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ENUGU: No Sign Of Council Election Anywhere




DISCORDANT tunes have continued to trail the inability of the Enugu State government to commence the process of election at the council level, less than two months to the expiration of tenure of its current elected executives.

The incumbent council executives were sworn into office on January 5, 2014 for a two-year tenure that will elapse January next year. Under the immediate past administration of Sullivan Chime, elections were held in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 to elect new executives at the councils.

For now, however, there is nothing on ground to indicate that government or the State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) will conduct election at that level this year or in the near future. Investigations by The Guardian revealed that funds and the ongoing local government verification exercise embarked upon by the state government for all local governments in the state may be responsible for government’s inability to venture into the polls.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, two months ago, inaugurated an 11-man audit/verification committee headed by Speaker of the State House, Edward Ubosi to look into the activities of the councils and report back to it. Sources said the committee arose following perceived maladministration, looting of resources and under development that have become the lot of many communities in the state. It learnt that despite the alleged non-interference in the funds of the councils by the previous administration, nothing tangible could justify resources they receive; coupled with certain other claims about over bloated workforce being made by them.

The alleged non-performance of the councils was said to have assumed a more worrisome dimension in the past two years with many of them owing
salaries of up to five months. Ugwuanyi, who was apparently perturbed by the development from the councils, had within his first week in office undertaken unscheduled tour of some of the council headquarters in the state.

Enamored by the outcome of the visits, he decided to set up the Ubosi led committee, which is on the verge of rounding off her assignment to the councils. A source told The Guardian that the recommendation of the committee would guide the state government’s next line of action, adding that in the meantime, caretaker committees will run the councils when the tenure of the serving executives expires in January.

Although the governor is yet to make an official pronouncement on whether an election will hold or not, pundits insist that such exercise was no longer possible in view of the 90 days time frame allowed by law. But miffed by the development, five political parties, under the aegis of Forum of Progressive Political Parties (FPPP) in the state, have called on ENSIEC to immediately roll out a full-scale programme for the elections or risk litigation.

The position of the parties is contained in a statement made available
to reporters in Enugu, signed by their state chairmen, John Nwobodo (SDP), Manifest Nnamani (PPN), Chigozie Okonkwo (UPN), Christopher Ogbu (DPC) and Ekene Arukwe (ACPN).

Entitled, Abdication Of Constitutional Duty To Conduct Local Government Election In Enugu State and addressed to ENSIEC chairman in the state, they expressed worry that no date has been signified for the conduct of the 2015 council election.

They wrote: “We don’t want to subscribe to the view that your commission is doing nothing because the state government as speculated is planning to constitute caretaker committees for the 17 local governments when the tenure of the incumbent chairmen expires on January 4, 2016. We want to appeal to your commission not to join in the conspiracy or to be an accessory to any plot to truncate the local government system in Enugu State, or deny the people of the state the opportunity to elect their leaders in a periodic election, which is the hallmark of any representative democracy.”

Apparently emboldened by the recent judgment of a Lagos High Court,
which declared as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’, the running of local governments with Caretaker Committee, they argued that nothing in law supports the present action of the commission.

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