The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to the demand by the Cross River State government that it should obey the Supreme Court judgement ordering it to delineate new electoral wards in Bakassi Local Govt. area.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Cross River State, Dr. Frankland Briyai, told journalists at the commission's office in Calabar that INEC would soon make its position on the controversial matter known to the public as the commission was still studying the judgement.
The Supreme Court had on 26 February, 2018 delivered a judgment ordering INEC, to immediately delineate wards in Akpabuyo and Bakassi LGAs accommodate Nigerians who returned from Cameroon after the ceding of Bakassi.
Briyai may have stirred further controversy by insisting that the Supreme Court judgement had set aside Law No.7 of Cross River. The state government had also earlier said the Supreme Court judgment implies that Law No.7 of 2007 as passed by the State House of Assembly was valid, and that the court also recognised the powers embedded in sections 112, 113 and 114 of the Constitution which vests in INEC the powers and authority to create, alter or review state constituencies.
The INEC commissioner said the commission had never refused or failed to conduct election in the ceded area of Bakassi but called for calm as the commission would do only that which is right.
The Bakassi council area has only three wards which were carved out of Akpabuyo legally through the enactment of the State House of Assembly (Law No 7). However, prior to the judgment, votes cast in the area were for Akpabuyo, while INEC had recognised Dayspring settlement with less than 2000 eligible voters as Bakassi.
According to the Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, Joseph O. Abang, the government said “as the Supreme Court rightly counselled, INEC needs to activate its powers under Sections 112, 113 and 114 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and as a matter of urgency do the needful so that the people of Bakassi do not continue to lose their right to political representation.”
The government further stated that if what INEC did in recognising Dayspring 1 & 2 was legally acceptable, the Supreme Court would not have directed INEC to delineate wards in Bakassi.
It, therefore, demanded that both Akpabuyo and Bakassi should benefit from the delineation exercise.
“If the Supreme Court believed that INEC had already carried out its responsibilities as provided under the constitution, then there would have been no need for the above counsel. It is our considered opinion that since Law No. 7 of 2007 altered both the boundaries of Akpabuyo and Bakassi local government areas, the delineation needs to take place in both local government areas bearing in mind the provisions of Section 91 of the Constitution,” Abang stated.
Meanwhile, Briyai revealed that10 mobile centres have been opened for the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration exercise in addition to 28 other centres in Cross River State.
These centres, he said, “are located in the three senatorial districts in the state to ensure wider coverage of communities with difficult terrain.”
He added that the commission has so far registered 203, 611 eligible voters in Cross River State in the ongoing voter registration exercise and that 10, 817 Permanent Voters Cards had so far been collected while 67, 722 were yet to be collected.