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INEC Dashes Hope Of New Electoral Constituencies

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that altering the boundaries of constituencies as part of measures to address concerns over suppressed constituencies will come into effect after the current life tenure of the affected Houses of Assembly. The commission, while assuring that it is addressing concerns over suppressed constituencies, noted that the ultimate decision relating to when and in what manner the constituencies come into force resides with the National Assembly. The commission in underscoring the extent of the challenge, said it has so far received not less than 40 petitions from communities alleging suppression of their constituencies. INEC's position comes against the backdrop of resolutions by the Senate calling for the restoration of depressed constituencies. The resolution was sequel to two motions sponsored by deputy Senate president, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) and Senator Gabriel Suswam (Benue North East), asking INEC to restore three depressed constituencies in Delta and Benue States without further delay. The lawmakers had in their motions read on different days on the floor of the red chamber, accused INEC of non-compliance with court orders to restore the following depressed constituencies. In his motion concerning Abraka State Constituency in Ethiope East Local Government Area, Omo-Agege said, "INEC is yet to comply with the unambiguous decision, declaration and consequential orders of the court made since March 5, 2015. On his part, Senator Suswam decried the delay by INEC in complying with the orders by a Federal High Court, Abuja, and the Supreme Court on the restoration of two state constituencies, Mata and Mbagwa state constituencies from Ushongo and Agasha state constituency from Gums state constituency of Benue State. He described the delay "as a serious constitutional aberration against the spirit of Section 91 and 115 of the 1999 Constitution, having unjustifiably denied the people of the affected "constituencies of their due representation in Benue State House of Assembly. Reacting, however, INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, told newsmen that the commission has over the years complied with court orders, citing its enforcement of court verdicts in respect of Oju Local Government Constituency, wherein the Court of Appeal ordered the commission to restore the suppressed Constituency of Uwokwu in Oju Local Government of Benue State and the constituency was restored. He added that part of the core responsibilities of the commission as an election management body is the creation and review of electoral constituencies. He said sections 71, 73, 91 and 112 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria set out the guidelines and modalities for the delineation of federal and state constituencies. He recalled that the review of electoral constituencies was carried out in 1996 by the defunct NECON in which the existing constituencies were reduced to reflect the result of the 1990 population census. He said the commission in 2004 under the leadership of Abel Guobadia took steps at fully implementing the requirements of the constitution when it attempted to restore the "suppressed constituencies through a letter to the National Assembly seeking approval for the restoration of 66 state constituencies in 19 states of the federation. Okoye said, "So far, various communities and interest groups have filed a total of 40 cases against the commission alleging suppression and claims for additional constituencies in respect of 96 state constituencies. Eight of the cases filed in court were determined in favour of the commission while four were dismissed and others are pending in various courts. "The commission has enforced the judgment of the court in respect of Oju Local Government Constituency as the Court of Appeal ordered the Commission to restore the suppressed constituency of Uwokwu in Oju Local Government Area of Benue State and the constituency has been restored. "The commission is addressing the issue of "suppressed constituencies. The commission is in receipt of petitions from communities alleging suppression of their constituencies and claims for additional constituencies. "The commission has complied and will continue to comply with the judgments of the Supreme Court relating to specific constituencies. Based on the judgments of court the commission has recalibrated and delineated the boundaries of some state constituencies after engaging and consulting with the critical stakeholders. In others, the commission has put in motion mechanisms for compliance and these include robust consultation with the stakeholders relating to the delineation of the boundaries of the constituency. "Furthermore, on the 28th day of May, 2016 the commission made a presentation to the House Committee on Public Petitions at a public hearing stating its willingness to enforce judgments of court and the challenges with respect to the implementation of some of

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