Jun 20, 2018

Triax Monthly: The Dino’s Drama; Recall Process | Eloho Yekovie ESQ


A lot has been happening in the political sphere of the Nigerian state which has in one way or the other halted the process of good governance and gave room to the rise of political instability, propaganda instead of proper agenda by political players, nepotism and partisan politics etc. This article is about one of the most significant event that took place in the political disposition of Nigeria involving a senator and his constituency members who initiated a recall process due to his alleged nonperformance.

Meaning                                                                                                                                         According to the 4th Edition of Cambridge dictionary, recall is defined as “to order the return of a person who belongs to an organization…..”

Moreover, based on the subject of discourse, it is also a constitutional instrument voters can use to unseat a serving lawmaker before the end of their tenure. It is democratic and tallies with the right of the people to choose their representatives and also constitutional as evidenced in sections 68 & 69 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria respectively.

Dino’s Recall Process And its Resultant Effect

Futhermore,the Dino’s recall all began on 24th June 2017 when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, received a petition from members of the electorate in Kogi West Constituents (Senator Melaye’s constituency), requesting the commission to set in motion the democratic process of recall of Senator Melaye, who they claimed, was not representing them well. Consequently, Melaye was notified in this regard in line with section 69 of the 1999 CFRN. However, the lawmaker filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit accusing INEC of not affording him fair hearing by not serving him with a copy of the petition to enable him respond. He equally wanted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining INEC from commencing with the recall process. This consequently led INEC to suspend the recall process.

Flowing from the proceeds of the court’s ruling, the electoral commission, however got the permission to proceed with the recall process as the court struck out the suit for having no cause of action and went further to state that INEC was acting within its statutory powers as enshrined in section 116 of Electoral Act 2010 and section 69 of 1999 CFRN respectively. Thus, it did not act ultra vires.

The unfolding debacle of Mr. Melaye's recall process has no doubt elicited curiosity amongst Nigerians about one of the most obscured but powerful constitutional instruments in Nigeria’s evolving democratic system.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in Section 68 and 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 INEC. The petition is subjected to verification where the signatures of the petitioners are verified and for this to be successful, 50 per cent plus one of the registered voters in the constituency needs to be verified. After which a referendum is conducted by INEC and if it is approved by a simple majority of voters registered in that member’s constituency, the member stands recalled.

The provision for recall of legislators is based on the sovereignty of the people affirmed in Section 14 (2) (a) of the Constitution; that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives all its powers and authority.

Flowing from the above, the verification date was 28th April 2018, upon which if the process was successful, the commissioner would have proceeded to the next stage where a referendum of all registered voters will be conducted in line with the electoral laws and that was scheduled for 5th May 2018. The verification exercise took place at 552 polling units of the 7 LGAs that made up the senatorial district Melaye is representing. Only 18,742 out of 188,588 signatories were verified. It fell well below the requirement of the law that 50% plus 1 of the signatories to the petition had to be verified. It should also be noted that Millions of Naira has been spent on this process.

The constitution anticipates a good faith process based on honesty of purpose. However for constituents to lose confidence in a legislator, there must have been some misdeeds or offences committed by the legislator such as mismanagement of constituency project money for personal gains. Alternatively, the member must have been docile without sponsoring appropriate bills and motions that could contribute to issues of national importance.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                It is germane to state that no successful recall of any lawmaker has been recorded in the history of our democracy. The popular belief being held in this regard is that once a legislator receives the people’s mandate, no one can truncate their tenure. This encourages and promotes recklessness, indifference and nonchalant attitude among them. Though the recall process might have failed, but Nigerians now know that they can begin to exercise their civil and constitutional right whenever they feel any member representing them is found wanting by initiating the recall process. The Melaye’s case is indeed a new dawn in our fragile democracy.

However, a popular maxim in law says that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Therefore, the recall process should not be an opportunity to settle political scores; it should be based on empirical evidence, good reasons and honesty of purpose.

Eloho Yekovie ESQ

Triax Solicitors