Posted by News Express | 13 March 2020 | 1,166 times
Non-conduct of Local government elections have remained a contentious issue in the politics of Anambra State and it dates back to the administration of former Governor Chris Ngige (2003-2006).
This issue, no doubt, brought to the fore then, the faceoff between a faction of the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and those loyal to the then governor (Ngige).
It indeed got messier when an army of political thugs unleashed mayhem on the state, which led to the burning of some public buildings as well as sensitive and nonsensitive materials belonging to the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC) few weeks to the conduct of the state’s council election.
Even the administration of Mr. Peter Obi could not conduct local government elections until the twilight of his eight-year administration, when he finally conducted the exercise.
Three years after, the elected council chairman and councilors served out their tenure and ever since the present administration led by Governor Willie Obiano has continued to use Transition Committee members to manage the affairs of the twenty one local government areas of the state.
It is against this backdrop that all political parties in Anambra State under the aegis of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) led by Comrade Isaac Onuka, recently stormed the state House of Assembly to compel the speaker and other principal officers not to approve the list of Transition Committee chairmen and councilors sent to House for approval for the council areas.
The speaker, Hon. Uchenna Okafor and his colleagues, however, did not accept the demands of IPAC hence endorsing the list of the caretaker committee members for the council areas.
Already the state government is in court to explain that all the political parties in Anambra have agreed to adopt Transition Committees instead of elected chairmen and councilors.
But in a chat with reporters in Awka, the Director, Media and Publicity of IPAC, Sir Peter Okala, contended that there was never a time the body agreed on the use of nonelected chairmen and councilors for the 21 local government areas.
Okala, who spoke on behalf of the chairman of IPAC and its members, refuted the claim, saying they were never part of it.
His words: “It is on record that our council had made several representations to the Obiano’s administration, the Attorney General of the state and the Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, calling for the constitution of the state electoral body to pave the way for the conduct of local government elections in Anambra State.
“The speaker was also been warned in one of our letters not to go ahead to confirm the illegalities at the local government level by extending the tenures of the so-called caretaker committees, which he ignored. This is because it has become a notorious fact that each council caretaker chairman parted with N2 million to have the House of Assembly renew their tenure.
“The council has therefore set up a legal team that will storm the Federal High Court at Abuja in order to put the records straight and correct the wrong impression and is presently writing all the relevant agencies in Nigeria to forthwith withhold local government funds accruable to Anambra State, while mandating the Accountant General and other agencies in the state to account for the billions of naira so far received from the federation account.
“Other decisive steps taken by our great council is to organize a stakeholders meeting comprising the clergy, traditional rulers, market leaders, civil society organizations and the mass media to enlighten them on this matter of urgency and have them become part of the campaign to stop the Obiano-led administration from going on with these nefarious activities.”
Also speaking on the issue, the state chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. Ikechukwu Nwanekwe, said IPAC is aware of the decay at the local government level, which was caused by non-conduct of council elections.
He said: “As I speak with you, the works, environment, health and education departments of the local government areas have been dormant and every month the workers are paid salaries without doing any job.
“Our council is aware of reservations within the ranks of majority of patriotic members of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who are no longer proud of Obiano’s style as a governor living in isolation of the sensibilities of his people. These democrats who are members of APGA are no longer willing to go to Anambrarians to ask for support for the party, which has become their bane.
“The council has noted with dismay that the backyard business is consummated between Obiano and some moneybags who supply/nominate candidates as transition chairmen to be their eye/interest in the local government funds with the sharing formula, which is the bane of development in the grass roots.
“We have also vowed that never again shall any aspirant be allowed to operate without first declaring his or her stand on the issues raised concerning the workforce, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) points taken over from local governments and other critical areas, which hampers development and accountability at the grassroots.
“Our great council is shocked that the Obiano administration supports the Independent National Electoral Commission’s move to end the career of registered political parties. While INEC shows desperation and has continue ignore the rule of law in deregistering political parties, Obiano’s administration have made available, huge sums of money, running into hundreds of millions of naira in order to ensure that there is no level playing ground that will enable registered political parties win elective positions both at the council and ward levels.”
But, when contacted, the Special Adviser to Governor Obiano on Political Matters, Barr. Ifeatu Obiokoye, maintained that the allegations leveled against the state government by IPAC were unfounded.
His words: “Currently we have pending matters in the court, concerning the conduct of local government elections and it would be contemptuous of the court should one go ahead to carry out the exercise.
“It has always been the desire of the state government to conduct local government elections because it is democratic in line with the constitution of Nigeria. But, for somebody to claim that the transition committees are illegal is to say the least highly unfortunate and uniformed. We have the necessary legal backing by law to set up Transition Committees and that is exactly what we followed.”
Obiokoye further noted that governance at the local government level is not in limbo, adding that when one tours the respective council areas, development in all sectors have been receiving great attention.
“The allegation that some people are being paid to support the Transition Committee is the machinations of fifth columnists whose stock in trade is to peddle rumours and unfounded stories against the state government,” he said.
The governor’s aide contended that IPAC should come with proofs of local government funds being misappropriated under the transition committees.
He explained: “There is a Joint Account Committee (JAC) in Anambra State which both the state government and local government areas are members and the committee oversees the affairs and it is only that body that can come up with the state of affairs of local government funds.
“Since they said that they will apply the legal option, we as a government are respecter of the courts and the rule of law and we must respect the laws of the land. I urge Anambra people and the general public to discountenance those spurious allegations because the Anambra State government would continue to bring governance to the grassroots via the local government system.” (New Telegraph)
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