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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has challenged chairmen of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) to save Nigeria’s democracy by conducting credit le local government area elections as against what he described as the current coronation of candidates of ruling parties at the various state local government elections 

INEC chairman, professor Mahmoud Yakubu, who gave the charge when he received the chairman and other executive members of the Forum of  State Electoral Commissions (FOSIECOM), at the INEC headquarters in Abuja urged them to take the bull by the horns and help build the nations democracy by conducting free, fair and credible elections in their states

Yakubu noted that while there are legal and financial constraints to the SIECs operations, their independence does not necessarily draw from statutory or financial provisions alone, adding that the courage with which they discharge their obligation to protect the integrity and credibility of elections is the most important determinant of success.

“I want to reassure you that INEC will continue to work with you to push the boundaries of electoral reform. Working together, we should continue to explore all avenues under the law to improve the conduct of Local Government Elections in Nigeria. However, you should always bear in mind that INEC and other stakeholders can only help you, but there must be a determination on your part to do the needful.

“Both INEC and SIECs are creations of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The conduct of Local Government elections is fundamental to the proper functioning of our democracy. In fact, Sections 153 and 197 of the Constitution establish INEC and SIECs as two distinct and independent bodies with powers under the Third Schedule Part I (F)(14-15) and Part II (B)[3-4] to organise, undertake and supervise elections. 

“While SIECs are responsible for the conduct of Local Government elections for Chairmen and Councillors, INEC conducts all other executive and legislative polls from presidential and governorship to national and State legislative elections. Our mandates are therefore clearly defined by the Constitution. 

“However, INEC is also empowered by Section 98 of the Electoral Act 2022 to conduct Local Government or Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Realising our shared responsibility for the conduct of democratic elections in Nigeria and the challenges faced by SIECs in carrying out their mandates, INEC encouraged the establishment of FOSIECOM in a genuine effort to foster partnership for credible elections in Nigeria. Over the years, attempts were made to encourage the SIECs to maintain their independence. We signed an MoU under which assistance in the form of training, provision of some facilities, institutionalisation of the culture of planning through the development of a strategic plan, holding regular meetings with stakeholders, encouraging the SIECs to participate in our retreats and accrediting their officials to observe our elections. We also established the joint INEC/FOSIECOM consultative Committee headed by a National Commissioner.

“Unfortunately, the conduct of Local Government elections in virtually all the States of the Federation has become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties. It is time to stop the coronation and conduct proper elections,” Yakubu warned 

The INEC boss also cautioned state governors to allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action, regretting that most of the SIECs have no functional offices in the Local Government Areas in their States and cannot recruit their own permanent staff. In some States, the SIECs are either not properly constituted, have no security of tenure or their critical functions have been taken over by government officials. 

“Some SIECs are only constituted on the eve of elections and dissolved thereafter. They are also severely under-resourced to the extent that some of them rely on INEC even for basic facilities such as ballot boxes and voting cubicles.”

He stated further that “INEC is not unaware of the ongoing discussions about the future of elections for the 774 Local Government Chairmen as well as Councillors representing the 8,809 electoral wards in Nigeria. However, under the extant law, the 36 SIECs are responsible for the election of 768 Local Government Chairmen and 8,747 Councillors, making a total of 9,515 constituencies. INEC conducts elections for the 68 constituencies in the FCT made up of 6 Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors, including bye-elections as they arise.

“It has been our earnest hope that the elections conducted by INEC in the FCT will provide a model for Local Government elections across the country. In spite of the challenges encountered, there has been a progressive improvement in the conduct of the Area Council Elections in the FCT. There is security of tenure for Chairmen and Councillors which is now four years. There are no caretaker committees as elections are held regularly. There is plurality in electoral outcomes as no single party has ever won elections in all the constituencies in the Area Councils,” he told the declared 

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