By Ushang Ewa
Mr. Eyo Ekpo, the gubernatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2019 general elections has described the directive of Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade over the appointment of caretaker committees as illegal.
Ekpo, in a statement signed by him and made available to CrossRiverWatch said Ayade’s decision over the administration of local governments was in a bid to calm frayed nerves in his People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He alleged that Ayade’s decision was unconstitutional and will be in contempt of a Court judgment. Also, he claimed that the State was witnessing a breakdown of law and order due to thr absence of local government council administrators.
The statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to Governor Ben Ayade’s directive to all PDP chapters in Cross River to recommend names for appointment as members of caretaker committees for local government councils; and to his subsequent decision to personally select members of these caretaker committees.
“As elections approach, this move is the latest in a series of attempts at emergency governance by an unpopular incumbent who is desperate to maintain his hold on power.
“Ayade’s sudden interest in local governments, three and a half years into his tenure, is because the SDP has rightly connected the breakdown in law and order across the State to the absence of these local councils, which have historically been the foundation of a peaceful Cross River, together with a functional traditional institution.
“In keeping with his stewardship of the State so far, his response to our concerns is not only incompetent but also illegal. Administration of local governments can only be undertaken by duly elected local government chairmen and councillors. The Cross River Local Government Law as well as the 1999 Constitution are crystal clear on this and the High Court of Cross River State has so determined.
“Governor Ben Ayade has deliberately subverted the 1999 Constitution, his oath of office and the rule of law in trying to placate his visibly angry Party members with free local government offices without the trouble of campaigning and winning elections, despite the tenure of the last Chairmen expiring in December 2016.
“He also knows the PDP will be beaten in any local government polls because he is very unpopular not only within his Party but more importantly in every part of Cross River State, hence this illegal idea to constitute LGAs (sic) without elections.
“Cross River is no longer a one-party State. As such, Governor Ayade’s directive goes completely against democratic principles and it cannot stand. The Governor should formally conduct local government elections in accordance with the 1999 Constitution and the Law or forget about it completely and let sleeping dogs lie.”
CrossRiverWatch had reported that following a statement issued by Mr. Ayade that PDP caucuses across the 18 local government areas nominate people to be appointed as members of caretaker committees and a subsequent one stopping them from nominating the Chairman and Secretary, the PDP caucus in Obudu had ruled that the Governor be given the opportunity to nominate the entire caretaker committee in that local government area.
However, a third release signed by Mr. Ayade’s spokesman, Mr. Christian Ita said following the inability of some local government caucuses to successfully nominate members, Mr. Ayade will go ahead and appoint them after meeting with stakeholders.
The release dated November 14, 2018 said Mr. Ayade’s attention had been drawn to the inability of the caucuses to, “collectively agree on a list of names for appointments as members of local government councils caretaker committees.”
It further stated that consequently, Mr. Ayade has, “decided to revert to the traditional method of making such appointments by constituting the caretaker committees by himself after due consultations with relevant stakeholders in each local government chapter of the party.”
“Please note that lists of names already generated by caucuses will therefore, now be for reference purposes only,” the statement added.