The Independent National Electoral Commission has decided to fight back the restraining order which a Federal High Court in Abuja clamped on it over the recall process involving Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
This is as the Commission has contacted the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria over the Court order restraining the commission from continuing with the recall process.
Justice John Tsoho of a Federal High Court, Abuja had on Thursday, July 7, ordered parties to maintain status quo in the recall, which implied that the process should be halted until the determination of the suit before it.
Melaye, through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome had brought an ex-parte motion for a temporary injunction to restrain the INEC from proceeding with the recall process.
Justice Tsoho asked the parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of the Motion on Notice.
However, INEC felt uncomfortable with the order and decided to draw the CJN’s attention to it.
INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, said in a statement on Saturday that the commission decided to draw the CJN’s attention to the order in order to prevent a precedent that could prevent the commission from carrying out its responsibility in the future.
Ibeanu said that if the current order was allowed, it could put the commission in a dangerous position to pursue a similar process involving any other individual as such a person could go to court to frustrate the process.
Ibeanu said that the commission took a decision to obey the court which directed status quo to await the determination of the motion on notice filed by the Counsel to Melaye, Chief Mike Ozekhome, (SAN), in order not to be seen to be disobeying valid court orders.
He said, “Deeply concerned by this situation, the commission at its weekly regular meeting held on 13th July 2017, considered the court order and its implication for the Commission’s ability to carry out its constitutional function regarding the petition to recall the Senator.
“After weighing all the options, the commission decided that as a responsible organisation and in line with its longstanding tradition, it should not be seen as disobeying a court order, however inappropriate it may consider the order.
“However, in this particular case, the Commission also decided to take immediate steps to vacate the court order and for the matter to be heard and determined expeditiously. This is because the court adjourned hearing of the Motion on Notice to 29th September 2017.
“It should be noted that Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) sets a limit of 90 days from the date of the presentation of the petition (21st June 2017) for the exercise to be completed.”
He denied media reports that the commission halted the process of the recall of Melaye as a result of the decision of the Senate to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, where the INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, was executive Secretary 2007 to 2012.
Ibeanu described the reports linking the suspension of the recall process to the Senate decision to probe contract scam in TETFUND as “totally incorrect and mischievous.”
He said that the commission’s decision to commence the recall process on Melaye in response to a request by voters of Kogi West Senatorial District to initiate a recall process against Melaye.
He recalled that “the decision of the commission to obey the court order, pursue its timeouts vacation and lay a complaint about the nature of the Federal High Court order to the Chief Justice of the Federation cannot, in any way, mean a secession of the process of recall of the Senator, which has already commenced.”
He restated the determination of the commission to carry out its constitutional responsibility without fear or favour.