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Anxiety in Ogun over delayed council poll

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• Election Long Overdue — PDP
• NNPP Threatens Legal Action, Issues 21-day Ultimatum To Constitute OGSIEC
• Election To Hold Soon, Says Somorin

One year after the exit of democratically elected Local Council officials in Ogun State, the delay in the conduct of the council poll is gradually giving rise to doubt and anxiety, as transition committees continue to manage the affairs of the councils.

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The high tempo of campaign and publicity by aspiring chairmen, councillors and political parties, noticed between September 2019 and February this year, has gone down drastically, as indications have shown that the poll might not come anytime soon.
  
The last election that ushered in the council officials, whose tenure of three years expired on October 10, 2019 was held on October 8, 2016. It was expected that on assumption of office, the current administration should have immediately commenced the process that would lead to putting in place duly elected officials to oversee the councils. However, Governor Dapo Abiodun installed caretakers.
  
The transition committee members, who were sworn-in on January 17, 2020 on three-month tenure, have had their tenure extended for the third consecutive time. Their tenure was first extended in April and July, with the latest approval granted by the House of Assembly last week Thursday.
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This development has drawn the ire of some aspirants within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), opposition parties and political analysts within the state and beyond.  According to them, the composition of transition committees at the third tier of government level is an aberration, by virtue of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
  
The current development is a replay of what obtained during the second term of the immediate past Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who also used transition committees to manage the affairs of the councils for over a year before election was conducted.
  
The first council election conducted during his first term in office was held on July 21, 2012. Those elected then vacated office on July 23, 2015, after which caretaker committees held sway for over 14 months, till another election was held on October 8, 2016.
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The step then, did not only hamper smooth running of government due to paucity of fund, as funds were released mainly for salaries, it also affected development at the grassroots level.

The current administration has attributed the delay to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that locked-down the country for months. Sometime in July, the governor was also quoted saying the effect of the pandemic has not allowed the conduct of the local council poll.

The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Afolabi Afuape, sometime in September, during a radio programme in Abeokuta, confirmed that the council poll couldn’t hold this year. He blamed the delay on COVID-19 pandemic, saying it did not allow government to source the huge amount of money needed for the election.

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“The Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) is yet to be constituted by Governor Dapo Abiodun. After the constitution of OGSIEC, political parties would be given three months’ notice for the local council election and two months will be needed for preparations.”
   
The commissioner’s comment has given rise to different interpretations; one, is the continuous use of caretaker committees till duly elected officials are put in place. Two, that the election might not come soon, considering the laid down process of constituting the electoral body and preparation.
   
This drew the wrath of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who took a swipe at the governor. The party said the continuous extension of offices of “such illegal committees is a calculated attempt to further reduce the values of local council administration and subject it to whims and caprices of state governors.
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“…As a party, we have no doubt that the ruling government’s continuous disrespect for the provisions of the law is deliberately aimed at looting and diverting resources meant for developmental strides of the people at the grassroots.”
  
Political analysts claimed that the proposed 2021 date mentioned by the commissioner might not be visible, considering the fact that the governor’s body language from assumption of office has never aligned with the use of political elected council officials.
  
On Friday, May 31, 2019, two days after Abiodun assumed office, the House of Assembly led by former Speaker, Suraj Adekunbi through a resolution suspended all the councils and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) elected officials. But on October 3, 2019, just seven days to the expiration of their tenure, the suspended officials were reinstated.
  
For over four months their suspension lasted, Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA) in the councils were in charge of the respective councils. Investigations revealed that they were only able to pay salaries, as no developmental project was carried out during the period, a development that has actually impinged the growth of the councils.

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The main opposition party in the state, the PDP, which told The Guardian that the election is long overdue, noted that the local council administration is dead in the country.

Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Sunkanmi Oyejide, who lamented that local council administration is no longer what it is used to be, said before now, massive development was witnessed at the grassroots as a result of the autonomy given to the councils.
 
“The council election is long overdue. We understand clearly that there was pandemic at a point, but now that normalcy has returned we expect this administration to quickly conduct the poll so that the grassroots will start witnessing development. Not only conducting the election, the most important thing is to give them autonomy to allow them function independently; they don’t need to be waiting for directives from the state government.
 
“So, the governor and his men should swing into action and conduct a free and fair local council election, an election where OGSIEC will be allowed to do their job without interference from the government, we want an election, not selection, they should allow the will of the people to stand as witnessed in the last governorship election in Edo State, where people’s wish prevailed.”

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He regretted that the governors are now dictating what is going on at the council level, a development that has crippled development at the grassroots. “For me, we can’t have any meaningful development if the local councils are not functioning as they out to be.”
  
The State Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Comrade Ogini Olaposi Sunday, who carpeted the governor and his administration for the non-conduct of the poll, said the party is ready to challenge the governor in court, if he fails to constitute the OGSIEC with immediate effect.
  
He said:  “We are not satisfied with the way the governor is trying to be clever on the issue of the local council elections. We are giving him 21-days ultimatum from today to constitute OGSIEC. With what we have seen in Nigeria today, it has been noticed that most of these governors always hide under the local council caretaker committees to siphon and embezzle all the Federal allocations meant for the councils, and that is why we are not seeing any development at the grassroots.
  
“The only arm of government that can bring development to the grassroots is the local councils. We can see that most of our governors, especially Ogun State Governor, has been feeding fat on the allocations of the councils and the only way by which we can challenge this is by telling our youths to do our own revolution and change the narrative through the ballot and not through bullets.”
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Ogini said the only way to legitimately bring credible people on board, is through election, adding that the APC and the Governor are no longer popular in the state today. “He knows that if he conducts election they are going to lose 100 per cent, so we are very sure that we are taking over the reign of local councils from the incompetent APC-led Dapo Abiodun’s government.
  
“As a matter of fact, we are giving him 21 days ultimatum from today to constitute OGSIEC, if he fails to constitute OGSIEC, we have set a timetable for them; we are taking them to court immediately.”
  
When the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Kunle Somorin was contacted, he assured that the much-anticipated council election is around the corner and would commence as soon as the OGSIEC is formed.

Somorin, who said the governor, gave the promise during an interactive Ogun Youth- Government Townhall Meeting, at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, where he noted that what the state would be having is an election and not a selection process.

He further disclosed that the government would soon begin the process of the election by constituting the OGSIEC, which would be responsible for rolling out the calendar for the election.


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