Uncertainty Over Conduct Of Council Polls
The ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Edo State and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP may clash before the conduct of gubernatorial election in the state in July this year. The bone of contention is the conduct of elections into the 18 local government areas of the state. At the moment, local government caretaker committees are in charge of the administration of the third tier of government in Edo State. The committees were inaugurated into office since November 2010, and there are no indications that the state government is in a hurry to dissolve. The PDP has already said that from all indications they will now be in office till after the governorship elections.
Statutorily, the conduct of local government election is the responsibility of the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, EDSIEC. The commission, which was inaugurated in October 2010, said last year it was confronted with several challenges including the compilation of a voters’ register. The chairman of the commission, Chief Solomon Ogoh attributed the delay in conducting the elections to the absence of a voters’ register. “When you are preparing for election, you must have a voters’ register. The voters’ register is still being compiled by INEC which has the constitutional responsibility for the compilation of voters’ register.” He claimed that EDSIEC had made contact with printers for the provision of essential materials for the election which would arrive about six to eight weeks after the order is placed. Ogoh also blamed the delay on the 2011 general elections and assured that activities would kick-start immediately the commission gets its funds, which according to him, was in the 2011 budget.
In the 2012 state budget, which was passed recently, adequate provisions were again made for the conduct of the local government polls. Many people who expected that activities at EDSIEC would soon be heightened towards the conduct of the election may be disappointed as the same Ogoh dismissed the possibility of the conduct of the elections in the near future. He is this time blaming the delay on amending some relevant provisions of the Local Government Law 2002; otherwise the outcome of the elections might be rendered invalid by the election petitions tribunals after swearing-in of winners.
There are presently two bills sponsored by the majority leader of the House, Hon. Philip Shaibu seeking to amend the enabling law preparatory to the conduct of council polls in the state. One bill seeks to regulate the conduct of local government elections and another to repeal the Electoral Law 2002. It was however learnt that the actions of the lawmakers was informed by the need to have a fully constituted commission that can function with the backing of the laws of the land.
Shaibu said the assembly is repealing the old laws with a view not to only strengthen it but to also reflect the new electoral practice in Nigeria. “Obviously until that is done it will be difficult for anybody to use the fraudulent PDP laws that existed before we came. We will do public hearing on it and all the necessary things that are required because we need the public to equally have an input as soon as possible.” He explained that the purpose was to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible and denied that it was the fault of the House that the amendment has not been effected. “It is obviously not our fault because we would have done this election long ago but the issue of voters’ register came up, and later we have our general election. The issue of amending the electoral laws was also an issue and you know Edo State cannot be independent of the law. Any law we make here must be in consonant with federal laws. So we are guided by what is happening at the National Assembly; we want to be law abiding by doing the right thing.”
PDP still believes that the ACN government in Edo State is delaying the conduct of the polls because the governor is not certain if he will win the July 2012 gubernatorial election.