A human rights activist and current Resident Electoral Commissioner, Cross Rivers State, Barr Mike Igini, has slammed governors that have refused to conduct local government elections and those running the third tier of government with caretaker committees.
In his words, “My ideas on the issue are sufficiently well known; it has been published in the newspapers. That in places where L.G.A elections have not been conducted, it is a total violation of Section 7 of the constitution, it is the only Section that used ‘Guarantee’and that is the problem we are having in the country that our democracy is not on sound footing.
“All these Caretakers Committees, they are complete aberration and a breach of the Constitution for which I have called on the National Assembly not to release money for L.G.A to the states where L.G.A elections have not been conducted”
Barr. Igini who spoke to Journalists at the venue of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Warri Branch, decried a situation where most of the State Governors hide under one technicality or the other and refuse to conduct elections into the Local Government Areas in their states but were allowed to receive Federal Allocations for such councils.
“I deplore situations whereby State Governors failed to conduct elections into their local government areas. These councils are the closest to the people at the grassroots and yet were denied the benefits of that tier of government.
“I therefore implored the National Assembly to pass a bill that will suspend Federal Allocations to local government areas not constituted in line with the provision of the constitution. Such Allocations must be held in trust for such councils pending when proper executives are put in place”, he said.
Barr. Igini restated his earlier statement that the burden of proof that a candidate won an election should be the responsibility of INEC and urged INEC officials not to depend on state governors and other politicians for their basic needs.
He commended the President and National Assembly for being supportive of INEC. “The National Assembly has been wonderful under President Jonathan, we have not seen where INEC go cap in hand to the Villa to beg for funds like what happened under Obasanjo regime, when Iwu was the Chairman.”
He however recognized that the INEC has not been perfect as perfection belongs to God only. “But what we are saying is that our areas of imperfection in conducting election will not be sufficient to upturn the entire process.” He added.
Also speaking on the “Thirteen years of Civil Rule: Few Gains, Many Pains” on the occasion, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai said the nation’s political culture must change from one of self-enrichment to true public service. “The situation in which we spend almost the entire revenues to pay the salaries, allowances and running cost of government and its officials is unacceptable and will crash this
The Federal Capital Territory Minister remarked that elections should be credible, free and fair because that was what would guarantee the ejection of those that fail the electorate. “I have said this before and will say it again. If the ruling party and its partners in INEC and the security agencies rig the next election, Nigerians will not let them enjoy the fruits of their fraud. Enough is now enough” he concluded.
Recently, the House of Representatives adopted a motion on the illegality in the constitution of caretaker committees for local government councils warning that “The practice by those states if not checked could bring the country into a lawless state”.
In a related development the presidential committee on the review of constitutional conferences on the amendment of the nation’s Constitution on Tuesday submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan, calling for an independent, incorruptible and stabilizing local government system, through democratically elected process.
The Chairman of the committee, retired Justice Alfa Belgore said a sound local government is necessary in order to deepen the principles of democracy and sound management at the grass roots.
While presenting the committee’s report, Justice Belgore stated that the procedures Nigeria inherited from the colonial times originally meant for jury “has not helped the speedy dispensation of justice”.
He observed that even the British have done away with the procedures while Nigeria still insists on them as sacrosanct, which is “unfortunate”.
The committee recommend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must be empowered to set up a council to, from time to time, set up rules of court both civil and criminal and that such councils should be representative of the judiciary, the bar, the private sector and government.
President Jonathan, while receiving the report, commended the committee for paying justified attention to the local government administration.
He said that he is convinced that the greatest asset of democracy is the commitment of people at the grass root to the ideals of transparency, accountability and good governance.