By Bassey Inyang in Calabar
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State during the 2015 general election, Mr. Odey Ochicha, has asked the state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, to ensure that local government elections are conducted in the state this year.
Ochicha, who commented on the issue, said the APC would stoutly resist any attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration led by Ayade to impose unelected people to head the third tier of government in the state.
Ochicha barred his mind on the issue amidst speculation that caretaker committees would be installed in all the eighteen local government areas of the state at the expiration of the tenure of the current elected local government chairman and councillors.
The statement made available to journalists in Calabar on Sunday read in part: “The local government is a strategic tier of government that should not ,for any reason, be under the absolute control of state governors. It is the closest government to the people and should be given its due recognition, respect and funding.
“But it’s regrettable and unfortunate that in Nigeria and especially Cross River state, council officials have been reduced to mere tools used by governors to achieve their selfish political aims.”
He argued that anything short of elections for the emergence of a new set of democratically elected officials to run the affairs of local government areas, would smack of insensitivity to the feelings of the people.
“Ayade should know that Cross Riverians will not settle for anything other than a free and fair elections for council officials. For even thinking of substituting elections for caretaker for any reason shows how insensitive he is to the role played by the local governments in the development of the state economy,” Ochicha stated.
Ochicha pointed out that the state House of Assembly has abdicated its responsibility to the people by tinkering with the idea of amending the state local government law to provide for the inauguration of caretaker committees.
“It is a shame that the state House of Assembly which was supposed to be the hope of a common man and a check to the executive has become a rubber stamp to the governor. This should not be in a true democracy.
“The law was made for everybody, so any attempt to change the constitution to favour the selfish interest of an individual is the height of irresponsible legislation and should be resisted by all those who wish the state well,” Ochicha stated.
He argued that elected local government officials have been made to look like mere appointees and surrogate of the governor.
The APC chieftain stated that the state would recede from democracy if caretaker committees were imposed on the people at the third tier of government.
Ochicha pointed out that it was high time the people stood up against what he described as the insensitivity of the executive arm of government and the state legislature, whom he accused of working together to deny them the opportunity of electing their leaders at the local government stratum of government.