John Ameh, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Thursday directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to free the 66 electoral constituencies it had suppressed in 19 states of the Federation by immediately embarking on their delineation.
Lawmakers said the electoral umpire had deliberately denied the citizens of such states fair representation in governance.
They argued that continuing to suppress the people would be a breach of Section 91 of the 1999 Constitution.
The section reads, “A House of Assembly of a state shall consist of three or four times the number of seats which that state has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect, as far as possible, nearly equal population, provided that a House of Assembly of a state shall consist of not less than 24 and not more than 40 members.”
But a motion, sponsored by a member from Rivers State, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, and endorsed by members, indicated that INEC had consistently violated the law.
Chinda said the development had implied that the affected states did not have the required constituency seats in their legislative houses.
He listed the states and the number of suppressed constituencies as “Akwa Ibom (4); Anambra (3); Bauchi (5); Benue (4); Borno (2); Delta (1); Edo (3); Imo (3); Jigawa (3); Kaduna (6); Katsina (6; Kogi (2); Niger (3); Ogun (1); Ondo (1); Osun (1); Oyo (8); Rivers (7) and Sokoto (3).”
The House directed INEC to delineate the constituencies without further delay to give the citizens the opportunity to participate in the governance of their states.
In his lead debate, Chinda stated, “Under-representation in the various state Houses of Assembly due to INEC’s deliberate neglect, refusal and failure has denied the people guaranteed right to adequate representation, and by extension, a denial of their rights to participate in critical issues deliberated by the assemblies.
“In Rivers, we have 13 seats in the House of Representatives, and 32 in the State House of Assembly, where we are supposed to have 39.
“There are states that have gone to court on this matter.”
A member from Benue State, Hassan Saleh, cited an instance with Otukpa Constituency, which the current Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, once represented in the state House of Assembly.
Saleh, who represents Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, accused INEC of conniving with some state governors to deny Nigerians representation in parliament.
He alleged that “politics always has overriding interest,” a reason, he added, INEC had appeared to be helpless.
Saleh stated, “We have the case of the famous Otukpa State Constituency in Benue State, which the present Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, once represented in the state House of Assembly.
“Today, that constituency is no more.
“There have been legal battles with INEC all the way to the Supreme Court on this issue of Otukpa State Constituency.
“Why should INEC be fighting to stop a function that the constitution provides that it should perform?” Punch.ng.com