The first controversy about the election came from the state house of assembly that was averse to the election holding in November this year. The major reason advanced against the election by the assembly was the tight financial situation of the state.
The legislatures felt funding the election would put financial strain on the already wobbled financial situation of the state especially as the present administration is almost at its exit.
Notwithstanding, the commission with the support of the executive arm insisted on conducting the election in order not to create vacuum when the tenures of the incumbent local government councils come end by the end of this month.
Consequently, the assembly passed a motion calling on Governor Abubakar Sani Bello to sack the chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (NSIEC), Alhaji Baba Aminu.
The assembly premised the call for his removal on alleged inability to effectively discharge the responsibility of his office.
The members announced the planned removal of the chairman after he told the assembly that preparation for the conduct of the local government elections had not been suspended. Thus, the position of the chairman was considered an affront on the assembly since they had passed a resolution that all arrangements for the conduct of the local government election be suspended.
Also recommended to the governor for removal alongside the chairman was one of the commissioners who was said to have spoken on a radio station that the assembly has no right to shift the local government elections.
The NSEIC chairman had said that he was loyal to two masters which included the constitution and his principal, the governor.
Also, the legislators were peeved by the response of the chairman who was asked about the number of total registered voters in the state but could not give the number saying “I have no account to work on. For the total number of registered voters in Niger State, I do not know. You will have to go to the federal INEC to get the total number.”
Consequently, the members frowned at the statement of the chairman saying that he is supposed to be impartial but since he is loyal to two masters, he would not be the impartial umpire as needed for the state council elections.
The member representing Borgu Constituency, Hon Abba Bala fired the first shot, saying that “You cannot run the State Independent Electoral Commission. Instead of being impartial, you are likely to tilt toward the political party that his principal belongs to.”
The member representing the Agwara constituency, Hon Bello Ahmed thereafter called for the removal of the chairman and he was seconded by Hon Binta Mamman representing the Gurara constituency.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the house and the resolution was to be communicated to the governor.
Thereafter, the legislators received a letter from the governor informing them that he would go ahead with the decision of the state Independent Electoral Commission to hold the local government elections.
The state government said the members in their letter to him did not address the constitutional vacuum and the gap the local government chairmen would create if they were not elected in November.
As if the opposition of People Democratic Party (PDP) was waiting on the position of the house of assembly, the opposition party approached the Federal High Court sitting in Minna to stop the election.
The court however declined jurisdiction to hear and determine matters on local government elections in Niger State based on the ground of the case at the court challenging the conduct of the local government election for alleged violations of the provisions of the constitution and the electoral act
Justice Aminu Garba of the Federal High Court said after careful perusal of the counsel’s written addresses to the court on whether or not it has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the laintiff (PDP)’s case, held that the case can stand and survive without the first defendant INEC but cannot stand without the second defendant, Niger State Independent Electoral Commission, and as such, the case is entirely within the affairs of the state law.
He therefore said the court declined jurisdiction to hear and determine the PDP’s suit and ordered its transfer to the Niger State High Court.
Even after the ruling, three days to the election, the PDP insisted it would take all necessary steps to continue with the case at the State High Court as the chairman of the party, Tanko Beji said “we have commenced the process to ensure that the order of transfer is urgently complied with.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let us restate that the peoples Democratic party (PDP) will not participate in the local government election in Niger State for the reasons that we are in court and the matter is still pending where we are challenging NSIEC for non-compliance with extant laws and regulations for the conduct of election.”
The local government election was expectedly, marred with low turnout out and late distribution of election materials, depicting the poor preparation and mobilisation for the poll.
Despite the earlier announcement that markets and offices should be closed for the election, the people disregarded it as they went about their normal business. The boycott by the PDP took the shine off the stiff contest expected to test-run the popularity of the party ahead of the 2023 general election.
LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that during the election, markets were opened in major cities and sub-urban communities. There was voters’ apathy worsened by late arrival of election materials in most of the polling units.
Consequently, voting commenced at about noon in most places with about 5 to 10 voters seen waiting to vote at some units.
At the end, and as expected, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the chairmanship seats for 24 local government councils in the election with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in controversial circumstances, declared winner of Katcha local government council.
The commissioner in charge of operations at NSIEC, Comrade Ibrahim Aliyu Tunganwawa announced the results instead of the chairman of the commission, Alh Aminu, who described the local government council election as peaceful and orderly despite some minor hitches. He addeed that 13 political parties participated in the local government polls.
Controversy erupted over the announcement by NSIEC that gave the victory of Katcha local government election to the SDP as the APC chairmanship candidate in the area, Hon Musa Isyaku insisted that he was earlier declared the winner and therefore wondered the turnaround.
The APC candidate presenting a result sheet before journalists said that he beat the SDP candidate, Abdullahi Danlami Saku as the chairman-elect of Katcha local government area referring to a video showing his declaration by the returning officer in Katcha, that he polled 9,423 votes as against the SDP candidate who polled 4,254 votes in the election.
The aggrieved APC candidate disclosed that the election results were announced by the returning officer in Katcha, Mallam Kolo Ibrahim in the presence of the electoral officer, Kassim Mazakuka alongside the three party agents of APC, SDP and NNPP.
He said, “Let me state categorically that I, Musa Isyaku, am the only duly elected council chairman for Katcha local government for the November 10 local government elections. I won in seven wards out of ten wards and polled a total of 9,423 votes under the platform of APC as against the runner-up SDP that polled 4,254 votes.”
In a statement, the public relations officer of NSIEC, Usman Aliyu, also announced that the commission has declared the candidate of the SDP, Abdullahi Danlami Saku as the winner of the chairmanship election in Katcha local government.
Usman stated that the commission made the declaration after careful consideration of the results of the local government council elections in Katcha local government council.
Already, the SDP candidate has been given the certificate of return opening another chapter of controversy trailing the local government election.
The myriad of controversies that have trailed the party will keep the courts busy with cases instituted by political parties and their candidates. For instance in Gurara, Chanchaga and many other local governments, aggrieved candidates have approached courts in legal battle with the APC.
The Chief Judge of the state, Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik has already inaugurated the election tribunals and all will be on the courts and tribunals to either serve justice where it is deserving or allow the aggrieved parties and candidates lick their wounds.