Anger Over Postponed Enugu LG Polls by ENSIEC | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Anger Over Postponed Enugu LG Polls by ENSIEC

Posted: Jul 19, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Emmanuel Nzomiwu


In January this year, the Enugu State House of Assembly made a law establishing caretaker committees for the 17 local government areas in the State with a maximum life span of two years instead of six months as it used to be.

The caretaker committees were established to fill the vacuum left in local government administration in the State with the expiration of the two-year tenure of the elected council administration on January 4 this year.

Although, it was expected that council elections would hold in the State in December 2015 to elect council chairmen for the 17 local government areas in the State and councilors for the 260 wards, the elections were postponed indefinitely.

The reason advanced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led state government, for the postponement of the council polls was lack of adequate budgetary provisions in 2015 budget.
Following the postponement of the council polls, the Governor went ahead to set up caretaker committees to administer the affairs of the councils. Six months after the caretaker committees were established in Enugu State, new issues are emerging.

Since the House of Assembly gave the caretaker committees life span of maximum of two years, there is one question on the lips of keen observers of political developments in the State. Do we assume that they will stay for two years?

While the above question has been begging for an answer, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), during its last national convention in Port Harcourt, told all member governors to go and conduct local government elections in their states as soon as possible.

Independent investigations however revealed that the Governor may not be easily disposed to conduct local government elections for three major reasons.

One is political convenience. The caretaker committees may afford him opportunity for political settlement. Unlike the elected chairmen, the caretaker may afford him the opportunity of appointing his choice against going for an election where people will produce councilors in the wards and the local government chairmen. Secondly, the Governor does not have to go through with the stress of slugging it out with opposition parties in an election, more especially now that PDP is not the ruling party at the national level.

There is an equally economic consideration including the seemingly “huge” capital outlay for conducting election, which may impact negatively on the resources of the State, especially now that payment of salaries is a problem for many states as a result of economic downturn in the country. This economic downturn is caused by dwindling oil revenue, occasioned by drop in oil prices.

It was further gathered that on the average, an election will cost about N300 million. This projection is based on the last local government election in 2013 which was said to have gulped about N280 million.

Another economic consideration is the cost of maintaining the local government councils. There are statutory salaries for councilors and statutory allowances. Even as at now, immediate past councilors are threatening to go to court over unpaid allowances. So, it is economically inexpedient for government to embark on conducting another election to engage new people when the old ones have not been paid. A precedent has been set where councilors were given cars. The next set will expect cars. There are 260 wards in the state, each represented by a councilor.

Our findings equally revealed that having caretaker committees affords government opportunity to disburse funds to councils at will as against elected people who expects money directly from Federation account. That was the system used in Kano and Anambra States under Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Obi who conducted election in the twilight of their government, likewise Abia State under Theodore Orji as Governor. They all appointed people who will not have a voice either as caretaker committees or transition chairmen.

Institutional considerations were also adduced for the government’s reluctance to conduct local government elections. For instance, it was gathered that the election management body, the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) is faced with a lot of challenges. A lot of petitions have gone to various quarters, complaining of financial impropriety on the part of ENSIEC. One of the petitions accused the Chairman of monumental fraud on handling the past two elections.

It is being speculated that not less than N250 million was pocketed under false pretense. These ranges from claiming money for materials not procured and making payments to fictitious people and receiving money for elections not conducted, like by-elections in Awgu, Enugu North and Igbo-Eze South.

Recently, information circulated in town  that another group was gathering materials to write a petition to EFCC where in addition to the fraud in ENSIEC, they are demanding that the money for capital projects in the electoral body from 2012 to 2015 should be investigated, especially the renovation of ENSIEC headquarters in Enugu. It was alleged that the job was done by PDI but double packaging was done in ENSIEC.

Against the backdrop of these allegations of financial impropriety in ENSIEC, it is argued that any election handled by them may be flawed as they lack the moral standing to conduct election.

Independent however gathered that another option open to the government is to reconstitute the board from the 12th of August when tenure of the chairman and four commissioners will expire, leaving the Commission with the three Commissioners appointed last year.

However, there are strong feelers that the ENSIEC Chairman, Dr Bony Ene whose tenure will expire next month is already lobbying to be retained alongside the four commissioners, against the precedent in the commission that the chairman comes from the same zone with Governor.

Our sources recalled that under Chimaroke Nnamani, his Nkanu kinsman, Abel Nwobodo was there while Sullivan Chime appointed his Udi kinsman, Bony Ene, whose tenure will end in August 11. Going by this precedent, it will not be out of place for the Governor to put his fellow Nsukka man, much more when there is a serving commissioner from his Orba community in Udenu LGA who must have understudied the chairman in the past one year.

However, Dr Eneh is making frantic efforts to be retained and if not, to be given another appointment.

Our sources therefore queried: “Assuming the group threatened to go to EFCC, will it not place a moral burden on Governor to retain anybody with corruption case. Sam Iyiogwe left office as Chairman of Nkanu East local government and was appointed Governor’s Senior Special Assistant (SSA). He was taken to EFCC and accused of misappropriating N200 million when he was chairman.

It was also said that sometime last year, Ene gave Governor proposal of N350 million for the conduct of the local government election in the State, but information got to Governor that most of the materials being requested for have actually been procured since Abel Nwobodo’s days as Chairman of ENSIEC.

Based on information at his disposal, the Governor paid unscheduled visit to ENSIEC and asked for the store to be opened for on the spot assessment and pronto, he discovered that most of the materials that Dr Ene was requesting for were there in the store and that there is no need to procure new ones. So, he queried the ENSIEC boss on why he is requesting money for all these things that are in place.

Meanwhile, the other four commissioners whose tenure is ending in August 11 alongside Dr Eneh are also said to be lobbying to remain in ENSIEC. One of the outgoing Commissioners is Chuks Egbo from Amechi in Enugu South local government area. In his case, Methodist Bishops went to the Governor pleading for him to be retained. According to our sources, it is up to the Governor to retain him knowing his role in the infamous IMT board during the discredited tenure of Edwin Onyeneje as Rector as well as in ENSIEC, assuming there is no other more credible Nkanu man to be appointed as Commissioner in ENSIEC.