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Stakeholders, parties reject election date

By Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos) and Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia)   |   16 October 2016   |   1:20 am

Instead of jubilation, the December 17, 2016 date announced for the conduct of Abia State Local Government election, across the 17 council areas, has been condemned as ill timed and too sudden.

Though, it came as good news to opposition parties, who have been yearning for the election for many years, but they claimed the date and that of possible run-off shouldn’t have been fixed during the festive period.

Before the announcement, the parties had described the delay in conduct of council poll as a deliberate ploy to deny the people opportunity to elect their leaders at the local government level, as guaranteed by the constitution.

The last council poll took place in January 2008 and since the officials served out their term in 2010, the councils are being run by Transition Committees, comprising chairmen and councilors, who are nominated by the governor for six months, subject to renewal in accordance with the state law, till date.

Since the Chairman of the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC), Retired Justice Igbozurike Akomas, announced the date, few weeks ago, stakeholders, especially aspirants have been calling for extension of the date.

Akomas had disclosed while making the announcement that while the main poll will hold on Saturday, December 17 and the results announced the next day, a possible run-off would follow on December 24, which is Christmas Eve.

The aggrieved stakeholders hinge their grouse on two reasons; the fee to be paid and the date picked for the run-off election, in case the election is inconclusive.

According to Akomas, chairmanship candidates will pay the sum of N500, 000 each, while councillorship candidates will pay N200, 000, each, with additional N15, 000, as Administrative Fee.

The aspirants who spoke with The Guardian said they would need more time to raise the prescribed fees, because the date was hurriedly announced without the input of stakeholders.

Specifically, two opposition parties-the All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who separately condemned the delay, also frowned at the choice of date.

Chairman of APC, Donatus Nwankpa, described the scenario as one of the major anomalies drawing the state backwards, as well as, constraining its democratic development.

His APGA counterpart, Augustine Ehiemere, said: “People at the rural areas are not getting the benefits of third tier of government, because the money meant for the council is carted away by the PDP government. There is massive infrastructure decay. APGA has always made the need for local government election its top priority.”

Though the commission’s chairman, is yet to react to the complaints raised on the date, he described the fee as moderate, compared to what obtained in other states, adding that the said fees would enable the commission provide the necessary logistics for the election.

While pledging to conduct free, fair and transparent poll, whose results would be acceptable to all, he said the candidates would be screened and cleared by security agencies and the state Board of Inland Revenue Service.

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