By NBF News
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Since the Kaduna State Governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, appointed caretaker committees for Local Government Areas in the state, his administration and opposition parties have been on a war path, SEGUN OLATUNJI reports.

The recent decision by Governor Patrick Yakowa to appoint caretaker committees for the 23 Local Government Areas in Kaduna State has continued to generate serious controversy among the stakeholders in the state.

The approval of nominees for the positions of caretaker chairmen and councillors for the councils by the state House of Assembly and their subsequent inauguration by Yakowa has incurred the wrath of the opposition in the state and some of them are already spoiling for a fight with the ruling People's Democratic Party.

In the build-up to the April 2011 governorship election in the state, the governor dissolved the 23 LGAs and ordered the secretaries to take over their administration as sole administrators pending the appointment of members of the caretaker committees or the conduct of elections into the councils.

But one of the major opposition parties in the state, the Action Congress of Nigeria, is now raising eyebrows over the development.

The contention of the ACN and other opposition groups in the state is that Yakowa flagrantly violated the law by his action. They argued that he should have conducted elections and put in place democratically elected administration at the council level.

The ACN has, therefore, warned the governor to immediately reverse the appointments or risk a legal action.

The party argued that the 1999 Constitution guaranteed the existence of only democratically elected persons as local government chairmen and councillors and therefore declared Yakowa's appointment of the members of the council caretaker committees as illegal.

The Kaduna State Chairman of the ACN, Mohammed Musa Soba, threatened that the governor would be sued if he failed to reverse the appointment of the caretaker committee members and immediately order the conduct of elections into the local government councils in the state as provided in the country's constitution.

Soba stressed that the ACN viewed 'the recent appointment of local government's caretaker committees by the Kaduna state government as a serious breach of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and an insult on our collective sensibilities.

'The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which supersedes all legislation by either the National Assembly or state assemblies guarantees the existence of only democratically elected officers of the local government councils as chairmen and councillors, respectively. We found the recent appointment of council chairmen and councillors by the Yakowa administration as a mockery of democracy and an attempt to take the opposition parties for granted as if the business of governance is all about the PDP and its members.

'Nigeria cannot make any meaningful democratic progress when the supposed leaders are always acting in clear violation of the constitution that guarantees their survival as the people's representatives.

'The appointment of these local government council caretaker committees in all the 23 LGAs by the Yakowa administration and their subsequent confirmation by the state House of Assembly is a nullity and an exercise in futility for going against the letters and spirit of Section 7 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

'Consequently, the ACN demands the immediate reversal of these appointments by the Yakowa administration and the immediate conduct of elections into the local government councils as constitutionally provided without further delay. 'The ACN as an opposition party feels sufficiently threatened to seek legal redress for the monumental breach of our country's constitution by the Yakowa administration through unilateral appointment of council chairmen and councillors which for all intents and purposes was meant to promote selective political exclusivism which negates democratic values and threatens our democratic institutions under a constitutionally guaranteed multi party system of government'.

But the ACN is not the only member of the opposition that has expressed displeasure with Yakowa's recent appointment and inauguration of members of the local government caretaker committees.

In fact, a group, the Coalition of Civil Society Groups in the state has gone a step ahead by dragging the Yakowa administration before a high court. The coalition is praying the court to nullify Yakowa's action.

Just like the ACN, the coalition's major contention is that the governor acted contrary to the provisions of the 1999 constitution by his action.

The coalition is, therefore, praying the court to make an order preventing him from appointing the caretaker committees to take over from the local government secretaries who had been in charge of the councils since the dissolution of elected councils in March 2011.

In an affidavit in support of the originating motion, the coalition averred that the government dissolved the elected officers of the local government councils in the state pending the conduct of fresh elections and directed local government secretaries to take over the administration of the councils.

It also averred that local government secretaries have been performing their 'constitutional duties' perfectly as seasoned administrators.

The coalition, however, argued that the appointment of sole administrators for the councils without any allegation of fraud, incompetency or maladministration is unconstitutional.

It also argued that in running the affairs of the LGAs, the secretaries have spent tax payers' money judiciously and executed meaningful projects and that the sole administrators are not likely to carry out any meaningful administration within the limited period of time between now and the next local government election in the state.

The coalition further stated that the running of the councils by democratically elected officials is guaranteed by the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

It, therefore, prayed the court to stop the state government from going ahead with the appointment of caretaker committees for the local government areas.

Also, prior to the appointment of the members of the caretaker committees, a Kaduna-based lawyer, Auta Maisamari had sued the state government over an alleged blunder displayed by the governor regarding the non-conduct of the local government elections as well querying the legality of appointing secretaries who are civil servants to run the councils contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

Also, youths from Yakowa's homestead of Southern Kaduna have voiced their disenchantment with his recent appointment of persons to run the affairs of the councils in the state. The youths are kicking against the caliber of people the governor appointed to preside over the affairs of the local government councils, especially in their area. Some of the youths accused the governor of shoving them aside after they worked for his victory at the last gubernatorial election by appointing 'old people'.

'Look at the people he appointed from the northern part of the state, most of them are young men. But in our area (Southern Kaduna), he chose old people and we are still wondering why he decide to do that?' a youth leader who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent.

Reacting to the development, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, said that the governor did not contravene any law by his appointment and inauguration of caretaker committees for the 23 local government councils in the state.

Buhari stressed that in taking the decision, the governor complied with the provisions of the Kaduna State Local Government Laws passed by the state assembly.

According to him, the 1999 constitution gives state assemblies the powers to make laws for the good governance of the various local government councils across the country.

He said, 'Local government administration in Nigeria is based on this provision of the constitution.

'In any case, we are at a loss as to why the Action Congress of Nigeria will see nothing wrong in states where they are in control appointing caretaker committees for local government and everything wrong in Kaduna State doing the same. Are we saying that ACN states have the liberty to disobey the constitution?

'We have insisted that the laws of the land should not be interpreted to suit some individuals. You must read the laws in the collective interest of the people. In any case, what the governor has done is in line with the provisions of the state local government laws. If anybody wants to go to court to challenge our action, they should be free to do so'.

He accused the ACN in the state of displaying crass ignorance, adding that the opposition party was only playing to the gallery by crying wolf where there is none.

The governor's spokesman said, 'Though they have a right to say whatever they want to say as opposition party, they are ignorant on the subject matter. They are entitled to their opinions as opposition parties, they can go ahead and keep making noise. It is part of their responsibility as opposition parties.

'We just want to tell them not to act out of ignorance; the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has given the state government powers to make laws for the local government. They should go back and study the constitution and know what it says about constituting caretaker councils.'

However, inspite of the opposition's tough stance on Yakowa's action, the governor defied all the odds and recently inaugurated the caretaker committees, advising the chairmen and councillors to work hard in line with the vision of his administration.

He stressed that the assignment given them by their appointment into the 23 councils placed great responsibilities on their shoulders.

The governor also noted that only persons with track records of achievement, dedication and honesty could successfully run local government administration. He advised them to lay a solid foundation that would bring about enduring changes into governance at the council level before the next elections.

Yakowa also advised members of the caretaker committees to cooperate with religious and opinion leaders in their domains in order to enhance revenue generation rather than depending solely on allocation from the Federal Government.

Our correspondent however learnt that the non-composition of the members of the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission may further delay the conduct of the council election in the state. Since the tenure of the immediate past chairman and some other members of the SIEC ended early this year, the state government is yet to find replacement for them.