By Olasunkanmi Akoni
After much anxiety, there are strong indications that the long anticipated local government elections in Lagos State would soon be held.
Not only was the provision made for it in the 2017 budget assented to by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode earlier this week, the body language of state officials indicated imminent conduct of election of chairmen and councillors for the 20 Local Government Areas, LGAs and 37 Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs.
Release of voters’ register
Giving credence to the state’s readiness for the polls, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa speaking during a parley with Civil Society Organisations and media at the Assembly old Complex, Alausa, Ikeja, said: “We have just passed LASIEC law three weeks ago, and we are still waiting on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the release of voters’ register, delineation of constituency and wards, without all these exercise completed there is no way we can hold the polls. We politicians are always interested in elections. I assure you that in no distant future we will conduct the council poll.”
Obasa added that the Assembly had approved the budget for LASIEC to hold the elections and once they could fulfil other compulsory requirements, “LASIEC will be ready for elections, because we are definitely, ready for the polls.”
He continued: “With the LASIEC Amendment Law and the Election Tribunal Law cleared and passed by the Assembly, which was subsequently, assented to by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the Lagos State council election is set to hold as soon as possible.”
Delineation of the constituencies
Some of the factors said to have delayed the conduct were the issues of voters register which LASIEC was unable to get from the INEC, the absence of a board and the question of using Electronic Voting Machine, EVM or not for the polls.
There was also a controversy over the delineation of the constituencies. The authorities were bothered by the fact that whereas INEC delineated the state into 245 wards the LASIEC, delineated the state into 346 wards.
“The result of the delineation exercise indicated that there is need for additional wards before the next polls,” Mr. Adeoye Ogundipe, a commissioner in LASIEC said.
The commissioner noted that the electoral body was also in “close contact with INEC on the need to add more wards on the existing wards.”
On EVM, Ogundipe said “There are issues for instance, the electronic voting is not stated in the law. We have to resolve that. The fact that other states had been using it does not mean that it was proper.
“It isn’t totally ruled out, if it will enhance the poll process, we will use it. The commission will sit down and examine the pros and cons of the machine.
“We have gone to some states where it was used inspite of the huge fund expended on it, there were hiccups. But that hiccup will not be accepted in Lagos.”
Also, the newly appointed Chairman of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Philips (Retd), at a forum recently, said the date for the local government election would be announced soon.
“I can assure you that the announcement for the date will be made soon. The commission’s responsibility is to ensure that the election is free and fair and we are committed to achieving that,” he said.
However, sources said the election is likely to be held by April considering that the Electoral Act compulsory stipulated 90 days period for political parties to end all forms of campaigns.
It was also gathered that the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state is likely to release guidelines by the end of this week for prospective aspirants on its platform for the poll.
At the signing of year 2017 budget of N812.998 billion, earlier this week, Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, said that the three stores/warehouses to be used to store poll materials would be constructed at the three senatorial districts.
He noted that this was why the administration budgeted N39.7222 billion for security, law and order in the state.
Ashade disclosed that the store house was reason for the increase in LASIEC budget allocation.
LASIEC boss seeks improvement in electoral officers offices in LGAs
During an inspection tour of some LASIEC offices across the state, LASIEC chairman, Phillips, expressed dissatisfaction over the state of the offices allocated to some of the Electoral Officers of the Commission deployed to the Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas of the state.
While describing the offices in some of the 12 Local Government Councils already visited since the commencement of the inspection tour as “disgusting”, the Chairman commended the authorities of some of the councils for providing office accommodation for Electoral officers deployed to the Councils.
Phillips, however, urged the authorities in the various councils to make the offices allocated conducive to enable the officers discharge their duties effectively.
Chairman of the Lagos chapter, of the National Conscience Party, NCP, Comrade Ayodele Akele, accused that the APC led Government of suppressing the people’s right through “capricious imposition of Caretakers for the Local Government offices as against constitutional requirement of conducting elections into same.
“APC is unnecessary buying time by its failure to hold council elections. We cannot afford to fold our arms and allow the ruling APC mismanage the affairs of the councils in the state. It is an act of illegality that rather than conduct election into councils the state government gave the administration to appointed Executive Secretaries.
“We are saying no to caretaker committees for Local Government in Lagos State.” Akele stated.
He also urged Federal Government to halt further disbursement of monthly allocation for the funding of the state councils, describing it as, “unlawful”, even as he asked Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC to probe of all activities by the Executive Secretaries.