BY ABDULLAHI OLESIN, JOSHUA DADA, PATRICK OCHOGA, EMMANUEL MGBEAHURIKE |
States still using caretaker committees and defaulting in the conduct of local government elections have adduced the inability to do so to litigations, ongoing amendment of the enabling law and other inhibiting factors.
But opposition parties in such states have blamed the absence of elected officers at the grassroots on executive lawlessness and fear of the unknown by the state governors.
They, therefore, called on the federal government to withhold allocations to states yet to hold LG elections.
In Osun State, the government has attributed the delay in conduct ing local government elections to the recent amendment of the enabling law by the state House of Assembly.
In an interaction with LEADERSHIP Friday in Osogbo, the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan, said the amendment made provision for the appointment of caretaker committees for the local governments for six months within which election would take place.
Recall that the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola introduced the parliamentary system of government in local government administration during his tenure in Osun State.
An enabling law that returned the local government administration to the presidential system of government in line with what operates across the state of the federation has just been worked out by the House of Assembly.
Omipidan said the tenure of a democratically elected government in the council had just expired and promised that the government would conduct election into the local governments within the stipulated time.
He said the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) is not redundant as it is preparing for the conduct of credible election in due course.
In Kwara State, the government says it has not conducted local government elections because of court cases arising from the composition of the state electoral commission.
The tenure of the former local government chairmen expired in November 2020.
The Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) which is saddled with the responsibility of conducting the council poll is not in place, as the commission was dissolved by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq upon his assumption of office in 2019.
The chief press secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, told LEADERSHIP Friday that, “Kwara is constrained by various court cases on the composition of the electoral commission – the statutory body responsible for conducting elections into local councils.”
LEADERSHIP Friday checks showed that the state has not incurred any financial cost as a result of the non-conduct of the council poll as KWASIEC is populated by civil servants who were seconded from the core civil service.
Meanwhile, the major opposition party in the state – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led government for foot-dragging on the conduct of local government elections.
The PDP publicity secretary of the PDP, Tunde Ashaolu, asked Governor AbdulRazaq to immediately start the process of conducting election into the council.
Ashaolu described the appointment of caretaker committees for the councils by the governor as “unconstitutional, undemocratic, null and void.”
The quest for local government election in Imo State has continuously agitated the minds of the citizens as they believe that elected council chairmen could serve as agents for sustainable development at the grassroots.
The commissioner for information and strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba, told our correspondent that the state government had put mechanisms in place to conduct a hitch-free LG election.
He said the state government had inaugurated new members of the state Independent Electoral Commission and “once they settle down and present a budget, we will not waste time in announcing a feasible date for the conduct of the election.”
Emelumba advised the people to exercise patience as the state government was committed the fruition of the project. He submitted that the government for now operates the transition committees to carryout viable projects.
But the state publicity secretary of the PDP, Ogubundu Nwadike, frowned at the penchant of some state governors to overlook the conduct of elections at the council, thereby wasting the people’s resources. He called on the governor of Imo State Hope Uzodimma to urgently conduct the election at the grassroots to give the populace a sense of belonging. He said when elections into the council areas are held, meaningful development will be brought to the people at the grassroots.
Since the expiration of the tenure of council chiefs in Edo State since March 5, 2020, Governor Godwin Obaseki has not held election to replace them with elected officers.
Rather, he uses local government administrators to run the 18 councils in the state.
The directive for the sacked council chiefs to hand over to the administrators was contained in a memo with reference number: FMLC.170/vol.111/646, signed by the permanent secretary, M.E. Jos-Bazuaye.
The former council officials were inaugurated on March 5, 2018, following their victory in the local government elections of March 3, 2018.
But the delay by the state government to set the stage for democratically elected representatives at the grassroots has raised concerns about local government administration.
A human activist and an Edo State-based legal practitioner, Barrister Douglas Ogbankwa, is of the view that local government administration needs to be restructured with full financial autonomy.
Ogbankwa said, “I have followed with sewrious attention, the enthralling narrative on the restructuring of Nigeria and I can say there seems to be a divergence on all fronts on the issue and the system requires regurgitation.
“I must commend, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their uncommon courage, in accepting actual autonomy for local governments and giving INEC the powers to conduct local government elections. This will preclude the current practice of local governments being mere agencies of state governments.”
The secretary to Edo State government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, did not respond to enquiries on why the state government had not conducted LG elections.