There is a palpable tension in Akwa Ibom State as to when the constitutional executive councils would be elected to run the affairs of the 31 Local Government Areas.
It could be recalled that barely a month after being sworn into office, Governor Udom Emmanuel constituted a nine-man Transition Committee each to run the 31 Council for 6 months pending when the Local Government election would be conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC). And by December, 2015, following an executive bill from the Governor, the State House of Assembly, led by Onofiok Luke, extended the tenure of the Transition Committees to another six months which woyuld expire in June.
This continued elongation of the Committee, which was widely described by pundits as illegal and unconstitutional, has raised a lot of dust among the political class and, indeed, the general public.
A former Chairman of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the State, Mr. Bassey Udoh, told our reporter that the development was counterproductive and inimical to growth and development in the grassroots. According to him, the Committees were serving the State Government and not the people of the areas.
Findings, however, confirmed that since they were simply handpicked by the State Government, they had no constitutional powers to execute developmental projects, bargain or negotiate the interests of the people.
A cross section of members, including Chairmen of the Transition Committees, regretted their appointments and maintained that the state government, in the last 11 months, had starved them of funds to develop the areas.
The worst affected were those who had earlier nursed ambition to contest for either Councillors or Chairmen of the Local Councils. According to them, their hopes weree almost dashed as the State Government, through its body language, was not yet prepared to conduct the local government election. The effect was that they keep spending money in spite of the harsh economic realities. “We must maintain and service our support base”, a chairmanship aspirant noted.
Currently, as the extended period is running out in June, there are rumours and indication that another round of Care Taker Committee may be set up to run the Councils for another six months, a development which has created panic and mix feelings among the political class, especially those who were eyeing the councillorship, chairmanship and other offices in the local governments and the heat, has obviously shaken Governor Udom’s support base.
But when contacted for his comment on the matter, the member representing Onna State Constituency in the House of Assembly (Governor Udom’s Constituent), Mr. Nse Essien, said that the delay was occasioned by the dwindling economy. Though he confirmed that another Care Taker Committee may be constituted, but he assured that local government election would be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as soon as the economy improves.