The Senate on Wednesday gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Dec. 10 ultimatum to conduct pending National Assembly elections in Rivers.
The Senate threatened to suspend its plenary if the electoral body failed to meet the deadline, pointing out that the state had remained without representation in the national assembly for a long period.
According to the chamber, the situation is unconstitutional.
The lawmakers took the decision after adopting a motion by the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekwerenmadu, and co-sponsored by Leader of the Senate, Alhaji Ali Ndume.
Moving the motion earlier, Ekweremadu said that in spite of the resolution of the senate on Sept. 27 urging INEC to conduct the elections, “the commission refused to oblige.
He said, “lNEC has failed, refused and or neglected to conduct re-run elections in Rivers, into the Senate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly.
“The failure of lNEC to conduct the re-run elections in Rivers within the time-frame ordered by the respective election petition tribunals/courts is in breach of the Electoral Act and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution, thus endangering the nation’s democracy.
“Non-representation of the entire people of Rivers in the Senate and some constituencies in the House of Representatives and House of Assembly is in breach of Section 14 (2) (c) of the 1999 Constitution, and endangers peace and order in the state.
“Failure of lNEC to conduct election in Rivers has continued to deny the people of the state their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be represented in the legislative houses.
“lNEC had successfully conducted elections in the North-East of Nigeria, especially in the areas around Sambisa Forest in spite of the area having been acknowledged worldwide to be ravaged by terrorist activities.
“Elections were held in Bayelsa in spite of government acknowledged threat of militant activities that necessitated provision of additional security personnel in the state for the elections.”
Ekweremmadu said that INEC had no excuse not to have conducted the elections and urged his colleagues to support the motion.
In his contribution, Ndume said that it was unfair that Rivers had no representation in the Senate.
He said that it was unthinkable that the Senate was about to discuss the Petroleum Industry Bill without a representation from the state.
“If it is our colleagues from Rivers today, it could be you any day. You can imagine if because of insurgency elections were not conducted, I will not be here, let alone being the Senate Leader.
“How would it be for my people who are ravaged by insurgency not to have somebody to tell you people or my colleagues what is actually on ground?
“Just imagine the motions we raised that led to the passage of the bill on the North-East Development Commission, how would I have proposed it?,” he queried.
Ndume said that the new leadership in INEC had a lot to do in the area of conducting successful election.
“We have a new leadership in INEC, and we know the history now – inconclusive, suspension and confusion; and we have to do something.
“Very soon, we will be preparing for general elections. If we cannot conduct one election in Rivers, how do we conduct the general election?
“I know there are problems in Rivers but elections must hold. The voice should come out from here; it is better to take a wrong decision than not to take a decision at all,” he said.
Supporting, Sen. Matthew Uroghide said that the non-representation of Rivers in the Senate was an inhumane treatment to the people of the state.
“There is no way we can perpetrate inhuman treatment to a people than what INEC is doing in Rivers.
“It is inhuman and the National Assembly cannot sit and have this country tolerate this treatment; I support this motion, INEC should be called to order.
“This is no time for favouritism, so, I ask that INEC be called to conduct the election. I believe one month is too much,” he said.
The senate also approved an additional prayer made by Sen. Dino Melaye urging President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a minister from Kogi to replace late James Ocholi.
Ocholi died in a motor accident with his wife and son along Kaduna–Abuja road on March 5, 2016.