ON Tuesday, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC, commenced a political stakeholders’ forum to be held across the three senatorial districts of the state to sensitise the public as part of preparations for the forthcoming local council poll. The commission held the first in the series of the exercise at Alausa, Ikeja.
The third schedule part II (B), Section 4 (a) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides for the establishment of LASIEC with the primary duty to “organize, undertake and supervise all elections to Local Government Councils within the state.” Section 21 of the LASIEC Law provides that the Notice of Elections shall be published not less than 90 days before the date of election. The essence of this publication is to notify all residents of the state of the date and timetable of events towards the conduct of free and fair elections.
Last year, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State signed into law an amendment by the Lagos State House of Assembly that this section of the principal law be amended to read 90 days in conformity with section 30(i) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Chairman of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Philips, in her keynote address at the stakeholders’ meeting, assured concerned residents and political parties that the council poll would be conducted in June, 2017.
Phillips, accompanied by some key members of the commission, took an inspection tour to the offices of electoral officers and storage facilities for ballot boxes in the 57 Local Government Areas/Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs, recently as part of the pre-election activities of the LASIEC. It was to ensure that the electoral officers offices are made conducive to enable them discharge their duties effectively.
The political stakeholders’ forum is one of the avenues used by the commission to sensitise members of the public on the electoral process at the local government level.
The forum was attended by representatives of many political parties in the state. The six commissioners and the Permanent Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Nurudeen Salami also attended the event.
The guest lecturer at the forum was Dr. Surajudeen Mudasiru of LASU while Barrister Wale Ogunade was the discussant. The theme of the lecture was Party Politics, Internal Democracy and Electoral Peace.
It will be recalled that National Conscience Party of Nigeria (NCP) in a fresh move asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to withhold further allocation of funds to Lagos State from the Federation Account because of its failure to conduct elections into local government areas.
Following an earlier suit filed by the party, a Lagos State High Court had, in 2015, declared the caretaker committees administering local governments in the state as null and void and ordered that elections be conducted within 90 days. The state government appealed the judgement and is yet to conduct the election till date.
In a fresh suit, marked FHC/L/CS/198/2017, the NCP is seeking for a declaration that only elected officers are entitled to run the affairs of all local governments in the state.
The suit, which was filed on behalf of the party by human rights lawyer and activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, want a declaration that the state is not entitled to benefit from the Federation Account since it has refused to conduct local government elections. This came as Philips promised that the commission would ensure a free, fair and credible election among parties. Philips, in her address, allayed the fears of various political parties that will be participating in the council elections, assuring them of impartiality because her integrity is at stake.
Responding to questions from stakeholders on the probability of holding a credible election, the LASIEC boss said: “The council poll will be held in the second quarter of June, this year. Though, the actual date has not been decided, we will issue the actual date to the public in due course. “I want to allay the fears and erase the wrong perception of some of you about LASIEC being partisan particularly from members of the opposition parties in the state. We would therefore, wish to place on record our avowed commitment towards ensuring that there is a level playing field for each and every participant and stakeholder in the forthcoming local government election irrespective of political divide and affiliations.
“The commission shall strictly adhere to best practices in election management and will not perform below the benchmark for excellence in electoral administration. Hence, the main reason for the commission’s painstaking thoroughness in the preparation for the forthcoming council poll.
‘’This is a new commission I am heading. I want to promise you all that my reputation is at stake. I will guard my work conscientiously not to jeopardize my reputation. I will do all parties right.” Philips promised the stakeholders that the laws guiding the elections would be available for interested individuals and parties within the next two weeks.
Successful conduct of the election
She noted that the political class also has a role to play in ensuring peaceful, orderly and successful conduct of the election.
“I am of the strong conviction that the way political parties and their members conduct their affairs directly impact on the conduct of elections, positively or negatively,” she said. Mudasiru, the guest lecturer, urged stakeholders to encourage internal democracy within their parties and also adopt an ideology.
Oguntade, the lead discussant, enjoined participants to work more on voters education to ensure that the best candidate is elected. The meeting was well attended by stakeholders from majority of the political parties in the state such as the All Progressives Congress, APC; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; National Conscience Party, NCP; and All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, among others.