The committee wants the SIECs freed from absolute control of governors.
The National Conference Committee on Political Parties and Electoral Matters has voted to retain the State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs. This is barely a week after another committee on Devolution of Powers voted in favour of scrapping them.
SIECs organize local government elections in all the states.
At its sitting on Monday, the Committee, co-chaired by two former Senate Presidents, Iyorchia Ayu and Ken Nnamani, said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, already had enough to do and should not be overburdened with the council polls.
It observed that the lapses witnessed in the previous general elections were also enough reason not to give the INEC more work to do.
The Committee therefore considered placing the SIECs on first line charge and noted that instead of scrapping them they should be strengthened to make them effective, efficient and free from the absolute control of the state governors.
During the debate on the issue, a member of the Committee from Ondo State, Olusola Ebiseni, argued that there were contradictions inherent in calls for true federalism and the removal of SIECs.
He said, “Besides, the existence of SEIC was a constitutional matter as mentioned in Section 197 while the state, as a federating unit is expected to handle the affairs of the local government as part of its residual functions, if democratic structures were allowed to endure, good governance would be encouraged that would result in less corruption and by extension, less complaints from Nigerians.”
Another member and former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, called for the strengthening of the commissions and noted that the issue of finance was critical to the local government administration. He said governors had been manipulating the local administrations.
“It is the federal allocation for local councils that the governors are using to control the local government,” he pointed out.
Mr. Osoba noted that if the issue of finance could be resolved in favour of the council, they (governors) would have less overbearing influence in the affairs of the councils during local elections.
Another member and former governor of Imo State, Achike Udenwa, explained that rather than ask for the scrapping of the SEIC, it should be strengthened through the appointment of its members.
Mr. Udenwa suggested that political parties with members in the State House of Assembly, religious bodies, trade unions as well as members of the Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, should be appointed into SIECs.
The delegate said the SIECs should be backed by strong laws and asked the state lawmakers to wake up to their responsibility of calling their state executive arms to order whenever they were going beyond their bounds.
On his part, a North West delegate, Sidi Ali, said SIECs should be re-energized and that the powers of the president and governors as sole nominators of the Chairmen of INEC and SIECs, respectively should be withdrawn.
Mohammed Jibril, a former senator, said it was INEC that should rather be strengthened and that ‘mushroom commissions’ should not be allowed to exist.
However, another member of the committee, Musa Salihu, called for the outright scrapping of the SIECs, saying “there is no need to strengthen them, they are too corrupt.”