Many Nigerians may have been wondering how powerful the collection of their voice is. Many do not even now that they can recall members of parliament who represent them at the National Assembly. And so, a lot of these legislators have harped on that ignorance and lack of information concerning what punitive measures can be taken whenever they remain obstinate on matters of public good.
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Perhaps, due to the lawmaking powers granted to members of parliament, they are often drenched in the arrogance of their intentions – often capitalizing on their own agenda and motives while on seat. As if that is not so bad, Nigerian legislators earn one of the most attractive emoluments of all congresses in the world.
But as Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution provides and empowers, there are definite steps, which if taken well and has the backing of the electorate in a constituency, can have a lasting impact on who speaks for the people at one the most powerful arms of government.
A recall, as empowered by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), is the process through which a validly elected Senator may be removed from his/her seat in National Assembly. For a legislator to be removed from office there has to be a voting process similar to that during elections. The electorate decides via a yes/no referendum whether they want the lawmaker to complete his/her term in office or should be recalled.
The first stage of this recall process entails the electorate in a particular constituency to forward a petition signed by them to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency allege and append in the petition their loss of confidence in the Senator, then the petition will become admissible.
This stage is followed by a verification stage where the petition is checked for its validity. The electoral commission proceeds to official inform or notify the legislator sought to be recalled – and informing them a petition has been received for their recall
The commission thereafter will proceed to give a public notice or a press release announcing the date, time and location for verifying if the signatures to the petition match those of the members registered within that constituency.
As soon as INEC is able to ascertain that the number of verified signatures is more than one-half of the registered voters in that constituency, the recall process continues and the petitioners will be informed that the minimum requirements for a referendum has been met.
The last major stage of recalling legislators in the National Assembly is the referendum stage itself. Once the conditions for the minimum requirements for a referendum to pull through are met, INEC then proceeds to conduct a referendum (a version of an election) before 90 days of the receipt of the petition elapses. The referendum process, which is quite similar to that during general elections, is ordinarily a Yes/No statement on the ballot which the electorate or the petitioners will have to thumbprint.
A simple majority of the votes of registered voters in that constituency confirms the recall of such a legislator wherein the INEC Chairman is obliged to send a Certificate of Recall to the Senate President to effect the recall.
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While this process seems to be a little cumbersome for our barely politically aware environment, all the electorate or petitioners have to do is to petition INEC and then vote when the time of the referendum is ripe.
With the advent of modern technology, Nigerians remain positive that the process of recalling legislators is made simpler and easily accessible. And that would be the time when power is truly returned into the hands of the people.
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