Politics: Ogun, Katsina, Anambra, seven govs stick to illegal LG caretaker panels

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No fewer than 10 states have not conducted elections into local governments despite the absence of elected officers in the councils.

Investigations on Monday showed that some of the local governments were being administered by caretaker committees constituted by state governors. This contradicts a 2016 judgment of the Supreme Court, which voided laws enacted by state Houses of Assembly that empowered governors to sack elected local government chairmen and councillors and replace them with caretaker committees.

Findings showed that states, which had yet to conduct local government elections despite the expiration of elected officers’ tenures included Ogun, Katsina Anambra, Kwara, Osun, Zamfara and Sokoto.

Also, Imo, and Oyo state governments sacked elected officers, whose tenures had not ended and replaced them with caretaker committees like the seven states mentioned earlier. Although Edo State has no local government caretaker committees, the LGs are being administered by heads of administration.

Sokoto yet to hold LG polls since 2016

Among states that have not conducted local government elections is Sokoto State, which in 2019 constituted caretaker committees after the expiration of the three-year tenure of council officers, who were elected in 2016.
A Peoples Democratic Party leader in the state, Mallam Ibrahim, explained to one of our correspondents the delay in holding the elections.

He stated, “The delay cannot also be divorced from politics. The PDP being the party in government has to take into consideration many factors, especially zoning of chairmanship and other positions.”

The state Independent Electoral Commission has, however, fixed March 27 as the date for the next local government elections in the state.
Last LG polls held in Katsina in 2014

It was learnt that the last time Katsina State held local government elections was in 2014.

Investigations showed that since Governor Aminu Masari assumed office in 2015, no local government election had been held in the state.

Masari’s dissolution of elected local government councils in 2015 led to several court cases, which the governor cited as reasons for not holding LG polls. Efforts by The PUNCH correspondent to get the reaction of the governor’s Special Adviser on Politics, Kabiru Shuaibu, did not succeed as he did not pick calls to his phone nor responded to an SMS sent to him.

Anambra yet to hold LG polls since 2013

In Anambra State, the local government elections were held last in the state in 2013.

Justifying the failure of the state to hold local government elections, the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba, said the opposition parties took the state to court over the matter. According to him, until the matter is settled in court, the state can’t conduct the polls. Directors of personnel running Kwara LGs

In Kwara State, although the tenure of local government officials, who were elected on November 1, 2017, expired on November 31, 2020, findings indicated that the state had not conducted local government elections.

It was gathered that directors of personnel management had been running the affairs of the councils in the state since June 2019 when chairmen were suspended for alleged mismanagement of funds .
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, failed to pick calls to his phone nor responded to an SMS sent to him.

Also, Ogun State has not conducted local government elections since 2019 when the state governor , Dapo Abiodun, assumed office.

The state last conducted the local government elections October 8, 2016 during the administration of former governor, Ibikunle Amosun.

Abiodun, who assumed office two years ago, has extended the tenure of chairmen and members of local government transition committees three times since he inaugurated them in January 2020. The governor cited COVID-19 pandemic and paucity of funds as reasons for the delay in holding the elections.

Attempts to get comments from the Commissioner for Information, Waheed Odusile and the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Kunle Somorin, failed.

They did not reply a text message sent to their mobile phones. Osun cites COVID-19, #EndSARS protests as reasons for not conducting LG polls

On his part, the Osun State Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Taiwo Akeju, told The PUNCH that the tenure of the last elected local government officers in the state ended in February.

Akeju, who said the state had planned to conduct elections into the councils before the end of tenure of the last elected officials, said coronavirus and #EnSARS protest disrupted the plan. He however said the state had put machinery in motion to conduct elections into the council areas within shortest possible time.

Akeju said, “We (government) have reconstituted OSIEC (Osun State Independent Electoral Commission) and it will need time to interact with the parties and prepare for the elections. Also, because we can’t allow vacuum, caretaker committees would be appointed by government and then elections would follow as soon as possible.

“Advent of coronavirus and #EndSARS protests and other challenges disrupted government’s plans to have LG elections before the expiration of tenure of the last elected officials. Their tenure ended just last February.” It was gathered that the litigation between sacked local government officers and the Hope Uzodimma administration stalled the plan to hold local government elections in the state.

Recall that the state governor had in 2019 sacked the local government officers, who were elected in 2018. He replaced them with interim management committees.

The ousted chairmen then filed a suit against their removal at the Federal High Court, Owerri, which on July 1, 2020, delivered a judgment in favour of the embattled chairmen. The state government has, however, challenged the judgment at the Court of Appeal Owerri.

One of the sacked LGA chairmen, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said they would pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.

In Zamfara State, it was gathered that the last time local government elections were conducted was in 2017 during the tenure of former Governor AbdulAziz Yari. On Monday night, the Chairman of the state Independent Electoral Commission, Alhaji Garba Mohammed, said he would not comment on the issue unless through a written request.

Speaking to The PUNCH on the phone he said, ‘”We don’t give out such information until a formal letter is written to the commission.”

He stressed that “We are not authorized to give out any information unless it is officially requested and we have sworn to abide by that.”
However, a top government official who, spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “The presentation administration of Governor Matawalle has on several occasions tried to conduct the elections.

“But due to the fear that the opposition All Progressives Congress may win some local government areas, the elections have yet to hold.”

In Oyo State, the elected local government council chairmen, who assumed office in May 2018 under the former Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration, were sacked by Governor Seyi Makinde on assumption of office in May 2019.
The tenure of the sacked council officials, who are members of the All Progressives Congress, ought to expire on May 12, 2021, but they have been out of office for two years.

The state government has said it will hold fresh LG polls on May 15.

The APC Caretaker Publicity Secretary in the state, AbdulAzeez Olatunji, described the planned local government elections as gross illegality.

Olatunde, who spoke in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, said, “The stand of our party is that Governor Makinde has done what is called impunity and arbitrariness by the illegal dissolution of the third tier of government in the state. If President Muhammadu Buhari did not arbitrarily annul Makinde’s election, why would he (Makinde) do it?.” The Publicity Secretary of the APC in the state, Alhaji Akeem Olatunji, said, “What the government is doing is in order but it seems that they (the APC) are ignorant of what the law says. Election is a process on its own. You don’t wait till the end of a tenure before you conduct an election.”

In Edo State, the tenure of the local government chairmen ended last Friday after serving for three years. Governor Godwin Obaseki directed the chairmen to handover to their respective heads of local government administration until a fresh poll is conducted to elect new chairmen.
When contacted on the likely date of a fresh election, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, declined to comment on phone asking the reporter to see him in his office on Tuesday.

Commenting on the failure of the states to conduct local government elections, A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, said the constitution does not recognise the appointment of caretaker committees to run the affairs of a local government.

Adedipe said, “First of all, the constitution does not envisage, and therefore, makes no provision for interim/caretaker governance. Every caretaker administration is illegal, is unconstitutional and null and void. That trend is a pointer to the intolerance and anti-democratic disposition of some of these governors, who do not believe that local government should exist at all. But my worry is that they seem to be getting away with it, because we have Houses of Assembly that only exist in name, who only pander to the wishes of governors. And it is not only at the state level, even at the federal level we have a Senate, whose President told us that whatever the President wants they would do it for him. So, we are beginning to descend into an unbelievable level of dictatorship and authoritarianism.

SOURCE: PUNCH NIGERIA

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