Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Stakeholders in Anambra State, have expressed worry at the non-conduct of Local Government election by governor Chukwuma Soludo’s administration in Anambra State.
Soludo had during the 2021 governorship campaign and even at swearing in as governor on March 17, 2022, assured that he would conduct Local Government election within 6 months in office.
But the stakeholders, who are worried that the promise was yet to be fulfilled 21 months after, were unhappy that by January 2024 it would be exactly ten years the last local government election was conducted in the State.
Their worries were contained in a communique issued at the end of the forum organised by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) Abuja in partnership with International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), in collaboration with Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, under the topic ‘Strengthening Transparency, Accountability in Governance and Electoral Process (STAGE).’
The forum was attended by the representatives of Anambra State government, traditional rulers, Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), the clergy, people with disabilities, journalists, civil society organisations and others.
It read partly: “There is the paramount need to organise local government elections in Anambra State. Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, promised to undertake local government elections within six months of being elected. If there is an impediment for Governor Soludo not to organise the local government elections, he owes it as a duty to address the state on the matter.
“It is noteworthy that after the return of power to the civilians in 1999 with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju as Anambra State Governor, it took all the time for Mr. Peter Obi to organise local government elctions in 2014. Anambra as a leading state in the country should show the light. All the stakeholders who have the ears of Mr. Governor should get him to do the needful.
“The first step towards having elections in the local governments is instituting the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC). It is incumbent on Governor Soludo to duly institute ANSIEC. There is the question of how independent the ANSIEC is. The regular matter all over the country is that the party in power wins all the seats.
“Even so, the resolution is: Let there be the elections first. It needs reiteration that organising the local government election in Anambra State is long overdue. It is as though that the third tier of government is dead. Local government workers only go to work when they like,” it maintained.
Although the stakeholders acknowledged that insecurity in the State in the past months might have contributed to the delay, they said “now that there is relative security, the elections can go ahead to make the third tier of government effective.”
They also stressed the need for political parties to be involved in advancing the case for credible local government elections in Anambra and other parts of Nigeria, even as they urged state governors to stop sabotaging the third tier of government.
Speaking at the occasion, the Director of Strategy, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Abuja, Itia Otabor, explained that the essence of the stakeholders forum was to bring together key players to brainstorm on importance of conducting LG election as first step to rejuvenate that interest.
“Our deliberation will not only be fruitful but a cornerstone towards the conduct of Local Government election in Anambra State. LG election is a constitutional matter not a favour. It is enshrined in section 7 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution stated that there must be democratically elected local government officers. We are here to rally round support and partnership to see it happen,” he added.
On his part, the Chairman, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCR), Awka, Prince Chris Azor, observed that it was unfortunate that Anambra State which is light of the nation was lagging behind with the conduct of Local Government election.
“The LG election is very important. We want to encourage and suggest to the government on how best to get it done. We are not partisans. Our philosophy is to put people at stretch. Any government that takes care of the citizens and security have done a pass mark. And Local government election is one of the means of taking good care of the citizens because it encourages citizens participation in governance from the grassroots,” he noted.
In a keynote address, a lecturer from the Department of Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr Henry Duru, disclosed that using caretaker committee to run affairs of local government administration amounts to illegality, because it contravenes the constitutional provisions that instituted the LG as a third tier of government.
Responding, the Anambra State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mrs Chiamaka Nnake, represented by Ms Ogochukwu Oji, reassured of the governor’s resolve to conduct local government election, noting that Soludo was a man of his words and lover of due process.
Also speaking, the member representing Awka North LGA and Chairman, Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Local Government, Hon. Chimezie Ikwunne, explained that the state legislators would not only ensure that adequate provisions were made for effective conduct of council polls but also work in harmony with the state executive to entrench peaceful and transparent running affairs of the LG.