Governors have turned LG elections to ‘mere coronation’ – INEC chair

Governors have turned LG elections to ‘mere coronation’ – INEC chair

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has raised concerns about the conduct of local government elections in the country.
Yakubu described the LG elections as mere coronations of ruling party candidates, calling for significant reforms to ensure fair and credible elections.
The INEC Chairman voiced the concern on Wednesday during a courtesy visit by the Executive members of the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commissions.
The INEC Chairman criticised state governors for not allowing State Independent Electoral Commissions to operate independently.
He noted that many SIECs lack functional offices, permanent staff, and the security of tenure necessary to conduct free and fair elections.
“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.
“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.
“State governors should allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action. Many of the SIECs have no functional offices in the local government areas in their states and cannot recruit their permanent staff,” he said.
Mahmood lamented that in some states, these commissions were only constituted shortly before elections and dissolved immediately afterwards, with critical functions often taken over by government officials.
He highlighted the severe underfunding of SIECs, which forces them to rely on INEC for basic election materials like ballot boxes and voting cubicles.
This dependency, he said, had led to confusion among the public, with many mistaking SIECs for INEC.
“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,” Yakubu said.
Given INEC’s extensive responsibilities and the limited federal budget, the chairman emphasised that INEC’s support for SIECs would be largely restricted to providing the voters’ register, as mandated by the Constitution.
He stressed that INEC could not extend limitless support to other commissions for elections outside its mandate.
“Many Nigerians mistake the SIECs for INEC. Indeed, even some of the stakeholders, including candidates for Local Government elections, call them state INEC.
“This situation has forced us to reconsider some aspects of our relationship with the SIECs. Our support is now largely restricted to the voters’ register as provided by the constitution.
“INEC cannot shoulder its extensive responsibilities and at the same time extend almost limitless support to other independent electoral commissions for elections outside our mandate across the country from our lean federal budget,” Yakubu said.
He clarified the jurisdictional boundaries between INEC and SIECs, stating that while INEC was responsible for elections in the Federal Capital Territory, SIECs manage elections for 768 local government chairmen and 8,747 councillors across the country.
He pointed to the FCT elections conducted by INEC as a model for local government elections nationwide, noting improvements such as secure tenures for elected officials, regular elections, and diverse electoral outcomes.
No single party has ever dominated all constituencies in the Area Councils, he stated.
“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 six 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. Despite 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.
“Happily, the Electoral Act 2022 that now governs the conduct of national and Area Council elections also applies to local government elections nationwide. This has been made possible by the efforts of INEC arising from earlier discussions with FOSIECOM on the imperative of a model law to govern the conduct of local government elections across the country.”
The INEC Chairman called on FOSIECOM to address the legal and financial challenges hindering their operations and to courageously protect the integrity and credibility of elections.
He stressed that true independence stems not only from statutory or financial provisions but also from the commitment to uphold democratic principles.
“I, therefore, appeal to FOSIECOM to take the bull by the horns. While there are legal and financial constraints to your operations, your independence does not necessarily draw from statutory or financial provisions alone.
“The courage with which you discharge your obligation to protect the integrity and credibility of elections is the most important determinant of success. There are no shortcuts to the discharge of this enormous responsibility.
“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,” he noted.
It was reported on May 13, 2024, a former member of the House of Representatives, called for the transfer of conduct of local government elections from State Electoral Commissions to INEC.
Onuigbo said if INEC conducts local government elections it would minimise the manipulation of the process by governors.

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