State of Democracy in LGAs: Caretakers on the plateau

BY TAYE OBATERU

IN  SPITE of the resolution of the National Assembly that states should conduct elections for the administration of local governments, the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC) is yet to announce a time-table for the conduct of election for the 17 local councils of the state.

Government handpicked caretaker committees still hold sway in the councils, thus making them extensions of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs from where they take instructions.

Elections were due over a year ago, but opposition parties allege that the state government rather than encourage PLASIEC to organize elections, appointed caretaker committees into the councils.

 Gov Jonah Jang of Plateau State

Gov Jonah Jang of Plateau State

Signs that the state government was bent on taking absolute control of the councils were evident in the decision to dissolve elected administrations in Bokkos and Wase local councils, which were under the control of opposition parties.

The chairmen who initially lost election to the ruling PDP got their mandates back through the election tribunal and had therefore not concluded their tenures when government dissolved the councils.

Subsisting court orders
Subsisting court orders stopping the state government from terminating their tenures were ignored. Instead, government allegedly struck a deal with one of them and appointed him as head of the caretaker committee for the local government.

The desire of the state government to put the councils at its beck and call remained a mere allegation until the state government recently came up with a position to confirm her desire to make councils an extension of the state governments.

In a submission on the proposed amendment to the constitution, the state government clearly indicated that it was opposed to the independence of the local government as an independent tier of government.

The administration’s position was contained in a document entitled “The Position of the Executive Council of Plateau State on the Amendment of Some Sections of the Constitution” signed by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Edward Pwajok.

Not a few including members of the opposition parties saw this as a vindication of their position that the state government prefers to run local governments as an extension of its ministries. Some have even accused the PDP administration of failing to allow elections for fear of defeat.

The State Chairman of All Peoples Grand Alliance, APGA Alhaji Ali Yahaya Ali said the party is disturbed with the situation on ground. “This election was supposed to have taken place since, but we don’t know why the government is delaying the whole thing.

From what we are seeing, the government is afraid of the opposition especially our own party which is APGA. That is why they are delaying the election.

But whatever they want to do provided it is within the law, we are waiting for them, and we are sure that we will beat the PDP in all the 17 local government elections in the state because we are well prepared for them.”

On his part the Publicity Secretary of Labour Party Mr. Sylvanus Namang described the delay in conducting the local government elections in the state as anti-democracy and not in the interest of democracy.

According to him “All local government officials from the chairman to, councillors are supposed to be elected representatives of their people in a true democracy but the reverse has been the case in Plateau State. The 17 local governments are now controlled by the government.

Similarly, spokesman of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the state, Mr. ambo Nbilamut accused the ruling party of being afraid to conduct elections.

“I want to assure you that they will lose the local government elections, and because of that they are more comfortable with the appointment of caretaker committees. The whole funds of the local governments are being managed by those not elected by the people and that is fraudulent”, he said.

However, a staunch member of Democratic People’s Party, DPP who was a candidate in the last senatorial bye election, Col. John Dung, rtd, said permanently resolving the impasse which paralyzed activities at the local governments for most of last year should be the priority for now. Speaking at the end of last year, he said, “primary schools are closed, health centers are shut and people are suffering from all angles. To me, resolving this problem should be the priority now before we begin to talk about elections.”

PLASIEC Chairman, Mr. Peter Dalyop has, meanwhile given assurance that arrangements were on to conduct elections into the councils but did not give any date.

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