The verification exercise for the signatures of petitioners calling for the recall of the lawmaker representing Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye has failed after the verified signatories to the petition fell short of requirements.
For the verification exercise to succeed, 50 per cent plus one of the signatories to the petition had to be verified. But based on the results announced at the weekend by the Declaration Officer, Prof. Ukertor Gabriel Moti, for the exercise held in the senatorial district, only 18,742 of the 189,870 of the signatories to the petition for the Senator’s recall were verified by INEC.
The verification of the signatures calling for his recall was marred by low voters turn out at many polling units. Having monitored the verification exercise, the News Agency of Nigeria reports that between 70 – 80 per cent of the petitioners in all the 10 wards in the council failed to come out to verify their signatures.
The exercise, which lasted for six hours from 8am to 2pm, was very peaceful, free, fair and credible as the scanty petitioners were seeing verifying their signature with low turnout.
In Ward 01 (Units: 001; 002; 003) , Ward 03 (Units: 01; 02; and some other units in other wards, only 20 to 25 per cent of the petitioners were recorded as counted by the poll officers.
However, one polling unit each in Ward 06 and 07, Orokere and Takete-Ide respectively recorded 40 and 45 per cent turnout while only one polling unit recorded 90 per cent turnout (103 out of 110 petitioners.
Many voters expressed their displeasure over the appearance of their names on the recall register, saying they were shocked because they never at anytime signed any document for Melaye’s recall.
One of the voters at Ward 06, unit 04, Mrs Funmilayo Ojo, said that she was surprised to see her name among the petitioners, saying “it shall not be well with the perpetrators of such act”.
Meanwhile, INEC has said that it cannot be held responsible for the poor turnout of petitioners in Saturday’s verification of signatures for the recall of Senator Melaye.
INEC federal commissioner in-charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa states, Alhaji Mohammed Haruna, made the statement in Lokoja shortly after the end of the exercise.
Haruna said that the main concern of INEC was to ensure transparency in the process, insisting that the organisation was neutral in the bid to recall Melaye from the Senate.
“Turnout is not our problem; turnout is the problem of parties concerned, ours is to ensure transparency,” he said.
Commenting on insinuations that INEC might tamper with the wish of the people, the commissioner said that nothing like that would happen, stressing that the agency had no interest in who won or lost in the matter.
His words, “Nothing untoward will happen, I assure you . Whatever happened at the polling units is what INEC will announce”.
Speaking on the mix up in the list of petitioners, Haruna said that mistakes in such exercise was normal but gave an assurance that the mistakes would be corrected.
He lauded the peaceful conduct of the people before and during the exercise.
In Koton Karfe and Lokoja, the people conducted themselves well, although the turnout was poor.
At Ukwo polling unit in Koton Karfe, 18 out of 440 petitioners came for the verification, while at Oworo polling unit in Felele area of Lokoja, none of the 815 petitioners showed up.
Also at polling unit 004 of Ward 3 in Lokoja, 32 out of the 1,251 petitioners showed up.
During the exercise, there was no case of malfunctioning of card reader machines while security personnel adequately manned the polling centres.
However, some hoodlums attacked the office of INEC in Mopamuro Local Government of Kogi state on Saturday. The hoodlums disrupted the collation of results, shot in the air, damaged vehicles and escaped with results sheets, while the INEC staff fled for safety.
One of the INEC staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that the hoodlums were political thugs who accompanied an aide of the governor to the INEC office to challenge the outcome of the verification exercise as it did not favour them.
The hijack of the result sheets at the council, making it one of the low points of the exercise to recall the Kogi West lawmaker.
Melaye has been struggling to retain his seat following a petition by some of his constituents in 2017 that he was not representing them well.
The senator’s accusers gathered signatures to demand his recall but Melaye, who accused the Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, of being the mastermind of the plot, mobilised his supporters to resist the move.
He subsequently approached the court to stop the process but could not get the relief he sought at the Court of Appeal, enabling INEC to continue with the process.