The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is awaiting communication from the National Assembly to conduct a bye-election in Plateau Central Senatorial District, the commission has said.

Osaretin Imahiyereobo, INEC’s head of Voter Education and Publicity, Plateau, said the commission does not have power to conduct a by-election until the National Assembly declares the seat vacant and communicate same officially to the commission.

Plateau Central was until Tuesday, June 12, represented by Joshua Dariye, also a former governor of the state.

Mr Dariye was found guilty of diverting N1.162 billion state ecological funds while he was governor between 1999 and 2007.

He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, thereby leaving the senatorial district without a representative in the National Assembly. He is currently serving time at Kuje prison, Abuja.

Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached for comments on the Senate’s indecision on the seat. His known line was switched off for the days this reporter tried to reach him.

Mr Imahiyereobo, however, maintained that the constituents will still have no senator until the National Assembly declares the seat vacant.

“First of all, the National Assembly has to declare the seat vacant,” he said. “We’ve not been officially written (by the National Assembly).”

“We can’t do anything relating to him till we are officially written. If they write to us officially that the seat is vacant, then we can start to plan a by-election. After such notice, the chairman at the national level will pick a date for the bye election. But as it is, I don’t think there is any action along that line.

“You remember that there are some other by-elections like in Bauchi, Katsina, no date has been fixed for elections.

“For Plateau, we’ve not been officially written and until the chairman of the commission tells us that this is the date, we cannot do anything at the Plateau end. It is the national office that will fix the date and inform the Plateau commission. As we speak, no information regarding that has been given.”

Mr Imahiyereobo quickly added that the commission may also be impeded by a court process.

“What we know is that there is a court that convicted him and secondly there is an appeal,” he said without giving further details.

The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had also expressed a similar view.

Mr Yakubu said that the commission had five bye-elections to conduct, to fill the existing vacancies, but was still awaiting official communication from the National Assembly to declare the seats vacant.

He said while the law compelled INEC to conduct bye-elections within stipulated time, it was the presiding officers of the National Assembly or State Houses of Assemblies that could declare any seat vacant.

“We have no any power to declare the seat of any lawmaker vacant,” he told journalists in Lagos as quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria.

“The moment the returning officers make announcement declaring a candidate winner, only the court of law can reverse it.

“We cannot declare vacancy and conduct bye-election unless there is a formal communication from the presiding officers of that Assembly.

“So this is not a matter under the control of the commission.’’

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