The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), supported by other nine group-members of the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) had on 11th of May 2016 dragged Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to 20 world’s leading democracies and great economies under the UN System, concerning hardened and ill-conceived position of the Commission over outstanding parliamentary rerun polls in Nigeria and its consequential capacity to collapse Nigeria’s fragile democracy and constitutionalism if unchecked. The letter was addressed to the United Nations Secretary General; Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s Ambassador to Nigeria); United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR); United States Ambassador to Nigeria; Head, Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria & ECOWAS; EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security (Federica Mogherini); British High Commissioner to Nigeria; Head, African Research Group/Dep. Head/Research Analyst of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Dr. Clare Thomas) and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Nigeria.
Others are the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria; Ambassador of the Republic of France to Nigeria; Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria; Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria; Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria; Ambassador of the Netherlands to Nigeria; Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria; Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria; Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria; Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria; and Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria. The seven-page letter was also copied to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara, INEC Chairman Mahmud Yakubu, and Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, SAN. The letter had successfully been delivered electronically and in hard copies to their recipients.
Below is the second and concluding part of the letter; first part of it(http://www.intersociety-ng.org/component/k2/item/132-before-inec-collapses-democracy-in-nigeria) was made public on 12th of May 2016. The rest of the letter reads as follows: In Anambra Central Senatorial District, the appellate court order for the conduct of a rerun election into its vacant seat was made by the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal on 6th of December 2015 and it expired on 6th of March 2016. In Imo North Senatorial District, the order of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division was made on 11th of December 2015 and it expired on 11th of March 2016, with INEC observing it in gross breach. Two vacant State Legislative Assembly seats are also outstanding in Imo State till date. The ninety days order of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to INEC to conduct and conclude a rerun election into the vacant Kogi East Senatorial District seat was made on 2nd of December 2015 and it expired on 2nd of March 2016.
Be further informed Your Excellencies that we had on 20th of April 2016 written the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmud Yakubu concerning the subject matter above and called on the Commission to urgently fix new dates for the conduct and conclusion of all outstanding parliamentary elections arising from the 2015 main elections, on account of their judicial nullifications. We complained bitterly, too, that over twelve months after the 2015 general elections were held, the Commission has failed to conduct and conclude its balloting processes in contravention of the existing electoral laws and judicial orders above cited.
Link to the said letter of ours is provided below: http://intersociety-ng.org/component/k2/item/116-non-conduct-of-outstanding-legislative-reruns-in-imo-anambra--rivers-states-is-an-invitation-to-anarchy. On 27th of April 2016, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed a resolution urging INEC to fix new dates, conduct and conclude all outstanding parliamentary elections or reruns including six vacant senatorial seats under reference. The link to the published resolution of the Senate is provided below: http://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2016/04/28/senate-asks-inec-to-conduct-outstanding-senatorial-polls-in-six-districts/.
On 29th of April 2016, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued a statement, ignoring Intersociety and Senate’s clarion calls on the Commission to act lawfully by conducting and concluding the said outstanding rerun polls. The Commission admitted observing the court orders in breach and restated its indefinite postponement of all the outstanding parliamentary rerun elections in Anambra, Rivers, Kogi and Imo States; citing “violence and insecurity of its staffs”. The link to its said statement is provided below: http://www.elombah.com/index.php/reports/6662-breaking-inec-suspends-outstanding-2015-elections-indefinitely. The Commission had few weeks ago conducted and concluded elections in the Federal Capital Territorial and other outstanding reruns in Osun State, etc. Till date, the Commission is still withholding some results of the poor rerun polls it conducted in Rivers State on 19th of March 2016; a period of 52 days.
To use “insecurity” as a cover to deny over 20 million population their rights to effective, popular and deliberative representation at the National Assembly of Nigeria since December 2015, in this trying period in the life of Nigeria’s statehood that requires round-the-clock aggregation and congregation of the common interests of all ethnic nationalities in matters of legislative democracy; is the worst undoing of INEC. The Commission’s independence, credibility and impartiality are seriously under threats.
In Anambra Central Senatorial District, the Commission goofed unpardonably by becoming so partisan that it became an interested and biased third party on the issue of “who or which party is to be included in the rerun or otherwise”. Even when the Commission was ordered judgmentally on 1st of March 2016 by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to allow one of the participating political parties; which the Commission magisterially barred from contesting; to contest and field its new candidate, following extraneous circumstances, the Commission, rather than obeying the order and complying with the judgment; rushed and filed an appeal, challenging the Court judgment. Till date, nothing is heard from the said appeal filed weeks after the judgment; a period of over 40 days. The Commission also issued a statement, postponing the Senatorial rerun indefinitely. Instances of INEC’s gross misconducts that are capable of collapsing Nigeria’s fragile democracy abound. Also by law and Nigeria’s democracy, policies and conducts of all public bodies and persons in Nigeria including INEC are subject to judicial reviews and pronouncements.
In modern democracies, States exist to protect their citizens and ensure their welfares at all times. This is commonly referred to as “sovereignty as a responsibility” or “citizens’ sovereignty”. In Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, her Section 14 (2) (b) mandates or compulsorily provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the Government” and (c) “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured, in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. It is therefore abominable for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to shift the responsibility of “providing security and violence free environment” for conduct and conclusion of its outstanding rerun polls, to the voting population; failing which the Commission announced indefinite suspension of all outstanding rerun polls.
As delicate and dicey as the then Boko Haram affected Northeast Nigeria was, yet the then Prof Attahiru Jega led INEC successfully conducted elections in the area. We have suspected and still suspect strongly that INEC’s excuses for suspending the said rerun polls are politically motivated and ill-conceived. The Commission may most likely be acting a script of the federal ruling party and the presidency in Nigeria for the purpose of muscling or decimating the strength of the federal opposition party and geopolitical zones at the country’s National Assembly. The Southeast and the South-south geopolitical zones are the country’s known opposition strongholds in the present political dispensation. Also, the areas where outstanding parliamentary rerun polls are suspended by the Commission are majorly controlled by the opposition zones and political parties.
We, therefore, call on Your Excellencies to intervene diplomatically and bring pressure to bear on INEC before it collapses the country’s fragile democracy. Other than Your Excellencies’ immense positive diplomatic influences wield over the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we are also aware that each of Your Excellencies’ home governments sets aside every year robust development aid or grant packages for Nigeria, which run into hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds or Euros, in aid or support of the country’s advancement in democracy, electoral reform, rule of law, humanitarianism, human rights and security.
We are further aware that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a major recipient of these development aids or interventions, either directly or through codified or budgetary means. We are aware, too, that UK alone, for instance, has set aside 250Million British Pounds in development aid to Nigeria for 2016. These development interventions are strictly guided by a set of rules or conditions, which include credibility, accountability, impartiality and neutrality of INEC and its obedience to rule of law; justice and electoral reforms; respect for human rights including civil and political rights as well as security of the citizens and popular conduct of periodic elections under one-person-one-vote doctrine. Your Excellencies’ diplomatic intervention under demand is also in furtherance of the advancement of the purposes and principles of the United Nations which include promotion of democracy, local and international peace and security; protection of human rights and advancement of democratic free speech and good governance.
INEC should, therefore, be called upon and monitored by Your Excellencies to ensure that it does not become a roguish and parasitic electoral commission capable of collapsing Nigeria’s fragile democracy. The Commission must be mirrored transparently by Your Excellencies to justify its continued supports from Your Excellencies’ home governments. The Commission’s adamant refusal and woeful failure to conduct and conclude the referenced outstanding parliamentary rerun elections as ordered by law and courts should strongly be condemned in unmistakable terms by Your Excellencies.
INEC should specifically be called upon by Your Excellencies to fix new dates for the said polls, conduct and conclude same inexcusably. It is also the constitutional duty of the Commission and the security agencies in Nigeria; not the voting population, to provide security and ensure absence of violence during such polls. The best way to ensure these is for the Commission to play by the rules and refrain from being seen or perceived by the public and other involved parties as “interested or compromised third party”. The Board of INEC, which is yet to be fully or properly constituted by the Senate and the Presidency in accordance with Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, should also be properly done through Your Excellencies’ diplomatic pressures, as a matter of uttermost immediacy and extreme public importance so as to ensure the Commission’s true credibility and independence.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348180771506
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673