OPEN LETTER TO THE SENATE PRESIDENT AND SPEAKER OF THE FEDERAL HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
NEXUS BETWEEN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE FAILURE OF GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA
We are concerned that section 197 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that ‘there shall be established for each state of the Federation the following bodies, namely
State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), has not been allowed free hand to perform their constitutional functions as captured in Third Schedule, Part II, State Executive Bodies B(4) the state Independent Commission shall have power to Organize, undertake and supervise all elections to Local Government Councils within the State.
We are disturbed that the failure of State Independent Electoral Commissions to perform her functions has contravene section 7(1) of 1999 Constitution (as amended) which says “The system of Local Government by democratically elected Local Government Councils is under this constitution guaranteed” has led to State Government appointing Caretaker/Interim Management Committees Members in the 768 Local Government Councils since May, 2002 to date.
We further worried that several Supreme Court judgments voiding the powers of State Governments to dissolve democratically elected Local Government Councils (Chairman and Councilors) – ABIA STATE GOVERNMENT vs 17 LGAs of ABIA STATE (2017) and EKITI STATE GOVERNMENT vs 16 LGAS OF EKITI STATE (2019), have been observed in breach thereby threatening the continued survival of our democratic exercise now in its 25 years anniversary.
We are also concerned that not minding the Supreme Court judgment in A.G. Federation vs A.G ABIA STATE & 350RS (2002), which held that Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is not a State in Section 3(1), nor the Six (6) Area Councils of FCT are not Local Government areas in a state as in Section 3(6) of 1999 Constitution (as amended), still yet the state Governors till date have vehemently refused to obey the judgement of the supreme court which is the highest court of the land and has continue to treat it with disdain, from the SERAP request to all state Governors and the FCT, we can all clearly see how state Governors have mismanaged and converted funds meant for the development of the Local Government Areas in Nigeria amounting to over 40 trillion Naira since 1999.
The Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP) is concerned about the status and happenings within the Local Government System in Nigeria, we believe that it has been hijacked by the Nigerian Governors and we will want to state emphatically that we totally support any collaborative efforts in the direction of working with National assembly (10th Assembly) to carry out constitutional amendment that will lead to the granting of full financial and Electoral autonomy to the Local Government System and Administration in Nigeria, because we can say this without mincing words, the presumed failure or the inability of the Local council’s effort to drive and bring about development in Nigeria to a glaring point that could have positive impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians can easily be attributed to the total lack of Local government Elections in Nigeria because without corresponding efforts at the Local Government level, all will amount to little or no impact in the lives of rural Nigeria people.
These Governors have continued to act with reckless impunity against elected Local Government Chairmen, I wonder how these governors will feel if they get suspended illegally by the federal government? The current law as regards the administration of our Local Government System no longer serves the interest of the Nigerian people and must be urgently reviewed to save and promote effective Local Council System as expected in every democratic presidential system. One of the major functions of duly elected councilors is to make bye laws for the good governance and development of all Local Government areas across Nigeria but as we write this letter, that assigned function has been greatly eroded by the excessive interference and impunity of our Governors.
CUPP must say without mincing words that the state Independent electoral Commission is the greatest democratic fraud foisted on our electoral democracy and that is the major reason we feel it is important that the conduct of Local Government elections becomes the responsibilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), because from the attitude of State Governors and conduct of state elections by all States Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC’s) it is impossible to get a free, fair and credible election under the current arrangement. The current system encourages massive rigging because SIEC’s are under the wings and caprices of the State Government which belongs to the Political Party in power across Nigeria. As we have seen over the years, Parties that control the state will stop at nothing to tailor the results in their favour. You will also discover that all Local Government election conducted in States are won by the Party in power in each respective states under review with 100% return rate; the opposition Party in the state is always left with nothing. If Local authorities become autonomous and the tenure of elected officials is guaranteed, it will be easy for the people to hold them accountable and this will in turn bring development closer to the people and thus encourage the growth and development of local communities which by extension lead to a robust robust and prosperous democracy.
What is going on at the Local Government level in Nigeria is a mockery of democracy because there is an urgent need for all stakeholders to work together purposefully to establish the needed environment for good governance to grow and save our people from bad leadership.
The State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) is the greatest electoral abracadabra (the more you see, the less you understand) imposed on our electoral democracy and if by your commitment to rescue our people from this electoral rascality, any governor feels aggrieved or seems to be more interested in Funds meant for the local government councils, let him resign and contest as LOCAL government Chairman and he or she should be assured of our support.
The bottom line of our request is a call for a National Electoral Reform conference.
STATES INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION
• Section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) relating to the place of Local Governments as the third tier of government should be amended to specifically guarantee the existence, establishment, structure, composition, finance, functions, and tenure of Local Governments under the Constitution.
• Section 153, 197, and The third Schedule to the Constitution should be amended to provide for the following re-designation and re-ordering of the States Independent Electoral Commission:
JOINT STATE/LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNT
• Section 162(5)-(7) of the Constitution should be amended to abolish the Joint State/Local Government Account.
• Section 162(5)-(7) of the Constitution should be further amended to provide that any amount standing to the credit of the Local Government Councils in the Federation Account should be paid directly to the various Local Governments.
High Chief Peter Ameh
Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP)*