The attention of the Abia PDP has been drawn to yet another uninspiring novelty in the governance system in Abia under the leadership of Governor Alex Otti of the Labour Party, wherein he has assumed the roles of a governor and Chairman of the 17 Local Government Areas of Abia State at the same time. This novelty, unfortunately, is one that puts the governor as the arrowhead of those in breach of the Constitution they swore to protect and defend at all times.
Credible, reliable and authentic intelligence reaching the Abia PDP has informed that the governor in a blatant act of illegality has collected the Seals of the 17 local government areas from the local governments’ Heads of Service to whom the immediate past local government Transition Chairmen handed over after their dissolution by the present governor, Dr. Alex Otti.
The implication is that Governor Alex Otti is the one running not only Abia as a State and the second tier of government but also the local government areas, another tier of government; an act that is not only unconstitutional and a usurpation of the powers of the local councils but also actionable by law. To the best of our knowledge, no bill has been passed into law by the Abia State House of Assembly which mandates the governor to run the local governments as one of the Ministries in Abia State.
For the purpose of clarity, the local government is a creation of the Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria and is in no way an appendage of the State government. Though the Constitution mandates the States House of Assembly to make laws for the good governance of the local governments, in no section of it did it make the local government an arm of the State government and its running should therefore not be at the whims of the State governor as we are seeing in Abia today.
The local governments finances are run with the States through the process and operation of a Joint Account Allocation Committee, JAAC, between representatives of the State and the local governments and both tiers are signatories to the local government accounts as funds from the Federation Account Allocation Committee, FAAC and other accruals are received monthly and at other times into the joint account.
The Abia PDP therefore finds it curious and strange that governor Alex Otti would bypass legal procedures and run the 17 Abia local governments as if it were one of the Ministries in the State. By confiscating the Seals of the local governments as it were, the State governor now acts not only as the State governor but also as the Chairman-General of the Abia Local Government system: a system that is very strange and unaccommodated by the letters of the Nigerian laws. This unholy effort makes the running of the local governments not only undemocratic, cumbersome and complex but also opaque because there is no check as would ordinarily have been when all the signatories are in the know of how the finances of the local governments are run.
In contrast, at no point in the 8 years of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia State did he emasculate or usurp the powers of the local governments. In the absence of elected local government Chairman and Councillors, the convention has been to appoint local government Transition Committees; made up of an appointed Chairman and Councillors to oversee the affairs of the local governments.
Instructively, the former governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu never allowed any vacuum in the administration of local governments as he always ensured that the local councils were manned by capable hands, and it is on record that he is one of the few governors across the country that conducted local government elections twice in their eight-year tenure and was committed to conducting the third one before it was scuttled by the Labor Party and its agents, all in a bid to diminish the glowing popularity of former governor Okezie Ikpeazu who brought peace and prosperity to Abians.
Abia PDP once again, warns about the danger of running the State outside the confines of the law as these ugly precedents governor Alex Otti sets with every of his action since he was sworn into office would one day boomerang and consume everybody including those cheerleaders who are nudging him to act recklessly even in the face of known illegalities.
We call upon the governor to retrace his steps and allow the Abia local government system to function within the ambit of the law, return the seals to the Heads of Service of local governments, who are by law, custodians of the authority of the local governments in the absence of elected or appointed political heads of the council and allow them to do their constitutionally assigned duties or at best, appoint Transition Committees to oversee the affairs of the local governments before the conduct of local government elections.
And to the elders of Abia State, members of the Labour Party and the good people of Abia State, we remind everyone once again, that eternal vigilance is still the price of liberty and that we should collectively prevail upon the State governor, Dr. Alex Otti to do what is right before our dear State descends into autocracy as it is gradually, but manifestly tending to with every action of the governor that is condoned by those that should speak up.
PDP – Power to the People!
Hon. Elder Abraham Amah
Abia PDP Vice Chairman/Acting State Publicity Secretary*