The people of Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue state have protested against the exclusion of the community for the past 23 years.
The community therefore urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to restore the constituency which they claimed was ‘suppressed’ following a military decree during the Sani Abacha led Military administration in 1993.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on Monday, Ushongo community leaders called on INEC, to comply with the court order and ensure the restoration of the constituency, (Mbagwa constituency).
According to a spokesperson for the community, Godwin Alumuku, “The constituency; Mbagwa’ was suppressed due to a military fiat after the regime that began in 1993. That regime ordered the merger of two constituencies in Ushongo LGA into one.
“Years later, the people of Ushongo approached the law courts to demand the restoration of the suppressed constituency. The court granted the request. But over ten years later in 2015; the failure of INEC to restore the said constituency caused our people to return to a Federal High Court in Markudi to seek the permission of the court for an enforcement of the said order. That request was also granted,”
While noting that INEC had assured them that it has set up a committee to restore Mbagwa constituency, he said they were compelled to express their worry.
He said, “Recently some groups have called for the conduct of fresh elections into Mbagwe constituency; if it is restored, as well as another election for the other community; Ushongo, itself. We would like to make it clear that we do not want to lose the position our elected member from Ushongo constituency.
“Already, there is an elected member representing Ushongo State Constituency which is to be split based on the ruling of the Federal High Court. We therefore call on INEC to expeditiously restore the suppressed Mbagwa State Constituency and conduct election in same, more so that the current occupant of the sit does not fall within the boundaries of the yet to be restored Mbagwa State Constituency.”
The spokesperson noted that their people have suffered enough from the suppression and therefore advised the electoral body to prevent further delay and employ the provisions of sections 112 to 114 of the constitution in ensuring the restoration of Mbagwa constituency.
In an open letter to the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, the community members stated thus:
“Chairman may wish to recall that on the 13th of January, 2005, the people of Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State secured a judgment from the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordering your Commission to forward the name of the suppressed Mbagwa State Constituency in Ushongo Local Government to the National Assembly for restoration, which is yet to be complied with.
“The delay in the enforcement of the Judgments has continued to agitate the minds of our people leading to series of petitions and in some cases, protests. Kindly also recall that the “Mar U Ushongo” Development Association has met on several occasions with the Commission on the same issue.”
It adds a list of recommendations made by leaders of Ushongo LGA of Benue state and addressed to the INEC Chairman, basically requesting the following:
“That the people agreed with the position of the Commission as contained in the position paper it presented to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petition in which it opined that in as much as it is to create two Constituencies in Ushongo, it will act within the ambit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and the Electoral Act.
“That they urge INEC to as a matter of urgency put the necessary machinery in motion to ensure the quick restoration of the suppressed Mbagwa State Constituency as directed by the Federal High Court.
“The group expressed confidence in INEC’s ability to ensure the credibility of elections and adequate enfranchisement of Nigerians.”