Former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Rivers State, Chief O.C.J. Okocha, SAN, has advised the outgoing Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to drop the idea of conducting Local Government Areas election on May 23 and concentrate on the transition to new government.
He said the entire electoral process could run into legal and constitutional hitches because of the absence of a Chief Judge to inaugurate the election petitions tribunal.
He said: “The Rivers State Government should be involved in the transition programme to ensure a proper and smooth transition into another government. The governor should setup a transition committee to interface with the incoming administration, for a smooth handing over.”
Okocha, a former President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, gave the piece of advice yesterday in Port Harcourt at an interview session with newsmen. He noted that the time and mood of the state did not permit the conduct of LGs election.
The legal luminary, who claimed to be aware of the amendment of electoral law by the State House of Assembly, observed that the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission RISIEC, needed to conduct election within the ambit of the law establishing it, and within the limit of convenience and practicability of conducting elections.
He said that the commission had got it wrong, regarding the time line, stressing that the two weeks’ notice by the RISIEC was not enough, as the political parties need to be informed of the date of the election, time to do its own primary election, submit to the body names of their candidates; time for the commission to verify qualifications of candidates whose names are submitted to them.
According to him, for those who might be disqualified, there was also need for time to substitute disqualified ones.
“By the time you put all these variables together, it would have been minimum of 60 days,” he said.
Okocha disclosed that the absence of the Judiciary in the state was a big problem.
Tracing the situation to the retirement of the substantive Chief Justice of the state, Hon. Justice Iche Ndu in August 2013, he regretted that since then, the governor had resisted the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge CJ, and queried who will setup the Panel of Inquiry to handle post-election problems.
He called on Rivers people to criticise and oppose the evil, stressing that he was not afraid of the victory of his party, the People’s Democratic Party PDP, against any other party in the state, “for that is the party on ground here.
“If Governor Amaechi were sincere about the LGs election, why did he not order RISIEC to conduct it in the past two years, instead he resorted to caretaker committees, in the belief that they would help him win elections, but thank God, our people could not be blindfolded to his misrule, impunity and disrespect for the rule of law.”