Elections into the 16 Local Government Councils in Taraba State takes place today. The exercise is expected to produce substantive members of the councils which include chairmen and councilors.
However, civil society organisations interested in monitoring the election complained that the state electoral commission was shrouding everything about the exercise in secrecy.
Campaign for the election peaked a few days ago with Governor Darius Ishaku joining street-to-street convoys of some candidates of the PDP in Wukari and Takum LGAs in his senatorial zone.
Friday was declared a work-free day in the state to enable the people, particularly civil servants to travel to their wards to vote. Gov. Ishaku also arrived Takum his home town last night in order to be able to vote in his ward. He had earlier appealed to the people of the state to conduct themselves in a very mature manner during the election.
The PDP, the ruling party in the state, APC, SDP, APGA, Labour Party and several others are contesting in the election. The Local Government Councils in the state are currently being run by caretaker committee appointed by the governor.
However, Uncertainty pervaded the air yesterday with stakeholders lodging several complaints over the way the Gombe State Independent Electoral Commission (GOSIEC) is planning the Local Government Councils elections today.
Ibrahim Yusuf, Chairman of Civil Society Organisations in Gombe State, while addressing newsmen, alleged that the State electoral body had all along kept its activities secret especially the recruitment of ad-hoc staff for the conduct of the election.
Earlier, a coalition of 10 opposition political parties in the state led by the all progressive Congress APC, had on Tuesday approached GOSIEC with a complaint that the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state was using Government machinery to twist the results of the election in their favour.
The Chairman of the Civil Society Organisations, while briefing the press, Thursday afternoon alleged that barely 24 hours before the election, all activities of the electoral body had been kept secret especially the recruitment of staff to oversee the conduct of the election.
According to him, “up till this morning, no list of these staff has been placed on their notice board and no official of the GOSIEC was on hand to make any explanation to us. We wrote them two weeks back including the National Orientation Agency (NOA) who also said they were not aware of anything. Nobody is just ready to respond to our demands”.
In their complaint letter sent to the State Governor, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, the Chief Judge, the Commissioner of Police, State Director SSS, Commander of the 301 Artillery regiment Gombe, State Commander of the NSCD and the press, the Coalition of the Opposition Political Parties alleged that GOSIEC had perfected plans to clear all the eleven Chairmanship positions and their deputies and the 114 ward counsellorship seats in the State in favour of the PDP.
The coalition stated that it had reliably gathered that the commission did not intend to provide ballot papers, election materials and other sensitive and non-sensitive materials in all the election units; that small or inadequate quantity of ballot papers will be provided in some selected staggered units throughout the State and that the recruitment of presiding officers, polling clerks and other electoral officials was shrouded in secrecy and geared towards returning PDP candidates.
The coalition of opposition political parties comprising, AD, DPP, PDC, PRP, ADC, UDP, ACPN, PPN, KOWA, PDM and APC noted that despite several complaints made individually and collectively to the electoral commission, it has not received any attention from the commission.
Such complaints, they explained were the unjustifiable and arbitrary imposition of payment of exorbitant non-refundable fees by candidates, refusal to publish register of voters preliminary to the conduct of the elections, refusal to employ the use of electronic card readers and wanton disqualifications and exclusion of candidates of opposing political parties from the election.
They therefore warned that, “The people will use available legal means to revolt against any injustice if the electoral body is not fair, unwavering and upright in the discharge of its responsibility to the people of Gombe State”.
Responding to the allegations, the Commissioner, Public Affairs and Education in the Commission, Mr. Kalagar Kudi Lubo said the Commission was fully ready for the election and that they have trained all the electoral officers, assistant electoral officers in all the eleven Local Government Areas as well as 2,218 presiding officers and supervisors for the elections.
He said the Commission had also acquired the necessary election materials such as ballot papers and all that will be used during the election. He said also that security personnel had been put on alert for the election and described allegation of lack of adequate preparation as mere assumption.
He also said that contrary to allegations, the election materials would be presented to the public on the eve of the election (Friday) by 10:00 am. “You are all invited; the security agencies will be here, all the political parties, all media that require monitoring the election will be here. We are going to share the materials and send to all the various polling units,” he stated.