APC, APGA Decry Failure To Conduct Council Election
OPPOSITION parties in Abia State have condemned the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for its failure to conduct election into the 17 Local Government Areas in the state, in the last seven years.
They termed such action as a deliberate ploy to deny the people the opportunity to elect their leaders at the local government level, as guaranteed by the constitution.
The last council poll held 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.
Specifically, two opposition parties-the All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), separately condemned PDP that had ruled the state for more than 14 years for not considering it necessary to put democratically elected local government officials.
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, corroborated that it is undemocratic to run local government system without elected officials. He 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 infrastructural decay. APGA has always made the need for local government election its top priority.”
A Lawyer, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, who was an elected council chairman and a former commissioner at different times, described it as an aberration and disregard to the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
His words “this practice is disturbing. It is an aberration that a lawfully constituted authority will decide on their own to be unlawful in their actions. The issue of local government is not unknown in the Constitution that provided that there should be a democratically elected LG system. But surprisingly, state governors and the National Assembly refused to do the needful.
“There is also a section of the Constitution that is creating room for this aberration. Section 162(6) talked about the State/LG Joint Account and because of this, the monies due to the local government should be paid into this Joint Account. And when this is done, it now reduces the right/freedom of the transition committees to run their councils.
“The Sub-section six provides that each state should maintain a Special Account called State/LG Joint Account into which shall be paid all allocations to LGAs from the Federation Account. This is an aberration as the Drafters of this Constitution did not really appreciate the import and purport of section Seven, which gives the state government the leeway to begin to control the local governments.”
In his defence, the state PDP Chairman, Senator Emma Nwaka remarked that the scenario is not peculiar to Abia State. “Abia is not the only defaulting state. The conduct of local government election is capital intensive and Abia will conduct the election one day when it is financially equipped.
The Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) retired Justice Igbozuruike Akomas, who assumed duty in October 2011 and whose ABSIEC has not conducted any council election, said his commission was always poised to conduct the election, adding however, that many states were yet to conduct their elections also.
He said, “We are ready for the election, we have updated wards creation, awaiting the date the election will be scheduled with the consent of the governor. No election can be held without the consent of the governor. The election is capital intensive, hence ABSIEC funding should be made a first line charge to make it truly independent.
The Guardian learnt from a member of the State House of Assembly that there have been no budgetary provisions for the conduct of the elections since 2007.
At a time when calls for the council election became common, the then Chairman of ABSIEC Professor Stephen Emejuaiwe, perhaps to cool rising tempers, attributed the delay to the prevailing insecurity in the state occasioned by the prevailing Kidnapping saga.