With the outcome of the just concluded local government elections conducted by the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) in the State on Saturday, November 4, 2017, the ruling political party in the State wins by sweeping all the votes, both politicians and the electorate have a chance to now evaluate the degree of independence of the electoral umpire that have been seen in the conduct of local government elections which were reformed in 1976 with a high level of autonomy.
Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall, subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
To ensure credible elections into local councils as stated in the Constitution, the power to appoint chairpersons and commissioners of the State electoral bodies should be removed from the governors.
Through the ongoing constitutional amendments at the National Assembly which is now before State House of Assemblies (SHoA) across the country, there should be concerted efforts to free local councils from the clutches of the state governors. As the situation stands, there is some ambiguity as to whether the state governors can dissolve local councils before elections are conducted at the expiration of their tenure, but often, state governors capitalize on this ambiguity to dissolve local councils at the end of their tenure, and appoint Caretaker Committees. Often, these Committees are staffed with cronies and party sympathizers.
Although democracy is not about election alone, nevertheless, it is very important to have hitch-free elections and transition process, particularly with the grassroots administration as a way of getting sound and well meaning citizens to lay very sound foundation for the socio-economic and political growth of the country.
All hope is not lost and there could still be light at the end of the tunnel. We however need to get the local government elections right just in the same way we are struggling to get the national elections right. We should continue to strengthen the processes and the procedures. The lack of transparency on the part of State’s Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) in conducting local government polls can be reversed if Nigerians, including politicians, civil society organizations, the electorate and the national electoral body resolve to embrace due process in discharging their civic responsibilities.