Lagos: Tenure extension bill raises issues

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dapo Akinrefon & Ebun Sessou

It is a good bill — Mosun       
A proposal to extend the tenure of elected local government chairmen in Lagos State from three years to four years opens the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN to allegations of tenure gerrymandering.

In the opinion of a leading member of the Lagos State House of Assembly it is the best bill to have come under consideration of the House in recent times.

The amendment bill to the Lagos State Local Government Administration Law, 1999 is, however, laced with serious controversy, the kind of controversies that the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN use in taunting the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Now, the ACN is the one being taunted and it is not surprising that many otherwise eloquent canvassers of the ACN are shying away from making comments on the bill.

Many of them even go the extent of denial. The bill aims to extend the tenure of the incumbent local government chairmen and councillors, a move, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP alleges to be another sign of desperation on the part of the ACN leadership of the state.

The amendment follows a communication from the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola to the Lagos State House of Assembly for an amendment to the laws governing the administration of local governments in the state.

The bill aims to extend the tenure of the chairmen of the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state from three to four years.

*Gov Fashola

*Gov Fashola

The incumbent chairmen who were all elected on the platform of the ACN came into office in October 2011 and under the existing law are expected to hold office until October 2014 when they would either seek re-election or vacate office under the three year tenure system.

However, the bill now under consideration in aims to review section 27(3) of the present law to allow the extension of the tenure of the incumbent office holders to four years.

Another critical provision in the bill is a clause that would also limit the term of office of the chairmen to two, meaning that no single individual can stay in office for more than eight years.

Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at synchronising the tenure of the local government administrators to that of other office holders at the federal and state levels.

“It is born out of the fact that the current local government law is outdated because it can no longer meet the challenges facing the tier of government and that is why there is need for a new law to strengthen the local councils in the state,” Hon. Moshood Oshun, chairman of the House Committee on Local government and chieftaincy affairs told Vanguard in an interview.

Other critical stakeholders including the lawyers flay what they allege to be an attempt to shift the goal post in the middle of the game. The most virulent opposition, however, has come from the PDP. After making what some saw as a good showing in the 2011 local government elections the opposition party believes that another round of local government elections before the 2015 general election would expose the underbelly of the ACN in the state.

Though none of the seats was declared in its favour the PDP was able to win some four seats at the election tribunal, though all the seats judicially declared for it have been reversed at the Court of Appeal.

PDP spokesman in the state, Mr. Taofik Gani alleges that the bill is a far more potent variant of the controversial third term push during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime.

“This is worse than third term that they blackmailed the PDP with,” Gani told Vanguard in an interview.

Grassroots election
“We know that it is in the interest of the ACN because they cannot risk another grassroots election before the general election of 2015.

So, they want to avoid that because the next local government election is due before the next general election and they want to have hold of all the local government areas to be pseudo comfortable for the general elections. These people tag themselves as democrats, progressives, but they are worse,” he said.

Lagos ACN spokesman Joe Igbokwe who denied knowledge of the bill, nevertheless, called for caution saying: “Wait until the house takes a decision on that, then we can talk. For the fact that somebody presented something in the hallowed chambers of the State House of Assembly does not mean it is automatic. Let us wait and see because this is democracy.”

This is a good bill — Mosun

The Chairman of the Committee on Local Government Administration and Chieftaincy Affairs, Lagos State House of Assembly, Moshood Oshun in this interview explains the rationale for the new Local Government Amendment Bill 2013 saying it is to reposition the administrative system of the local government system in the state. Excerpts:

What is your opinion on the new Local Government Amendment Bill 2013 ?
It is born out of the fact that the current local government law is outdated because it can no longer meet the challenges facing the tier of government and that is why there is need for a new law to strengthen the local councils in the state.

Mosun

Mosun

The truth is that, the mode of operation of the local council system can no longer meet the demand of this new generation. And that is the same for other bills that are yet to be changed. Most of the bills are old and the society is changing everyday therefore most of the bills have to change. Basically there are some bills that have changed.

There are many things that had changed in the administration of our local governments and so we are on the verge of enacting a new bill that would indicate what the people want. The new bill is seeking to amend the existing law on its administration, mode of operation, tenure of elected members of the council, among others.

The new bill will give enough opportunities to the House of Assembly to assess the councils’ performance. We are not talking about extension, what we are saying is that there is need for a new bill to be created for a standard local government to be run.

That is why we need the stakeholders to come and brainstorm on what the bill should look like after which we will then take it up from there. We are going to organise a public hearing where stakeholders would come to share their opinions. Right now, the bill is still pending until the public hearing is conducted. And that is why we are not in a rush to enact this new bill.

Do you support the new bill?
Of course, I support the new bill. It is like changing a car to suit the new environment. The society itself needs a new bill. We need a bill that would checkmate the activities of the local government.

What stage is the bill right now?
It is still pending until the public hearing is done and we are not in a rush to enact the bill. We need to put the right thing in place for our people.

The bill is to make sure that the local government runs the way it is supposed to be run, there is need for checks and balances in the local government and also make the local government local closer to the people.

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