Anambra State had its last Local Government Election in 2014, and it was conducted then by the outgoing government of Governor Peter Obi. Many people then, even now, query why Governor Obi, who in the waning days of his second term in office, suddenly organized Local Government Election. The Election result was something entirely different as the All Progressives Grand Alliance took all the seats except in Nnewi North where the people resisted ‘APGA’s imposition’, and the election in Nnewi North was postponed and later suspended till date.
Nnewi North never had an elected Local Government Chairman; instead, a Sole Administrator was appointed. At the expiration of the constitutionally recognized tenure of the then elected local government Chairmen in Anambra state –under current Governor Willie Obiano; the Governor resorted to the appointment of Transition Chairmen in all the twenty-one local government areas of the state.
Therefore, for over five years now, not only that there have not been local government elections in Anambra state, but also there is no plan to conduct local government elections in the state. As a substitute, the government led by Governor Obiano has continued to appoint and reappoint Transition Chairmen, which he obviously prefers to elected Executive Chairmen that are answerable to the people.
We must understand the background to the persistent problem of Anambra governors’ resisting local government elections. Governor Ngige made use of Transition Chairmen all through his time as Governor, for over two years. Governor Peter Obi, for instance, only conducted the election just two months before the end of his tenure. Perhaps that is also what Governor Willie Obiano intends to do. Governor Peter Obi held the election in January 2014 — when he was due to vacate office in March 2014. Before then, Anambra had not conducted local government elections in over ten years.
One problem is that the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission-ANSIEC is yet to be constituted. It is the duty of the Executive Governor to send the list of names of the people who are qualified to be in the Commission, to the Anambra State House of Assembly for screening and subsequent approval after the nominees pass the screening. The state government led by Governor Willie Obiano had submitted a list of people for appointment into the State Electoral Commission during the lifetime of the 6th Assembly. Still, the House of Assembly has not acted. No screening of the candidates has been done as required, and therefore, there must be a reason.
In a bid to uncover the reason behind the failure of the House to screen and approve or reject the Governors nominees, for the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission, the following facts came to light:
- There is a court case against the Governor’s nominees
- The Governor Obiano led government instigated the court case
The above discovery came as a rude shock, but it is not entirely surprising. One can very quickly see why the government instituted a case against its own nominees. The government enjoys its free access to local government funds. And as explained, it is often tricky for Anambra State governors to conduct local government elections because of their free access to local government funds, which they use at will, through the JACC office that is run by an Executive Secretary appointed by the Governor.
An insider and former state lawmaker of the 6th Assembly, who was a member of APGA but wants to remain anonymous, revealed that “the court case against nominees for ANSIEC was instituted by the Governor and APGA, as a means to buy more time and keep sharing local government funds arbitrarily. I am fully aware of this. It was discussed in the lodge (Governors Lodge) before the government took a false legal action to stop the House of Assembly from screening and approving of the nominees the Governor submitted to the Assembly. This is the truth and nothing more”, he said.
But even from critical political evaluation, one sees that it is the government that benefits from non-conduct of local government election if ANSIEC is non-functioning. Again, the government must ensure that ANSIEC is functional. No other interested party can take the government or ANSIEC to court challenging the government’s nomination.
What exactly is the negative consequence of such a court case on the development of democratic governance at the local government level in Anambra?
Who cares, you may ask?
Unfortunately, it’s the government that continues to benefit from the non-conduct of local government election as the case has been with previous governors of Anambra state. This undemocratic, seemingly illegal practice gives the government in power complete access to all local government funds –which are grossly unaccounted for in the overall state expenditures. Rather, this federal government allocation meant for the local governments is used at the governors’ own whim. Transition Chairmen have no executive powers and are not answerable to the people except to the Governor or his proxies, who can remove them at will.
More scandalous is that despite that ANSIEC is not constituted at all, and the ANSIEC office has been under lock and key for years, yet, Anambra state government has continued to make budgetary allocations to it, each year since 2015. In 2015, Anambra state made a budgetary allocation of N13.6 million Naira to ANSIEC.
In 2016, the budgetary allocation increased to N14.6 million Naira; meanwhile, in 2017, N19.3 million Naira was allocated. Also, in 2018, ANSIEC got N20.3 million Naira, then N21.3 million Naira, and 22.4 million Naira for the year 2019 and 2020, respectively. This leaves every kin observer with more to be desired. Why is the government making huge budgetary allocations to a Commission that is not active?
If Anambra State governors continue to undermine the conduct of local government elections in Anambra state, local government funds will continue to go mostly unaccounted for, and the grassroots democratization process will continue to suffer. More so, the government will continue to make frivolous allocations –misappropriate public funds, to nonexistent Commission.