|Gov. Okorocha of Imo State|
Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unambiguously stated that “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of each state shall subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and function of such councils”.
Successive governments in Anambra State have been serial violators of this constitutional provision. The CLO has been on consistent advocacy on the need to adhere to this constitutional provision and ensure that civilian democratic administration is also in practice at the local councils, unfortunately, the state governors have chosen instead to observe this in breach.
In Anambra State, the tenure of the local government chairmen and councilors elected at the twilight of the Obi’s administration officially expired on 12th January 2016 after two-year tenure. Against any known legal procedure, the Obiano administration extended their tenure for three months branding them Transition Council Members and later elongated their stay again with another three months till around July 2016 when they were fired and told to hand over to the Head of Local Government Administrators.
The yearnings of the people for a fresh election into the councils were truncated as the state government didn’t show any sign of its readiness to conduct the LGA election. Before this time, the councils even when the tenure of the chairmen and councilors subsisted have been run as mere appendages of the state government who is in firm control of the entire LG allocations. The chairmen had no executive powers and are at the mercy of the Governor and the Commissioner for any crumb that may fall on their table.
While the yearnings intensified, what we saw was instead of putting machinery in motion for LG election, the announcement of another set of 21 transition council members.
Our position in the CLO on this is that Transition Council Members/ lLocal Government Liason or whatever nomenclature the government may use to describe them is alien to the constitution and are therefore illegal. Looking at the present scenario in Anambra presently, Governor Obiano simply constituted a 21-man squad that will prosecute an election ‘war’ in his favour come November this year. This is unacceptable and the arrangement negates every democratic principles especially at it concerns equity, inclusion, consent and input legitimacy.
Ebonyi State Government just last month conducted its local government election while Abia had its own council election last December. Though the credibility of such electoral process in and adherence to the principles of transparency and free and fair contest may call to question in the states who have conducted their LG elections so far, we call on the remaining states in the South East to without further delay, democratize their local government system. The consequences of this bastardisation of the local government system are too numerous to itemize here. The local councils were conceived as the government of the grassroots. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended listed in its 4th Schedule, the various functions of local governments. State Governments unfortunately have usurped almost all the functions of the local councils. Nigerian roads are graded under Trunks A, B, AND C. Most of the rural roads and streets in our communities are practically impassable and inaccessible. If the local government system is allowed to function effectively, the council chairmen will be held accountable if they fail to grade the roads on annual basis among other numerous duties expected of them while in office.
A lot of bastradisation have been unleashed on the local governments by the governors and this is an aberration. This is the reason why the agitation for Local Government Autonomy is gathering momentum. We call for democratization of Local Government system in Anambra, Enugu and Imo without further delay. Political grooming has been thrown to the trash can because of this unhealthy system.
(Part of the CLO South East Zonal report after presented after their Zonal Management Committee meeting in Anambra by Comrade Aloysius Attah, Zonal Chair , email@example.com, 08035090548)