By Abubakar Abdullahi, Lafia:
Local Government Areas, LGAs, and their councils are considered the last tiers of government in Nigeria. They are also considered the grassroots in the scheme of things.
Local government leaders are suppose to get power through democratic process, through election which is the norm and equally recognised by the nation’s Constitution. But in some states of the Federation for one reason or the order, the Local governments chairmen and councilors are appointed to run the activities of the third tier of government , at time within a time frame.
Nasarawa state is not an exception to these scenarios of having elected and appointed leaders to manage Local government areas of the state at different time. The two successive civilian Administrations of Abdullahi Adamu and Aliyu Akwe Doma, as well as the current administration of Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura appointed administrators for the Local government and also organised elections that brought elected leaders at the Local government during their respective tenures.
The last Local government election conducted in the state was in march 2014 and the tenure of the elected chairmen and councilors elected that year elapsed in 2016 but the state independent electoral commission could not organise subsequent elections, even as the tenure of the elected leaders was approaching its end due to a court case instituted by the then chairmen asking for extension of their tenure ,from two to three years.
But the court judgment on the matter delivered by Justice James Abundaga of state high court Four did not favour the chairmen and they had to vacate their offices accordingly.
This development made the state Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura to forward names of interim management committees(IMC) chairmen and members for the 13 Local government areas of the state to the state house of assembly for confirmation.
Inaugurating the committees at the state Government House in Lafia in 2016, Governor Al-Makura explained that election of Local government chairmen and councilors could not hold due to litigation on the tenure of local government chairmen and as a government that respects the rule of law, it had to wait for the determination of the matter by the court.
He said “the judgement of the court came at a time that election cannot be conducted and there is existing vacuums created by the exit of the local government chairmen which need to be filled.”
The Governor explained that the IMC members were appointed to pilot the affairs of the local government for one year tenure instead of allowing the existing vacancies.
The IMC Chairmen and members tenure expired on 24 July this year. But it was expected that as their tenure was winding to a close, election process for their elective successors should have commenced and completed before the end of the tenure to enable the successors to assume the vacuums positions created by the exit of the IMC Chairmen and members in the 13 local government areas of the state.
This could not happen due to non-setting up of machinery to that effect by the state’s electoral body NASIEC.
But recently, to be precise on the eve of the expiration of the tenure of the IMC Chairmen and members, the state house of assembly make a moved through its resolution directing the state independent electoral commission NASIEC to conduct local government election as the IMC’s tenure was elapsing.
The resolution of the Assembly followed a motion moved by the house committee chairman on local government and chieftaincy affairs Isiaka Galadima who drawn the attentions of his colleagues that the tenure of the IMC was about to wind up and there was need to conduct election at the local government in order to usher in elected leaders in the local government areas.
The motion was unanimously accepted by members.
The Speaker of the Assembly while commenting on the resolution directed the Assembly’s clerk to forward the resolution to the state Governor and electoral body for their action.
Few days after the Assembly’s resolution, the state’s electoral body NASIEC organised press conference and informed journalists of its readiness to conduct the local government election.
NASIEC chairman Dr Abdullahi Sallau Moddibo ,who addressed the conference said the commission has put machinery in place to enable it conduct the local government election in the state.
He said: “We as commission, saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections by law, is in top gear on the preparation for credible, free and fair elections”.
He noted that the State House Assembly’s resolution on IMC Chairmen and members tenure has been forwarded to the commission and the body was taking steps to act in accordance with enabling statutes and relevant electoral laws.
Dr Moddibo however, said the Commission was looking towards amending some aspects of the state’s electoral laws to tackle possible reoccurence of hitches been experienced in the last local government elections.
“The commission has come up with some of the enabling electoral laws for onward conveyance to the state assembly for possible amendment”.
He also revealed that the election timetable was almost ready and would be announced in due course.
Dr Moddibo further explained that the commission requires about N700 to N800 million to conduct the local government elections in the state and the funds was expected to come from the coffers of the state government.
Apart from the notification of preparedness by NASIEC to organise the local government elections, there was no further attempt that may have likely give hope to the residents of the state that the elections would be conducted in no distant time.
What seems to have further dashed the hope of the electorates in the state is the continued silence of government since the resolution made by the state’s Assembly and subsequent notification of readiness of the state’s electoral body NASIEC to organise the elections in the 13 local government areas of the state.
Having taken positions on the local government elections by the State Assembly and NASIEC, the state government which the resolution forwarded to and expected to provide funds for NASIEC to carry out its function was yet to offer official statement on the steps taking by the two institutions, though it would not be fair to admit that the state government totally remain mute on the matter as in several fora, government explained that due to paucity of funds occasioned by recession and the huge amount required for the election there was need to suspend it pending possible improvement of financial inflow to the state.
Also recently in an interview shortly after the APC non elective congress in the state where some vacuums in the leadership of the party were filled, the state deputy governor Silas Agara reiterated the ruling party readiness to participate in any elections in the state.
The opposition parties in the state expecially PDP have been calling on NASIEC to conduct the local government elections.
Even with the unfolding events, DAILY ASSET recently gathered that rumours making the round in the state that government, has decided to appoint a new crops of chairmen and members of interim management committees to run the local government areas in the state.
Though, not substantiated by any government official but DAILY ASSET observed that some people in the state especially politicians and civil servants have already claimed that they have been nominated as either chairman or member of the committee of their respective local government areas and their names have been submitted to the state assembly for screening and possible confirmation.
The question asked by many in the state was that if these rumours turn out to be true, would the state assembly lick it vomit by accepting to unveil those names rumoured to have been submitted to the assembly after the same institution observed that the best personnel to manage the local government activities in a democratic setting are democratically elected leaders?
These unfolding events on the local government elections process are keeping the state residents under suspense.