The Senate on Tuesday expressed its backing for the embattled lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye, over the ongoing move by his constituents to recall him from the National Assembly.
The lawmakers stated that they will determine whether Melaye could be recalled by his constituents or not, describing the ongoing process as a waste of time and public funds.
While criticising the Independent National Electoral Commission for its speedy handling of the process, the upper chamber of the National Assembly alleged that the electoral empire was making extra-budgetary spendings on Melaye’s recall.
Melaye, at the plenary on Tuesday, raised a point of order to accuse the Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello, of sponsoring his recall.
He also alleged that most of the signatures gathered as those of his constituents calling for his recall were forged.
According to him, officials of the state government allegedly gathered the signatures from the voter register of INEC as there was no time signatures for his recall were publicly gathered in his senatorial district.
He said, “As I speak to you, I have over 120 death certificates issued by the National Population Commission and these people’s relations and families have sworn to affidavits and these certificates have been deposited. The names of these dead people appeared on the recall register submitted to INEC.
“Also, 116 of my constituents have sworn to affidavits that their names and signatures appeared in the recall registers and they were not the ones that signed it.
“Also, 86 of my constituents have sworn to affidavits that they were approached that; the government wanted to carry out a fertiliser empowerment programme and requested for their Permanent Voter Cards and thereby deceived them into putting their names in the recall register.”
In his remarks, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, cited parts of the Constitution, particularly Sections 68 and 69, and accused INEC of not following the laid down procedures in carrying out the exercise.
He said, “I am wondering why we are dissipating energy on this matter and wasting precious legislative time on a matter we should not.
“What is happening in Kogi in respect of Senator Dino Melaye, as far as this Constitution is concerned, is an exercise in futility. They are just wasting precious time because the Constitution is clear on what should happen.
“It is possible that the Attorney General of Kogi State has not advised them properly. If he has done that, I am sure they would have applied their time to more meaningful ventures in Kogi State.”
Ekweremadu that the National Assembly amended Section 69 of the Constitution in 2010 on the process of recalling a federal lawmaker.
Based on the amendment, he said, “The number of those who are seeking for recall of Senator Melaye from the Senate are supposed to line up somewhere in Kogi State with him and his lawyers, and each person will verify their signature. When they are done with that, they will go back to Section 68 which states that the President of the Senate receives from the Chairman of INEC (a notice on) the recall of the member. They would also present evidence satisfactory to the House or the Senate.
“So, they (constituents) need to come back here and convince everyone of us that they have done the correct thing. Unless they do that, they cannot even give effect to it. So, why are we wasting our time? Let us move on and allow them to waste their time.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, expressed his agreement with Ekweremadu.
He said, “There is no need for further comments. The Deputy Senate President has said it; 10 years is no joke in leadership. We have seen clearly the processes. Let the process speak for itself. I don’t know why funds are being wasted, which should have gone on more important things. INEC is also at the middle of a test. Eventually, it must come back here for us to decide whether it is satisfactory or not.”
After the plenary, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, told journalists that the Senate would determine Melaye’s fate eventually.
He said, “The process of recalling a senator ends in the chamber here. You need to bring it and convince all senators that the man is not performing.”
The Senate’s spokesman cautioned INEC against extra-budgetary expenditure, stating that there was no allocation for the recall in the commission’s budget.
“Their (INEC) budget that we have passed does not have any item for recall; so they have to come through virement. We will be willing to take their request for virement,” Abdullahi said.
Sabi-Abdullahi, however, noted that the Senate could not interfere in the recall process but insisted that it must be done in accordance to laid down procedures.
He said, “We were elected; we went through a process and if the people are not satisfied, people can remove us at the polls. That is democracy in action. Beyond the four years, there are options as is being touted in the case of one of our colleagues. Yes, that is democracy in action.”
The lawmaker, however, noted that recalling a lawmaker was not an easy task. “It is not a thing that can be easily achieved,” he said.