A legal luminary, Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, has petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, asking it to seek judicial approval before embarking on the planned supplementary governorship election in Imo state on May 6.
In a letter he addressed and forwarded yesterday to the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, Ume warned that if the political impasse in that state was not properly handled in-line with the express provision of the electoral laws, that it could lead to an avoidable anti-climax capable of truncating the success that was recorded so far by the electoral umpire.
He insisted that supplementary election was alien to both the amended 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act 2010, stressing that going ahead to hold same in the isolated four local government areas in Imo state, could further worsen the constitutional problem that has cropped up owing to the inability of INEC to declare a winner after the April 26 governorship contest in that state.
“Section 178 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended states that an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than hundred and fifty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office, but the reality on ground is that the commission has neither declared nor returned a Governor- elect for Imo State contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
“It is interesting to note that though Section 178 (3) of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) grants the commission power to extend time for nomination of candidates for election to the office of the governor of a state, same Constitution denies the commission the power to hold election and return a candidate to that office on any date not lesser than thirty (30) days to the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office”.
“With due respect Sir, the planned supplementary election in Imo State will never be in consonance with section 178 (2) of the constitution. The puzzles are, considering the provision of section 26 (3) of the electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), if the Imo State inconclusive Governorship election is concluded on or about 6th May 2011, what date would the certificate of Return bear and how would that date not offend section 178 (2) of the constitution.
“Agreed that Section 26 (2) of the electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) empowers the commission to postpone election, in any case, but the postponement must be subject to the constitutional provision of section 178(2) considering that as the Constitution overrides every other law that is operational in the country.
“However, since the commission has failed to take advantage of section 26 (4) and (5) of the electoral Act 2010 , coupled with the failure to continue and conclude the election, declare a winner and make return on or before 29th April 2011, the Imo state Governorship election has gone far beyond the 6th May 2011 hasty solution.
“Only court of law has the capacity to give an unbiased and abiding interpretation and way out from this constitutional quagmire by validating the conduct of governorship election held outside the constitutional provision”, he stated.
Consequently, he has asked INEC to apply to any competent high court for an order compelling the Imo State House of Assembly to pass a resolution empowering the current Attorney General of the state, to handle the affair of the state from May 29, 2011, till when a new Governor is validly elected and sworn into office