Politics of tenure elongation stirs disquiet in councils

Willie Obiano, Anambra State Governor.

Willie Obiano, Anambra State Governor.

The decision of the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano to elongate the tenure of council chairmen and councilors, is causing disquiet in the state.

The last council election was held at the tail end of the second term of former Governor Peter Obi in December 2013.Prior to that election, Anambra never had council polls except the one of 1999. Obi was blamed for not holding council poll and relying on caretaker committees. But Obi maintained that the many court cases against the composition and tenure of the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC) hindered the holding of council elections during his tenure.

Among the cases in court was that of the former ANSIEC chairman, Titus Eze, who sued government for his wrongful removal before the expiration of his tenure. Before the removal, Eze had planned to hold the council election. But not long after the timetable was released, the ANSIEC chairman was removed.

The case lingered in court until barely six months to the end of Obi’s tenure when it was struck out. With the legal roadblock removed, the council poll was held shortly before the governorship poll. With the exception of Nnewi North local government, where ANSIEC declared election inconclusive, other 20 councils returned elected chairmen and councilors that were promptly sworn into office and the son of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka, appointed as sole administrator of Nnewi North.

The three-year tenure of the elected chairmen elapsed last February. Calls by concerned stakeholders for another election to select new council officials were strident. But Obiano bowed to pressures from prominent members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to retain the former elected council officials.

The APGA chieftain wanted the council structures maintained to facilitate the party’s chances at the re-run polls expected for some National Assembly seats, especially the Anambra Central Senatorial seat. Obiano wrote a letter to the State House of Assembly informing them of government’s intention to extend the tenure of the council officials by three months.

However, as the three months extension granted to the council chairmen and councilors expires next month (July 2016), there are indications that stakeholders are mobilising to challenge any further attempt to delay the council poll.

The Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and Anambra State Movement (ASM) were on the frontline of opposition to the attempt to foist unconstitutional caretaker committees on the councils.
Somehow, the government cornered ASM alongside some clerics and traditional rulers to its side and carried out the elongation.

State Chairman of IPAC, Sam Osita Oraegbunam, disclosed that IPAC was not ready to condone any breach of the constitution in the councils, stressing that even if the elongation was done for political expediency, the attempt by the government to set up caretaker committees in the 21 councils by the end of July would be resisted.

Oraegbunam said IPAC has concluded arrangements to challenge the destruction of the local government system in the state, adding that only enemies of democracy do not want the holding of democratic election into the councils.

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