According to Malam Naseer Kura, Executive Director Basic Rights Action, the issue of recall of elected members of the legislature is one of the critical components of our Constitution since the return to civil rule and constitutional democracy since 1999. Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution details what needs to be done for a recall to be lawful.
However, there is a scant awareness of this aspect of the Constitution by Nigerians until now.
It must be stated that the essence of the recall is to ensure that elected members of the Parliament either at the state or Federal levels are to ensure that their activities are principally driven by members of their constituencies in accordance with constitutional provisions. This is to ensure that synergy exists between voters and those that sought for power into the legislature.
The crafters of the Constitution had reasonably assumed that the epicenter of democracy in the country should be the legislature, and that in the context of deepening the democracy and expanding the democratic space, the members of the legislature must reflect the aspirations of people in their various constituencies.
It is against this background that the attempt to recall Senator Dino Melaye, who is representing Kogi West District of Kogi State is instructive for two significant reasons: One, those who are elected into the legislature must ensure that their tenureship in the legislature is marked by the inclusive nature of ensuring that their constituency members define the trajectory of their contributions in the parliament, and that it is a reinvention of the will and power of the people to ensure that the nation’s democracy does not reflect wanton impunity, arbitrariness and further descend to primitive accumulation by those elected into the legislature.
Sadly, the attempt to recall Senator Dino Melaye has been mired in crude politics and the attempt to destroy state institutions. There is no doubt that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Professor Mahmud Yakubu has continued to strengthen its independence as conscious effort has been made to insulate the institution from politics. The most recent of this was the rerun election in Osun West Senatorial district where the main opposition party clinched the senatorial seat from the governing political party both in the state and at the federal.
The efforts of INEC to continue the string of the recall process must be seen in the context of performing a statutory function to abide by the Constitution, and to enforce a lawful and constitutional act that was initiated by the people of Kogi West, who had satisfied all constitutional requirements in this regard. What INEC has just done is to comply with the spirit and letters of the Constitution. It could not have acted in a contrary manner as this would suggest that the Commission is not credible, transparent and independent.
Therefore, it amounts to an abuse of court processes for Senator Melaye to have sued INEC. If the Senator had felt something was wrong and unconstitutional in his recall, he should have initiated the process at the formative stage.
It is a grave assault on the Constitution for him or anybody to approach the court to stop INEC from performing a statutory, lawful and constitutional responsibility. It can hardly build a democratic and just society when the Constitution is willfully disregarded and serially assaulted by those who are saddled with the onerous responsibility of protecting the Constitution.
Section 69 of the Constitution had explicitly and unambiguously detailed the steps that must be taken before a Senator could be recalled. It is the responsibility of Senator Melaye to have approached the court while the process was ongoing in his state. He has slept on his right to have allowed a process he alleged was tainted with political interest to have run a full course.
It is fundamentally a flawed approach to have taken INEC to court to stop it from performing its statutory function.
Furthermore, it is important that the National Assembly which is composed of eminent members of the society restrain itself from giving support to an unlawful conduct. The National Assembly is the conscience and soul of the nation’s democracy and it must not be seen to serve as an encumbrance to the democratic will of the Nigerian people.
It is morally incorrect for the National Assembly to have initiated a probe into the activity of TETFUND from 2007 to 2012 under the Executive Secretary ship of Professor Mahmud Yakubu at a period one of its own is confronted with the issue of recall.
If this probe had come at an auspicious time, it would have been seen within the constitutional mandate of the Senate. But coming at a time when one of its members is facing a recall suggest that an air of intimidation is being carried out by the National Assembly to protect a member against the wish of his people. This is certainly not the best way to serve, and can neither be seen as the best way to enhance inclusiveness in governance nor protecting constitutional democracy.
We therefore call on the National Assembly to do what is expected of an Assembly of men and women of conscience, stepping down on the mischievous attempt of auditing the TETFUND, dating it back to the tenure of Professor Yakubu, which no doubt suggest witch-hunt.