Controversial Party Primaries: Reps Invite Jega Over Party Primaries

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ABUJA, March 09, (THEWILL) - The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) today came under scrutiny as the House of Representatives summoned its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega and the Director in charge of legal matters over the controversy trailing the conduct of party primaries.

Jega is to explain to the House Committee on Electoral matters within seven days the handling of the just concluded party primaries and the commission’s persistent failure to comply with court orders and judgments.

The invitation followed a motion titled, ‘Independent National Electoral Commission’s partial role in the recently concluded party primaries sponsored by Hon. Ehiogu West- Idahosa (PDP Edo state).

But for the massive amendments of the original motion, it would have been rejected as it sought for an outright condemnation of INEC for its alleged partial role in the primaries.

While leading the debate on the motion, Idahosa expressed worry that party primaries conducted nationwide by different political parties in accordance with the Electoral Act 2010 ended with dissatisfaction in virtually all the parties, leading to series of litigations.

According to him, INEC which has a constitutional duty to regulate the conduct of the elections at federal, state and local council areas in Nigeria played a near partial role as evident in the commission’s refusal to accept credibly elected candidates from the political parties.

“We have petitions alleging that INEC has been very selective on which court order to comply with. The issue is that INEC has been complying with some court orders nullifying the candidature of persons, but have refused to comply with other court orders that discharged the existing orders.

“This is damaging to the principle of Rule of Law, which is the hallmark of democracy. This House will not sit down and watch the democracy that we have been working hard to nurture being destroyed that way,” he said.

Members however took their turns to pick holes in the motion, pointing out that INEC should not be blamed over the excesses of politicians.

Hon. (Mrs.) Elizabeth Ogbaga (PDP Ebonyi State) argued that the proliferation of conflicting Court Orders from courts of equal jurisdiction was not caused by INEC, but by politicians.

In his words, Hon. Sokonte Davies (PDP Rivers State), submitted that the motion was belated, because the evils done during the primaries had come to stay. Notwithstanding, he advised that the House carry out the investigation as required by the motion.

Also in his contribution, Hon. Austine Nwachukwu, (PDP Imo State) cautioned his colleagues against passing the motion adding that it might overheat the polity.

“We have just a few weeks to the general elections and my view is that we should be careful not to be seen as contributing to the tension in the country. This House is known for its stance on peace in this country.”

Hon. Friday Itula (PDP Edo State) advised the House to strike out the aspect of the motion, which condemned INEC for allegedly being partial in the party primaries and compliance with court orders.

He argued that the House must not send a signal to portray it as having come to judgment before even investigating the matter.

Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP Delta State) in his contribution advised, “We should not draw conclusions before searching for the facts. Let us abide by the principles of fair hearing. Whoever feels that INEC has failed to comply with any Court Order should file contempt charges against INEC and allow the process court to solve the problem.”

The motion when put to voice vote was unanimously upheld after an amendment and the Electoral Committee and Justice Committee were given 7 days to meet with the commission’s officials and make appropriate recommendations on the matter.

Before he ruled on the motion, Speaker Dimeji Bankole advised that it was better to allow the committee to investigate the allegations by inviting INEC leadership for questioning.