Former Nigerian Lawmaker Calls for INEC to Conduct Local Elections

Former Nigerian House of Representatives member Chief Sam Onuigbo advocates for transferring local government election conduct from State Electoral Commissions to INEC to minimize state governors' manipulation. The National Assembly is reviewing the 1999 Constitution, with calls growing for local government autonomy and true independence.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Former Nigerian Lawmaker Calls for INEC to Conduct Local Elections

Former Nigerian Lawmaker Calls for INEC to Conduct Local Elections

Former member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Chief Sam Onuigbo, has advocated for the transfer of local government election conduct from State Electoral Commissions to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Onuigbo believes this change would minimize manipulation of the electoral process by state governors.

Why this matters: This proposed change has significant implications for the integrity of Nigeria's electoral process, as it could reduce the influence of state governors on local election outcomes. By ensuring free and fair elections at the local level, Nigeria can strengthen its democratic institutions and improve governance at the grassroots level.

Onuigbo's call comes as the National Assembly embarks on a review of the 1999 Constitution. He emphasized that currently, "It is the party at Government House that wins all the elections. That is the problem. So let us take out the state independent electoral commissions or let the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct the elections so that we can have some balance and competitive spirit."

The former lawmaker also stressed the need for local governments to have true autonomy in managing their resources, including being in charge of their finances. He criticized the practice of governors running state-local government joint accounts, which he believes does not allow for judicious use of local government funds.

Onuigbo, who sponsored the Climate Change Bill signed into law by then-President Muhammadu Buhari, also highlighted the importance of local governments playing their roles in mitigating climate change. He believes that with more resources at their disposal, local governments could invest in infrastructure and deliver more democracy dividends to their constituents.

The recent local government polls in Gombe and Oyo States on April 27, 2024, sparked calls for local government financial and administrative autonomy. The governing parties in both states swept all the seats, with opposition parties rejecting the outcomes and claiming the exercises were a sham.

National Chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yusuf Dantalle, condemned the political trend, stating that many politicians in Nigeria see politics as business and that democracy is only practiced at the state and national level, while the grassroots at the local government level are short-changed.

The National Assembly inaugurated a 45-member Constitution Review Committee on February 14, 2024, chaired by Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin and Deputy House Speaker Benjamin Kalu. House Speaker Tajudeen Abass promised the exercise would address pitfalls in the current constitution drafted at the end of military rule. Other notable figures like former governors Adams Oshiomhole and Nasir el-Rufai, as well as Shehu Sani, have also called for the review to grant true independence to local governments.

As the National Assembly undertakes the critical task of reviewing Nigeria's constitution, the calls for local government autonomy grow louder. Advocates believe empowering local administrations financially and administratively is key to deepening democracy and delivering good governance at the grassroots level. The coming months will determine if the constitutional review heeds these calls and charts a new path for Nigeria's local government system.

Key Takeaways

  • Former Rep. Sam Onuigbo advocates for INEC to conduct local government elections to reduce state governors' influence.
  • This change could strengthen Nigeria's democratic institutions and improve governance at the grassroots level.
  • Onuigbo also calls for local governments to have true autonomy over their finances and resources.
  • The National Assembly is reviewing the 1999 Constitution, with many calling for local government autonomy and independence.
  • Empowering local administrations is seen as key to deepening democracy and delivering good governance in Nigeria.