After almost two or four years in office, some state governors have failed to conduct elections in their local government councils, a total breach of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Under the presidential system in Nigeria, the constitution allows the executive and legislative arms of government to operate in the councils, at least, for a two-year term.
But some state governors have failed to comply with this basic requirement and manipulate members of the House of Assembly to approve caretaker committees instead of elective leaders to run the councils.
In various interactions with LEADERSHIP Friday, top officials of the defaulting states attributed their states’ inability to hold council elections to insecurity, court cases, ongoing amendment of the enabling law and other factors.
However, the opposition parties in such states blamed the absence of elected officers at the grassroots on executive lawlessness, corruption and fear of the unknown by the state governors.
They appealed to the federal government to withhold the allocations to the offending states until they do so.
For instance, the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) said the much-awaited local government elections would not hold until adequate preparations that guarantee the people’s safety are in place.
Responding to our correspondent’s enquiry on why the state was yet to conduct council poll, OGSIEC’s chairman, Babatunde Osibodu, said the commission was inaugurated on March 18, 2021 and needs time to arrange for the security of life and property to ensure peaceful election at the grassroots.
He said the commission needs to synergise with security agencies in order to stem violence, stressing that “when violence is tamed from elections, other things become easy, just as it will also boost the confidence of the electorate.”
Similarly, the chief press secretary to the state governor, Kunle Somorin, said the process had commenced, adding that “OGSIEC’s inauguration is the legal, fair and right starting point for a credible, free and impartial elections.”
But members of the opposition political parties, particularly those of the Labour Party (LP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have chided the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration for failing to hold the local government election almost two years after coming on board in the state.
PDP’s state publicity secretary, Sunkanmi Oyejide and the state chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Abayomi Arabambi, said Governor Abiodun must ensure that OGSIEC conducts credible LG election and not a kind of “selective poll.”
Oyejide said “there should be a transparent election where the people’s choices emerge as their representatives. Second, local governments should be independent. The state government should stop interfering in their affairs. Once that is done, life will be injected back to local government administration in Ogun State.”
Arabambi, who is also the LP state chairman, said IPAC will not hesitate to approach the court to seek for the nullification of the entire electioneering “and even the election itself” should OGSIEC attempts to be partisan in the forthcoming LG poll.
“Any attempt by the OGSIEC to commit monumental fraud, executive malfeasance and rascality in favour of APC candidates will be resisted. They are warned never to be partisan.
“Generally, it’s a condemnable act all over the federation where governors choose to disobey extant court judgement about the illegalities of caretaker chairmen aside the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria only recognises the third tier of government to be exclusively managed by elected council chairmen.
“For Ogun State, it’s a welcome development that Governor Dapo Abiodun has finally heeded the call of the people to conduct local government election. Though it’s rather late but at least he has constituted the OGSIEC under the leadership of Osibodu. We in the opposition political parties are unable to verify Ogun electoral empire political affiliations but time will tell,” he said.
In Osun State, the state government attributed the delay in conducting local government elections to the recent amendment of the enabling law by the state House of Assembly.
According to the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan, the amendment made provision for the appointment of caretaker committees for the councils for six months within which election would take place.
The administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had 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 states of the federation has just been worked out by the House of Assembly, he said.
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 LGs 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 state government said it had 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 State 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 however 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 PDP has condemned the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government for foot-dragging on the conduct of council elections.
The PDP publicity secretary, Tunde Ashaolu, urged 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 and undemocratic.”
The quest for local government election in Imo State has continuously agitated the minds of the people 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 hitch-free elect ion in the LGs.
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 election.”
Emelumba advised the people to exercise patience as the state government was committed to the fruition of the project. He submitted that the government for now operates the transition committees to carryout viable projects.
But the state PDP publicity secretary, 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 councils are held, meaningful development would be brought to the people at the grassroots.
Since the expiration of the tenure of council chiefs in Edo State on 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 rights activist and an Edo State-based legal practitioner, Douglas Ogbankwa, said local government administration needs to be restructured with full financial autonomy.
Ogbankwa said, “I have followed with serious 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 its 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,” he said.
The secretary to the Edo State government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, did not respond to enquiry on why the state government had not conducted LG elections.