Pressure mounted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the seats of the 37 Reps who recently defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) has met with rebuff from the commission.
The electoral body has told the ruling party that it is not within its powers to take such an action.
Speaking to The Nation on the matter, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Kayode Idowu, said that in the first place the commission was yet to receive any letter from the PDP on the defected lawmakers.
He also explained that it is not the duty of the commission to declare the seats of lawmakers vacant in whatever circumstance.
“Honestly, I am not aware of any such letter. I sincerely don’t know anything about it. But let me also add that it is not the job of INEC to take such a decision. INEC is not the one to declare seats of elected public office holders vacant. That is not what the law says and I can tell you that INEC is not going to do that,” he said.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, had been quoted in a newspaper interview that the PDP had written to INEC and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to declare the seats of the 37 Reps vacant.
Details of the letter dated December 19, 2013 emerged yesterday.
The embattled National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo, and the National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon, who signed it asked INEC to immediately conduct elections into the affected constituencies following the defection of its members to the APC.
The PDP, they claimed, has no factions and consequently the defectors argument that they left on account of factionalism holds no water.
They said: “the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 68 (i) (g) clearly spell out the consequences of cross carpeting when there is no division in any party. We wish to re-emphasize here that the Courts have pronounced, and INEC has concurred that there are no factions in the PDP.”
Section 68 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides thus: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if –
(a) he becomes a member of another legislative house.
(b) any other circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives, would cause him to be disqualified for election as a member;
(c) he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria;
(d) he becomes President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor or a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government of a State or a Special Adviser.
(e) save as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law.
(f) without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year;
(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;
Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored; or
(h) the President of the Senate or, as the case may be, the Speaker of the House of Representatives receives a certificate under the hand of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission stating that the provisions of section 69 of this Constitution have been complied with in respect of the recall of that member.
(2) The President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall give effect to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, so however that the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House concerned that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of that member.
The federal legislators dumped the PDP on Wednesday and formally joined the APC.
Their joining the opposition party increased the number of APC legislators in the House from 135 to 172 and left the PDP in the minority with 171 members.