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Poser for Delta State House of Assembly By Portia Onwuyalim

April 23, 2012

The Delta State House of Assembly is in the eye of a raging storm. It has been accused of reneging in its responsibility by dissolving local councils in the state about a year ago and failing to name a date for the conduct of elections to fill the vacuum thereby created. This alleged dereliction of duty, according to Felix Morka, a lawyer and chairman, New Dawn Centre for Leadership and Development, and Edwin Okoh, a businessman and member of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the state, amounts to a breach of Section 7, subsection 1, of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. The constitution, the duo claim, imposes a duty on the House of Assembly to appoint a date for the conduct of local government elections in the state on or before the dissolution of the tenure of office of the last democratically elected council.

Against this background, Morka and Okoh filed a lawsuit against the House of Assembly at the Delta State high court, Agbor, seeking a declaration that the exercise of powers of the Ika South Local Government by Anthony Mekwunye, a civil servant and an unelected official in the council, is undemocratic, unconstitutional, null and void. The suit, which was filed April 13, 2012, is also seeking a declaration that the above section of the Constitution (as amended) imposes a duty on the Delta State House of Assembly to appoint a date for elections into the council on or before the expiration of the tenure of office of the immediate past elected body.

The two claimants are also requesting the high court of Delta State, sitting in Agbor, to issue an order of mandamus, compelling the House of Assembly to appoint, within seven days of the determination of the suit, a date for the conduct of local government elections into Ika Local Government Council and indeed all local councils in the state.

They argue that there has been brazen corruption, poor governance, underdevelopment and poverty in the state because the state House of Assembly has continued to shirk its constitutional responsibility and that the suit seeks to halt possible drift into extreme arbitrariness. The House of Assembly dissolved all local councils in the state, including Ika South Local Government Council, on April 28, 2011, about a year ago, and directed the head of personnel department in each of the state’s 25 local government councils to run the affairs of the councils indefinitely, without fixing a date for the conduct of local government elections in the state.

The argument of the claimants is that this development has denied them the right to vote and to choose those that govern them at the local government level. This is predicated on the premise that the constitution establishes three tiers of government – federal, state and local governments. The constitution also directs that all the levels of government shall be administered by democratically elected officials, not civil servants or other unelected officials.

“All the oversight functions of democratically elected local government councils have been compromised by the failure of the House of Assembly, Delta State, to appoint a date for the conduct of elections into the councils,” a statement signed by Morka stated.

Culled from Tell of Monday 23rd April 2012

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