A coalition of 30 election monitoring groups has arrived in Abakaliki ahead of Saturday, April 22 2017 council elections in Ebonyi State.
The Kalu Victor-led coalition, at a news conference at the Women Development Centre in Abakaliki on Thursday, said its members were in the state to ensure that fair playing field was provided for all poitical parties taking part in the elections.
Victor, who spoke for the groups, however commended Governor David Umahi for considering it necessary to conduct the council elections despite economic recession in the country.
He said their observation across the country showed that most governors were using the economic hardship in the country as an excuse not to conduct elections in their states.
The group, in a statement made available to journalists , also commended Umahi for offering 50 per cent of the cost of intent forms to people in opposition parties interested in vying for the elections .
The statement read in part,” We want to commend the Executive governor of Ebonyi for considering it necessary to conduct a local government election in the state as at when due not minding the economic hardship which other states are using as an excuse.
“We therefore advise that the government should not interfere in the administration of the council chairmen and councillors so that the grassroots can directly benefit from the dividend of democracy and good governance in Ebonyi State.
“Equally, we commend Governor Umahi in a very special way for openly encouraging political parties to freely participate in the election without fear or bias,especially for supporting political parties in the state financially across the board to enable them participate in the election. This kind of gesture never happened in the history of Nigeria.”
The civil society group pleaded with the stakeholders in the state to join hands with the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission in ensuring credible elections in the state,and warned against negative utterances and criticism that could cause violence.
Meanwhile, Governor Umahi, has charged political appointees to strengthen their relationship with the electorate.
Umahi, while swearing in caretaker committee vice chairmen of Afikpo South and Ishielu Local Government Areas as well as a seven- man revenue appeal committee at Government House, Abakaliki on Wednesday, noted that it was not healthy for political appointees to relate with the people only when there is election.
He said: “I want us to make our politics to be viable. The way we can make it so is by being at home with the electorate. It is not during the time of election that we start going for them. We have large population in times of election but we are very far from them.
“I want us to start redefining our politics. Politics is a means of service; a means of assisting people. It is to uplift people and change their fortunes.
The governor, who also presented staff of office to seven traditional rulers from various autonomous communities in the state, noted that the masses needed to know about government projects especially the ones sited in their areas.
He therefore urged all political appointees to take advantage of their positions to teach the people the importance of projects sited in their areas and how they can reach government for assistance.
” The electorate have to know the reasons why they are voting and when you have certain facilities for them. It is your duty to explain to them,” he added.
Umahi also advised the revenue appeal commission members to work assiduously to ensure that justice prevailed when unsatisfactory judgement by the State Revenue Court is brought to them.
While he appealed to them to discharge their duties with the fear of God, he enjoined them to create the necessary awareness to enable aggrieved people seek redress from the commission.
He added, “In case there is a miscarriage of justice at any time because of performance of their duties, the appeal or commission will now serve as a supreme court to the matter. I want to charge you to discharge your duties with the fear of God. Make yourselves available .
” You have to find a way to tell the public that you exist so that whoever is not satisfied with the judgment given by the IGR court can approach you people.”
The governor also advised the traditional rulers to promote peace in their localities and ensure massive turnout of voters in the Saturday Local Government elections.
The state chief executive also implored them to tell their wards who are 18 years and above to obtain voter cards and to make sure that even those living outside their communities returned home to be counted during census.
He encouraged them to reconcile with those who opposed their emergence and to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness for peace to reign in their communities.
His words,”Preach the message of forgiveness and reconciliation with the people that did not agree with you. Put your kingdom at peace. Traditional rulers are empowered to participate in governance especially in the areas of security, agriculture, enlightenment and mobilization of people. You have to mobilize people for Saturday elections in the LGAs.”
Earlier, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Augustine Nwankwegu, commended the governor for the appointments which he said were in line with the constitution and for responding to the yearnings of rural dwellers.
Responding on behalf of others, the Chairman, Appeal Commission on Revenue, Chief Anthony Okah; the Caretaker Vice Chairman of Afikpo South LGA, Irem Ola Lucy and Eze Godwin Nwankwegu of Edda autonomous community in Abakaliki LGA, thanked Umahi for giving them the opportunity to serve. They promised not to disappoint him.