By Nick Dugba
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Taraba State has rejected the proposed amendment of The Taraba State Local Government Amendment Bill 2016, which seeks to reduce the tenure of local government councils in the state from three to two years.
Last week, the Taraba State House of Assembly had received an executive bill from the Executive Governor, Arc. Darius Ishaku, seeking the amendment of the Taraba state Local Government Law 2002, which provides for a three-year tenure.
In a public hearing conducted by the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, held Monday in the House chambers, it also considered the Taraba State Independent Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, also sent to it by the executive arm.
According to the NBA, while presenting its position on the issue, the local government as the third tier of government would suffer stagnation if the tenure were reduced because the term would be inadequate for any government to be focused on delivering its mandate.
Represented by its Jalingo branch Chairman, Joel Ubandoma, the NBA argued that if the tenure were reduced, the local councils would be under pressure to conduct elections which could be distractive to them thereby defeating the purpose for the establishment of Local Governments. He asked that if the councils could not perform well under three years, how could they perform under two years. He, however, advocated for a tenure of four years.
Responding, Chairman of the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mark Useni, acknowledged the powers of the States to administer the Local Governments as enshrined in the constitution, and revealed that as a former Local Government Chairman who served for only two years, there had never been a crop of Local Government Chairmen who performed as theirs.
Also queuing behind the two-year tenure was the Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, (ALGON), Stephen Ibrahim Agya. According to the Agya, as a government that is closest to the grassroots who are supposed to deliver, any aspiring Chairman should plan before coming to power and therefore supported the amendment.
The debate continued with the Jalingo Youth Development Association presenting their position. According to the representative, the association was not in support of the amendment because of the following reasons: financial burden involved in conducting the elections at short intervals, inability to deliver, public opinion which did not favor the reduction and the fact that it would set a bad precedence. He disclosed that those states that attempted such a move in the past regretted their action.
It was all argument for or against the tenure reduction as various stakeholders battled to outwit each other.
The second bill which was the Taraba state Independent Electoral Commission Amendment Bill was also debated upon, but since the subjects under it were similar with that of Local Government Law, the parties merely adopted their various positions to reflect in it.
On his part, Chairman of the Taraba state Independent Electoral Commission, Dr. Phillip Duwe stated that the position of the commission was open-ended and that it would be fair in its dealings and conduct elections based on the constitutional requirements. He, however, regretted that not heeding to the laws brought illegitimacy to the system.
In his closing remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Mark Useni, promised that all views would be brought before the House at plenary for consideration.
Since May 2015, Local Governments in Taraba state were under Caretaker Committees after the expiration of the tenure of democratically elected Chairmen, which many observers saw as unconstitutional.
Efforts to speak to the Special Adviser on Legal and Legislative Matters, proved abortive.