RIVERS: Group Gives INEC 14 Days Ultimatum To Conduct Bye-elections

RIVERS: Group Gives INEC 14 Days Ultimatum To Conduct Bye-elections

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a 14 days ultimatum to conduct bye-elections to replace the 27 vacant constituencies in the Rivers State House of Assembly.

This followed the defection of 27 lawmakers from the People’s Democracy Party to the All Progressives Congress.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Daniel Okwa, the group’s convener said the recent happenings in Rivers portends multiple levels of evil for democracy in the country.

Okwa said according to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 27 members have forfeited their seats at the state assembly hence the need for a fresh election.

Quoting from the Constitution, Okwa stated: ” A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if – being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected”.

He added: “The 27 controversial lawmakers must simply comply with the position of the law by vacating the Rivers State House of Assembly having breached Section 109 (g) of the Constitution that brought them into office. Under the law, these lawmakers cease to be elected representatives of the people and their offices must be declared vacant.

“We find it most unfortunate that the 27 former Rivers State House of Assembly members were misinformed and misled into defecting from the PDP to the APC without realizing that their action effectively means they have vacated their seats as elected lawmakers. It is an action that they have themselves to blame for.

“Had they properly consulted instead of taking orders from someone who has secured himself a long-term political meal ticket, they would not be in the current sorry pass where they will now have to take part in bye-elections, assuming they can clinch tickets in their new political party.

“It is on this note that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) notes with concern that what is playing out in Rivers State portends multiple levels of evil for democracy in Nigeria.

“On one front, if the criminality playing out at the Rivers State House of Assembly is allowed to stand it will signal a dangerous phase in the descent into the one-party state that the NDC and other vigilant groups and individuals have been warning about. Had we been more strident and resolute in demanding that the right thing is done, perhaps we would not be in this dangerous situation.

“It is a matter of time before lawmakers in other states are induced, coerced, blackmailed, or railroaded into dumping the party on whose platform they were elected for the APC. When that begins to happen it would be too late to make any demands of those who will engage in such nefarious acts if we do not at this time correct those that have stood our democracy on its head.

“At a time when we now fear for our judiciary, this slap on the face of the law further undermines the judiciary if what the Supreme Court has been definite about in the past is again resurfaced. The Supreme Court had sacked lawmakers who became members of political parties that did not sponsor them into parliament even when their initial political parties were in crisis.

“To now repeat the same political brigandage and expect the Supreme Court to budge is insanity because the only other explanation would be that a plot has been perfected to undermine the judiciary in this matter, which is an even bigger threat to democracy.

“Our Congress is not unaware of the political connections at play here. It is common knowledge that the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike is at loggerheads with the incumbent governor, Siminalayi Fubara.

“We have no qualms with Wike decamping from the PDP to APC – he currently holds no elected position, so the vacation of office does not apply to him. But since the 27 lawmakers, in their recognition of Wike as their godfather, decide to cross into the APC ahead of him, they are welcome to do so but that is to the extent that they comply with the law by vacating their position. The dangerous drama they are staging by breaching the Constitution is not acceptable.”

The group, however, warned that failure on the part of INEC to comply with the law will result in citizens’ actions against the electoral body.

“We urge President Bola Tinubu to come out in clear terms and condemn the criminality being attempted in the name of the political party he leads, the APC.

“The President should tell Wike and the former lawmakers in clear terms that he cannot be associated or seen to be encouraging this shenanigans.”

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