INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
By Chuks Okocha
At last, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commissions of Nigeria (FOSIECON) has called on state governors that are yet to conduct local government elections in the states to as a matter of urgency conduct one in compliance with the constitutional provisions.
As at the last count, over 25 states are yet to conduct the local government elections.
INEC and FOSIECON decried the situation where only 13 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have elected local government chairmen in place while the other state have caretaker chairmen and sole administrators.
According to a communique at their joint Second Annual Conference at the Kwara Hotel, Ilorin, on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 with the theme credible local government elections: It is Possible.’
They noted that “the one-day conference, aware of the centrality of local government elections in Nigeria’s efforts at deepening democracy; committed to learning from national and global electoral best practices; recognising the critical need for regular local government elections as provided for by law and the importance of the autonomy of Electoral Management Bodies, the conference extensively deliberated on the issues and observed as follows:
Other issues in the communiqué of the meeting include that the independence and financial autonomy of state Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) is critical to their capacity to conduct free, fair and credible elections;
The communiqué listed the nine states in the federation have not duly constituted SIECS to include Nasarawa, Bauchi, Kano, Bayelsa, Delta, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Anambra.
It also said that out of the 36 states and FCT, only 13 have elected local governments namely: Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Sokoto, Cross River, Rivers, and Ebonyi. Others are Kwara, Taraba, Jigawa, Ogun, Niger and Zamfara;
The communiqué said that security of elections has visibly improved but there is yet a need to further address recurring incidents of violence in elections;
It also said that voter education is still inadequate as evidenced in the high number of voided ballots in both national and local elections, as well as low levels of voter consciousness about basic operations of the electoral process;
The communiqué said that there is a need for a model state electoral law that can serve as a benchmark for the conduct of elections by SIECs.
Also, it said that there is a need for increased capacity building and professionalization of Electoral Management
Bodies; and that development partners are playing a significant role in the effort to consolidate and deepen democracy in Nigeria.
The conference recommended that having made the foregoing observations, the conference, desirous of repositioning electoral management in Nigeria to be more professional, efficient, and credible, makes the following recommendations:
INEC and the forum further said that there is an urgent need to amend relevant provisions of the law to strengthen the independence and financial autonomy of SIECs;
Other details of the meeting include that states that do not have duly constituted SIECs are strongly urged to establish same without further delay; and that there is an urgent need for states where caretaker committees or sole administrators are at the helm of affairs in local governments to proceed with plans for elections in accordance with constitutional requirements; It also called for a strategic partnership between INEC and SIECs in collaboration with all Security Agencies should be forged to enhance the security of elections and thus their transparency and credibility.