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Ozekhome, others seek elections for vacant Senate seats

Stakeholders in the nation’s electoral process have faulted the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission not to conduct bye-elections into three Senate seats which became vacant about four months ago following the resignation of the occupants.

The Commission had yet to conduct by-elections into the Senate seats in Nasarawa, Borno and Zamfara States, as constituents lament non-representation in the National Assembly.

The vacancies were declared following the emergence of Senators Abdullahi Adamu and Abubakar Kyari as the national chairman and deputy national chairman (North) of the All Progressives Congress respectively on March 26.

While Adamu represented Nasarawa West Senatorial District, Kyari represented Borno North until their resignation on April 12.

Also, Senator Muhammad Hassan Nasiha of the Zamfara Central Senatorial District, on March 1, resigned after he was named as the Deputy governor of Zamfara State sequel to the removal of Mahdi Aliyu-Gusau.

A human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Dr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and some Civil Society Organisations in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said the denial of the Senatorial Districts representation amounted to great injustice and infringement on their legitimate rights.

Several calls SMS and WhatsApp messages by two correspondents of The PUNCH for 48 hours to both INEC National Commisioner and chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye; and Chief Press Secretary to the commision’s chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, were not replied despite initial promise to speak on the issue.

Ozekhome said, “It’s inexcusable, egregious and politically unwise. Senators are direct representatives of the people, hence three senatorial zones are created per state by the constitution. There are 109 Senators in Nigeria. Aside effective representation of their people, Senators also play crucial oversight roles in accordance with Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution.

“They are also important in attracting constituency projects to their constituents and also in stabilizing their political parties in terms of voting numbers, whether in achieving one-third or two-third majority votes.”

The Senior Programme Officer, Centre for Democracy and Development, Austin Aigbe, said INEC may have been too occupied with the 2023 elections.

According to him, while it was true that INEC has the responsibility to conduct elections to fill the vacancies occasioned by resignation and/or death within 30 days following the notification from the head of Parliament, “it is also true that INEC seems to be more than ever focused on the 2023 general elections.”

He said, “This is a constitutional matter, INEC must conduct these polls, if it can confirm receipts from the President of the Senate.
Whereas, the public know about the resignation of the aforementioned, it doesn’t automatically mean that INEC is informed.

“I therefore, will want to charge the INEC to confirm receipt of the notification from the Senate President. The National Assembly’s tenure ends in June 2023, there is still a long way to go for the people of the affected Senatorial Districts, without a senatorial representative at the Senate.

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