In Ebonyi State, political observers are worried that the state’s House of Assembly has finally legalised the decimation of local government elections by passing a bill which empowers the state governor to appoint care taker committee to administer local government, writes SAMSON NWAFOR from Abakaliki
Recently, the Ebonyi State House of Assembly passed a law legalising the appointment of local government caretaker chairmen, members and liaison officers in the state. The new law provides for one year tenure for them after which they would not be qualified to contest LG election for three years should there be any election.
The law came into force following report of an ad-hoc committee earlier set-up by the House to amend some sections of the Local Government Law 004 of 2008. The report was presented by the chairman of the committee, Hon. Frank Onwe during plenary and was subsequently passed into law by the House after the lawmakers argued in favor of the amendment.
The amended law also stipulated the appointment of a coordinator and
not more than eight management committee members for a development centre.
Part of the amended sections of the law stipulates thus: “The Governor of the state shall subject to the confirmation of the simple majority of Ebonyi State House of Assembly appoints for Development Centre and its areas mentioned in section 7(2) of this law a Development Centre Management Committee made up of Coordinator and not more than eight members.
“Section 20(g) of law 004 of 2008 is hereby repealed and replaced with
section 20(j) which provided for local government service commission
on the recommendation of the Commissioner for local government to appoint a voucher officer who shall be signatory to the withdrawals of money from the account of Local Government Areas and Development centres.
“Without prejudice to the approved scheme of service for local government employees in Nigeria,here is hereby establish for local government and development centre of Ebonyi State. The position of Head of Local Government Administration removed and cease to exist in the local government administration of the state”, the law states.
Some other changes effected on the Local Government Law states that, “Director of Personnel Management will now be replaced with Head of Personnel Management, Director of Account to be replaced as Treasurer and Director of Account Clerk to be replaced with Cashier and Oucher
The tenure of office of the caretaker committee chairman and vice chairman, secretary, one liaison officer per electoral ward shall be one year (12 calendar months).
The law was also amended to confer the governor of the state with power to set up a 17-man advisory committee, one each to be drawn from each local government area to advise the governor on the affairs of local government areas.
Since the new local government law came into force, it has been awash with criticisms by observers and pundits. To say the least, critics not only insist that the state House of Assembly erred for passing such a law, they described it as draconian and an affront to the constitutional right of the people to vote and to be voted for.
Experts noted that the new law is at variance with the provisions of Nigeria’s Electoral Act, 2011 as amended and the constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria, 2010, as amended which overriding powers on every other law have made by any state or local government in the country.
According to them, Section 7, Sub-section 4 of the1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended stipulates that “the government of a state shall ensure that every person who is entitled to vote or be voted for at an election to a House of Assembly shall have the right to vote or be voted for at an election to a local government council”.
Observers further argued that subject to section 107, section 106 of the constitution provides that, “a person is entitled to vote or be voted for at an election to a House of Assembly if (1) he is a citizen of Nigeria (2) he has attained the age of thirty years (3) he has been educated up to at least the school certificate level or its equivalent and (4) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by the party”.
There are arguments that for any law in the state to deny citizens from contesting local government election simply because such a person served one year as a local government caretaker chairman, member or liaison officer is against the constitutional right of the citizens to vote or be voted for and such laws should be repealed.
Some are of the opinion that the House of Assembly should not have, for any reason, legalised the appointment of caretaker chairmen and members because according to them, it is an indirect way of asking the governor to shy away from conducting local government elections since there is existing law which already empowers him to make such appointment.
Reacting to the law, the coordinator, Youth League, Ebonyi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Josiah Onu Abaa, who described it as draconian said it contravenes the provisions of the electoral law and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
He said “Such is a draconian law passed by people who claimed to be honorable members who were elected by the same people who will be appointed and after one year, prevented from contesting election in the next three years.
“It is inimical to the growth of democracy and can discourage popular leaders who are liked by their people to contest election. May be such law is made for members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and not for the people of Ebonyi State. Even in the electoral act and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no such provision. We cannot be part of it so when other party comes into power, it will be repealed.