BY AUSTIN OGWUDA
The lot of the 25 local councils in Detla State has been that of one dislocation or the other. Inevitably, the culture of democracy has suffered.
It all started during the tenure of former Governor James Ibori, who ran the state between 1999 and 2007 and that dislocation has continued till date. Democracy is absent in all but one of the councils, the exception being Oshimili North Local Government where the incumbent Chairman, Mr. Christopher Okafor is still presiding via a court pronouncement following the delay in his inauguration that was earlier hamstrung by litigations
At the tail end of the Ibori era, the State House of Assembly had dissolved all the local councils on the ground that their three-year tenure had expired. The legislators then ordered the various Heads of Personnel Management (HPMs) to formally take over from the chairmen within 24 hours.
Two weeks after the dissolution precisely, on May 2, 2007, Ibori made it clear that he was not in the mood to conduct local government elections before his exit on May 29, 2007 as he prepared the grounds for the incoming administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to carry out the exercise.
Uduaghan eventually conducted the council polls in April 2008 and that was the last elections were conducted at the grassroots in the State. The present scenario which has sole administrators in charge of the third tier is raising anxiety among stakeholders, who are opposed to caretaker committees with some of them threatening litigation.
Governor Uduaghan recently said even though the councils were not run by democratically-elected officials, he was effectively filling in that gap.
Receiving the National President of NULGE Comrade Ibrahim Ali on a courtesy visit to him at Government House, Asaba, Uduaghan said the time had come for local governments to receive allocations directly because local government workers and teachers suffer unnecessary delay in the payment of their salaries.
Disclosing that he was releasing N274 million monthly to augment council funds, Uduaghan also stated that “It has become necessary for the Federal Government to either take over the burden of paying teachers salaries,” if it would not support the increase of allocation to the states and local councils.
The chairman of Labour Party, LP in the state, Comrade Emeka Nkwoala why lamenting the present situation said: “Why should the governor go ahead in constituting caretaker committee? “We in the opposition have been clamouring for local government elections. The governor has appointed PDP members as chairmen of the various councils. Is PDP the only party in the state?
“It is totally unacceptable to us. All over the country there is a call for democratic governance at the grassroots level. We urge the governor to feel the pulse of the state and conduct the election. This scenario takes us to the constitutional amendment as regards local government autonomy in election. We shall continuously engage the governor on this until election is conducted.”
Enraged Chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the state, Chief Adolo Okotie-Eboh, said that the party would go to court to challenge setting up of caretaker committees.
Sheathe your sword, Uduaghan’s aide tells opposition
Delta State Information Commissioner, Chief Ogeah said “it is a hasty decision for the opposition to be considering court action.
All as all the governor has done is taking an interim measure pending the screening and subsequent confirmation of members of the State Electoral Commission which has the responsibility of choosing a date and thereafter conduct free and credible elections.”
Senior Political Adviser to the governor, Chief Ighoyota Amori said “ACN should start preparing for election instead of wasting time in litigation as all ACN governments in old Western region have been running their councils with caretaker committees. Pot should not call kettle back.”
Former governorship candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, in the last governorship polls in Delta state, Comrade Emmanuel Odafe Igbini now in the employ of the Delta State Government as Director General Direct Labour Agency (DLA), in a statement said the plan of the political parties to drag the state government to court over appointment of Caretaker Committees for the councils was not the best option because it could delay conduct of council polls.
“The plan will only help PDP-led Delta State Government to buy time to keep the Caretaker Committees as long as they wish as they will drag the matter up to the Supreme Court for final determination.”
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