Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State Government and serving Councillors in the 171 wards in the 13 Local Government Areas of the state have disagreed over the recent court ruling which annulled the recently held council elections in the state.
This is as the State Government has vowed to go ahead with the swearing-in of new councillors and chairmen for the councils and wards.
The state House of Assembly had reduced the tenure of Council Chairmen from three years to two years paving the way for fresh elections in the councils.
But some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had gone to court before the election seeking to stop it.
The plaintiffs, Otu Collins and four others in suit number FHC/AIICS/151/2022 argued that the tenure of the present chairmen and councillors has not expired.
Despite the pendancy of the suit, the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) went ahead to conduct the election.
The elections held on July 30 2022 with the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state winning all the positions.
The State Government went ahead to plan inauguration of the new chairmen and councillors for September 1.
But the Federal High Court in Abakaliki on Thursday August 25, quashed the elections when it held that the tenure of the present chairmen and councillors would expire next year.
Justice Fatun Riman in his ruling on the matter declared that “the tenure of office of the chairmen and councilors in Local Governments of Ebonyi State was three years and that the tenure of the present crop of chairmen and councilors would expire in August 2023.”
He further restrained the State Government from appointing caretaker chairmen or caretaker committees to run the affairs of the councils.
“That the 3rd defendant (Ebonyi State Government) lacks the vires, authority, enablement etc to appoint caretakers, caretaker committees and/or anybody of persons by whatsoever name or nomenclature called that are unelected democratically to run, manage, superintend etc the affairs of the 13 Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State,” he said.
However, the State Government appears set to swear-in the newly elected local government chairmen and councillors despite the court ruling.
The State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Stanley Emegha had publicly insisted that the 13 LGA chairmen and 171 ward councillors-elect must be inaugurated on 1st September 2022 as earlier scheduled.
Mr Emegha while announcing the date for the inauguration ceremony, argued that the inauguration of the newly elected LG chairmen and councillors should be held following their successful election on July 30, 2022.
He said: “In view, of the successful conduct of Council polls in Ebonyi State on the 30th of July 2022, the National and Zonal Leadership of the All Progressives Congress Stakeholders), other stakeholders, as well as the general public, are cordially invited to witness the epoch-making event which will signify a new era that will consolidate on the giant developmental strides of our Governor, Engr Chief David Nweze Umahi.
“It is also gratifying to use this opportunity again to congratulate the newly elected chairmen of the 13 LGAs and 171 wards’ councillors as well as our great party, APC for sweeping the polls overwhelmingly”, he said.
He announced that the inauguration would be held on September 1, 2022, by 10 am, at the Pa Ngele Oruta Township Stadium, Abakakili, Ebonyi State.
Speaking on Channels TV on Tuesday, Commissioner for Information, Uchenna Orji, argued that the ruling did not annul the council election.
He also maintained that the court did not also order a stop to the swearing in ceremony of the new council chairmen and councillors.
However, the 171 councillors in the state after a meeting accepted the ruling of the court.
In a statement they issued on Monday, the councillors resolved that they are in agreement with the judgment of the federal high court over the tenure of council chairmen and councillors in the State.
The councillors while pledging support to the APC led administration in the state however urged the state government to accept the judgment.
The councillors also pledged to support the candidates of the party in all the positions for the 2023 general election.