Implications of Dino Melaye’s failed recall
[email protected]; 08127235995
The failed recall of Senator Dino Melaye on Saturday provides an opportunity for lessons to be drawn from the implementation of the recall constitutional provisions. Out of 189,870 signatories to the petition for Melaye’s recall, only 18,742 were verified by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This is a paltry 5.34 per cent of the total number of registered voters in the senatorial district and therefore did not satisfy the requirement of the law demanding a simple majority of the signatures of voters registered to vote in the constituency.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in Section 69 provides for the recall of senators and members of the House of Representatives. It requires that a petition signed by more than one half of the persons registered to vote in the member’s constituency alleging that they have lost confidence in that member be presented to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Thereafter, the petition is subjected to a referendum conducted by INEC and if it is approved by a simple majority of voters registered in that member’s constituency, the member stands recalled. In between the presentation of the petition and referendum, a verification of the signatures of the petitioners is conducted by INEC. For the verification to succeed, 50 per cent plus one of the registered voters in the constituency need to be verified.
The provision for recall of legislators is based on the sovereignty of the people affirmed in Section 14 (2) (a) of the Constitution to wit; that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives all its powers and authority. It is about the right of the people to change their mind on the mandate they gave to a representative, midway into a legislative term. It is democratic and tallies with the right of the people to choose their representatives. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In the secular world, it is the equivalent of the holy book in the great religions. Every other law derives its validity through compliance with the foundational principles and philosophy of the constitution and any law in conflict or inconsistent with it is void to the extent of its inconsistency. Provisions of such a foundational law are not to be invoked for mere atavism or just to prove an empty political point to a political opponent.
Media reports monitored last Saturday indicated that there was a very low turnout and the constituents were not in any mood to recall their senator. They were also unaware of the sins of Melaye that would have led to the commencement of the recall process. They constituents simply stayed away and went about their normal routine business. Again, the media reported “fictitious and forged signatures and names of dead persons affixed to the recall petition by its promoters”. The constitution does not anticipate or provide that signatures would be forged or the names of dead persons be inserted in a petition to recall a serving senator. It is imperative to state that forgery is a criminal offence for which the offenders should face stiff penalties and sanction. It is the expectation that the police and INEC should proceed with the same rigour and vigour with which they moved to recall the senator and go after the culprits and bring them to book.
The constitution anticipates a good faith process based on honesty of purpose. For constituents to lose confidence in a legislator, there must have been some misdeeds or offences committed by the legislator. Maybe, they mismanaged constituency project money and converted the same to their personal use. Or they have committed a grievous offence known to the law. Alternatively, they sleep in the chambers of the Senate and fail to bring up issues of importance to the constituency in the Senate. Also, the member has