Local

Yakubu to SIECs: Stop coronation of ruling parties’ candidates in LG polls

INEC chairman Yakubu 1

Despite their clearly defined powers in the nation’s constitution, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECS) nationwide to, henceforth, stop the coronation of ruling parties’ candidates in the states in the name of local government elections.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave the advice Wednesday at a meeting with the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commissions (FOSIECOM) in Abuja.

Yakubu, who noted that both INEC and SIECs are creations of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), stated that the conduct of local government elections was fundamental to the proper functioning of the nation’s democracy.

The INEC boss also called on state governors to allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action. 

He said the conduct of Local Government elections in virtually all the states of the federation had become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties. 

“Both INEC and SIECs are creations of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The conduct of Local Government elections is fundamental to the proper functioning of our democracy. 

“In fact, Sections 153 and 197 of the Constitution establish INEC and SIECs as two distinct and independent bodies with powers under the Third Schedule Part I (F) (14-15) and Part II (B) (3-4) to organise, undertake and supervise elections. 

“While SIECs are responsible for the conduct of Local Government elections for Chairmen and Councillors, INEC conducts all other executive and legislative polls from presidential and governorship to national and State legislative elections. 

“Our mandates are therefore clearly defined by the Constitution. However, INEC is also empowered by Section 98 of the Electoral Act 2022 to conduct Local Government or Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Realising our shared responsibility for the conduct of democratic elections in Nigeria and the challenges faced by SIECs in carrying out their mandates, INEC encouraged the establishment of FOSIECOM in a genuine effort to foster partnership for credible elections in Nigeria.”

…Need for SIECs’ independence

He further said: “Over the years, attempts were made to encourage the SIECs to maintain their independence. We signed an MoU under which assistance in the form of training, provision of some facilities, institutionalisation of the culture of planning through the development of a strategic plan, holding regular meetings with stakeholders, encouraging the SIECs to participate in our retreats and accrediting their officials to observe our elections. 

“We also established the joint INEC/FOSIECOM consultative Committee headed by a National Commissioner. All these initiatives were proposed and undertaken in the firm belief that by working together, the 36 SIECs will leverage on the experience of INEC for a progressive improvement in the conduct of Local ì elections in Nigeria.

“Unfortunately, the conduct of Local Government elections in virtually all the States of the Federation has become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties. It is time to stop the coronation and conduct proper elections. State Governors should allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action.” 

..Their challenges  

The INEC chairman also enumerated other challenged facing SIECs in the discharge of their duties.

“Many of the SIECs have no functional offices in the Local Government Areas in their States and cannot recruit their own permanent staff. In some States, the SIECs are either not properly constituted, have no security of tenure or their critical functions have been taken over by government officials. 

 “Some SIECs are only constituted on the eve of elections and dissolved thereafter. They are also severely under-resourced to the extent that some of them rely on INEC even for basic facilities such as ballot boxes and voting cubicles. 

 “Consequently, many Nigerians mistake the SIECs for INEC. Indeed, even some of the stakeholders, including candidates for Local Government elections, call them state INEC. This situation has forced us to reconsider some aspects of our relationship with the SIECs. 

 “Our support is now largely restricted to the voters’ register as provided by the Constitution. INEC cannot shoulder its own extensive responsibilities and at the same time extend almost limitless support to other independent electoral commissions for elections outside our mandate across the country from our lean Federal budget.

 “INEC is not unaware of the ongoing discussions about the future of elections for the 774 Local Government Chairmen as well as Councillors representing the 8,809 electoral wards in Nigeria. 

 “However, under the extant law, the 36 SIECs are responsible for the election of 768 Local Government Chairmen and 8,747 Councillors, making a total of 9,515 constituencies. INEC conducts elections for the 68 constituencies in the FCT made up of 6 Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors, including bye-elections as they arise.

“It has been our earnest hope that the elections conducted by INEC in the FCT will provide a model for Local Government elections across the country. In spite of the challenges encountered, there has been a progressive improvement in the conduct of the Area Council Elections in the FCT.

 “There is security of tenure for Chairmen and Councillors which is now four years. There are no caretaker committees as elections are held regularly. There is plurality in electoral outcomes as no single party has ever won elections in all the constituencies in the Area Councils. Happily, the Electoral Act 2022 that now governs the conduct of national and Area Council elections also applies to Local Government elections nationwide.

 “This has been made possible by the efforts of INEC arising from earlier discussions with FOSIECOM on the imperative of a model law to govern the conduct of Local Government elections across the country.

“I therefore appeal to FOSIECOM to take the bull by the horns. While there are legal and financial constraints to your operations, your independence does not necessarily draw from statutory or financial provisions alone. 

 “The courage with which you discharge your obligation to protect the integrity and credibility of elections is the most important determinant of success. There are no shortcuts to the discharge of this enormous responsibility.

 “I want to reassure you that INEC will continue to work with you to push the boundaries of electoral reform. Working together, we should continue to explore all avenues under the law to improve the conduct of Local Government Elections in Nigeria. 

 “However, you should always bear in mind that INEC and other stakeholders can only help you, but there must be a determination on your part to do the needful,” Yakubu said