By Jonathan Ugbal
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will release the guidelines for the conduct of a bye election to replace the late member representing Obudu in the Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr. Stephen Ukpukpen.
A statement issued by its National Commissioner, Mohammad Haruna, on Friday in Abuja said this follows the official notifications received by INEC from the presiding officers of the assembly.
However, the statement erroneously called it “Obudu 1 State Constituency.” CrossRiverWatch findings reveal Obudu has only one state constituency.
Part of the statement read: “Information has been received from the Cross River State House of Assembly about the demise of the member representing Obudu 1 State Constituency in the House.
“The Commission will, in accordance with relevant Constitutional and Statutory provisions, issue a detailed timetable and schedule of activities next week leading to the conduct of the polls to fill these vacancies.”
The commission also said it received similar notifications from the “President of the Senate about existing vacancies in the Bauchl South and Katsina North Senatorial Districts, occasioned by the death of the Senators representing the said districts.”
But, this contravenes the house rules which said the member is presumed absent until a valedictory service is held in his or her honor.
In fact, the Speaker, Honorable John Lebo (PDP Abi) had on Monday through his spokesman, Mr. Azogor Ideba confirmed this in a statement which also announced the funeral obsequies of the late lawmaker.
The statement had said that: “The late Honorable Stephen Akomaye Ukpukpen according to the Cross River State Assembly House Rules and Proceedings, is presumed absent until after a Valedictory session.
“Again, under Section 161 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also as contained in the Electoral Act, the Obudu state constituency seat which the deceased occupied would be declared vacant only after a Valedictory. Aside this, there is no other requirement.
“However, the valedictory session for the late member will hold on Friday July 20 at the Assembly Complex by 9am.
“It (is) only after this event that the Rt. Honorable Stephen Akomaye Ukpukpen would be officially declared dead and the Obudu state Constituency seat declared vacant by the Speaker.
“This will be followed by a formal communication, in cognizance of the votes and proceedings of the valedictory, notifying INEC officially about the death of the member and the vacant seat in the Assembly.”