As the battle to recall Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, gathers momentum, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has confirmed receipt of a court process challenging his recall.
Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, who confirmed this in a telephone interview with BDSUNDAY Friday, could however, not confirm if the Commission would press ahead with the formal process of recall, billed for Monday July 3, 2017.
In what could be an indication that the electoral body may go ahead with the process, Osaze-Uzzi stressed that the Commission did not receive any injunction stopping the process.
“We have been served with a (court) process from Dino Melaye,” he said, adding: “We have not been served with any injunction. We have just been served with the court processes”.
On the planned issuance of public notice on Monday, he said: “Once the case is in court, I cannot comment on it. Our lawyers will now have to take over from here to see where it goes.
“But since the case is now in court, it will be subjudice. But I can confirm to you that we have been served”.
The commission had said it would issue a notice to the petitioners and Melaye on July 3, when it would begin the verification of the signatures of those who signed the notice.
Over 188,000 petitioners from the embattled lawmaker’s constituency had signed a petition calling for his recall.
But in a suit filed on Melaye’s behalf by Mike Ozekhome (SAN), the lawmaker said the process for his recall was illegal and as such, wants the court to declare it as unlawful and unconstitutional.
The embattled senator is among other reasons, asking the court to determine whether by the provisions of sections 68 and 69 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), he was not entitled to right of fair hearing before the process for his recall could be triggered.
In the suit which was accompanied by an affidavit of urgency, Melaye stated that because the process for his recall was initiated by top politicians in Kogi State who wield enormous powers over his senatorial constituents, whether the petition presented to INEC was in compliance with the constitution since it was tainted with political malice, bad motive, personal vendetta and bad faith.
He is equally asking the court to determine whether by the provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution, he could be validly recalled when the petition presented to electoral umpire was signed by fictitious and non-existing persons and persons who did not belong to his senatorial constituency in accordance with the constitution.
The senator further asked the court to determine whether the process of recall as provided for in Section 69 of the constitution could be initiated against him when the number of registered and qualified voters in his constituency who signed the petition was grossly less than the number required by the Section.
While some political watchers view the suit as delay tactics, others believe it is within his rights to seek legal redress if he is not satisfied with the recall process.
Although attempts were made in the past to recall lawmakers from Plateau, Jigawa and Abia States, they were all unsuccessful as they could not meet the mandatory requirement for a recall.
If this process is successful, Melaye would be the first legislator to be recalled since the country adopted Presidential system of government in 1963.
Although one school-of-thought argue that the process is a witch-hunt, others opine that it will help deepen the nation’s democracy.
Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), falls into the second school-of-thought.
Speaking with BDSUNDAY in Abuja he said: “There is a process with handling recall. First of all INEC has to verify that those who signed are actually authentic voters in the register. The process of INEC verifying this, all of those signatures to be confirmed to be genuine, INEC going towards the next stage which is a referendum, all of these would help develop the electoral process.
“The question whether he is recalled or not is not the main issue; it’s that the opportunity for the electorate to take advantage of the provisions in the law”.
Also speaking, Jude Ohanele, Programme Director, Development Dynamics, posited that the results of the exercise would determine whether the constituents of Kogi West want the lawmaker recalled or not.
“The constituents have a right to recall somebody who is not performing. That is their constitutional right. The constitution should be allowed to flow. And all actors should do what is lawful.
“If it is the wish of Kogi West Senatorial District to recall their senator, then they should be allowed to do that. But if is not their wish by the time INEC goes through the processes, it will become clear whether the majority of the people as required by law want him recalled or not,” he said.
Other commentators have also blamed the outspoken senator for using his privilege as to cast aspersion on prominent individuals within and outside plenary.
They list these highly placed citizens to include: President Muhammadu Buhari; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello; All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain Bola Tinubu; his wife Remi Tinubu; ex-Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole; Acting Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu; Governor Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele; Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar; immediate past Senate Leader Ali Ndume; Group Managing Director Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Maikanti Baru among others.
Prior to his six months suspension by the upper legislative chamber, Ndume had also accused the Kogi lawmaker of collecting signatures from APC senators that led to his removal as Senate Leader.
Meanwhile, prominent Okun indigenes, where the lawmaker hails from, have thrown their weight behind him.
A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN); a former Minister of Health, Eyitayo Lambo and a former Minister of Police Affairs, David Jemibewon, have declared their support for Melaye.
A statement issued by the Okun Development Initiative in Lokoja, said it had become imperative for the group to come out with a position on the ongoing recall process after the Independent National Electoral Commission acknowledged receiving more than the required numbers of signatures for the exercise.
The statement signed by the group’s chairman, Lambo, said the purported recall had, once again, brought the dilemma of Okun to the fore.
“The Okun Development Initiative, a prominent socio- cultural association from the western part of Kogi State, declares that the signatures being bandied about as those of the constituents of Dino Melaye, seeking to recall him, are actually not from Kogi – West, the district Melaye represents in the Senate.
“The prerogative of any constituent to exercise his or her constitutionally guaranteed right to recall is inalienable but it is obvious the initiators and instigators of the current attempt against Senator Dino Melaye are not from Kogi West but lackeys and cronies of constituted authority, an apparent outcome of misguided advice to those insistent on dividing and decimating Okun land politically for egoistic purposes,” the statement read in part.