- Chief Godson Okoye (Abuja-based legal practitioner)
If the recall process becomes very simple, you will have a serious turnover of casualties. Recall that sometime in the past, it was so simple to remove a Senate President. All that was needed was for mischief makers to gather somewhere and impeach the president even if he is doing a good job. The problem with Nigeria is attitude; we do not have the attitude to do things right. We made the law, we should try to follow it.
It is only in Nigeria that the National Assembly will just wake up and decide to amend the constitution because of our wrong attitude to things. Now, the talk about recall is coming because of Senator Dino Melaye’s matter. It cannot be as easy as envisaged; that is why the issue of making it simpler is now being brought up. If you make the process easier, it will not solve the problem. Something that is bad is bad whether you make him Governor or Senator or House of Representatives member. What we have done over time is to put the wrong people in the right place. There is a law for recalling any member of the National Assembly; let us follow the process as it is.
- Dr Jackson Omenazu (Port Harcourt-based human rights activist)
It is necessary that the process of recalling lawmakers should be simplified because sometimes, people shy away from responsibilities. The process of recalling lawmakers is so tedious that to achieve it is like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. This is why no lawmaker has been successfully recalled in the history of our democracy.
There are lawmakers who sleep in the National Assembly without making any contribution, while there are vibrant people at home. We just look at them. All they do is that at the end of every year, they come home to distribute rice and chicken and spread money here and there. No meaningful contribution to legislative business.
We have a lot of them from all parts of the country doing nothing in the legislature. While their mates are working hard in the National Assembly, they only go there to raise their hands and concur to everything. These kinds of lawmakers are supposed to be recalled.
The idea of the court being there is because some lawmakers too can be victimised. Some of them can be a victim of envy or dirty politics. The constituents equally have the right to first approach the court and say please, we want this lawmaker back; we are starting the process. The court can, based on the constituents’ demand, bar the lawmaker from challenging the move to recall him or her in any other court.
So, the court is there for and against, which is normal in any democracy. INEC’s responsibility here is to go and verify the process and see that it is authentic. But the people who have the responsibility of voting in their representative should also have the right to recall him. So, the process should not be made cumbersome.
- Habeeb Whyte (Legal practitioner)
Recall means a process of ensuring that the mandate given to a particular representative is withdrawn by the people that gave it to him/her in the first place. This process can only happen if the people, through whom the representative got his mandate, deem it fit to agree that such a representative has performed below expectations. The process of recall begins with members of the constituency holding a meeting to agree to recall the representative.
A petition to be signed by a majority of eligible voters in the given constituency is then sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission for processing. After INEC receives the petition, it is expected to notify the affected representative. A day is then set aside for the verification of the signatures of persons who signed the petition. INEC is also required to conduct a referendum within 90 days and ensure that at least 50 per cent of the persons that signed the petition are registered voters.
Voters are expected to vote a simple Yes or No to a question on whether the representative should be recalled. The outcome will be decided by simple majority. If the process is in favour of the people, the INEC chairman would issue a Certificate of Recall and such a representative would be shown the way out of the legislature.
The process looks simple on paper, but in implementation, it is very cumbersome. The process should be less stressful and be easy to implement. The number of days should be reduced and public hearing should be carried out by INEC within the constituency. The signatures can be collected from those that attend the hearing and their voter cards would serve as their identities. This is simpler. If truly we want to achieve the essence of recall, the process must be made simpler or else, we would not recall anyone.
- Mr. Wahab Ismail (Principal Partner, Diamond Chambers, Ilorin, Kwara State)
I think the reason behind the constitutional provision for the recall of a member of the state or National Assembly is to enable constituents to have a say in the manner in which their representative conducts affairs on their behalf. So, we have all along viewed this constitutional provision as something that is merely cosmetic.
But in other climes, it is not viewed as such. It is something that legislators are aware of and it guides them in the day-to-day conduct of their legislative functions.
Now that we are having a situation like this, all of us, the electorate, and the entire society want quality representation. We should be able to point at the representative of a particular community and say, ‘look, you are not doing well and we have what we can use to bring you back without technical impediment.’
If he is aware that it is easy to recall him, unlike the cumbersome legal regime we have now, the person so elected to represent the people in the parliament will sit down and reason along with the people who elected him into office. After all, he is not representing himself. The people should always have a say and the right to have that say should not be made so stringent. I agree that the present provision should be amended in such a way that it would be less cumbersome during implementation. The process of recall should be simplified in such a way that justice will be dispensed within a reasonable time.
- Mr. Olalere Abiola (Ekiti-based activist)
The process of recall should not be more simplified than it is currently; it is simplified enough. It takes a lot of resources for the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections and for candidates and political parties to campaign for these elections. The people go through a lot to vote for candidates of their choice. If at the end of the day their votes counted, their consent must also be sought if the person so elected must be recalled.
So, I do not know how much more simplicity we expect from the current process. Are we saying the views of the electorate should not be sought? The mandate of the people can’t be taken away cheaply simply because of politics. If the process is made simpler, politicians could hijack the process and use it to victimise perceived enemies at will. The process of recall must follow the same pattern of voting. Anything otherwise will cause unnecessary tension and stoke violence in the polity.
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