By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Dapo Akinrefon
When is Lagos State going to hold its much delayed local government elections? That is the question that is now troubling many political stakeholders given the dithering procrastination of the authorities to conduct elections to replace the last set of elected council officials whose term in office ended in 2014.
Given the constitutional stipulation that the democratic system of government should be guaranteed, many were surprised when former Governor Babatunde Fashola joined many other governors to appoint local government caretaker committees to supervise the affairs of the local councils.
Section 7(1) The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed;
The appointment of caretaker committees has been likened to the president appointing caretaker governors to take care of the states. However, the administration in Lagos at that time did not broach much debate on it especially given insinuations of the political exigency of deferring local government elections in the All Progressives Congress, APC controlled state.
The political insinuation was that the APC hierarchy did not want to upset the applecart through the conduct of the council elections before the 2015 general elections. The suggestion among many political leaders was that the process of conducting primaries for the council polls just before the general elections could have wrecked the APC in Lagos as it would have led to either lethargy on the part of the losers or outright sabotage of the party if not defections.
It was against that wisdom it was alleged that the APC hierarchy in Lagos decided to defer the elections till after the general elections.
However, almost one year into the life of the new state administration, there is no visible sign of the imminent conduct of the local government polls.
The administration has taken shelter under the case filed by the National Conscience Party, NCP challenging the appointment of caretaker committees as a reason.
Indeed, the NCP has asked the Federal Government to stop the disbursement of allocation to the councils being managed by appointed caretakers.
NCP accused the state government of using unconstitutionally recognized devices to install persons not elected by the public, to manage affairs of councils in the state since expiry of tenure of past Chairmen in 2014.
Joined in the suit as respondents, are; Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC, and the Attorney General of Lagos State.
Conduct of the elections
The court had upheld the application of the party forcing the Lagos State government to appeal the judgment. Remarkably the appeal is one of the reasons. However, the case is now before Appellate Court for hearing.
The case is one of the official reasons being given by the Lagos State Government and LAISEC for the delay in conducing the council polls.
Another reason is the contention by LAISEC that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not provided it with the voters’ register to guide it in the conduct of the elections.
Arguing its case for the seizure of funds to Lagos councils, the NCP through Akerele had argued
“We are disappointed over the non-conduct council elections which became due since last year last year and in spite of the ruling of Lagos State Igbosere High Court ruling that election into the 20 LG be conducted within 30 days
“After a woeful failure and loss of the case the Igbosere High Court 54 before Hon. Justice AMA Lawal, the LSG felt bad and humiliated by the judgement and ever since they have been doing everything to subvert the judgement, with APC, officials making several contemptuous statements and doing everything to frustrate the implementation of the court ruling and campaign that nobody can stampede them to conduct local government election.
Disobedience to court ruling
“They refused to dismantle the illegal and unconstitutional caretaker committee and yet flagrantly and in disobedience to court ruling draw monthly subvention unlawfully from federal account. Does a so called CHANGE APC, so called PROGRESSIVE LASG need to be prompted or dragged to the court before doing the needful over conduct of local government election?”
NCP contended that the state government has no excuse not to conduct LG election “much more so after a court ruling other than perpetrating illegality, looting LG fund, fraud corruption and emasculation of that tier of government.”
“We cannot see them winning at the Appeal Court! They can only delay judgement date. Yet in spite of their grand standing and appeal at the Appeal Court, the APC Lagos State governments is undertaking clandestine activities to shameful and fraudulently ambush other political parties and conduct so called local government election without notice or carrying other stakeholders along.”
The criticisms of the NPC are also fuelled by that of the PDP which is accusing the APC administration in the state of dilly-dallying on the issue.
Its Publicity Secretary, Mr Taofik Gani expressed optimism that the PDP will coast home to victory when the exercised is held.
Taofik said: “We are well prepared, comfortable to go for council polls even today. We are eager to replace APC in all the councils. APC is scared to conduct the polls. They continue to postpone their dooms day. They will rather put undemocratic structures in the councils. They breach Section 7 of Constitution, which recognises only democratically elected council. They deny the grassroots representative government. Ambode is busy usurping the finances and administration of the councils. They are presently shamelessly rehabilitating roads in the council’s which they had claimed had been repaired since 1999. They are inflating contracts at the councils. They are doing all these to steal money for the polls.”
APC spokesperson reacts
However, while reacting to claims by Peoples Democratic Party and other opposition parties, of the state government’s delay of the poll, Lagos State Publicity Secretary of APC, Joe Igbokwe, dismissed the claims, saying the process to hold the election is on-going.
According to him, “Do you still think PDP exists in Lagos? If they still exist please tell me where they are. We have decimated and crushed PDP in Lagos with hard work, intelligent and honest leadership.
“Local government elections will come very soon and PDP will know once again that Lagos has no place for them. Lagosians are afraid that PDP will unleash the kind of shameful leadership it visited on Nigeria in 16 years.
“However, do not forget that a PDP member took us to court to compel us to hold elections in 60 days. Yes the court ruled in their favour but Lagos went to Appeal Court.
“That case is still pending there. We wait for the judgement. Again we are still waiting for INEC to release the new Voters “Register. The moment these issues are resolved we will head to the polls.”