The National Conscience Party (NCP) in Lagos has expressed reservations about the ability of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to conduct a free, fair and credible local government election on July 22.
The party, after several failed efforts to make LASIEC come to term with it and other opposition parties on issues pertaining to the its preparation and composition towards the election, said it was left with no option but to drag the umpire to court for a redress.
Chairman of the party, Fatai Ibuowo in a conversation with The Guardian, said, "It has become necessary to alert Nigerians about the plot by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to rig the council elections using LASIEC, which is under the full control of the ruling party.
"We issued a press statement immediately after LASIEC placed the notice of the elections on April 7 2017, in which we expressed our fear that the umpire, as it is currently constituted, cannot organise any credible election."
The party said, "Since October 2014, when the elections were supposed to have been conducted, APC has done everything possible to undermine the process and imposed its handpicked party loyalists to compose LASIEC. This is the usual practice of APC in other sates when it comes to council poll."
It pointed to the fact that in the last 18 years, Lagos has been a one-party state with the APC in absolute control and alleged that it has been using deceitful means to run the affairs in collaborations with few others.
According to the party, "Not only has party been running the local government illegally and undemocratically since the tenure of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, the State House of Assembly has always collaborated with the APC-led administration by making unconstitutional laws to further undermine the autonomy of the council and also set up a LASIEC made up of party faithful to act as government's puppet."
NCP said it was on record that APC refused to obey the court judgment it secured against it in regard to the imposition of their members as caretaker committees in the 57 councils adding, "the ruling party agenda ahead of July 22, is to crudely impose itself through cruel rigging method."
Expressing fears that there are plans to perfect the outcome of the elections to favour the ruling party, NCP said, "With all the details available, it is clear that the impending elections under the current leadership of LASIEC, is going to be a sham, a coup against masses of Lagos and a crude continuation of the ruling party at the council level."
The party also accused LASIEC of not having a functional website and email server, saying "the website published on their letterhead leads nowhere and the one available on the Internet is directly owned by the state government. This is in spite of it's over N360 million budget and N3 billion marked out for the elections. All the guidelines of the impending elections are not available online and we know that the purpose is to consciously keep the public in the dark about their sinister agenda.
"The guidelines of the elections were only in the APC supported newspapers. This was after the stakeholders' meeting with political parties where they first mentioned the undemocratic guidelines. It is on record that the NCP and several other parties strongly opposed these irrational guidelines along with the decision of the agency not to use electronic card readers for the elections. In spite of these opposition the agency went ahead to publish the guideline on April 14 2017."
The party also condemned LASIEC's imposition of administrative fees of N100, 000.00 for chairman, N75, 000.00 for vice chairman and N50, 000,00, wondering if a worker earning N18, 000.00 could participate?
Meanwhile, LASIEC said it has redesigned its website to ensure free access to information. According to the commission's Head of Public Affairs, Oladapo Olatunde, "The new website will provide comprehensive information about the operations and activities of the commission and also serve as a platform for receiving feedback from stakeholders and the general public."
He disclosed that the website has a clean uncluttered design, improved functionality and enhanced content on the commission's vision to be recognised for excellence in electoral administration and sustenance of democracy.