BY SUSAN EDEH
There are legal fisticufs in Bauchi State over the non-conduct of local council elections. Since the creation of the state in 1976 local government administration has been governed by duly elected chairmen except during the military era and in recent times.
When Governor Isa Yuguda was elected in 2007, there was no democratic local governments. He restored democratic rule at the third tier a year later and 2008 election was the last time council polls were held in the state.
Since then, the government has instituted caretaker committees to oversee the affairs of the councils. Rather than conducting elections, the state government has been appointing and dissolving sole administrators against the constitutional stipulation on local governments.
Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that all the 774 councils are to be governed by democratic elected chairmen.
At the moment, the state government and the opposition parties are at loggerheads over the inability of the Yuguda administration to conduct local government polls. Despite the inauguration of the Bauchi State Independent Electoral Commission ,BSEC, last year, the body is yet to come out with a definite timetable on the elections.
This delay by the Alhaji Abdulmumini Kundak-led commission, has made the opposition to describe the government as being insincere on the matter.
It was also alleged that the delay was borne out of fear of defeat by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party,PDP.
However, analysts are of the view that even if the election is conducted this year, it would be difficult for the incoming administration to accommodate the elected chairmen in 2015, since their tenure has been reduced to two and half years.
Speaking on the issue, the state chairman of Democratic Peoples Party,DPP, Hajiya Sa’adatu Mahmuda said that since the inception of the present administration, local government election was held once, adding that the government has been appointing caretaker chairmen every nine months.
Plans for the election
She lamented that the practice is killing democracy at the grassroots.
Corroborating Mahmuda’s position, a chieftain of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Alhaji Ali Sai’du, regretted that despite the inauguration of the state electoral commission, the body is yet to inform the opposition about its plans for the elections.
He said: “The refusal of the PDP- led government to inform the opposition in the state of its intention to conduct the council election is a gross violation of the code and conduct of the Electoral Act, which is totally unacceptable in a democratic administration.”
Similarly, Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress,APC, in the state, Alhaji Nasiru Darazo maintained that political parties must be carried along by the electoral body.
“I feel that the PDP is not sincere in conducting local council election because they have succeeded in keeping everybody in the dark as the electoral body and the state government have continued to remain silent on the issue,” he noted. But the state government through the Assistant Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Bashir Bukar has refuted the allegation that it has refused to conduct council polls.
According to him,“ the PDP is not afraid of conducting council polls because it will lose some of its seats to the opposition in the state. We are ever ready.
The opposition in the state are the ones that delayed the election when they dragged the state government to court over the the conduct of the election. This action by the opposition has made things extremely difficult for the state government as it must respect due process and the rule of law.”
Reacting to the claims chairman of BSEC, Kundak described it as mischievous and biased and urged the opposition to always seek clarification from the appropriate authorities.
He said, “If they are really curious and sincere in finding out why the council election has been delayed, they should visit the electoral body and verify things for themselves, instead of going around and making statements that are baseless.
The state government is hundred percent committed to conducting a hitch free local government election because it has put on ground all the necessary logistics like training of electoral officers.
If the government is not serious about the election, it would not have started making all these arrangements.”
The chairman who disclosed that the electoral commission is presently waiting for some of the electoral materials pledged by some international organizations, said that BSEC would not announce the date fof the election until all the materials are available in order to ensure free and fair exercise.
In addition, he disclose that the commission has budgeted over two billion naira for the conduct of the elections, adding that the money is to be used for building offices in the local government areas. He also noted that N700 million would be spent on allowances for over 30,000 adhoc staff to be recruited.
Also, Kundak said that the state government has made adequate funds available for the election, even as he appealed for patience. Meanwhile, the CPC and ACN recently sued the state government over its inability to conduct the polls. Additionally, ANPP instructed its counsel to join the two parties in the suit in order to compel the state government to conduct the elections.
Currently, the opposition and the state government has agreed to settle the matter out of court through a term of settlement signed by counsel to all parties involved. The government has also agreed that it will conduct a free and fair election in all the 20 local government areas within the period of four months from the date of adoption of the terms of settlement.