Imo: Why Council Poll Is Stalled
WITH just four months to the end of his four-year tenure as governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha seems unconcerned with the conduct of election into the 27 local governments in the state.
This has denied the people of the state opportunity of local government administration by elected representatives, as guaranteed by the country’s constitution.
Early last year, the Indepe111ndent National Electoral Commission (INEC), listed Imo and 10 other states for failing to conduct council polls, despite criticism from opposition parties.
Like Oyo and Osun States, Okorocha has always claimed that the election was stalled by court cases, an excuse the opposition does not want to hear.
Since 2012, when the elected council officials were disengaged after several attempts to extend their tenure failed, Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS), were mandated to run the affairs of the councils.
Though, it was learnt that the governor took some steps in 2012 to conduct fresh poll, which was thwarted by the previous sacked council officials, who described such move as contempt of court, political analysts are of the opinion that Okorocha was not well disposed to conducting the poll based on his body language.
The position of the aggrieved council officials was that their tenure should have constitutionally end in 2013, but that they were disengaged when their time was not up, saying any move to conduct fresh poll by Okorocha would amount to contempt of court.
They claimed that for government to contemplate a fresh council poll when the government and the council chairmen were still in court meant flouting the court’s order.
According to the scribe of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), in the state, Enyinnaya Onuegbu, the council officials were elected for three-year tenure that was supposed to end in August 2013, “but we were illegally dissolved by the state government. We are in court to seek redress. Until all the matters are resolved, there cannot be a council election in Imo State.”
But government claimed it did not dissolve the local government administration, rather, the tenure of the local government chairmen had expired on August 8, 2012 and it went back to court to seek the lifting of the injunction. “Once the judge lifted the injunction, the Governor appointed DAGS to replace the council chairmen whose tenures had expired.”
As this imbroglio continues, opposition parties and political watchers are alleging mismanagement of funds as the reason why the governor had continued to run the councils with DAGS.
They claimed that the continuation of such practice is a confirmation that the use of interim council officials to run the councils is meant to facilitate access to funds meant for the grassroots.
A new twist to the issue is the recent disclosure by the Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Chief Amechi Nwoha that political parties have shunned its calls to field candidates for the poll, which it earlier scheduled for January 2015.
Nwoha, who tried to defend the state government for non-conduct of the council poll since the Okorocha administration assumed office in 2011, said he regretted that after the commission published a statement calling on the political parties to field candidates for the polls earlier scheduled for 2015 January, no one responded.
Nwoha also expressed surprise that even the ruling political party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), could not field any candidate, which resulted in the polls not holding before now.
Though he expressed optimism that the commission would conduct elections into the councils this year, he urged patience on the part of politicians.
Said he: “We cannot conduct elections for nobody, even the ruling party in the state was unable to comply with ISIEC guideline. We are ready any time, any moment; to conduct the elections.”