Lagos councils’ caretaker committees unconstitutional, group says

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. Photo credit: Sun Newspaper

The swearing in of Executive Secretaries to head local governments in Lagos has been described as an attempt to undermine democracy and governance in the state.

The Lagos Democratic Movement, LDM, in a statement Friday condemned that replacing constitutionally-recognised and democratically-elected council chairmen violates the Nigerian Constitution.

The state governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Monday had sworn in 57 executive secretaries to replace the chairmen of local governments and local council development authorities in Lagos State.

The council chairmen’s tenure elapsed in October, 2014.

Mr. Fashola had attributed the inability of the state government to immediately conduct fresh elections in the councils to the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conclude compilation of voters’ register early.

“This unconstitutional act was undertaken in the absence of any law from the State Assembly supporting the appointments,” the group said in the statement issued by its conveners, Olanrewaju Suraj and Debo Adesina.

“LDM wishes to state that the appointment of the Executive Secretaries by the government of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, without a legislation supporting the appointment, and their subsequent inauguration clearly undermines the rights of millions of electorate in Lagos state to determine the choice of their legitimate representatives in governance at the grassroots.

“LDM also wishes to alert that the action of the government which, by implication, has foisted needless and avoidable interregnum in local government administration in Lagos state also constitutes dangerous precedence as well as unduly exposes the system to non-accountability and corruption.”

While inaugurating the 57 executive secretaries, Mr. Fashola had stated that the decision had become pertinent because he was finding it difficult to continue delivery of service at the local government level.

The governor had added that the appointments were to prevent a vacuum in grassroots governance, noting that the transitional capacity would end in March.

The LDM disagreed with the governor’s position, insisting that the excuses were a ploy to frustrate the people’s yearning for real democracy.

“It is imperative to emphasize that LDM unequivocally disagrees with the position of Governor Fashola who had argued at the swearing of the Executive Secretaries that the appointment of the Executive Secretaries was necessitated by the challenges encountered with the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,” the group stated.

“LDM unambiguously maintains that contrary to such insinuation by the Executive Governor, Lagos state government and the State Independent National Electoral Commission (LASEIC) never showed genuine interest in the conduct of local government election in the state prior to the expiration of the tenure of the last Executive Councils in 20 LGAs/30LCDAs.

“Premeditated ploy to postpone elections in LGAs/LCDAs had long been clearly demonstrated by lack of commitment and preparation by LASEIC as well as official and unofficial body languages of top functionaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Lagos state.

“It is therefore the conviction of LDM that the challenges encountered with the distribution of PVCs by INEC was only a smokescreen exploited by Lagos state government and could not, by any stretch of imagination, be considered a good enough reason by a governor who had vociferously and publicly advocated, and in unmistaken terms, that INEC could as well go ahead with the conduct of 2015 general election without the use of PVCs in view of the challenges of capturing all prospective voters.

The group further noted that the composition of caretaker committees through the appointment of the Executive Secretaries amounted to sheer contempt and abuse of privilege by a government that “prides itself as the face of democratic standard in Nigeria.

“It is the conviction of LDM that imposition of appointees in place of elected representatives at the local government level offends democratic mood of overwhelming electorate in Lagos State.”

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