The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have maintained sealed lips about why the seats of some legislators who died months ago have not been declared vacant.
The seats of Senator Malam Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi), Senator Bukar Mustapha (APC, Katsina) and Rep Buba Jibril (APC, Kogi) have not been declared vacant to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) organise by-elections.
Wakili died on March 17, Rep Buba Jibril (APC, Kogi) on March 30 and Mustapha on April 4. Valedictory sessions had been held for them but the two chambers of the National Assembly are yet to transmit official communication to INEC to kick start the process of electing new lawmakers to represent the affected constituencies.
“Our hands are tied as far as by-elections are concerned in the three constituencies until leaders of the National Assembly officially informed us of the deaths,” a top official of INEC said.
“There is provision in the 1999 Constitution that speaks about vacancies in the legislature and what should be done. Similarly, the Electoral Act 2010 as amended clearly states that INEC can only organise by-elections to fill such vacancies after receiving letters from presiding officers of the National Assembly,” he added.
He recalled that though the scenarios were different, there was a time some leaders of a certain political party approached INEC ahead of an election with some names for replacement on the ground that those that won the primaries died in an accident only for the actual flag bearers to appear at the commission saying they never had an accident.
“This is how desperate politicians can go. So, communication is very important; we know senators Wakili, Bukar and Rep Buba have died and we saw how the two chambers paid glowing tribute to them but that is not a formal communication for us to do anything. We would keep waiting and this has nothing to do with 90 days expiring,” he said.
The Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) declined comment when our correspondent contacted him at the Senate yesterday.
He simply said: “If it is this matter, I have no comment on it please.”
A source in the management of the National Assembly said they were awaiting the directive of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to act.
“If we get directive, we will act on it by transmitting the declaration of vacancy to INEC,” he said pleading not to be named.
Contacted, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, also said he had no comment on the matter.
For Rep Jibril, House spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) said it was an administrative matter; and that he wouldn’t know if the communication had been sent to INEC or not.
Also when contacted, the Director of Information at the National Assembly, Mr Lawrence Agada, similarly said he had no information about the matter.
However, sources told our correspondents that leaders of both chambers were yet to direct the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Mohammed Sani Omolori, to write to INEC on the matter.
One of the sources said the procedure was for the Senate President or the Speaker as chairman and vice chairman of the National Assembly to direct the clerk to communicate to INEC that there is vacancy in a particular constituency.
“But as I speak to you, that has not been done, and nobody can tell you what the reason is for now. The clerk cannot on his own write to INEC without an instruction to do so,” the source said.