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Socialist Democracy March 2004



The Lagos State chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP) together with nine other political parties have gone to court to challenge the guidelines for the conduct of the local government elections released by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). The other nine parties are Democratic Alternative (DA), Progressive Action Congress (PAC), National Democratic Party (NDP), United Democratic Party (UDP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Movement For Democracy and Justice (MDJ), Justice Party (JP), New Democrat (NP), and United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP).

Among the guidelines released by LASIEC include the provision of curriculum vitae, birth certificate, voters registration card, tax clearance certificate, party card, letter of disengagement from previous employment and the payment of N50,000 and N10,000 for chairmanship and councillorship candidates respectively.

The decision to challenge the LASIEC guidelines in court was a fall out of the abortive meeting between the political parties in Lagos state and LASIEC at which the state electoral commission refused to listen to the complaints of the parties on its guidelines which they considered obnoxious and unacceptable. Specifically, the parties are seeking a court declaration that LASIEC's guidelines should be declared unconstitutional.

On Wednesday morning (17/03/04), when Justice Adeyinka Alabi of Ikeja High Court division was to deliver his ruling on both illegality of LASIEC guidelines and newly created local governments, he was said to have been transferred to Igbosere High Court in Lagos Island without informing the parties.

NCP and other political parties with their supporters moved to Lagos Island only for the Judge not to sit. On enquiry, they were informed that the case is yet to be re-assigned and that no date had been fixed for it. This means the matter is being technically adjourned indefinitely.

Another arm twisting development by the AD government in the state is illegal creation of an additional 2,000 polling booths to 8,000 originally used by INEC in the last general elections. While the old INEC voter register is to be used for the LG elections, polling booths are being fraudulently altered. This is one of the AD designs to rig the elections.

However, NCP and other political parties have commenced on mass protests against this injustice. When the Judge refused to sit, they went on protest to media houses with placards and banners with the promise of more political actions to force AD government in Lagos State follow due process for free and fair elections.

In its emergency business meeting on Monday 22/03/04 with 72 party members, 80 and 11 councillorship and chairmanship contestants/aspirants respectively, NCP Lagos state chapter has listed conditions for participating in the council poll. It resolves that even though the Attorney General of Lagos state has conceded that some of the LASIEC guidelines for the council poll being contested by NCP and other nine political parties are unconstitutional, preparation of new guidelines must entail LASIEC meeting with political parties to work out modalities and date for the elections. It also resolves that except the newly created 37 local councils are recognised by the constitution via the National Assembly Act, elections to the councils must be based on the 20 recognised councils in Lagos state.

It would also be recalled that the NCP had earlier filed a suit in court challenging the appointment of 57 Executive Secretaries for the local governments in Lagos as well as the disbursement of funds to the newly created local governments before their recognition by the constitution.

In a related development, the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) has disqualified Osun NCP from contesting the forthcoming council poll despite the ruling of the Osogbo High Court nullifying the nomination fee and other obnoxious guidelines which NCP and other six parties contested.

According to Bayo Olagunju, Secretary to OSIEC, "The court did not specify that consideration should be given to NCP to enable it file nomination papers for the election" (The Punch, March 18, 2004). He claims that NCP did not file its nomination papers before the close of registration.

It should be recalled that NCP did not file in nomination form because of the illegal fee which is a condition for it and upon which it sought redress in court.

When asked of the question of refund of fee in line with the court ruling, Olagunju said the commission had spent the money for preparation for the election and that the ruling would be appealed.

Except a higher court set aside the Osun State High Court judgement, OSIEC has no option but to allow NCP and others obtain nomination papers and refund to other parties that had paid the illegal nomination fee. Anything short of this will be an illegal exercise.



Socialist Democracy March 2004