Transfer conduct of local government election to INEC, says Onuigbo

A former member of House of Representatives, Chief Sam Onuigbo, has called for the transfer of conduct of local government elections from State Electoral Commissions to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He said this on Monday in Abuja during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as the National Assembly embarks on the Review of 1999 Constitution.

Onuigbo represented Ikwuano/Umuahia North and South Federal Constituency at the 9th National Assembly.

Leading politicians and rights activists have been vocal about the need for the review to make local governments truly independent

They include former governors of Edo and Kaduna , Mr Adams Oshiomhole and Malam Nasir el Rufai and Sen. Shehu Sani.

NAN recalls that the Green Chamber on Monday, on Feb. 26, inaugurated a six-man committee on the Review of 1999 Constitution.

House Speaker, Mr Tajudeen Abass promised that the exercise would address the pitfalls of the constitution currently in use which was drafted at the twilight of the military era.

Onuigbo said if INEC conducts local government elections it would minimise the manipulation of the process by state governors whose parties will virtually win all available seats.

“It is the party at the Government House that wins all the elections; so that is a problem.

“So I say that we have to take out (state independent electoral commissions) or let INEC conduct the election so that we can have some balance… to have some competitive spirit’’, he told NAN.

He said the review should also make local governments to be truly autonomous in the discharge of its resources, including being in charge of its financial resources.

The local governments are recongnised by the Constitution as the third tier of government, but in reality they function as appendix of state governments.

“It is absolutely important that in the current review they have to take a critical look at the local government system,“he said.

Onuigbo also frowned at the practice whereby state governors run a state-local government joint account, adding that it did not augur well for judicious use of local governments’ resources.

“It is, therefore, important that we a review that truly guarantees the independence of the local government, so that all the monies accruing to them be put to use to the benefit of the masses.

Onuigbo who sponsored the Climate Change Bill signed into law by then President Muhammadu Buhari, said more resources at the disposal of local governments could translate to more infrastructure and delivery of democracy dividends.

He said this could also manifest in their more commitment to climate change policies and actions.

“When we talk about emissions they are coming out from communities where local governments are supposed to in charge. You are also talking about nature-based solutions.

“Therefore, it is important that we allow local governments to play their roles’’, he said, adding that under normal circumstances, timber merchants get the permission to fell trees from local government authorities.

He said it was to encourage local government participation in efforts to mitigate climate change that the Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) was made a member of National Council on Climate Change.

“We need awareness that is why in structuring the Act (Climate Change Act) we gave different roles to every stakeholder. We want to carry everybody along,“ Onuigbo said.

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