ANALYSIS – Enugu, Anambra and Politics Of LGA Caretaker CommitteeExclusive Reports, Featured, Latest News Monday, January 11th, 2016
By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu
When the local government system which is the 3rd tier of government was initiated by the colonial masters, the Nigerian citizens applauded the idea, as it was originally meant to fast track national development in the country, especially in rural communities.
The LGA system in Nigeria,had checkered history from 1910 Native Authority Ordinance, giving effect to the indirect rule system via the Native Authority Law of 1933.
It is no news however, that among other key reasons for its creation was to bring government and development closer to the people, mostly those at the grassroots level, where over 70 percent of the people resides.
To make the system effective and vibrant, series of reforms were carried out during the era of the colonial masters, notable among which was the 1950 local government Ordinance of Eastern Nigeria, and the Western Regional local government law of 1952.
The above mentioned reforms, were primarily aimed at getting the people involved in their own government,a true concept of democracy, which is government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Aside the post independence colonial masters reforms in the system, Nigeria, had also witnessed series of reforms from the dawn of independence in 1960,such as the Udoji Commission Reforms Recommendation of 1976, under former late Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed. All the reforms, including those of the military, no doubt, yielded positive results in parts of Nigeria, as most neglected communities witnessed some level of infrastructural development.
But regrettably, since the advent of the ongoing democratic rule in Nigeria, which began on May 29th, 1999 till date, no meaningful feat in terms of development had been recorded in most council areas across Nigeria, particularly in the south east states.
Rather than using funds accrued to LGAs for the development of rural communities in their states, Governors of the five southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, and Enugu have continued to allegedly squander the taxpayers money to the detriment of the poor masses.
Apart from allegedly using the system as a conduit pipe to siphon public funds, the governors, have continued to hide under the dubious local government/state joint Account arrangement to perpetrate all manner of financial recklessness in their respective states.
However, one of the undemocratic and unpopular act by Nigerian governors which has become almost a norm in the south east region, and has continued to attract public outcry and sharp criticism in recent years, is the refusal of the governors to conduct LGA elections in their states when it is due.
Due to their selfish political interest, the governors, prefers using caretaker appointees, instead of the constitutional elected chairmen.
Suffice it to say that the use of caretaker committee chairmen to pilot the affairs of local government areas, has done more harm than good to the entire southeast region, as such officers are always accountable to their employer, the governor, and not the people.
Unfortunately, because the governors often use such appointment for political compensation, they often throw merit and experience to the wind while making their choices.
Since 1999 till date, over 16 years now, most of the south east states have not conducted LGA polls up to three times, even when tenure in office of council chairmen is just two years, according to the laws establishing them.
Some of the governors in the region had in recent times hinged their inability to conduct council elections on lack of funds, occasioned by the present dwindling oil price which has been affecting the monthly statutory federal allocation.
For some analyst and political watchers, the lack of fund excuse by some governors, holds no water, because after all, each of them smile home with over 600 million naira security vote which is unaccounted for, every month.
“So, if each governor collects as much as 600 million naira every month in the name of security vote, why can’t he organise simple LGA election that may not cost as much as that amount? asked a concerned Enugu resident who craved anonymity.
For instance, a case in hand is the coal city state of Enugu, where the governor, Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, recently appointed 17 caretaker committee chairmen to pilot the affairs of the local government areas indefinitely.
Prior to the appointment, Ugwuanyi, who claimed that the state lack the funds to organise the election, had faced serious opposition from some stakeholders, such as Nigeria labour Congress NLC which insisted that the caretaker option was purely undemocratic.
Most of the opposing stakeholders, had argued that since the Ugwuanyi,led administration has the capacity to purchase brand new Land Cruiser (SUV) Jeeps, valued over 7 million naira for each of the state commissioners, the 24 members of the state House of Assembly as well as other aides of the governor, the government should have endeavour to conduct the state LGA polls last December, rather than settling for the undemocratic caretaker committee arrangement.
Governor Ugwuanyi,had told an enlarged political stakeholders meeting in Enugu that he settled for the caretaker committee option because there was no budgetary provision for the state Independent Electoral Commissions ENSIEC to conduct the postponed LGA polls which was due last December, 2015.
Since after the names of the caretaker committee chairmen and their members were made public by governor Ugwuanyi, tongues have continued to wag in parts of the state,as the decision has been attracting mixed reaction.
Meanwhile, as the dust raised by the Enugu state caretaker committee arrangement is yet to settled in the state, a serious political war is now brewing in Anambra, over similar caretaker committee wahala.
The state chapter of the opposition peoples Democratic party PDP, has vowed to resist plans by the Governor Willy Obiano, led administration to appoint caretaker committees to pilot affairs of the Council areas in the state
It was reliably gathered that Obiano, has already concluded arrangements for the engagement of caretaker committee chairmen in the 21 LGAS in the state, after the tenure of the elected council bosses expires this week, Thursday, 15th, January 2016.
Recalled that the outgoing chairmen were elected into office in 2014, during the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi.
The state chairman of the PDP, Prince Kenneth Emeakayi, had in a recent interview with newsmen in Awka, the Anambra state capital,warned against what he described as a “looming anarchy and bloodshed” in the state if the state government fails to conduct the council polls before January 14, 2016
He told members of PDP in Anambra that Governor Willie Obiano and the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, should be held responsible for any breach of the peace and breakdown of law and order in the state over the issue of non conduct of the local government election.
The PDP chairman recalled that the last local government election was held in Anambra State on January 13, 2014 for a term of office of two years as stipulated by Sections 51(3) and 70 (3) of the Local Government Law of Anambra State, 1999 as amended.
He added that the two years term of office of the serving members of the local government councils in the 21 local government areas will expire on January 14, 2016, in line with the express provisions of the local government law of Anambra State 1999 as amended.
Hear Emeakayi: “The refusal or failure to hold election for the purpose of electing new set of council members to run the affairs of the 21 local government areas, including their finances at the expiration of two years term of office, by Governor Willie Obiano and APGA, is a breach, gross abuse and violation of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We wish to state unequivocally that the plan by Governor Obiano and APGA to appoint caretaker committees, or to elongate the tenure of office of the local government officials upon the expiration of their tenures on January 14, 2016, is not only criminal, illegal and unconstitutional, but an affront to the democratic systems and norms and the rule of law.
“This shall be met with the strongest resistance. We are fully prepared to mobilize our members and supporters to commence protest match and demonstrations starting from January 14, 2016 against the appointment of caretaker committees by Governor Obiano and we shall sustain the struggle until the right thing is done.”
As acclaimed democrats, who came into offices via ballot boxes, there is need for governors Ugwuanyi, Obiano, as well as their other colleagues in South east extraction to start promoting and embracing all tenets and principles of democracy.
Above all, they should endeavour to make themselves Apostles of good governance, including conducting of LGA polls in their respective states as at when due,because a day of reckoning will definitely come.
The governors, must also bear at the back of their minds that it is only via good governance that they could win the confidence of the electorate, who will definitely meet them again at the ballot corridors, especially now that the Card Reader technology is gradually making votes to count in Nigeria.
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