he sudden U-turn by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to halt action on efforts by voters in Kogi West to recall Senator Dino Melaye came as a result of the Senate’s decision to probe the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). After a meeting earlier today, INEC decided to freeze the recall effort, citing legal complications.
From 2007 to 2012, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, served as TETFUND’s Executive Secretary. His time at the Fund was marked by a series of allegations of corruption against him. “It is not an accident that, once the Senate threatened to investigate TETFund, Professor Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC quickly retreated from the ongoing effort to recall Senator Dino Melaye,” a Senate source told our correspondent.
As recently as last Monday, INEC had been adamant that the process to recall Mr. Melaye was on course. That day, Mr. Melaye’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, had submitted legal papers to INEC officials, claiming that an order by Justice John Tsoho that all parties ought to maintain the status quo was sufficient to abandon the recall initiative. Even so, INEC initially maintained that the judge’s pronouncement was not sufficient to halt the process, pointing out that the judge did not agree to grant an interim order to back a cessation of action.
Afterward, INEC began the next phase of the recall that had to do with verification of signatures. However, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu did not hide the Senate’s dismay for the process. In an obstructionist response, he described the process as dead on arrival.
Public pushback against the Senate’s interference was sharp and massive. A senator told our correspondent that, on Tuesday night, Senate President Saraki and other Senate leaders met and decided that, in order to contain the recall, “some rough tactics were called for.” At the end of the meeting, the senators decided that the most potentially effective strategy was to open a probe into TETFUND’s past projects, alleging that contractors had stolen funds there in the past.
Jibrin Barau, an APC senator from Kano State, moved a motion demanding a probe of TETFund. He said that “investigative audit” was required of the contracts awarded by TETFund in the past years.
Twenty-four hours after the Senate move, INEC met and decided to suspend the recall, even though the commission said it was going to seek a vacation of the court order to enable the commission to resume the recall.
However, an INEC official told us that the commission’s leadership was not in the least interested in any effort to overturn the unclear court on which basis the recall was stopped. “We all know that judges are going on vacation and the maximum time allowed from start to finish for the recall would present a legal problem for INEC when the case comes up for hearing at Justice Tsoho’s court on September 29th 2017,” said the source
He added that the attempt by Kogi voters to recall Mr. Melaye “has been sacrificed on the altar of Professor Yakubu’s desire to protect himself and his associates from a probe of TETFund.”