THE Senate, on Wednesday, threatened to suspend plenary sessions if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fails to conduct outstanding elections in Rivers State by December 10.
The Senate, which adopted a motion co-sponsored by the deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Senate leader, Ali Ndume, said the electoral commission must swing into action and complete all outstanding elections which had kept representatives of Rivers from the state assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate for almost a year.
Though the motion had intended to slam an immediate ultimatum on INEC, chairman of Senate committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari, saved the day for the commission, when he told the Senate that the commission had told his committee that it would conduct the Rivers election on December 10.
In the motion, entitled: “Non–Conduct of Elections in Rivers State,” Ekweremadu argued that in spite of the Senate resolution of September 27, 2016, which called on INEC to immediately conclude all pending reruns, the commission failed to conduct elections in Rivers.
He also stated that the commission’s failure to conduct elections within the time frame ordered by the different election tribunals and the courts was a breach of the Electoral Act and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that such a development endangered democracy.
“Failure of lNEC to conduct election in Rivers State has continued to deny the people of the state their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be represented in the legislative houses where laws affecting them are being made, and has engendered palpable anxiety amongst people of the state,” he said.
Ekweremadu wondered why INEC was able to conduct elections in insurgency-ravaged areas in the North-East, especially the areas around Sambisa forest, while it had been unable to do the same in Rivers.
While seconding the motion, Senator Ndume said a trend of inconclusive elections was already emerging in the country, adding that elections must be conducted at the right time.
“It is inexcusable for the commission not to have conducted the Rivers election up till now, a situation that is making the Senate not to have a single senator from Rivers State at a time debate on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is about to commence,” he said.
The motion was largely supported by the Senate, but Senator Dino Melaye also used the opportunity to call attention to the failure of the president to announce a minister from Kogi State after the demise of the late Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi, in March.
The Senate voted in favour of his amendment and, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to fill the vacancy for the minister from Kogi State.
Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, in his final comments, urged INEC and the president to do the needful within the time frame given by the motion.