A recall is a process through which a validly elected Senator may be removed from his/her seat in the Senate. It is a voting process where the electorate decide via a referendum (a yes or no vote) whether they want the Senator to remain for the rest of his term or whether he should be recalled. The process for recalling a Senator is contained in Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution.
A recall election (also called a recall referendum or representative recall) is a procedure by which, in certain polities, voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before that official’s term has ended. Recalls, which are initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition, have a history dating back to ancient Athenian democracy and feature in several current constitutions.
In an indirect or representative democracy, people’s representatives are elected and these representatives rule for a specific period of time. However, where the facility to recall exists, should any representative come to be perceived as not properly discharging their responsibilities, then they can be called back with the written request of a specific number or proportion of voters.
Stages of Recalling a Senator in Nigeria
Stage 1: Petition
The process to recall a Senator is started once the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) receives a petition signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in the Senator.
The petition must be signed and arranged according to polling units, wards, Local Government Areas, and constituency.
Stage 2: Verification
If the petition is valid, the Commission will proceed to:
- Notify the Senator sought to be recalled, stating that it has received a petition for the recall of the Senator
- Then issue a public notice or announcement stating the date, time and location of the verification
- Verify the signatures to the petition at the designation. The signatories must be individuals who appear on the electoral voters’ register.
- Write to the petitioners stating that the minimum requirements for a referendum were not met if the number verified is less than one-half of the registered voters in that constituency. The petition will, therefore, be dismissed.
Stage 3: Referendum
If the minimum requirements for a referendum are met, the INEC must then conduct a referendum within 90 days of receipt of the petition. The referendum will be a simple yes or no vote on whether the Senator should be recalled, and will be decided by simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency.
If a referendum is carried out and the voters in that constituency vote to recall the Senator, then the Chairman of the INEC is obliged to send a Certificate of Recall to the Senate President to effect the recall.
Obviously, the process for recalling a Senator seems a bit complex and by design needs a lot of organization and mass mobilization, and maybe that is why there has not been any documented case of a successful recall of a Senator in Nigeria since the passing of the 1999 Constitution.