A RIGHTS group, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), has asked governors of the South-East to put machinery in motion for the conduct of elections in their local councils for survival of the fledgling democracy and promotion of rule of law.
In a statement in Enugu yesterday, the group, which lamented what it described as “intentional attempt by governors to under- develop the zone by their refusal to conduct council election”, threatened to drag them to court to make them comply with Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The human rights group in the statement signed by its National
President, Olu Omotayo, a lawyer, said it was disheartening that out of the five states in the zone, only one (Anambra State) currently has elected executives at its councils.
The group stated: “It should be noted that even the said Anambra State only has democratically-elected local councils after non-compliance with this constitutional provision for 13 years. The former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, throughout his eight-year tenure as Anambra State governor did not deem it fit to comply with this constitutional provision by conducting elections into the state local councils.
Abia State last election into the local councils was in 2008, over eight years ago and since the officials served out their term in 2010, the councils are being run by transition committees, comprising chairmen and councillors who are nominated by the governor for six months, subject to renewal in accordance with the state law.
In Ebonyi State, the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, on December 2, 2014, nullified local council elections conducted in Ebonyi on October 5, 2013 by the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC). The Presiding Judge of the Federal High Court, Abakaliki, Justice Maureen Oyetenu, ruled that the open ballot system used in the conduct of the local council elections was inconsistent with the Electoral Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) and the amendment of the Local Government Law by the Ebonyi State House of Assembly approving the use of open ballot system for the election was unconstitutional.
Since that December 2014, Ebonyi State has been without a democratically-elected local councils.
“In Imo State, since the inception of the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2011, no local council election was conducted, instead, he sacked the democratically-elected local councils who were eight months into their tenure. Enugu, which hitherto has been complying with the constitutional provision, has recently departed therefrom; and decided to follow the pervading illegality in the sister-states. The government of Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi recently announced that it wasn’t prepared to conduct elections into the local councils which is suppose to take place this January 2016, but instead will appoint caretaker committees to be handpicked by the governor.”
Insisting that the use of caretaker committees to run council affairs does not only promote corruption, the group said that evidence from the Federal Account Allocation committee recently released indicated that South-East zone received about N1.96 trillion from January 2007 to July 2014 and wondered how the money was spent.
CRRAN added: “The illegality and the attack on the Constitution and the Rule of Law in the South-East states have consistently kept the local citizens and the masses in the cocoon of abject poverty and denied the people the dividend of democracy at the councils.”
It said that the fundamental effect of the constitutional breach was that it encourages massive corruption at the local councils by the caretaker committees since there was no transparency and accountability in the running of affairs of the local councils and called on the affected states to act accordingly.