Constitutionally, the senate is made up of 109 senators representing every senatorial district in the country. What this means is that every part of the country must have a representation at the upper legislative chamber as long as the tenure of the Senate remains. But it is a different ball game for the people of Kebbi Central who have lost a voice and presence since Aliero resigned some months ago. As a matter of fact, seven months is too much for a constituency to remain without a representation. Nobody will bring their needs and plights to the attention of the Senate as other Senators will be busy fighting for the interests of their respective constituencies, which is against section 14, subsection 2c of the 1999 constitution which says that the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
When Aliero resigned his position as a senator, his seat automatically became vacant. Constitutionally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should have conducted a bye-election to fill in the vacant position at most within four months. Unfortunately, INEC may be claiming it is handicapped to play this constitutional role on the phantom excuse of the litigation of the 2007 senatorial election in Kebbi Central, which is lying curiously and suspiciously idle at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna and now transferred to Court of Appeal, Sokoto.
This is where either ignorance of the law or mischief on the part of INEC IS playing a very big role. According to section 68, subsection l (D) of the 1999 constitution, “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if he becomes a president, vice-president, governor, deputy governor, or a minister of the government of the federation or a commissioner of the government of a state or a special adviser.”
Going through these constitutional provisions, lNEC should have conducted Kebbi Central bye-election latest by April, 2009. The litigation on Kebbi Central at the Court of Appeal cannot stop the bye-election because the vacancy and the litigation are two different issues, which should not be mixed up. Assuming Aliero did not resign, he would have still been a Senator while the litigation is still going on. This is why the bye-election should be conducted by INEC irrespective of the ongoing court case. The constitution cited above clearly mandated INEC to fill in any vacancy not minding whether there exist any court case or not.
According to Ulpian, a renowned jurist, justice means giving to every one his own due. Justice in this context means ensuring that Kebbi Central Senatorial district has an uninterrupted representation just like every other senatorial district in this country. However, the failure and delay by the Court of Appeal in dispensing with the Kebbi Central Senatorial case is either ignorantly or mischievously being capitalized upon by INEC not to conduct the bye-election and this has brought about injustice to the people. This is why I have argued that justice delayed is justice denied.
The constitution and nature abhor vacuum. Beyond the four months allowed by the constitution to conduct election after vacancy, any other act by whosoever, whether by INEC and their manipulators is unconstitutional, illegal and an infringement on the right of the people of Kebbi Central. Be that as it may, why should the court of Appeal not expedite action on the matter and why is it that it is the only electoral tribunal case from Kebbi state that is still lingering on, thereby fueling speculations of serious foul play.
There is a strong apprehension by the people of Kebbi central that some so called powerful people are responsible for manipulating the judiciary to cause this delay so that INEC will use it as an excuse not to conduct the bye-election.
The judiciary as the third arm of government has a critical role to play in stabilizing our growing democracy through fair and just judgement and quick dispensation of cases. If all the senatorial and other electoral cases brought before the courts are still lingering as it is the case in Kebbi Central, there will be no democracy in the country because the parties will be busy with court litigations and will not have time to contribute in quality law making, robust debates, committee work, oversight functions etc.
INEC should on its own start making preparation for a bye-election as approved by law. The two issues involved in this matter are different, which should not be joined together. This will strengthen our democracy and put joy in the heart of the people of Kebbi Central who have been excluded from having representation in the Senate.
Maihatsi wrote from Plot 50, Road 3, Phase 4, Nyanya, Abuja