There was pervading air of disillusionment in political circles across Enugu State on Tuesday following Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s failure to appoint caretaker committees for the 17 local government areas in the state on the expiration of the tenure of elected councils on 4th January, 2016.
Against wide expectations of the announcement of the names of the new caretaker committee members, the 17 local government chairmen in the state. on the directive of the state government, instead handed over to the various Heads of Personnel Departments (HPMs) in the councils after the expiration of their two-year tenure.
It will be recalled that the governor had on 28 November, 2015 convened a forum of political stakeholders in the state at the Old Government Lodge in Enugu where he sought for and secured the overwhelming approval of leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state for the appointment of caretaker committees to take over from the elected councils pending the conduct of elections.
At the meeting which was believed by observers to have been largely stage-managed, the party stakeholders mandated the governor to appoint the caretaker committee members as he deemed fit.
Feelers that the caretaker committees were already being constituted ahead of the expiration of the tenure of the elected councils came during the Christmas holiday when the governor held series of meetings with PDP stakeholders from the various councils where he consulted them on existing internal zoning and rotation arrangements for the office of the chairman.
Meanwhile the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the handover ceremony took place in a closed-door meeting with Ugwuanyi at the Government House, Enugu.
NAN reports that the governor is still being expected to announce the list of caretaker committees to run the affairs of the councils pending the conduct of local government elections in the state.
He had announced at an expanded meeting of stakeholders in November that local government caretaker committees would be constituted in order to avoid a vacuum.
The governor gave two reasons why the local council polls would not hold before the expiration of their tenure.
According to him, the first reason is the ongoing local government staff audit and other reforms.
He explained that the state government wanted to fish out ghost workers said to be prevalent in the system.
He, therefore, directed that all activities towards the local government elections be put on hold, to enable the committee handling the exercise to conclude its assignment.
“It indeed appears to be a widely shared view among our people that it will be unwise and imprudent to conduct elections for new councils when this very important exercise has not been concluded”, he had said.
Ugwuanyi explained that the second reason for the postponement of the council elections was inadequate funding for the exercise as it was not properly provided for in the 2015 budget.
“We, therefore, expect to address this deficiency in the 2016 budget,” he explained.
The decision to constitute caretaker committees was approved by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, a former Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji, and a former Information Minister, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who led the people from their respective senatorial districts.
Meanwhile, Prince Cornelius Nnaji, the former Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, confirmed that the handover was peaceful.
“The handover was peaceful; there was no problem,” the ALGON chairmann told NAN.