CONSTITUTIONALLY: Jega Cannot Resign or Go on Terminal Leave — Falana

Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana.

by Michael Abimboye

Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, has said that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Atahiru Jega, cannot go on terminal leave or resign as speculated.

Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said this while speaking to journalists during the Nigerians United for Democracy rally held at Ojota, Lagos on Saturday.

He maintained that the INEC chair is not a civil servant and thus cannot go on terminal leave.

“There is no provision…Jega has a 5 year tenure which is renewable under section 155 of the constitution. There is no provision for sabbatical or terminal leave. Jega is not a civil servant to be ordered by the head of service to proceed on leave and in any case, you can’t go on leave when the basic duty for which the constitution has appointed you is been performed so there is no room for resignation or sabbatical leave,” Mr. Falana said.

He maintained that the general elections cannot be further postponed stating that the constitution states that elections must hold 30 days before handing over date.

“Constitutionally, elections cannot be further postponed; if the government does it, it will be asking for anarchy and there is no provision for it in the constitution. The president has repeatedly assured Nigerians that there is no room for interim national government.

“We have also been told that there will be no coup, therefore, we have to operate within the ambit of the law and that is why you cannot go beyond April 11 to conduct election because under the constitution, election must be held not later than 30 days to the handing over date. That means all the elections must be completed before April 29,” he said.

Mr. Falana said the rally was not in support of any political party but to warn the government not to tamper with the new election dates.

“The government has said those dates are sacrosanct, but we are only here to warn them that if there is any attempt to thinker with those dates, we would mobilise Nigerians to throw out all the antics of anti-democratic system”.

He urged the armed forces not to interfere with electoral process stressing that it is not their duty to determine when elections will be held.

“We expect that the government will appreciate that Nigerian people will not allow any further postponement of the election dates. We also want the armed forces to stay clear of democratic process. It’s not their business to determine when to hold election. Just like other Nigerians, they have the fundamental right to vote for a candidate of their choice, but they have no right to tell INEC when to hold election and when not to hold to hold election,” he said.

He reminded the current administration of how past governments who attempted to truncate democratic process were chased out of power.

“Even military dictators could not frustrate democratic process, for that reason, once we mobilise Nigerians, no force can stop us,” he said.

He disagreed with the government’s position on the reason for the shift in election.

“Elections were held in Syria, Iraq and Libya. What will be the excuse for not holding elections in Nigeria? In Yobe, local government elections were held in 2013 and there was no incident. The president was in Maiduguri to campaign, the APC candidate, General Buhari was in Maiduguri to campaign, and there were no incidence, so why should they stop elections in other parts of the country?” he asked.

The NUD rally which kicked off from Maryland to the Gani Fawehimi Park in Ojota saw attendance by other democracy activists including the Nigerian Labour Congress Vice president, Isa Aremu; former NADECO and Afenifere member, Ayo Opadokun; lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, amongst others.