By Jonathan Ugbal and Obeten Godfrey
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River on Thursday swore in the security committees of the 18 local government areas of the State with a clear warning to his aides to steer clear of any roles concerning the council areas.
Mixed reactions trailed the appointment of the 399 people with government house sources saying that the term “local government security committee” was preffered over caretaker committee so that Mr. Ayade will not run foul of Court judgments.
This, an aide said was evident in his warning to his aides over anticipated conflict in roles.
“Where there is a conflict between a State appointee and a security council to the extent that it deals with a primary function of the local government, you (committee) hold supreme. No commissioner, no Special Adviser has the superintending effort or responsibility over your primary functions,” Ayade said during the swearing-in ceremony at the State’s Executive Council Chambers.
He then told his aides, “You must realise that while we are here running around, they are the ones taking care of the home.”
The committees are expected to work with the Head of local government administration (HOLGA). And, with the polls at hand, Mr. Ayade warned that their nomenclature did not permit them to arm themselves or anyone to rig the polls even as he stressed that their responsibilities went beyond the elections.
“As you go into the elections, go with a Bible on one hand and on the other hand, a (bottle of) holy water. I want a peaceful elections in Cross River State. I want elections without loss of life. If anybody insists that you must bring thuggery to your polling booth, let him win and go. He can only win on earth, God is judging him,” Ayade said, adding that: “I will not ask any one of you to put yourself in the line of danger to protect the party or to protect me.”
On administration, he cautioned against laying emphasis on taxation to generate revenue as the State had already passed a law exempting low and no income earners from tax. He argued that taxation was never the path to development for any nation.
“I implore you to deemphasize local government taxation system and road blocks and different types of backward, primitive roadblocks that frustrate our people; prevent (them) from taking their products to the markets.
“I will abolish all taxes on produce by our poor parents. We don’t need to tax purposes parents, it is wrong. Any government that is very serious can’t focus on tax. You will innovate alternative means of income. I charge you to do so,” Ayade said.
Mr. Ayade later met different cadres of his aides where CrossRiverWatch gathered that he prepared their minds towards the elections.
Meanwhile, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla has kicked against the appointment of the committees which he described as, “wrongful, illegal and nullity.”
Obla who took to Facebook to share his opinion said the move violated the 1999 constitution (as amended).
He wrote: “On Friday, 15 February 2019, while Cross Riverians were engrossed with preparation for the botched 16 February 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade stealthily and quietly announced the appointment of Caretaker Committees for the 18 Local Government Areas Councils in the State.
“I make bold to say that the appointment of Caretaker Committees for the 18 Local Government Area Councils in the State by Governor Ben Ayade is illegal and unconstitutional.
“It is an aberration and flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) for a Governor Ben Ayade to appoint a Local Government Caretaker Committees for the 18 Local Government Areas Councils in the State for any reason whatsoever.
“Section 8 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides as follows thus: The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed.
“Section 1(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, espouses and affirms the supremacy of the Constitution thus: The Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have a binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Undoubtedly, the Constitution as the supreme and basic law of the country provides for the effective and efficient administration oil the country.
“Accordingly, Section 1(2) of the Constitution provides thus: The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed or shall any persons or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any party thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
Continuing, he argued that: “The whole intention of the framers of Section 1(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to ensure that the country is governed in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution.
“Therefore like, the appointment of Caretaker Committees for Local Government Area Councils by the Governor for rather than conducting an election is wrongful, illegal and a nullity.
“Section 4, Part 11 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria establishes the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission and vest with the power to conduct elections into the 18 Local Government Area Councils of the State.
“For the purpose of clarity and avoidance of any doubt, it is pertinent to reproduce Section 4, Part 11 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provide thus: The Commission shall have power (a) to organize, undertake and supervise all elections to the local government councils within the State.”
He called for the State Independent Electoral Commission to conduct elections and sued for the scrapping of the committees.
“I, therefore, urge Governor Ben Ayade to rescind his decision to appoint Caretaker Committees for the 18 Local Government Area Councils in the rather; and rather allow the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission to conduct elections in the 18 Local Government Area Councils.
“I call on the All Progressives Council, APC, in Cross River State to immediately file an action to set aside the appointment of the so-called Caretaker Committees, and also obtain a restraining order against them from acting,” he said.