From GEORGE ONYEJIUWA, Owerri
Opposition parties and other stakeholders in Imo State have raised the alarm following plans by the state government to conduct fresh council polls in all the 27 local councils, next year. They described it as a ploy to install its political surrogates ahead of the gubernatorial election in 2015.
This is even as the state government is still locked in a legal battle with the disengaged council chairmen over the issue of tenure. The Chairman of Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Mr. Terry Akwara disclosed that the Commission has already commenced ward delineation and verification to ensure that elections were held in all the wards across the state.
The ISIEC boss who denied being a member of the ruling party, said that his duty was to conduct credible council polls next year. “I am going to organize a free and fair council elections and I have advised the parties to go and prepare and to do their homework well. I was a victim in 2010, I know what it is like and so I have resolved to create a level-playing field for everybody”. He added that, “We are an unbiased umpire; we are not going to interfere with the issues in Court.
We have started preparations for the council elections and have commenced with ward delineation and verification to ensure that those wards where elections were not held in the last election will be corrected and also to create new wards. We have also applied for the voters register from the INEC, and when we are through with all that we will then release a date for the polls”.
The ISIEC Chairman further hinted that the Commission has concluded plans with the Imo State College of Advanced Professional Studies to organize an eight-week workshop on administration and legislation for all aspirants in the coming election to ensure that those who emerge as Chairmen and Councilors after the election were well equipped for the task ahead.
However, the Secretary of the Imo State Chapter of All Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Hon Enyinna Onuegbu, said that any plan by the state government to hold council elections now would not only be fraudulent but amounts to contempt of Court. The ALGON scribe pointed out that the tenure of the chairmen would constitutionally end in 2013, adding,
“We were elected for a three-year-tenure that will end in August 2013 before we were illegally dissolved by the state government and we are in court to seek redress and until all the matters are resolved, there cannot be council elections in Imo State.” He further stated: “We are aware that the ISIEC is fraudulently collecting as much as N250, 000.00 from each community to create new wards which is simply to hoodwink unsuspecting autonomous communities, as the commission does not have the powers to do so.”
Similarly, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in a state wide broadcast, yesterday described the purported ongoing ward delineation and verification as fraudulent and an exercise in futility with the intension to extort money from unsuspecting Imo citizens.
The statement which was signed by the Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Blyden Amajirionwu, noted that the purported creation of new electoral wards by ISIEC was a ploy to defraud communities in the state. “We advise all autonomous communities to disregard the ongoing exercise by ISIEC.”