Kaduna LG poll: Dead on arrival

Despite objections raised by the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) is still bent on conducting the local government election on May 12. However, sections of the Electoral Act may force the commission to have a rethink as ABDULRAHEEM AOUDU reports

After going back and forth, Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) had finally fixed local government election for May 12, 2018. In 2014, Malam Nasir El Rufai had promised that he will conduct the council election three months after he assumes office as governor. However, El Rufai did not fulfill this promise. Secondly, the poll was billed for December 30, 2017 but the date was shifted indefinitely because the enabling legislation had not been passed by Kaduna State House of Assembly.

Last February, KADSIECOM announced a new date and unveiled the election timetable and guidelines. According to Dr Saratu Binta Audu- Dikko, the Chairman of KADSIECOM, Electronic Voting Machines, (EVMs), and Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be used for the election. The chairman further said that parties primaries are to be conducted between 20th February to 27th March and that election campaigns will end by midnight of May 11.

Parties conduct primaries
In March, about 100 chairmanship and 350 counsellorship aspirants purchased forms to contest for the local government elections on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Specifically, Governor Nasir El Rufai had said that he had no preferred candidate and that the party should ensure a level playing field. Within six days, all aspirants were screened and the primaries were held on March 24.

In Kaduna south, Kabiru Musa Jarimi polled 162 out of the total 329 votes cast to emerge the flag bearer and his is closest rival, Abubakar Yaro Coca Cola scored 76, while the third position was claimed by Abubakar Y. Dodo with 60 votes. Similarly, Sale Shuabu defeated the highly rated Sadiq Mamman Lagos in the contest. Sale polled 173 votes while Sadiq got 165 votes in the primaries. Likewise, Aliyu Idris Ibrahim got 136 votes to emerge flag bearer of Zaria local government, while Mohammed Usman scored 308 to clinch the ticket in Sabon Gari council.

Similarly, Mohammed Aliyu polled 197 votes to emerge winner in Soba local government area.

In the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), flag bearers in the central and northern senatorial districts emerged largely by consensus but voting actually took place in the southern part of the state. In Kafanchan Mr Peter Averik won the ticket in Jema’a local government, having scored 178 votes to defeat Micah Ngboni, who got 97 votes. In Jaba local government, Mr Philip Gwada got 185 votes to beat his rival, Mr Ibrahim Danka, who scored 51 votes.

In Zango-Kataf, Mr Elias Manza scored 125 votes to defeat Moses John, who had 55 votes, while David Sarki picked the ticket in Kagarko, having gathered 127 votes to defeat four others, including Mr Ishaya Kago, who scored 47 votes. Likewise in Sanga, Mr Samuel Shamaki who got 143 votes, defeated Mr Shakarau Ambi, who scored 99 votes, while Mr Siman Mathias won in Kaura with 174 votes, defeating three other contestants, including his closest rival, Sani Tachio, who got score 39 votes. Mr Shuaibu Goma, who emerged the party’s flag bearer in Kauru Local Government, picked the ticket as an unopposed candidate.

Significantly, out of the 68 registered political parties, only these two parties conducted primaries as candidates of the rest emerged mostly by consensus or selection.

Fire guts KADSIECOM office
However, 22 days to the May 12 local government election, the office of KADSIECOM was gutted by fire on April 21. According to reports, the fire started around 10am but as at 11:24am, the top floor of the building was still in flames, with fire fighters battling to put out the inferno. Significantly, the fire out break heightened fears that the election would be postponed again and several conspiracy theorists took over local private radio stations to air their views.

However, Mrs Audu-Dikko had insisted that local government election, in spite of the inferno, will still hold on May 12. The KADSIECOM boss who announced this at an emergency meeting with all the political parties in the state, however said that Smart Card Readers (SDRs) would not be used for the election as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would not be able to make them available for the poll. Nonetheless, Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) would be used for the election, she had told the gathering. She admitted that although some of the election materials were destroyed in the inferno, the remaining Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) would be adequate for the conduct of the elections.

Parties seek postponement
At the said meeting, the two major parties had asked KADSIECOM to postpone the coming council election but Mr Audu-Dikko stuck to her guns. Specifically, PDP was particularly not comfortable with the decision to conduct the council polls without card readers. Alhaji Ibrahim Wusono, the state secretary alleged that it is a grand design by the APC to rig the elections.

According to him, “conducting the elections without card readers is not acceptable to us in PDP. The card readers must be made available during the election.” Similarly, APC wanted the election postponed but for a different reason. According to acting state secretary Yahaya Baba-Pate, the scheduled election will hold close to its forthcoming national convention in Abuja, which was billed for May 14. He argued that ‘’it has been the tradition nationwide that whenever there is national event, the state event has to step down for the national event, therefore, we are calling on KAD-SEICOM to postpone the election to enable stakeholders prepare for the national convention,”

However, .the commission’s boss was not impressed by the arguments of both APC and PDP. She explained that KADSIECOM had started talking to INEC about card readers about two years ago, when she was planning for the elections. However, she expressed shock when the commission got ‘’ a letter from INEC that it would not be able to provide us with the card readers because it was preparing for 2019 elections..’’

Mrs Audu-Dikko told the political parties that “INEC cannot hold us back, so we have to go ahead with our own election as scheduled. “If there is anybody here that can convince INEC to give us the card readers, we will appreciate it.’’

In addition, the KADSIECOM chairman punctured APC’s argument, explaining that that there was no reason to postpone the elections because of the national convention of the APC, noting that the two events are not holding on the same day.

What the law says
However, beyond the issues raised by the two major political parties, the May 12 local government election may not be feasible going by the Electoral Act. Specifically, section 19(1) states that ‘’the commission shall by notice, appoint a period of not less than 5 days and not exceeding 14 days, during which a copy of the voters; register for each local government area council or ward shall be displayed for public scrutiny and during which period any objection or complaint in relation to the names omitted or included in the voters’ register or in relation to any necessary correction shall be raised or filed.’’

As at last Monday, 13 days to the election, KADSIECOM has not complied with this section of the Electoral Act. In fact, subsection 2(a) of the Act further states that during the period of voters’ list display, any person may ‘’raise an objection on the form prescribed by the commission against the inclusion in the supplementary voters’ register of the name of a person on grounds that the person is not qualified to be registered as a voter in the state, local government or area council, ward or registration area or that the name of a deceased person is included in the register. ‘’

Similarly, section 20 states that a supplementary voters’ list shall be integrated with the main voters’ register and published not later than 30 days before a general election.

Significantly, legal experts argue that while section 20 can be circumvented by the commission, by saying that all those who just attained the voting age of 18 will not be eligible for the May 12 election, but the display of voters’ register for public scrutiny has to be complied with. Clearly, time is not on the side of the commission as it is just a week to the election today.

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