lalong, as Speaker was very protective of Dariye, who the Federal Government allegedly wanted out of the way at all cost. His recall process was therefore said to have been engineered from Abuja.
The other two that got up to the referendum stage were those of George Ike Okoye from Anambra State and that of Faruk Adamu Aliyu from Jigawa State. Okoye was a member of the State House of Assembly at the time, while Aliyu was a member of the House of Representatives. Okoye’s process took place in 2000, while that of Aliyu took place in August 2006. That of Aliyu, like that of Melaye was engineered by his state governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki.
Melaye’s process begins
By Wednesday, the petition to recall him was submitted. Interestingly, the petitioners gathered more than the 50.1 percent of signatures required by law, as more than 188,500 registered voters, representing 52.3 percent of 360, 000 registered voters in the Kogi West Senatorial district, have endorsed the petition.
The leaders of the group, leading the recall campaign claimed that the petition submitted, have the signatures of the electorate from the six Councils in the senatorial district.
The Councils are: Ijimu, Kabba/Bunu; Lokoja; Yagba West; Yagba East; and Mopa/Moro.
Chief Cornelius Olowo, who claims to be speaking for the group, disclosed that the move to recall Dino was based on his “poor performance,” since he was elected a Senator in 2015.
Hear him: “Legislative performance is just on the floor, the quality of bills and motion that is presented on the floor by the level of interaction with the people you are representing.
“In the last two years some senators meet with their people quarterly. They update them on what has been happening and they also ask of their contributions and aspirations to be presented at the floor of the senate. For the past two years Sen. Dino Melaye has not organized one town hall meeting anywhere in Kogi West to meet with the people and present his scorecard or stewardship.
“He has been completely disconnected from the people since he won his election. He is no longer reachable, he has no constituency office in Kogi West as we speak , as a way to reach him on matters of interests from the people that elected him”, Olowo, declared.
He further claimed that it took one week for them to collate the results from the polls, adding that “we have over 360,000 registered voters in Kogi West. After about one week of collection of this signatures, as you know it takes time because it is more like election on its own. We are able to gather over 188,500 signatures who have endorsed the recall of the senator and we have submitted it at the office of INEC Chairman.
“It is now left for INEC to go and do the confirmation of the signatures gathered before going on with the process needed for the recall,” Olowo, added.
Asked if it was true that they were being sponsored by Governor Yahaya Bello, to activate the recall process, Olowo denied the allegation flatly, claiming that he was not aware. He insisted that the authenticity of the demand would be confirmed when INEC comes for confirmation of the signatories.
Reacting to the development, Melaye said” “It cannot succeed. It is a hoax and absolute comedy of errors. I’m laughing at the stupidity of Kogi State government. Many appointees will go to jail for forgery. Even dead people’s names (are) on the recall register.
“A governor who does not know what double registration is may not as well know the procedure for recall. Every lie has an expiry date. This comedy of errors will soon end. No shaking at all. This won’t solve the problem of not paying salaries for over 15 months. No retreat no surrender. Truth is my only Defence.”
Would this go the way of the others? Or will it scale through? The answers lie in the belly of time.