Politics

Conduct of LG elections in Nigeria are mere coronation of candidates – INEC

INEC

…urges Governors to allow independence of SIECs

By Tunde Opalana

The Independent National Electoral Commission has berated the conduct of local government elections across the 36 states of the federation, describing it as sham and non- credible.

Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said conduct of council polls in Nigeria are mete coronation of candidates of ruling parties in the states.

Prof. Yakunu said this on Wednesday while meeting with Chairmen and other Executive Members of the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commission (FOSIECOM) who paid him a courtesy visit at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.

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He said “it is time to stop the coronation and conduct proper elections. State Governors should allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action. Many of the SIECs have no functional offices in the Local Government Areas in their States and cannot recruit their own permanent staff.

” In some States, the SIECs are either not properly constituted, have no security of tenure or their critical functions have been taken over by government officials. Some SIECs are only constituted on the eve of elections and dissolved thereafter.

“They are also severely under-resourced to the extent that some of them rely on INEC even for basic facilities such as ballot boxes and voting cubicles.”

According to him, INEC is not unaware of the ongoing apprehension by Nigerians about the future of elections for the 774 Local Government Chairmen as well as Councillors representing the 8,809 electoral wards in Nigeria.

However, he said, under the extant law, the 36 SIECs are responsible for the election of 768 Local Government Chairmen and 8,747 Councillors, making a total of 9,515 constituencies while INEC conducts elections for the 68 constituencies in the FCT made up of 6 Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors, including bye-elections as they arise.

The chairman expressed hope that the elections conducted by INEC in the FCT will provide a model for Local Government elections across the country.

“In spite of the challenges encountered, there has been a progressive improvement in the conduct of the Area Council Elections in the FCT. There is security of tenure for Chairmen and Councillors which is now four years. There are no caretaker committees as elections are held regularly.

“There is plurality in electoral outcomes as no single party has ever won elections in all the constituencies in the Area Councils. Happily, the Electoral Act 2022 that now governs the conduct of national and Area Council elections also applies to Local Government elections nationwide.

“This has been made possible by the efforts of INEC arising from earlier discussions with FOSIECOM on the imperative of a model law to govern the conduct of Local Government elections across the country.

Yakubu, therefore appealed to FOSIECOM to take the bull by the horns saying “while there are legal and financial constraints to your operations, your independence does not necessarily draw from statutory or financial provisions alone. The courage with which you discharge your obligation to protect the integrity and credibility of elections is the most important determinant of success. There are no shortcuts to the discharge of this enormous responsibility.”

Speaking on efforts by INEC to encourage the states electoral bodies, he said “realising our shared responsibility for the conduct of democratic elections in Nigeria and the challenges faced by SIECs in carrying out their mandates, INEC encouraged the establishment of FOSIECOM in a genuine effort to foster partnership for credible elections in Nigeria.

“Over the years, attempts were made to encourage the SIECs to maintain their independence. We signed an MoU under which assistance in the form of training, provision of some facilities, institutionalisation of the culture of planning through the development of a strategic plan, holding regular meetings with stakeholders, encouraging the SIECs to participate in our retreats and accrediting their officials to observe our elections.

“We also established the joint INEC/FOSIECOM consultative Committee headed by a National Commissioner. All these initiatives were proposed and undertaken in the firm belief that by working together, the 36 SIECs will leverage on the experience of INEC for a progressive improvement in the conduct of Local Government elections in Nigeria.”

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