Lagos council poll: Opposition denounces LASIEC guidelines
Though the Lagos State government has fixed Saturday, July 22, 2017 for the conduct of Local Government election, yet the dusts raised by opposition parties are yet to abate.
The last election took place on October 21, 2011 with expiry date of October 2014. It was expected that duly elected officials should have taken over the affairs of the councils, within the shortest time, but against expectations, interim executive secretaries and sole administrators have been managing the affairs of the councils till now.
The excuse of government and the State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) then, was non availability of an updated voter register from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the need for delineation of more polling units, which they claimed must be properly done before council elections.
At the swearing-in of the transition committees in January 2015, former Governor Babatunde Fashola said; “the officers were inaugurated to serve in transitional capacity till the end of March, hoping that by then all will have been sorted out with the voter register, and then we go to the elections to elect officers into all levels in the local government structure.”
But after the 2015 general elections, there was no pointer to that direction, despite the fact that the register had been updated, and existing polling units were used by INEC for the successful conduct of the election in the state. Hopes for council election further deemed when the body language of the incumbent Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode never showed he was ready to conduct any election.
The delay caused anxiety among members of opposition parties, and even within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, who lashed out at the governor, describing the delay as a gimmick to ‘kill time’.
At a time, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vowed to mobilise other political parties, non-governmental organisations and civil societies to stage a serious mass rally to demand for the conduct of poll.
The National Conscience Party (NCP) filed a suit against the state and LASIEC, demanding for council election to hold within 30 days, and the dismantling of the caretaker committees in the 57 councils. The case, instituted by the party in January 2014, was also used to request for an order of mandamus to direct the electoral umpire to conduct election into the councils. The state appealed and upturned the judgment.
Labour Party (LP) too, through its Chairman, Pastor Abiodun Popoola, also expressed its displeasure, describing the delay as an illegality. The party eventually took the state to court over the issue.
At a stakeholders’ forum organised by the electoral umpire in April 2016, the commission emphasised that the poll will be conducted later in the year. The composition of the LASIEC months after, gave hope that soon the people would have the chance of electing people of their choice at the grassroots.
But this had to wait for another one year, until Friday, April 7, 2017, when LASIEC released notice of election, scheduling the poll to hold on July 22.
According to the notice, party primaries for the chairmanship, vice chairmanship and councillorship seats are to commence on Monday, April 17, to Thursday, May 25.
In line with the guidelines, as presented by the Commission’s chairman, Hon. Justice Ayotunde Phillips, LASIEC 001, LASIEC 002 and LASIEC 008 are expected to be obtained by political parties for their candidates between Tuesday, April 18 and Friday, May 26.
“According to the guidelines, political parties are expected to pay N100, 000.00 on behalf of each chairmanship candidate N75, 000.00 for each vice-chairmanship candidate and N50, 000.00 for each councillorship candidate, and the money is expected to be paid into any commercial bank in favour of Lagos State Government with Revenue Code: 4130003 and Agency Code: 4080002, while the teller and electronic receipt collected from the bank are to be presented to the commission for collection of the stipulated forms.”
Phillips announced that the commission will not use the card reader machine, pointing out that the law setting up the commission had no provision for such. She, however, promised that the commission would have to amend its law after the election to accommodate the use of electronic machines in future elections.
But this has not gone down well with some of the opposition parties. The Labour Party, expressed unequivocally, its reservation concerning the LASIEC guidelines, with particular reference to three fundamental issues “that might disrupt and lead to shortcomings in the forthcoming election.”
The three issues are: non-usage of card readers; delay in publishing delineated constituencies in the 20 constitutionally approved local governments; and arbitrary imposition of levies.
The party chairman, Popoola, who spoke to The Guardian said the party categorically say no to non-use of card readers, as it is on record that the ruling party in Lagos was highly vocal and insistence on the use of card readers during the 2015 general elections. “The party even went as far as threatening to disrupt the polls if the machines were not deployed. We therefore believe that what is good for the goose should be used for the gander.
“We believe that the delay in publishing constituency delineation, is a repugnant conspiracy of keeping the electorate, candidates and participating political parties, speculative, pursuant to fraudulent agenda to confuse all stakeholders with the sole intention of manipulating the outcome of the election. We therefore advise the immediate release of constituency delineations and proper information on voters’ rights.”
Popoola said the prohibitive levy on potential candidates is absolutely unacceptable, strange and alien to the state’s political heritage and history. “We believe it is a calculated and deliberate policy that seeks to exclude indigent, well-liked, and men of good political intention from contributing to changing the already decadent administrative anomaly at the local level of governance. This policy is, to say the least, demonic, limiting in participation and outrightly giving the right of participation at the forthcoming local council election to the wealthy, notwithstanding the source of their wealth and their political integrity.”
While the ruling party and LASIEC are yet to respond to these allegations, it is likely that more court cases will be instituted between now and election day.