‘2011: INEC Composition May Short-change Nigerians’

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It’s against the constitutional provision because the constitution stipulates that INEC must have, I think, 13 commissioners so if it has not reached that mark… What is even important is that the judgement of the Court says that, that is unconstitutional.

The ‘debate’ for the sanitising of the Nigeria’s Electoral House – the Independent National Electoral Commission- continues across the nation unabated. The intensity of the debate spear-headed by coalition of pro-democracy and civil-society groups as well and Labour  is so much that it has now assumed international dimension and caught the attention of the International Community, with the United State government leading the way and endorsing the call for the replacement of INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu.

Beyond the call for the replacement of Iwu which pro-Iwu campaigners are fighting frantically to counter, with high-level lobbying going-on for the retention of the Chief after this June, 2010 expiry date of his tenure, another aspect of the commission which many believe, if over hauled, will help in no small way in sanitising it and place it on a sound footing for the 2011 election is the commission’s management, as presently constituted.

The law provides for about 13 commissioners  from the six geo-political zones but over time, the number of commissioners has depleted to about four and incredibly, it was with these four that the commission conducted the recent Anambra State gubernatoral election. An attempt by the Federal High Court, Lagos to stop the election on account of this failed, as INEC jettisoned the judgement of the court, stopping the election and went ahead to conduct it.

While both Houses of the National Assembly were passive on this, not wanting to take a clear-cut position on the issue, a member of the House of Representatives and Barrister-at-Law, Hon. Emmanuel Orker Jev emerged as the  ‘Lonely Voice’ in what Martyns – Luther King Jnr. would term as ‘the abyss of despair’ following a motion he sponsored on the floor of the House on the issue. Although majority of the House members did not support the motion, thus preventing the motion from seeing the light of day, Hon. Orker Jev has carved a  niche for himself as a man on the side of the law, and of the people!

Curiously The Tide On Sunday accosted him on the failed motion which many outside the National Assembly believed, was in tandem with the Rule of law and in national interest, especially since politicians  and INEC officials have started jostling for 2011. What would be his next line of action and how did he view the killing of the motion? Hon (Barr.) was embittered with the position of his colleagues on the motion and did not hide this when he spoke with The Tide On Sunday.  In Abuja last week, as he said point-blank that the action of INEC in disobeying court order tantamounts to walking on a landmine’, which would do the House and nation no good.

His words: “the motion has to do with the re-constitution of INEC  because you know that it (INEC) is a problem now, INEC is not properly constituted to the extent that a Federal High Court in Lagos, on the eve of the election in Anambra State, brought an injunction  that sought to prevent the election from holding.

“That touched me, so I sponsored the motion; unfortunately, my colleagues thought otherwise and did not go along with that. I think someday they’ll regret that decision because as a lawyer, I felt it was dangerous – a court will bring an injunction and an Establishment would know it and yet go ahead and do (the contrary). That is working on a landmine.

The Tide On Sunday sought clarification on his position whether his contention is that INEC, as presently constituted is illegal? To which he snapped, “It’s against the constitutional provision because the constitution stipulates that INEC must have, I think, 13 commissioners so if it has not reached that mark… What is even important is that the judgement of the Court says that, that is unconstitutional”.

“So what I was doing (with the motion) was, apart from my personal opinion, the court too has gone along with that and said, don’t go on with any election and do any of your constitutional functions unless you are constitutionally constituted. That is what the court says so I got bothered that we are going into an election (in 2011) ourselves – one day, the court will just strike the whole thing (election result) down and say, look, you have been warned and you still went ahead (and conducted the election)”.

“And I also look at it from the point of view of the Federal Character’ thing. The constitution says that: In re-panelling any Agency of government, you must take view of the whole segments of society. If you go to INEC now, of the remaining four (commissioners) three are from one geo-political  zone. So about four geo-political zones, out of the six we have in the country are unrepresented there – only the South – East and South-West are represented; they’re going on with recruitment process now.

“We know how Nigeria operates, if you don’t have anybody representing you there, you’ll discover that in a lot of things, you’ll be short-changed. Those were my worries when I brought the motion (on INEC which unfortunately was killed).”

Hon. (Barr.) Orker Jev who clocks 47 years soon and was called to the Bar in 1989, after joining politics in 1986 – a feat that culminated in his election into the Benue State House of Assembly during the in- glorious Late General Sani Abacha era -spoke of the lives of  how he has impacted positively on his constituents.

Said he: “Well, I’ve been doing my little best. My target when I came here (Rep) was to try and improve on my environment; I come from a rural setting. My environment is specially a rural setting- agric activities constitutes more than 90% of the occupation of the people. So at the personal level, I know there are some formers there who can’t even afford a bag of fertiliser at the price they sell now – N4,000 some thing to N5,000 so yearly as I came in I do buy fertilisers and  distribute to the indigent farmers.”

He continued:

“There are some that can afford, others cannot, some cannot even afford a ‘mudu’ of fertiliser so I do target such people and buy fertilisers and distribute to them.

“I also know that education is something that should be encouraged, so I’ve been given scholarship to at least 200 students of tertiary institutions annually.

“I’ve also been encouraging small-scale trading; those who formed co-operative societies and came to me as a group, I tried to fund such. I’ve been funding medical treatment and all of the other sundry needs of the people but there is a limit to which I can do as a legislator  because my earnings are limited. Basically, I’ve attracted a lot of projects to the constituency. Water is a lot of problem to the community so I’ve attracted more than 60 boreholes to the constituency. “I’ve also attracted school blocks; at least, 12 School blocks scattered across the constituency. About two medical facilities have been attracted; Solar street lights have been attracted to two different communities Buruku and Gbaja – Gbaja is my immediate community,” he said.

 

Justus Awaji, Abuja