Legal Nigeria

•Oyo conducts poll May 15

•Edo, Ogun, Osun, Imo, Zamfara yet to fix date

Francis Sardauna in Katsina, Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin, David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka, Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta and Amby Uneze in Owerri

Litigations have held up the conduct of local government elections in Anambra, Katsina and Kwara States, while Edo, Ogun, Osun, Imo and Zamfara states are yet to fix dates for the polls, despite the illegality in running the local councils with non-elected officers, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

It was gathered that of the nine states that are yet to conduct elections for local government areas, only Oyo has fixed May 15, 2021, for the polls.

However, the Zamfara State Government has attributed its delay in holding council polls to insecurity bedevilling the state.

The Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on December 9, 2016, had voided laws enacted by state Houses of Assembly that empowered governors to sack elected local government chairmen and councillors and replace them with handpicked administrators.

In the unanimous judgment of five justices, the Supreme Court described the sacking of elected local government administrators as “executive recklessness” that should stop immediately.

The judgment by the five-man panel, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, was given in an appeal over the dissolution of the 16 local government executives in Ekiti State by Dr. Kayode Fayemi during his first term as governor.

The Supreme Court, in faulting the law purportedly relied on by Fayemi to dissolve the local government administration, held that Section 23(b) of the Ekiti State Local Government Administration (Amendment) Law, 2001, which empowered the governor to dissolve local government councils, whose tenure was yet to expire, violated section 7(1) of the constitution from which the state House of Assembly derived the power to enact the local government law.

Justice Centus Nweze, who delivered the lead judgment had held that the tenure of the local government councils could not be abridged without violating the supreme constitutional provisions.

However, seven years after the dissolution of Katsina State elected local government chairmen and 361 councillors in the 34 local government areas of the state by Governor Aminu Masari in 2015, the state is yet to conduct any council polls.

Investigation revealed that the last time the state held local government election was in 2014 during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Mr. Ibrahim Shema.

Masari, who sacked the duly elected chairmen and councillors on the assumption of office in 2015 over alleged violation of state’s laws, inaugurated interim management committees for the 34 councils.

However, the committee members have been dissolved by the state Assembly following the expiration of their tenure.

The dissolution of the elected councils’ chairmen and councillors apparently forced the state chapter of the PDP to sue Masari over what the party termed gross violation of section 7 (1) of the Nigeria Constitution and relevant laws in the state.

But Masari while justifying the failure of the state government to conduct the poll, said until the matter is settled in court, the state cannot conduct the poll.

According to him, the state government will conduct local government elections as soon as the apex court delivers judgment on the PDP litigation.

There was also, no indication that chairmen and councillors would be elected into the 21 local government areas in Anambra State before Governor Willie Obiano leaves office in March next year.

There have not been council polls in the state, for about 10 years after the last one was conducted.

Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. Don Adinuba, told THISDAY in an interview that the conduct of the poll was being dogged by litigation, which is still pending at the Supreme Court.

He said: “Anambra cannot conduct elections now; the matter is still at the Supreme Court. Twenty-one members of the APC (All Progressives Congress) representing the 21 local government areas in the state took the state to court over council poll.null

“The matter is still in the Supreme Court; that is why no election can be held into the local government areas for now.

“The APC members are saying that they are the only ones validly nominated by their party, and as such, other parties should be barred from participating, and you know that is not possible. They took the state government to court and won, and we have to appeal. The matter is currently in the Supreme Court.”

He added: “There is no electoral body in the state as I speak. I don’t know why people are so interested in local government election in Anambra when the local government councils are doing well.”

He stated that other local governments being run by elected officials were not doing better than the ones in the state.

The Kwara State government attributed the non-conduct of the local government council polls in the state to the various court cases against the state independent electoral commission.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq had recently inaugurated the Transitional Implementation Committee (TIC) for the 16 local government councils of the state after the expiration of the tenure of the democratically elected council chairmen.

However, speaking in Ilorin, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, said: “Kwara is constrained by various court cases on the composition of the electoral commission — the statutory body responsible for conducting elections into local councils.

“The state government will not hesitate to hold local government council polls once these issues are resolved.”

No Date Yet for Edo, Ogun, Osun, Imo

Meanwhile, the Ogun State government said the recent inauguration of the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) is an indication that local government elections will soon be conducted.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, Mr. Kunle Somorin, told THISDAY that since the commission has been set up, its next task would be the conduct of council polls.

“We just inaugurated the state independent electoral commission, led by Mr. Babatunde Osibodu, the process has begun,” he added.

The current caretaker committees in the various local government areas were put in place by the government in January 2020 and have spent over a year in office.

Their appointments came three months after the governor claimed that the tenure of the council chiefs under his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, expired in October 2019.

Abiodun had promised that democratically elected chairmen would soon emerge after the composition of the electoral commission is set up through an Act of the state House of Assembly.

Already, politicians have taken to the field, campaigning for various council offices, though uncertain as to when the elections will hold.

Osibodu recently told journalists in Abeokuta that the commission was yet to fix a date for the elections.

“We cannot give a definite date for the exercise yet; as you know, we need to give 90 days’ notice to the public and the aspirants. We are also assessing what we have on the ground,” he said, adding: “We want to assure everyone that the commission will be fair, equitable, just, transparent and even-handed with stakeholders, political parties, candidates and others.”

The Imo State government said it will soon clear the processes of conducting local government elections.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba, in a telephone interview with THISDAY in Owerri, the state capital, said Governor Hope Uzodimma was keen on conducting local government elections as soon as possible.

He added that the governor had constituted the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC) immediately he came into office with a view to holding council polls later.

He stated that the governor had given directives to ISIEC to kick-start the process of conducting local government elections, adding that what might be an impediment all the while was the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past 12 years, Imo State elected council officials twice but their tenures were short-lived due to change in governments.

Former Governor Ikedi Ohakim conducted local government elections in 2009 and but his successor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, sacked the elected chairmen in 2011.

Okorocha also conducted what majority of Imo State residents had described as ‘kangaroo’ elections at the twilight of his exit in 2018, but former Governor Emeka Ihedioha sacked the officials.

Ihedioha was making preparations for a fresh poll when he was suddenly removed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Zamfara State government said the insecurity bedevilling the state was responsible for the delay in the conduct of the local election.

The state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, in an interview with THISDAY, said: “You know when the lives of rural dwellers are in danger, you can’t gather for election.”

He added that Governor Bello Matawalle had written to the state House of Assembly for the extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee chairmen.

He said the state government would conduct elections when the situation improves.

According to him, what is paramount to the state government is to safeguard the lives of its citizens.

Edo and Osun States have not fixed dates for the conduct of local government elections too.

THISDAY gathered that the local governments in Edo State were not being run by appointed caretaker committees but their heads of administrations.

Oyo to Conduct LG Poll May 15

However, the local government election will be conducted in Oyo State on May 15.

The Chairman of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC), Mr. Isiaka Olagunju (SAN), said the election would be conducted into the 33 local government areas in the state.

“In compliance with Section 30 Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Section 5 (a) and Paragraph 1 (1) Schedule 2 of the State Independent Electoral Commission Law CAP 154, Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, the general public is hereby informed that elections will be conducted in thirty-three (33) local government councils in Oyo State on Saturday, 15th May 2021 between 8:00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m.,” he had said.

He called on prospective candidates to obtain nomination forms at the commission’s headquarters on or before April 30, upon payment of N250, 000 for the position of chairman or N100, 000 for the position of a councilor. 

Source: Thisday

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