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​​Stakeholders want financial autonomy for SIECs

* As Lagos APC, Banire continue squabble
A Stakeholders’ Post-Election Forum, which understudied the outcome of the July 22 Lagos local council government elections has called for more financial independence for State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).
Participant groups at the forum, which include the International Press Centre (IPC), ACTIONAID Nigeria and the UKAID through the Department for International Development (DFID) and others, said such development would enable SIECs to prepare adequately and also obtain the level of trust people have in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Rising from a one-day conference organised to assess stakeholders’ contribution towards the election, with the aim of identifying the gaps and learn from the issues, the forum said it is imperative of citizens’ stakeholder groups to insist on internal party democracy and that at the minimum, parties should present candidates through consensus.
In a communiqué signed by the Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade, the forums also recommended that Community Development Associations (CDA) and committees should endeavour to sensitize their members to participate in political process and not disenfranchise themselves.
The communiqué reads: “Persons living with disabilities should be taken into consideration in elections and their various needs addressed by the electoral commission; sensitizations and voter education should be sustained to address voter apathy and get citizens and voters to participate more in the electoral processes.
“Civil society organizations and related stakeholders should increase interactions with more grassroots communities to reduce citizens and voters apathy and that communities in Lagos State should familiarize themselves with structures put in place by the state government to address grassroots developmental issues and make use of them.”
On its observation, the forum said despite the fact that local government plays important role in a democracy, as it is the tier of government closest to the grassroots, it is worrisome that attempts are being made to render local councils ineffective.
It also observed there is the need to get democracy right at the council level as only then can the country entrench representative government at the state and federal levels.
Other observations include evidence of lack of internal party democracy across some of the political parties as candidates were imposed in most cases which snowballed into violence during the party primaries and evidence of citizens’ and voters’ apathy during the elections such that the turnout of voters was very low.
The forum urged citizens to have collective stakes to make elections credible in Nigeria and that election should not be seen as the business of government alone but that of everyone.
The forum added that for democracy to work, citizens must desist from nonchalant attitude, otherwise they would be disenfranchised and thus give room for politicians to legitimize what is illegitimate, while it also faulted media reportage of the council election, which it said was skewed in favour of the ruling political party to the detriment of other parties.
It added that opposition parties did not deploy sufficient campaign strategies to counter the influence of the ruling party ahead of the elections.
In a presentation by the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, she said while it was good that the election was held, there were issues with the legal framework, the conduct of the primaries, low participation among others.
Meanwhile the crisis of alleged imposition of chairmanship and councillorship candidates during the primaries of the ruling party, which consequently pitched the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Muiz Banire against it, is yet to subside.
It would be recalled that Banire took his party to task on internal democracy and imposition of candidates but his actions were termed as anti-party and hence was suspended in controversial circumstances from his Ward C in Mushin but the national body of the APC dismissed the suspension.
Last Monday, Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), failed to appear before the Disciplinary Committee set up by the party in his ward to look into allegations of anti-party activities and misappropriation of campaign materials and logistics leveled against him.
The committee had summoned Banire to appear before its sitting by 10 am at Bishop Aggrey Memorial School, Ilasamaja to defend allegations contained in a petition written against him by two members of the party in the area, Olukayode Tunde Tolu and Ayodeji Adebayo.
In his introductory remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Bolaji Abass said the function of the committee was to examine the allegations leveled against Banire and that the decision reached would be submitted to the Ward Executive for onward delivery to the Local Government and then State Executive of APC.
In his testimony, Olukayode alleged that Banire committed grievous atrocities and had carried out series of acts of indiscipline, which must not go unpunished.
Also Adebayo said it was such acts of indiscipline exhibited by Banire that caused the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) electoral defeat in the 2015 general elections.
When called for reaction, Banire said, “The petitioners as far as I am concerned are not members of the APC and therefore have no locus standi” to write petition against him. He also dismissed the development, which he said was contradictory to the constitution of the party and therefore should not be taken seriously.

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