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State Electoral Commissions Should Be Scrapped, Says Fagbemi

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has called for the abolition of state independent electoral commissions (SIECs). 

Fagbemi’s proposal was made during a one-day discourse held on Monday, which was organized by the House of Representatives under the theme “Nigeria’s Security Challenges and Good Governance at the Local Government Levels.”

In his address, Fagbemi argued that the powers and responsibilities of SIECs should be transferred to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). 

He highlighted that the existing structure of SIECs, as defined by the 1999 Constitution, has been manipulated by state governors to undermine the autonomy and effectiveness of local governments.

Fagbemi pointed out that governors have taken advantage of constitutional flaws to render local governments powerless and irrelevant. 

By using SIECs, governors have been able to impose their preferred candidates on local governments through fraudulent elections.

 In instances where elections are not conducted, governors appoint caretaker leaders who act as their proxies, further diminishing local government autonomy.

To address these issues, Fagbemi called for a comprehensive constitutional amendment aimed at removing obstacles to local government development and enhancing their ability to carry out their constitutionally mandated roles.

 “To achieve this, many experts have proposed that there is need for the scrapping of the state independent electoral commission,” he stated. 

“Their functions and powers should be transferred to the Independent National Electoral Commission because the state independent electoral commission remains an appendage to every incumbent governor. 

This is perceived as the root cause of the problem of local government administration in Nigeria.”

The federal government has recently taken the 36 state governors to the Supreme Court over the contentious issue of full autonomy for local governments.

This move underscores the growing demand for reforms to ensure that local governments can operate independently and effectively.

Fagbemi’s comments came just days after INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu criticized SIECs for reducing local government elections to mere coronation exercises.

 “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,” Yakubu remarked.

 “It is time to stop the coronation and conduct proper elections.”

The discourse highlighted the urgent need for electoral reforms to strengthen local governance in Nigeria. 

By transferring the powers of SIECs to INEC, proponents believe that local governments will be better positioned to deliver on their responsibilities and contribute to the overall development of the nation.

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