Sunday, 4 January 2015

Article: Bastardization Of Local Government System In Anambra State

Governor Obaino of Anambra State

Report By Comrade Aloysius Attah

One sore point in the Peter Obi led administration in Anambra State that led to altercation and collision with some civil society organizations in the state chiefly the JDPC, Onitsha Archdiocese and the CLO Anambra State Branch is the non democratization of the 3rd tier structure of government in the state. Though the past administration gave so many reasons why the local government election could not hold, we kept pressurizing the government on the issue until finally on January 11, 2014, the elections into the local councils were conducted.

Whether the election was done in a free, fair and credible manner is an issue for another day but we are worried on the manner the local councils are being run presently in Anambra.

Against the dictates and spirits of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Anambra local government system is in shambles that to describe it as an appendage of the state government will amount to promotion, rather, the right word will be slaves or toys of the state government.

The council chairmen are servants of the ministry of local government and the executive while the councilors live like paupers.  The 21 local government chairmen receive handouts from the ministry and they are taunted to even remain ever thankful to their paymasters, after all, they were privileged to be selected in the first place. Any of the council chairmen who want to be assertive or claim to know too much has incurred the wrath of the gods and must pay dearly for such.

Then against any known democratic norms and practice, some council chairmen are appointed or given legal backing to stay in office as it suits the powers that be.

Such was the scenario that led to the appointment of Chief Emeka Ojukwu  Jnr as the Sole Administrator of Nnewi North Local Government . When it became so glaring to the APGA government that it will likely lose the local government to the opposition for peculiar reasons, Gov. Obiano announced the appointment of Ojukwu jnr as the sole administrator while his 20 other counterparts were elected thereby acting as if the state was in a military era.

Another serious aberration was the continued stay in office of the ousted Chairman of Ihiala Local Government Area, Chigozie Awugosi even when the election tribunal and the appeal  had sacked him and ordered for a fresh election. The Aguata Zone of the Election Appeal Tribunal  sitting at Ekwulobia presided over by Justice Obiora had on June 19, 2014 upheld the judgment of the Obi Anizoba led Election Petitions Tribunal which nullified the election of Awugosi on April 9, 2014 and ordered him to vacate office and allow ANSIEC conduct a fresh election.  Surprisingly, Mr. Awugosi remained in office on the strength of a memo signed by the Commissioner for Local Government simply because he made an application to the Court of Appeal for a stay of execution of the ruling of the High Court and the election tribunal which was not granted until November 10, 2014 when the same court ordered him to be thrown to jail for 3 months without option of fine for contempt of court.

Anambra State Government by these episodes was not only brought to public ridicule but it has shown the extent to which the local government system has been bastardised in the State.  As at the time of compiling this report, Mr. Awugosi is still taking Ben Johnson style and voomkamma like Chioma Ajunwa as he reportedly vanished from the court premises immediately the pronouncement against him was made and has not been seen since then. Till now, Ihiala doesn’t have a council chairman while our source in the council confided to the CLO that salaries have not been paid to the workers and councilors till now.

All these are happening in Anambra at a time that there is a national concern over the agitation for the granting of full autonomy to the local government system.  It is on this premise that we join in the full support for local government autonomy in Nigeria and call on the Anambra State Government to loosen its tight grip on the local government system in the state. We did say in our UDHR Report of 2013 that we want to see whom to hold responsible if our streets (Trunk C Roads) are not graded among other functions of the local government councils listed in the Schedule 4 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.  We also call for the immediate conduct of democratic local government elections in Nnewi North and Ihiala Local Government councils without further delay.

(Being excerpts from the 25 paged End year/World Human Rights Day Report of the Civil Liberties Organisation(CLO), Anambra State Branch 08035090548

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