LGA ADMINISTRATION: 15 GOVERNORS UNDER SCRUTINY OVER CONSTITUTIONAL BREACH

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LGA ADMINISTRATION: 15 GOVERNORS UNDER SCRUTINY OVER CONSTITUTIONAL BREACH

At least 15 governors are in breach of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, findings have shown.

They include Benue, Kwara, Cross River, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Kogi, Osun, Plateau, Imo, Ondo, Bayelsa, Yobe, Bauchi and Sokoto states.

Section 7 of the Constitution aptly provides that “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”

Findings show that at the moment, no fewer than 14 governors obtained approvals from their respective state Houses of Assembly and constituted caretaker committees in place of elected chairmen.

Late last year, the Senate asked the Federal Government to block statutory allocations to any local government council not democratically elected.

The Red Chamber unanimously resolved that this move would deter the dictatorial tendencies of state governors.

The resolution was sequel to a motion moved by Sen. Abba Moro on the urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy vis-a-vis the dissolution of elected councils in Benue State by Governor Hyacinth Alia.

The lawmakers argued that the placement of Caretaker Committees to replace Elected Councils is an aberration, undemocratic and a breach of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

Senator Victor Umeh (representing Anambra Senatorial district), who seconded the motion, lamented that the issue has continued to undermine the local government system in Nigeria.

Consequently, the Senate condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue and other federation states.

To save the face of Nigeria’s democracy, the Senate urged Alia to adhere to his oath of office, obey the rule of law, review the constitution of caretaker committees, and reinstate the elected councils.

But Alia is not alone on this. Many of his colleagues are involved in the said unlawful act.

Many concerned Nigerians are worried that despite the clear provision of the constitution and even court judgements, the governors have continued to observe that section in breach.

Several court pronouncements have held that the use of caretaker committees was in conflict with section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution.

However, even some of the governors who used the conduct of local government elections as part of their campaign promises, reneged once they got elected into office.

This is not the first time efforts have been made to preserve the constitutional roles of the local government councils.

It could be recalled that former president Muhammadu Buhari had at a time signed an executive bill mandating the direct payment of statutory allocation to the state judiciary, legislature and the local government councils.

Till date, many state governors are hellbent on running the council areas with caretaker committees.

Evidence of corporate malfeasance is said to abound in the handling of LG funds by many governors, with the local government chairmen always crying in silence for fear of victimization.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, does not agree less.

Like many other Nigerians, it is worried over the level of financial sleaze being perpetrated with the local government system.

In a Freedom of Information, FOI, request signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation is urging the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local governments in the states and the FCT since May 1999.

SERAP also agreed that the governors pocket a larger chunk of the money allocated to the LGAs on a monthly basis.

It expressed sadness that “allegations of corruption and mismanagement of federal allocations meant for local governments have contributed to widespread poverty, underdevelopment and lack of access to public goods and services in several states.

“According to our information, the 36 states in Nigeria and the federal capital territory, Abuja, have collected over N40 trillion federal allocations meant for the 774 local governments areas in the country and FCT.

“SERAP notes that former president Muhammadu Buhari recently alleged that state governors routinely pocket or divert federal allocations meant for local governments areas in their states.

“According to Buhari, ‘If the money from the Federation Account to the State is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The chairman will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.’”

However, many Nigerians, including the Senate, feel the time has come for the federal government to take decisive action against the recalcitrant governors.

Some observers say the Houses of Assembly deserve more knocks as they aid and abet the illegality instead of chastising the governors.

Professor Frank Asogwa of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, has strong words for the governors.

The professor of law described the action of the state chief executives as an affront to the Constitution, stressing that it stifles democracy.

“It is not just unconstitutional but illegal in the sense that the Supreme Court has made a pronouncement on that issue and declared caretaker committees of local government areas illegal,” he said in an interview.

Asogwa added that, “If you do not have a democratically elected local government system, then you are in breach of Section 7, which says that a democratically elected system of local government must at all times be maintained.

“You cannot have democracy at the federal level, democracy at the state level and fail to also have democracy at the third tier of government, even though as an academic I don’t believe there is a third tier of government.

“There are just two tiers- federal and state governments, because the other one is an appendage of state, that is why the constitution said a democratically elected local government system must be assured by who- by the state government.

“That’s why the state governor appoints the chairman of the state electoral commission and this chairman in consultation with the governor, who is the chief executive, determines when, how and if local government elections will be held.

“So, it is not right actually because it stifles democracy at that level.

“Elections at the federal and state levels do not depend on the whims and caprices of who is the head of state, the president of Nigeria or who is the governor.

“There is an independent umpire we know as INEC that organises elections for both federal and state. So, why is SIECs not that independent to say after two years, depending on the state, we are going to conduct an election in the local government?”

The university don, who served as commissioner for local government during the administration of ex-governor Sullivan Chime in Enugu State, equally blamed the sad development on governors’ desire to divert funds meant for the local governments.

He said, “The other reason which is not always spelt out is that the governors who don’t hold elections find it convenient to divert local government funds.

“There has been so much talk about the autonomy of the local government, not just in terms of exercise of power, but autonomy in terms of budgetary provisions and allocations coming straight from the FAAC.

“But some governors opposed it; they don’t want it, because it is convenient for them that the money comes into a central purse and then they decide what goes to the local governments; for some, they allow the funds go to the local governments and determine how much they pay back to the state coffers and they call it joint account or whatever, which is unconstitutional.

“The constitutional thing is what I did when I was commissioner for local government in Enugu State. The law established the State Economic Planning Commission.

“All the local government chairmen are supposed to be members because the law is there; I was there as a member of that commission by virtue of my portfolio as local government commissioner; we had the commissioner for finance, the commissioner for works, we had commissioner for planning Enugu State and other commissioners who were relevant to the development of the local government system.

“At that level, we took decisions on projects affecting local governments; that was how the Nike-Ugwuogo-Opi-Ikem Road was built, because Nsukka, Isi-Uzo and Enugu East Local Government contributed 10 per cent of the fund for the building of that road and the state government contributed 70 per cent.

“I did a memo to the state executive council that time suggesting this ratio and it was approved.

“If any governor is sincere about local government funds, he should go through the Economic Planning Commission, where the local government chairmen are also members and introduce projects.

“So many governors are reluctant to remove their grip on the local government system in spite of what the constitution says.

“In different fora, I have asked this question to state representatives- how would you feel if the federal government strangles the state governments the way they are doing the local system? And they have no answer.”

He, however, said the Senate motion was not enough to end the illegal activities of the governors.

According to him, “the Senate should back it up with a law; the local government system is a creation of law so you cannot by resolution dictate what should happen to them. It will be illegal also to do so; two wrongs cannot make a right.

“If the National Assembly feels very strongly about what the governors are doing, let somebody propose a bill which should be passed at both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“It’s just like local government autonomy, let them have a strong law backing it up. When that happens, a local government can challenge a governor if he does anyhow, but they cannot do it now for fear of being removed.

“In my conclusion, I repeat that the practice of not holding local government elections is unconstitutional, it is illegal and an affront to democracy in this country.”

Also Airing his views, a former member of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Chinedu Nwamba stated that it was wrong for governors to remove elected chairmen and councillors merely because they are not from the same political party.

He equally said the conduct of local government elections was mandatory except in special circumstances.

While using Enugu as a case study, Nwamba said, “there is a court order, for other states, I don’t know what the problem is.

“But in Enugu, from the time of Sullivan Chime, there has always been elected local government chairmen, it only happened in a few cases during the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration when there was a little break and they had caretaker for a few months and after that, election was conducted.

“I’m sure the incumbent governor will also conduct local government elections.

“Coming to other states, I don’t know the reasons given to the Houses of Assembly to expressly approve caretaker committees; their own case might be different from that of Enugu.

“Another school of thought says the governors may want to be in control of the funds of the local governments and that is why they are using caretaker, because once there are elected chairmen and councillors, the councillors now approve the budget of the local government.

“The constitution said the state government through the House of Assembly should supervise the local governments but that should not amount to non-conduct of elections; they also have a joint account, which is JAAC; apart from that, I will say that the local government should fully be on their own, that is where the lacuna is.”

He also said the dissolution of elected chairmen by new governors was equally illegal.

“It is totally unconstitutional and the Houses of Assembly should not approve of it; if an elected local government chairman is in office and a governor comes in, maybe they are not from the same political party, and the governor dissolves them, it is not right.

“There are reasons for an elected chairman to be removed and there are procedures and measures. It is either through impeachment, resignation by himself or he got another appointment.

“So, it is not constitutional to remove an elected chairman or councillor just because the person is not in the same political party with the governor.”

On his part, a rights activist, Barr Olu Omotayo accused the various state Houses of Assembly of promoting illegality.

Omotayo, the President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, CRRAN, said the state lawmakers err in law when they approve caretaker committees for governors despite the clear provisions of the constitution and the Supreme Court judgements.

The lawyer was concerned that the state lawmakers who should sanction the governors for breaching Section 7 of the Constitution were the same ones approving the illegal caretaker committees.

He advocated for citizens’ awareness and action.

According to him, “some of these things, the citizens have concentrated so much attention on the federal unlike in advanced countries, where people focus more on the grassroots

“So, the mentality over the years, we used to focus on the federal government without asking questions, forgetting that development only comes from the grassroots.

“Democracy was brought, this federalism was brought so that from the grassroots it goes up, but we are turning it upside down, we believe it is from up to down.

“And the American model we are using, it is from down you go up; many people in America don’t even know who is their president but they know their councillor; if they have any complaint, they go to their councillor.

“Until we change that mentality and start asking questions, local governments will not function.

“It is a constitutional provision; postponing elections when there is a constitutional provision that there must be local government is a grave infraction on the constitution.

“Only that the citizens have not been living up to expectations in this democracy; the constitutional provision is mandatory, the democratically elected local governments must be there.

“When you postpone elections, who will be operating? The Supreme Court has ruled that caretaker committees they are appointing are unknown to law.

“You cannot continue illegality in a democracy and think that things will work well.”

On the role of the state lawmakers, Omotayo said, “whatever they are doing is illegal because if the constitution says there must be elected local government, if they make a law or approvals contradictory to the constitution, the position of the law is that the constitution must prevail.

“Whatever law they make is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the constitution. So, whatever they are making is unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Reinforcing this stand, the President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Ambali Akeem Olatunji, identified corruption as the primary impediment to the realisation of local government autonomy in the country.

Olatunji, who spoke during his visit to Taraba State attributed the resistance to change to those benefiting from corruption.

He emphasised that the persistent challenges in local government administration stem from certain political actors in states who engage in the pilfering, diversion, and theft of local government allocations.

He also identified a flaw in the 1999 Constitution, which he said placed the local government areas under the state Houses of Assembly.

He accused state legislatures of being coerced by various state governments to enact illegal laws.

Highlighting the constitutional guarantee of democratically elected leaders, Olatunji denounced the appointment of caretakers.

He said, “NULGE is now advocating for federal intervention in states that refuse to conduct local government elections.

“We are proposing the seizure of local government allocations by the federal government.”

He said salaries should be directly deposited into workers’ accounts using the National Identification Number, NIN.

Some of the states running the local government councils with elected chairmen include- Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta, Kaduna, Adamawa, Niger, Nasarawa, Lagos, Ogun, Yobe, Kebbi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Rivers, Oyo, Edo, Delta, Borno and Ekiti.

Below are some of the governors who seem unwilling to conduct council polls:

ANAMBRA

Anambra is one of the worst states in terms of non-conduct of local government elections.

No wonder the people of the state were delighted when the incumbent governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, while campaigning for the position in 2021, promised a speedy conduct of elections at the grassroots.

The last local government election in the state was held during the twilight of the Peter Obi administration in January 2014.

Many had blamed him for remembering to do so only when his administration was winding up, but at least he did.

For eight years, former governor, Chief Willie Obiano failed to conduct the election, heightening the quest for it.

During the last governorship election in the state, it was obvious that only one who supported the conduct of the election may get the people’s votes.

Prof Soludo cashed in on that. He promised that if elected, the local government election would be one of his priorities.

On March 17, Soludo will be two years in office. There has been constant prodding by opposition parties for the governor to hold election, but many believe that there is nothing on ground to show that Soludo is ready for it.

While there is no constituted electoral body, the lawmaker representing Awka South 1 constituency in the House of Assembly, Henry Mbachu, during the presentation of the 2024 budget, lamented the absence of budgetary allocation for the conduct of LG polls.

He said: “Going through the budget estimate presented, it is glaring that there are no intentions of conducting LGA elections next year (2024).

“On page 475, the budget for the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission for this current year was N89,120,000, while the projected estimate for the incoming year is N129,120,000.

“You find out that there’s no feasibility or readiness for local government elections for the incoming year. I worry so much because this tier of government has suffered so much because of a lack of local government elections.”

Meanwhile, a human rights activist, Mr Kenechukwu Kodili, lamented that Soludo was already disappointing the people by reneging on the conduct of local government elections in the state.

He said: “For close to two years of being the governor, all he (Soludo) does is renew the tenure of the caretaker local government chairmen every three months.

“That was not what he promised the people. He was himself elected into the governorship seat, he should also conduct elections to elect local government chairmen, not to keep renewing the appointment of those he appointed.”

KWARA

For the past four years, the Kwara State government has administered local government areas with caretaker committees.

It could be recalled that the democratically-elected council chairmen were sacked in 2019 by the All Progressives Congress-led government, triggering a legal dispute that terminated at the Supreme Court.

However, even though the ousted council chairmen got a favourable judgement, they were never reinstated by the state government.

The sacked chairmen were replaced with Transition Implementation Committees headed by chairmen in the 16 local councils of the state.

The ruling party in the state last year constituted a new state Independent Electoral Commission to conduct local government elections.

However, local government elections are yet to be conducted by the commission.

The chairman of the commission, Malam Muhammed Baba Okanla, travelled round the state to assess the condition of the commission’s offices in the LGs, with a declaration that they were not in good shape.

Reacting to the development, the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP through its spokesman, Olusegun Olushola Adewara, said, “our party is worried, just like all well-meaning Kwarans about the continued encroachment and usurpation of local government administration by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.

“Let me say this is the first time in Kwara history, if not in Nigeria, that a government will use TIC to run local government administration for more than four years uninterrupted, this is very sad and unimaginably wicked.

“The court has spoken in clear terms against him, the people have raised eyebrows, civil societies have raised concerns and even dragged him to court.

“The governor is appealing obvious cases which have been determined by the Supreme Court over and over, what does that tell us?”

CROSS RIVER:

The tenure of the last democratically elected council chairmen in Cross River State ended in June, 2023.

The election was conducted during the tenure of former governor Ben Ayade.

However, since Gov. Bassey Otu took over power, he has been running the councils with caretaker chairmen.

Angered about the development, the state chairman of the Labour Party, Ogar Osim has insisted that the council polls should not be delayed any further.

He said they were ready to field candidates in all the 18 councils.

“Don’t delay conduct of the LG polls anymore as justice delayed is justice denied.

“The need for Council elections cannot be overemphasised. We urge the government of the day to facilitate the exercise.

“It is even in the government’s best interests to conduct the election now so that much burden of governance at the grassroot can be shouldered by the council administrations,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the inclusion of local government council election in the 2024 appropriate bill passed into law by the state House of Assembly, there are indications that the exercise could be conducted any time soon by the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission, CROSIEC.

AKWA IBOM

In Akwa Ibom State, Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Otuekong Iniobong John has described as an aberration the constitution and use of transition committees in running the affairs of local government councils in the state.

It could be recalled that governor Umo Eno following the expiration of the tenure of elected local government officials in the State on December 6, 2023, inaugurated transition committees across the 31 councils to man the government activities at the local level.

He also mandated the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) to work towards regular elections at the end of the transition period.

He gave the commission a-six-month time frame.

The APC spokesperson said the idea of instituting a transition committee to run the affairs of local government councils was tantamount to a breach of the constitution.

According to him, “by virtue of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, there shall be elected local government council to run the affairs of local government administration nationwide, so there was no provision for unelected local government officials anywhere and to that extent, one can safely conclude that the contraption called local government transition committee is strange to the constitution.

“Anything that is in conflict with the provisions of the constitution is null and void, so it is an aberration, a contraption and unknown to the constitution.

“Our party being a believer in due process and in the constitution, we don’t believe in that process.”

Asked about the party’s preparedness to grab a few local government areas, he said, “well, you know that nationwide, local government administration is known to be exclusive business of the party in power because the state electoral commission is created to serve the interest of the party.

“It’s always in very rare cases that you will see an opposition party defeating the party in power during local government elections conducted by the electoral commission set up to serve the interest of the party in power.”

ABIA

In Abia State, the 17 local government areas are presently manned by Transition Committee Chairmen and deputies, inaugurated in November, 2023 by Governor Alex Otti.

The TC chairmen, who are known in the state as ‘Mayors’, were appointed by the governor to be in charge of their councils pending when elections would be held to elect council executives.

No date or timeline has been fixed by the state government about when elections would be conducted.

Local government polls were last held in December 2020 during the second term of Okezie Ikpeazu and their tenure ended in December 2022.

Since then, appointed officials have been in charge of the councils.

It would be recalled that Ikpeazu’s plans to conduct another local government election in April 2023, a few weeks to his exit, hit the rock as two court cases from Bende and Arochukwu High Courts, presided over by Justice C.U. Okoroafor and Justice Benson Anya, respectively, stopped Ikpeazu and Abia State Independent Electoral Commission, ABSIEC, from conducting the LGA polls.

Aspirants who paid for non-refundable forms for the April 2023 LGA polls lost their money.

After the swearing-in of Governor Alex Otti, many political watchers expected the governor to conduct local government elections, according to his pre-campaign promises.

This expectation was derived from the background that Otti before he became governor, criticised the running of Abia LGAs with appointed officials, saying that such a system did not allow the appointees financial and administrative freedom.

The Vice Chairman/Acting Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abraham Amah said that former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu conducted polls twice in the LGAs and that he was ready for the third one before he was stopped by a court case allegedly supported by Otti.

Amah said it was surprising to still see the governor running the councils with the same TC system despite the fact that he condemned it in his campaigns.

“Since he has finally been confirmed as the governor of Abia State following the Supreme Court judgement, the Abia PDP calls on Alex Otti to forthwith conduct elections into the local government offices to show that his intentions in criticising the PDP and the government of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu were genuine and altruistic,” he added.

Amah pointed out that organising local government elections would save the councils from any possible withholding of their JAAC funds.

KOGI

Opposition political parties, including some activists in Kogi State, are angry over the appointment of caretaker committees across the 21 Local Government Areas of the State.

The last time Kogi State government conducted local government election was on 13th December, 2020.

The tenure of the elected chairmen came to an end on 14th December, 2023, after which the immediate past governor, Yahaya Bello appointed caretaker chairmen to oversee the affairs of the local government.

The appointment of the caretaker chairmen did not go down well with many people in the state, especially activists and opposition parties who described the move as unconstitutional.

In a chat recently, the Executive Director, Conscience For Human Right and Conflict Resolutions, CHRCR, Comrade Idris Miliki noted that the non-conduct of local government elections was condemnable and a form of corruption.

“The Caretaker Chairmen put in place by the outgoing governor and his government is illegal based on the provision of section seven sub section one of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“The way forward is for the incoming governor to put up a supplementary budget and conduct local government elections in the next six months,” he stated.

Both the Labour Party, LP, and the Executive Director, Initiative for Grassroot Advancement, (INGRA) Nigeria Hamza Aliyu, also said it was sad that the then Alhaji Yahaya Bello-led administration decided to revert to the unconstitutional governance configuration at the Local Government level.

“We expected that since the December 2020 elections were successful, there was a good possibility that elections have come to stay at that level in Kogi State.

“This action is condemnable and unacceptable. It denies Kogites at the Local Government level the opportunity to exercise their rights to participate in who governs them.

“It is a shame that the governor, who is a beneficiary of elections by the Federal Government, has now turned around to deny citizens their fundamental right to participate,” Aliyu said.

On its part, the Labour Party accused the APC of diminishing the acceptable standard of democracy.

The Kogi State Publicity Secretary of the party, Idakwo Emmanuel said, “the ruling party APC continues to diminish the acceptable standard of democracy in our country as we are far from allowing separation of power.

“The executive is said to have the Federal government, State government and Local government, respectively.

“It is therefore sabotage of the electoral process for the state governor to appoint caretakers as chairmen across the 21 Local government areas in Kogi state.

All efforts to speak with the Chairman, Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission (KOSIEC), Mr Mammam Eri proved abortive as of the time of filing this report.

He failed to answer calls or respond to text messages sent to his phone.

OSUN

The local government chairmen in Osun State are not elected but nominated by Governor Ademola Adeleke.

They were sworn-in after screening by the Osun State House of Assembly.

The last local government election in Osun was conducted on Saturday, October 15, 2022. The poll was fraught with alleged irregularities as it was only the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, that participated.

In 2023, the Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo declared the election as null and void.

With the appointment of Hashim Abioye as the Chairman of OSIEC, it seems a new election may be held any time soon.

However, the chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Tosin Odeyemi, who is also the Secretary of the Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, in Osun State, while speaking to DAILY POST, kicked against the appointment of the OSIEC Chairman, Hashim Abioye.

Odeyemi stated that “Abioye is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party.

“He was once an aspirant under the Osun PDP. He was a former Special Adviser on Legal Matters to Governor Ademola Adeleke.

“Abioye is flouting procedures by not calling a meeting of political parties who are the major stakeholders in any election like it is being done by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.”

PLATEAU

Plateau State is facing the same constitutional breach as Transition Implementation Committee chairmen were set up in June 2023 to run the affairs of the 17 LGAs.

The then ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in October 2021, won all the chairmanship and councillorship seats in the 17 local government areas of the State.

The umpire, Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission, PLASIEC, did not allow the then main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to participate in the election, citing that the party had no structure in the State.

Upon assumption of office, the elected chairmen were removed from office.

The then Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor, Gyang Bere in a statement said, “The Executive Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang receives a correspondent from the Plateau State House of Assembly vide letter Ref No S/PLHA/ADM/124/VOL.VI/XXX dated 1st June, 2023 recommending the suspension of the 17 Local Government Areas chairmen.

“The recommendation for the suspension was based on their inability to make available records of their income and expenditure to the house.

“In the light of the foregoing, His Excellency hereby approved with immediate effect the suspension of the 17 Local Government Areas structures to pave way for the investigation being carried out by the House.”

There is no sign of fresh council polls in the state.

IMO

The non-conduct of local government elections in Imo State for years has been generating discordant tunes among stakeholders in the state, with some threatening to explore every necessary legal means to stop the Federal Ministry of Finance from releasing local government allocations to Imo State.

Residents and the opposition party have knocked the governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma for not conducting local government elections before serving out his first tenure of four years.

A University lecturer, Prof Nelson Nwachukwu, while reacting, regretted that the last time election was conducted at the third tier of government on the 25th day of August 2018, during the administration of ex-governor Rochas Okorocha.

He added that governance was suffering at the grassroots due to the non-elected officials.

A civil servant, Obiageli Igbudu said as a result, for over six years, the 27 local government areas in the state were being run by caretaker committee chairmen appointed by the governor.

In the same vain, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) also told Senator Uzodimma-led Imo State Government that the use of a Transition Committee, Care-Taker Committee, or Sole Administrators to run the Local Government Council was illegal as it violated Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.

The opposition party warned that if the government fails to conduct the Local Government Council Elections before the end of June 2024, the ADC will explore every necessary legal and political action within its reach to stop the Federal Ministry of Finance from releasing local government allocations to Imo State.

It stated this in a statement signed by the National Vice Chairman, South East, Chilos Godsent.

Only recently, Uzodimma dissolved his cabinet and removed the Sole Administrators of the 27 Local Government Areas in the State with immediate effect.

The governor directed the former administrators to immediately hand over the affairs of the Councils to the various Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS) in their areas.

Recall also that the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission, ISIEC, through its Chairman, Mrs. Ugochi Onyeka had earlier postponed the Local Government elections slated to be held on March 25, 2022, due to security challenges in the State.

She said then that the commission cannot hold elections in 10 out of the 27 local government areas in the State due to security challenges in those council areas.

ONDO

The 18 local government councils in Ondo State are being run by caretaker committees who were appointed by the late governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in August 2023.

It is the same with the newly created 33 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).

However, the committees were recently dissolved by Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa following a court case challenging their inauguration.

The Heads of Local Government Administration have been put in the saddle.

Before Akeredolu’s demise, there was a plan by the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission, ODIEC, to conduct elections across the 18 council areas.

ODIEC had earlier fixed February 2024 for the polls following the expiration of the tenure of the chairmen in August 2023.

The main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, says it is eager to participate in the council polls, citing what it called inefficiencies in the 18 local government areas of the state.

BAYELSA

Bayelsa State, created on the 1st October, 1996, has eight Local Government areas, which are as follows: Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Ogbia, Nembe, Brass, Ekeremor, Sagbama Local Government Areas.

The last time an election was held to fill the position of chairmen and councillors of the various council areas was in 2019 by the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Seriake Dickson.

Meanwhile, the current governor of the state, Senator Douye Diri, recently emphasised the importance of conducting a credible local government election that would serve as a benchmark for Nigeria.

He administered the oath of office to the chairman and members of the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission, BYSIEC, last year but no date has been announced for an election.

According to a social commentator and public affair analyst, David West, “It is not acceptable to still be running a caretaker system of local government administration in Bayelsa State.

“It’s an aberration to the Nigerian constitution, especially Section 7, subsection 1, which states that we should have elected local government administration as the third tier of government.

“Government after government comes but rather than conduct elections, they set up caretakers to run the affairs of the council, and when they come in, they don’t give proper account.

“We find it difficult to hold them responsible because they were not democratically elected for us to ask details of how allocations were expended.”

He added that, “there are a series of judgments from the Supreme Court to that effect.

“I urge the current governor of the state to do well in conducting an election after months of constituting and inaugurating the state electoral body, even though the process was against the law, as he appointed persons who are members of a political party, whereas the law said only those who are not partisan should head the commission.”

YOBE

The tenure of the 17 local government council chairmen in Yobe State expired in November last year.

However, prior to the expiration, Governor Mai Mala Buni requested a six-month extension of their tenure and this was approved by the House of Assembly.

On 5th December, 2023, the 6 months extension began when they were sworn in by Governor Mai Mala Buni as chairmen, Caretaker Management Committees of the 17 local government councils.

The local government election was earlier scheduled to hold on the 25th November, 2023, but was postponed.

The Yobe State Independent Electoral Commission, (YBSIEC) has now fixed 25th May, 2024, for the conduct of the local government election.

BENUE

The Senate’s motion was sequel to the development in Benue State where Governor Gov Hyacinth Alia’s administration sacked all the democratically elected local government chairmen and replaced them with caretaker committees.

Elected local government chairmen in the state were suspended from office following a recommendation by the Benue State House of Assembly.

The House of Assembly had set up a committee to investigate the council chairmen following a correspondence from Governor Alia to the House dated June 14, 2023.

The chairmen were found culpable of outright disregard for procedure and mismanagement of public funds over the period under review by the Assembly and were suspended from office.

They were directed to handover to the Directors General, Services and Administration, DGSAs, and proceed on suspension pending the investigation into their books of account and other related matters.

The House of Assembly directed the governor to set up caretaker committees in the councils in line with the Benue Local Government Laws.

And without delay, the governor acceded to the recommendation of the House and appointed interim caretaker committees to run the affairs of the councils in the state.

The sacked chairmen approached the court challenging their removal from office and obtained a judgement from the National Industrial court nullifying the governor’s action.

However, they were yet to be reinstated, with some of them facing what has been described as political persecution.

BAUCHI

After the tenure of elected local government chairmen expired, the people of Bauchi State had looked forward to another round of elections.

However, Governor Bala Mohammed opted for caretaker committees.

The governor had also assured last July that a local government council election would take place within six months but that has not happened.

He gave the assurance in July 2023 during a meeting with former councillors who served in the state.

Mohammed had previously conducted the first local government elections in 2020 after a 13-year gap.

However, following the expiration of the elected council chairmen’s tenure, Caretaker Committee Chairmen were sworn in on August 2, 2023, and have been overseeing affairs since then.

SOKOTO

Sokoto State has also been notorious for non-conduct of local government elections. The immediate past governor of the state, Aminu Tambuwal operated with caretaker chairmen until April 2021 when council polls were held in the state.

However, a few weeks to the end of his administration, he switched back to caretaker chairmen.

He announced the appointment of caretaker committees for the 23 local government areas.

But a day after he assumed office, the current governor, Ahmad Aliyu sacked the caretaker chairmen appointed by Tambuwal.

“All Local Government Sole Administrator/Caretaker Committees recently appointed by the immediate past administration are hereby dissolved. The sole administrators are to hand over to the Directors of Administration of their Local Governments with immediate effect,” Aliyu announced through his Press Secretary, Abubakar Bawa.

Governor Aliyu has, however, toed the same line with his predecessor as he announced in September 2023, the appointment of sole administrators for the 23 LGs in the state.He was silent on when local government elections will be conducted in the state.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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