Emboldened by its impressive outing in the just concluded general elections, the Lagos state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party is demanding for the conduct of local government elections in Lagos state.OKUNADE ADEKUNLE reports
For some months now, the local governments in Lagos state have been under the administration of caretaker committees which was inaugurated after the expiration of the tenure of the executive Chairmen of the councils. The tenure of the executive Chairmen which lasted for three years was believed to have ushered in new local government leadership as it was stipulated in the 1999 constitution as amended, but the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Governor BabatundeFashola failed to follow the provision of the constitution which stated in Section 7 that there must be a system of local government with a democratically elected local government councils.

The section holds that the government of every state shall subject to section 8 of the Constitution, ensure the existence of the local governments under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.

It is based on the above section that the Lagos state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the APC and the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) of collaborating to delay the conduct of the local government election which ought to have been conducted immediately after the expiration of the tenure of the executive Chairmen in October 2014.

The Lagos PDP in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Barrister GaniyuTaofeek, stated that the Lagos State Governor-elect, AkinwunmiAmbode, was planning to delay the conduct of the local council elections in the state after his swearing-in.

PDP went on to claim that the APC-led government in Lagos was not interested in conducting elections into the local government councils. The party stressed that the APC was scared of not losing the grassroots to the PDP; hence the tricks they have employed to frustrate the conduct of the local government election which was long overdue.

In the statement, PDP further accused LASIEC as an electoral body of exposing itself as an appendage of APC in the state and not independent in its decisions and administration.

The party stressed further that “The delay to conduct council polls in Lagos is deliberate so as to give undue advantage to the APC. Adding that the defence put up by the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy matters, who blamed the delay on the INEC failure to conclude distribution of Permanent Voters’ Card is preposterous, repulsive and clearly an indication that APC will turn out to be a party of impunity and inconsistencies.”

PDP said that the councils are operating contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution. “This is an aberration. Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees only democratically elected local government administration. The lawyer-governor (Fashola) is abetting this constitutional aberration, all in the name of partisanship. This same APC clamoured for the conduct of the general elections on February 14 and 28 even when less than 40 percent PVCs were distributed in the state. By March 28, about 70 percent of the PVCs were said to have been distributed.

Speaking with Hallmark on the allegation by the PDP, the Lagos APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, stated that the allegations by the PDP that the governor-elect, Mr. Ambode has plans to delay local council polls until after a year in office was unnecessary and untrue. He maintained that the polls would be conducted at the scheduled time. He clarified that there was no connivance between the party and LASIEC.

Igbokwe added “We know of governors who didn’t conduct local government elections for eight years and nothing happened to them but we are not like that. The elections will be conducted at the due time when the APC-led government is ready. This shouldn’t be an issue, the council polls have been conducted before in the state, so these allegations are untrue.”

Also speaking with Hallmark on the issue, the former Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (Ikeja branch), Barrister OnyekachiUbani, berated state governments for not conducting local government elections. He insisted that it is an impeachable offence as he disclosed that the state governors in the country who did not conduct elections into local governments are in breach of the constitution which the state Houses of Assembly need to address quickly.

Ubani stated that the non-conduct of local government elections was a new ploy by state governors to siphon public funds, adding that the use of caretaker committee was totally unconstitutional.
He condemned the caretaker committees in local governments across the country, stating that it is immoral and ungodly for the state governments to have put in place a committee to run the affairs of the local governments.

“It is totally fraudulent, immoral and unconstitutional for the state governments to have put in place a caretaker committee in local governments instead of conducting local government election. The state governors now have developed new ways of siphoning public fund through the institutionalization of Caretaker Committees at the local governments. It is purely ungodly and unjust”, said Ubani.

Currently, the local governments in Lagos State are operating under the management of appointed executive secretaries across the 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas. Whether the ruling APC would succumb to the pressure of the PDP to conduct the local government election this year only time would tell.