By Akanimo Sampson
With barely weeks to the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been caught in a seeming fiendish move to relocate the collation centre of Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency in Bauchi State.
That is the constituency of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who has been very critical of the perceived anti-democratic tendencies of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
But political parties with candidates in the constituency are standing up against the INEC move to relocate their constituency collation centre just weeks to the elections.
This troubling development filtered into the open as Dogara called for caution in the charges filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen by the Federal Government.
Dogara said it was important to follow due process on the controversial matter because Nigeria is a country governed by laws and not dictates of men, noting that the House is not less zealous in the fight against corruption but pointed out that a matter of that grave magnitude with a media trial is pregnant with innuendos least needed by the polity at this sensitive time.
‘’Nigeria is a country governed by laws with clearly spelt out procedures and processes for their activation and not the dictates of men. It is important that people in authority should excercise power with decorum and not plunge the country into needless crises as Nigeria is not a banana republic.
‘’This is a matter that affects another arm of government and its head which should be treated with caution so as not to send the wrong signal that there is a political undertone or other ulterior motives to the issue.
‘”As we raised our voice when the National Assembly was invaded by hooded security men last year, it is incumbent on us as the Legislature to voice our concerns because we operate under a system where three arms of government are co – equal branches and enjoy a measure of independence guaranteed by the Constitution.
‘”As we approach the general elections, it is incumbent on the prosecutorial authorities to exercise caution and treat matters of this nature with utmost circumspection’’, the speaker said.
Dogara defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last September.
Political watchers in Bauchi say the latest move by INEC is fueling speculations that it is a plot to cause crisis in the area to pave way for rigging in favour of APC.
Some concerned political parties rose from a meeting at Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi on Saturday, declaring that they have made their position known to the electoral body.
According to them, ‘’all party leaders present at the meeting strongly rejected the proposal tabled by INEC to move the Constituency Collation Centre from Zwallin Tafawa Balewa Local Government to Dass or any other place.
‘’That Zwall was chosen as the new collation centre in March 2015 few days to the 2015 general elections on the recommendations of the Federal Government for security reasons. That the Federal High Court Abuja had on March 23, 2015 ordered that the collation centre should remain in Zwall.
“That any attempt by INEC to move the collation centre will contradict the subsisting judgment of the court and could constitute contempt of court.
“That all stakeholders agreed that the centre be cited at Zwall and should therefore remain there because of the following reasons;
I. Zwall is on the Federal Highway linking all the three LGAs.
Ii. Zwall is central and easily accessible from all the three LGAs.
Iii. Zwall has not witness any violence or crisis.
IV. Since 2015, there was no any crisis in not only Zwall but the entire Federal Constituency that will warrant such a sudden, ill-advised, and premeditated action by INEC which is supposed to be an unbiased and neutral umpire.”
They also accused INEC of plotting to convene another meeting of select few just to endorse the “surreptitious moves claiming that they are also aware that INEC wants to convene a surreptitious meeting in its office in Bauchi of ‘’so-called stakeholders’’ any anytime soon where only a handful of people would be invited, granted access and will be made to sign a prepared document endorsing the proposal.
“That INEC should know that our area has witnessed unprecedented peace in the last four (4) years and should not allow itself to be used to cause crisis with this hidden agenda. We want a peaceful, free and fair election.
“Consequent upon the above, we therefore totally and unequivocally oppose, reject and shall resist every attempt by INEC to move the collation centre from Zwall in Tafawa Balewa LGA not only to Dass but to any other location for that matter.’’