By Clifford Ndujihe, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Evelyn Usman, James Ogunnaike, Olayinka Ajayi & Gabriel Olawale
After months of preparations, Lagos and Ogun states will hold local council polls, today (Saturday).
No fewer than 6,570,291 registered voters are expected to exercise their franchise across 13,323 polling units in 20 LGAs and 37 LCDAs in Lagos
In Ogun, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has pulled out of the exercise, accusing the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission, OGSIEC, of undermining it and trying to factionalise the party.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has deployed police personnel and ordered them to ensure that the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC’s facilities, sensitive materials, polling units and collation centres are adequately protected.
Also, an international election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, said it is deploying 13,323 duly-trained observers to monitor the process and urged LASIEC to ensure free, and transparent exercise to boost citizens confidence in LGA election process.
The group also feared voters’ apathy may mar the exercise in view of the low sensitization of the electorate by the parties, candidates and LASIEC.
Speaking during a pre-election press conference in Lagos, Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said that their roving observers are expected to visit a minimum of three polling units each and report on the conduct of the election.
Mbamalu, expressed regret that the absence of periodic, genuine and transparent elections at the local government level in Nigeria remained a major threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
“Twenty-two years after democracy, local government areas in Nigeria struggle with poor governance, the absence of periodic, credible elections, and almost non-existent governance structures that promote citizen engagement and accountability.
“The worst fate of local government areas in Nigeria remains the overbearing control by state governors and a select few (power brokers) who have perfected a system that both impoverishes the people and denies the people a voice when the elections are rigged.”
She explained that a recent study by Yiaga Africa on the challenges and prospects of Local Government elections in Nigeria taking Oyo and Lagos states as case studies, revealed that there are opportunities for election stakeholders to improve on the process to guarantee the sanctity of ballots and increase citizens participation in the process.
We’ll ensure credible polls, upload results like INEC – LASIEC Chairman
Meanwhile, LASIEC Chairman, Justice Ayotunde Philips, yesterday, reiterated the determination of the commission to conduct free and fair polls and uphold the results like the INEC.
She said smart card readers would be used for the polls and LASIEC would use polling units it used in 2017.
If card readers malfunction, she said incident forms would be used to ensure no voter is disenfranchised.
We ‘ll enforce restriction of movement – CP
Addressing the policemen at Lagos Police Command headquarters yesterday, CP Hakeem Odumosu, charged them to work with other security agents deployed for same purpose, to ensure adequate security, and to discharge their duties according to the Standard Operating Procedure of the Nigeria Police and extant electoral laws.
He warned politicians and their supporters, stakeholders and Lagosians to play the game according to the rules, saying: “The police and other security agencies deployed for the exercise will not condone any act of thuggery, hooliganism, electoral malpractices and criminality in any part of the state before, during and after the Local Government Councils elections.”
In addition, the Command, according to him, had put measures in place to enforce the restriction of movement order across the state between the hours of 8am and 3pm, today.
He clarified that “only those on election duty and essential services are exempted.
No faction in Ogun PDP, despite OGSIEC’s attempt to factionalize it – Sikirulai
The Ogun State chapter of the PDP has declared that there is no faction within the party in the state, saying it has decided to withdraw participation in today’s local government election following the alleged dubious stance of the OGSIEC towards the party.
In a statement by the Chairman, Sikirulai Ogundele, the party said that following a Court Judgement on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the PDP backed out of the race, accusing OGSIEC of playing the role of a dubious umpire.
Ogundele said the Commission decided to create a non-existent faction in PDP, deliberately handing over nomination forms meant for party candidates to an individual, despite the fact that it had an ongoing relationship with the authentic Executive Committee led by him as recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He added that given the fact that the legitimacy of all materials for the election, including voters registers, are derived from INEC, common sense should have pointed OGSIEC to that direction.
He also alleged that the OGSIEC “induced” factionalization of Ogun PDP was deliberate to forestall participation of the party in the local government polls in Ogun State.
Ogundele also expressed disappointment that the OGSIEC also disregarded the reconciliation agreement signed by all parties in the Senator Bukola Saraki led Reconciliation Committee despite the fact that this became available as early as March 2021, which was the basis for the Consent Judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on 22nd June, 2021 that affirmed him as State Chairman.