Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday in Abuja advocated greater devolution of authority to local councils to enable them to perform optimally.
The minister made the call while addressing participants of Senior Executive Course 44, 2022 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, who visited him on a study tour.
Participants on the study tour are researching into “Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities’’, a topic assigned to them by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister observed that local governments are critical to entrenching democracy and bringing about rapid development at the grassroots.
He expressed regrets that the third tier of government had remained inefficient and ineffective because of challenges, particularly that of the lack of full autonomy.
“There are issues and challenges that have over the years limited the capacity of local governments to execute their constitutionally assigned roles and responsibilities as a unit of administration with defined powers and authorities.
“State governments have covertly abused the provision of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers them to make legislation for the functioning of local governments,’’ Mohammed he said
The minister added that there is ambiguity in the powers conferred on the states by the 1999 Constitution to legislate on the organisation and structure of local governments.
Speaking on financial autonomy for local councils, the minister, a lawyer, noted that the 1999 Constitution provided for allocation of funds to local governments from the federation account, thus giving them financial autonomy.
He said in contrast, the same Constitution made provision for the establishment of the ”States Joint Local Government Account’’ through which local governments would receive their allocations.
He noted that many state governments took advantage of the joint account to deprive local governments of vital funds, and thus incapacitating them.
The minister also faulted the inconsistency in the tenure of elected local government council officials compared to what obtains at the state and federal levels.
“In many cases, elections are not conducted and caretaker committees are allowed to function for periods even longer than the tenure of elected councils.
“This is a setback and has created political instability for the councils to focus on the real task of governance,’’ the minister said.
Responding, leader of the delegation, Dr Ibrahim Choji, thanked the minister for the presentation stating that it was one of the best outings of the team.
He said the minister’s presentation would assist the team in writing its reports and recommendations to the president.
Electoral Act Amendment Bill Not Yet Signed – Presidency
President Muhammadu Buhari has not signed the Electoral Act amendment Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly, sources in the Presidency have confirmed.
Before the return of the President to Abuja last Saturday, after a two-day visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi, several online news platforms had reported that he had signed the amended electoral law.
When contacted on phone by The Tide source, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who just returned to the country with the President, said: “Yes, I have also read it. They know something we don’t know. They have their sources we don’t know.”
Similarly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, House of Representatives, Hon Umar El-Yakub, doubted the authenticity of the reports.
According to him, “he (the president) couldn’t have signed it yesterday (Friday) because he was out of the country and he couldn’t have signed already because he’s just entering the country.
“I also cannot tell you that he will still not sign it or will not sign it. He’s the President. But if it will be signed later, we will all know,” he said.
The amendment is important to the participation of statutory delegates at the primaries and national convention of political parties, having been excluded from voting and being voted in the previous amendment signed into law by the President.
Political parties are required by the Electoral Act to submit the lists of their delegates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seven days to the national convention.
Should the president refuse to sign the amended electoral bill, the statutory delegates cannot participate in the coming primaries which most parties fixed for the end of this month, leaving only elected delegates to elect presidential, governorship, and legislative candidates.
Statutory Delegates Out, Elected Delegates Now To Pick Presidential Candidates
With clear signs that President Muhammadu Buhari has no plan whatsoever to sign the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 sent to him by the National Assembly last week, the statutory delegates pushed out by the Act have turned out to be the biggest losers in the intense political game.
Section 84(8) recognises only democratically elected delegates, stating, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives had penultimate week passed the amendment to the Act to recognise statutory delegates as voters during primaries, congresses and conventions of all the political parties.
With the President hesitant to sign the amendment, it means only national delegates elected at the local government congresses will determine presidential flagbearers of the parties.
Likewise, only the five delegates elected from each ward for the state congresses will vote to elect governors, senators, House of Representatives and states’ House of Assembly members for the APC. For PDP, it will be the three delegates elected from each ward.
So, statutory delegates, including elected councillors, local government chairmen and their deputies, party chairmen in local government areas, state and federal lawmakers (current and former), governors and their deputies, President and Vice President, National Working Committee members, state party chairmen and secretaries, are no longer voters at the primaries.
The largesse they had been enjoying from all the aspirants at various levels seeking their votes – presidential, governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and states’ House of Assembly – has come to an end.
Many are struggling to face the reality and hoping that the President will still sign the amendment by today.
But analysts countered this, saying, “With the seven-days INEC rule for parties to submit their list of delegates before primary elections, new election amendment is now out of time, even if it gets presidential endorsement.”
Our source, over the weekend, gathered that the APC had already submitted its list of elected delegates to INEC, while the PDP had partially complied, to beat the seven-day deadline.
The PDP has scheduled its presidential primary for May 28 and 29, while the APC will elect its presidential candidate on May 29 and 30.
As things stand, the APC will elect its presidential flag bearer with 2,322 democratically elected delegates, based on three National delegates per local government area.
The PDP will elect its presidential flag bearer with 810 delegates based on one National delegate per local government area and one each per state to cover the physically challenged.
Power to determine those that will emerge as candidates for various elective positions has now returned to the state governors as they determined those on the list of elected delegates sent to INEC.
2023: Group Raises Fear Over Oshiomhole’s Eligibility For Election
A group under the aegis of Concerned Afemai has expressed fear that Mr Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State, maybe ambushed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should he win the Edo North Senatorial District seat or the Presidency in 2023.
The group made this known in a statement by its coordinator , Mr Steven Asemah, and spokesman, Mr Ojo Evbouan, which was made available to newsmen in Benin on Saturday.
The group noted that the former Edo State Governor, having collected forms for two elective positions in the same political party may not be eligible or suitable to vie for any election in the party.
The group which stressed that it had already registered this through a protest to the national headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), cited several controversial legal landmines that Oshiomhole may face.
They noted that to save the party the embarrassment it would face, implored that his (Oshiomhole’s) nominations for both the Presidency and Senate be stepped down.
“The validity of individuals picking dual nomination forms within the same nomination process of a political party is a controversial political habit that is exposed to legal challenge anytime.
“Consequently, Oshiomole’s dual aspiration (for presidency & senate) within APC 2022 nomination process, is a disregard for internal democracy, APC constitution, INEC Guidelines, Electoral Act 30,35,115d, 115k &.1999 Constitution.”
The statement titled: ‘The controversies of oshiomole’s credibility to contest apc primaries’ further states:
“We wish to draw the attention of our party to the serial controversies vis-a-vis legal burden hanging on Adams Aliu Oshiomole, especially relating to his non-credibility to participate in the ongoing APC Nomination Exercise for the 2023 general election.”
The group also disclosed the issues surrounding Oshiomole’s membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC. “The authenticity of Oshiomole membership status after his suspension remains an unsettled fundamental issue.
“Although on June 20th, 2020 the suspension letter was purported lifted by 17 Ward Executives but if the case was withdrawn from court, that does not validate the membership status of Oshiomole. If the suspension was lifted, did it duely comply with Section 21C(I & v) of the APC Constitution.
“In view of the precarious opposition status of APC in Edo State, where the ruling PDP under a draconic Governor Godwin Obaseki may lay ambush on the electoral prospects of APC if Adams Oshiomole is considered for nomination.
“We therefore advise the APC appeal screening committee to curtail avoidable technical losses of APC in Edo-North (which remains the only APC stronghold in Edo State).
“The Appeal Committee should review and step down Adams Aliu Oshiomole from the ongoing 2022 APC nomination process” the group said.
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