How Constitutional Is Soludo’s Quarterly Sack of Anambra LG Chairmen?

David-ChyddyEleke writes about Governor Charles Soludo’s recent sack of all the 21 local government chairmen in Anambra state and wonders if the governor’s quarterly act since 2022 is constitutional.

For two years since he has been governor of Anambra State, Chief ChukwumaSoludo, has been running the 21 local government councils in the state with members of his party, handpicked by himself. This is despite his campaign promise in 2021 that one of his priorities would be to conduct local government election, an exercise that has not been held since over 14 years ago.

The local government system in Anambra state which over the years have been run by transition/caretaker committees involves a set of people, who ordinarily should stay in office for just three months to take care of the affairs of the councils as arrangements are made to elect substantive chairmen.

But in Anambra, Soludo’s predecessor, Chief Willie Obiano, used his cronies to run the council, while renewing their tenure every three months by writing to the state assembly, until the end of his eight-year term.

Soludo also continued with the arrangement, and within two years, he has renewed the appointment of the same set of chairmen seven times, until last weekend, when he announced a sack of all of them.

In a letter dated May 17, 2024, signed by the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Mr Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, Soludo directed the Chairmen to handover the affairs of their Local Government Councils to the Head of Local Government Administration (HLGA) latest on Monday, 20/05/2024.

The letter read in part: “Following the expiration of your tenure as Transition Committee Chairman, you are hereby directed to handover the affairs of your Local Government Council to the Head of Local Government Administration (HLGA), in your respective Local Government Councils.

This directive takes effect from Monday, 20th day of May, 2024. Thank you for your service to the state. All replies to be addressed to the Honourable Commissioner.”

Considering the fact that there is still no State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) in place, many political analysts in the state have concluded that even though Soludo has sacked his cronies as chairmen, there may not be plans to hold any local government election soon, rather, the governor may replace them with a different set of cronies. This has elicited outcry from some well meaning individuals in the state.

The member representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. AfamOgene, has condemned any plans to appoint a new set of administrators. Ogene, who is the Labour Party’s House Caucus Leader said: “Records show that Governor Soludo changes LGA Transition Committee members every three months, and has therefore, made these curious changes seven times since assumption of office in 2022.  By the time he makes another of such change this month, that would be the eighth time within two years in office.

 “That to me, would be an inglorious record by a democratically elected governor. This puppeteering style of leadership, which toys with the destiny, aspiration and desires of the grassroots, must be resisted and not allowed to continue to shrink the development potential of the LGAs. The local government ought to be the most important tier of government, as envisaged by the Nigerian Constitution, because it’s not only the tier that is closest to the people, it is also the obvious foundation of both the subnational and the federal government. And should not be at the whims of state governors.

“Such undemocratic practice of appointing LGA administrators, rather that democratic election, is an enabler of impunity and lack of democratic accountability and also hurts transparency in the local governments and the state as a whole, as those so appointed would only scramble for personal interests during the three months of their stay in office. This does not help the management of scarce resources or the development of the LGAs.

“What manner of meaningful development plan would a Transition Committee chairman articulate and execute within a period of three months? Isn’t it troubling that Governor Soludo, a prominent economist, is promoting this charade? What really is Governor Soludo afraid of in conducting elections in the LGAs, in line with his campaign promises and the desires of the people in the grassroots and provisions of the Constitution?”, the lawmaker queried.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that there is already a directive by the governor for all stakeholders of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in all the local government to come together and nominate three persons for possible consideration as the chairman of such local government. It was gathered that the directive which was handed over through the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, insisted that all three nominations must include at least a female nominee.

A source said: “The party stakeholders in each Local Government are expected to meet on May 18th or 19th 2024, to consider and recommend for his consideration, three persons for the position of TC Chairman and three persons for Local Government Education Secretaries. The three recommendations for Transition Committee Chairmen shall include at least one woman; while the three recommendations for Education Secretary shall be two women and one man.”

He said the circular emphasized that persons for the Transition Chairmen must be persons of good standing, and with demonstrable competence and passion to contribute to the transformation of the Local Government.

Already, there are protests in some local governments about plans to foist some nominees on the local government.

In Idemili South Local Government Area, political turmoil erupted as stakeholders vehemently opposed the reappointment of former TC Chairman, Hon. Amaka Obi. Protesters who stormed the local government  secretariat in Ojoto said there were feelers that the powers that be in the local government have plan to reappoint the lady politician again, after she had already done two years.

The protesters contended that she was from AwkaEtiti, which is just one out of the many communities that make up the local government area. They also insisted that before her, the former chairman who held sway was from same community, and that there was need for rotation.

The protesters said: “Idemmili South comprises Akwu-Ukwu, Alor, Awka-Etiti, Ojoto, Nnokwa, Oba, and Nnobi, yet AwkaEtiti alone has monopolized the chairmanship position for an uninterrupted eight-year period, contravening democratic principles and zoning arrangements. Hon. Don Unachukwu, from Awka-Etiti, served as transition Chairman of Idemmili South from 2016 to 2022, before Hon. Amaka Obi, hailing from the same Awka-Etiti, assumed office in 2022. The reshuffle in local government leadership, by Governor Soludo’s administration, is expected to uphold equity and fairness in Idemmili South and accommodate other communities in the local government area.”

Beyond all these, the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial district, IfeanyiUbah, has condemned the refusal of past and current administrations of the state to conduct local government elections in the state in the last 18 years. Ubah speaking on the floor of the Senate lamented that Anambra State has not conducted local government elections in the last 18 years.

He said; “If we want to promote good governance in this country, we need to look at section 7 of the 1999 constitutional framework so we can start having value for democracy in our respective states. In a state like Anambra State has not conducted elections in the last 18 years. When you look at the decadence of governance, poor infrastructure, non employment of youths and other economic problems is due to the non implementation of the 1999 constitutional framework.”

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