Four months after three senate seats became vacant, following the resignation of the occupants, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to conduct by-elections into the parliamentary seats, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
The delay in the conduct of by-elections to fill three vacant Senate seats in Nasarawa, Borno and Zamfara states is said to be causing apprehension among constituents who feel they are being denied representation in the parliament.
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On March 26, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Abubakar Kyari emerged as the national chairman and deputy national chairman (North) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively.
Adamu and Kyari represented Nasarawa West and Borno North respectively until their resignation on April 12.
Like the duo, Senator Muhammad Hassan Nasiha of the Zamfara Central Senatorial District, on March 1 this year, resigned from the parliament after he was named as the deputy governor of Zamfara State sequel to the impeachment of Mahdi Aliyu-Gusau.
INEC dilly-dallies on by-elections
The Senate President Ahmad Lawan has communicated to INEC, declaring vacant the three senatorial seats.
The ball is now in INEC’s court to conduct by-election to fill the vacancies.
Sources in the Senate told one of our reporters that the Senate President communicated to the electoral body a few days after the three lawmakers resigned from the Red Chamber.
One of the sources said: “INEC was duly informed on the three vacant seats in the Senate after the representatives resigned on account of their election and nomination as APC executives and deputy governor.”
Another source said the three seats became vacant immediately after the resignation letters of those who represented the senatorial districts were read on the floor and the Votes and Proceedings (official records of the sitting days) adopted.
When contacted, the spokesperson of the Senate President, Ola Awoniyi, did not respond to calls and messages seeking confirmation.
Recall that in February, the electoral body had conducted by-elections into vacant parliamentary seats in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the delay in the conduct of the by-election as political parties and constituents have challenged the electoral body.
In Borno North, Bukar Saina Mohammed from Monguno LGA said the resignation would enable the senatorial district to have a performing lawmaker.
He described Kyari’s resignation from the Senate as an easy exit to avert humiliating defeat in 2023 for his poor performance in representing the people of Northern Borno.
But another constituent from Abadam LGA, Abubakar Umar Goni, said that the people of Northern Borno will miss a quality and credible politician who uses his wealth of experience and knowledge to work for the restoration of peace and stability in the area.
Borno State Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon Zannah Gaddama, said that the party is waiting for INEC to ring the bell for the poll.
“As far as we are concerned, the people are agitating for a better representation in the Senate and we are looking forward to INEC to fix a date for the by-election as we are sure of winning the seat,” he said.
In the same vein, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Borno State, Alhaji Auwal Hamza, said they are also waiting for INEC to fix the date for the by-election.
In Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, constituents have expressed displeasure over the delay in conducting the exercise.
A resident, Aliyu Usman told one of our correspondents that the electoral body should hasten up the conduct of the by-election.
“We are missing a lot in terms of representation. The reason why I said so is that those constituencies with representations are still benefiting a lot, especially in terms of constituency projects but we are missing out.
“Everything has stopped because we have no representative, therefore, we are appealing to the electoral body to conduct the election,” Usman said.
Another constituent, Musa Haruna, said the delay is causing apprehension in the senatorial district.
He said with the conclusion of the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, INEC has no excuse not to conduct the by-election.
“Now that the Ekiti and Osun elections are over, INEC should please conduct a by-election for Zamfara Central so that we can have someone that will be raising issues affecting our area, especially the problem of insecurity,” he said.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Zamfara State, Professor Saidu Babura, said the delay was due to the insecurity challenges.
“We will conduct the by-elections any time the security situation improves. So, there is no cause for alarm regarding the by-elections in the constituencies,” he said.
Reacting to the delay, the chairman of the PDP in Nasarawa State, Mr Francis Orogu, said they are worried over the delay.
“But I don’t know whether INEC has ignored us. They want us to remain without a representative at the Senate for the next seven months or there are about, which is very costly. We deserve to be represented even if it is for one week,” he said.
Litigations, insecurity delay exercise – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that protracted court cases and insecurity were mostly responsible for the delay in the conduct of by-elections in the vacant parliamentary seats.
Mr. Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, the chief press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told Daily Trust, in Abuja, that 21 pending cases are affecting the conduct of the senatorial, federal constituencies and state constituencies.
For instance, there are nine pending state constituency by-elections in Ebonyi State alone, but all of them are under litigation in the various courts, thus the commission cannot take any action until the courts resolve all the issues under contention.
“Vacancies have been declared for the Borno North, Zamfara Central, and Nasarawa Central Senatorial Districts. Seven vacancies occurred as a result of death in Shinkafi and Gusau Constituencies (Zamfara State); Oron Federal Constituency (Akwa Ibom State); Ibadan South East II State Constituency (Oyo State); Aguata II State Constituency (Anambra State); Giwa State Constituency (Kaduna State); and Ikopa-Okha/Egor Federal Constituency in Edo State,” he said.
The INEC official said that the security situation in some of the areas where the election will take place is also responsible for the delay.
He said that INEC has a responsibility to ensure that the personnel and materials deployed for elections, voters, and other stakeholders like journalists and observers are safe from danger.
“Until the security agencies give the assurance and the commission is convinced of relative safety, it will not be advisable for us to hold elections in such areas,” Oyekanmi said.
On the commission’s stance on complaints by the constituents that the vacancies would deny them representation, especially since the 2023 General Elections are a few months away, Mr. Oyekanmi said, “Our appeal to the constituents is that they should be patient. Some of the issues, such as the cases in court, are beyond the commission. Nothing can be done until the courts make their pronouncements on these cases.”
Daily Trust reports that some of the political parties’ candidates that emerged in the recently concluded primaries, may also want to participate when INEC fixes dates for the bye-elections, raising concerns on possible legal issues.
However, Mr. Oyekanmi said that the commission will always ensure compliance with extant laws in all cases.
He said the commission will not allow any political party or candidate to circumvent the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022 in all electoral matters and that the commission’s position on strict compliance with the law is very clear to all stakeholders.
Ismail Mudashir, Abdullateef Salau, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Umar Muhammed (Lafia), Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri) & Shehu Umar (Gusau)