The All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom has described the creation of electoral wards in the state by Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) as dubious, unilateral and illegal.
The AKISIEC Chairman, Mr. AniediAbasi Ikoiwak had on Sunday, July 26, 2020 announced the creation of 39 electoral wards in the state, explaining that 13 wards were created from each of the three Senatorial Districts in the state.
In reaction, Mr. Nkereuwem Enyongekere, the State Publicity Secretary of the party in a press release said: “In line with the resolution of the State Working Committee [SWC] issued at the meeting of July 28, 2020, the All Progressives Congress, Akwa Ibom State Chapter rejects in totality the creation of the wards.”
In the release issued on July 28, 2020, Enyongekere said “The Party, therefore, calls on Akwa Ibom people to disregard this illegality, as the State has no such powers to create Electoral Wards.”
According to him, “The Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria vests the power of creating wards only in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The nullification of similar wards creation by the Supreme Court when it happened in Cross River State attests to our current position.
“Assuming that the State is vested with such power to create Electoral wards, is it constitutional for AKISIEC to conspire with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state to create wards to their advantage and in total exclusion of other political parties, stakeholders and communities in the state? “
He recalled “ln the Stakeholders’ meeting convened by AKISIEC on Friday, July 17, 2020, which all other political parties including APC were in attendance to discuss the upcoming 2020 local government elections in the State, the creation of additional Electoral Wards in the state was not mentioned at all for discussion. The non-inclusion of that on the agenda by the AKISIEC for deliberations exposes the sinister motives of AKISIEC and the PDP-led government of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
“And with the upcoming Local Government Elections just around the corner, this impromptu creation of wards amounts to shifting the goalposts in the middle of the match and it is absolutely not acceptable to APC in Akwa Ibom State.”
“On that note, APC as a responsible party will use every constitutional means at its disposal to ensure that this illegality does not stand.
“We wish to advise all our party faithful to remain peaceful and law-abiding in the face of this vexed development,” he added.
Corroborating, Dr. Uwem Udoma, a former Deputy Speaker of Akwa Ibom House of Assembly also opposed the exercise, saying that AKISIEC does not have such powers in law, except the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to create wards.
|Speaking to newsmen in Uyo on Monday, Udoma who is the APC South-South Zonal Committee member, said he suspects AKISIEC is not ready to conduct the 2020 local government election because the 2007 AKISIEC law they are quoting, its provisions are subject to the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“The AKISIEC law does not stand on its own but rests on the Electoral Act in terms of procedures and the Constitution. The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in 2007 made the AKISIEC law as a secondary provision to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. The primary provisions are the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act. It is only INEC that can create wards by law. Even if AKISIEC wanted to do so and fill in Councillors unchallenged, when INEC conducts the 2023 elections, INEC will go back to the 329 wards that previously existed in Akwa Ibom State. What AKISIEC has created cannot be recognized by INEC”, he stated.
The former lawmaker wondered why the AKISIEC Chairman who was a former INEC Commissioner, would not know the provisions of the law. “When we made the AKISIEC law 2007, everything was subject to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Why is Ikoiwak now saying that the AKISIEC law now stands on its own? If so, why then did he make reference in his Notice of Election whereby he quoted the 2007 law and also quoted the Electoral Act meaning that the law does not stand on its own but rests on the Constitution and the Electoral Act”.
He observed that if AKISIEC wanted to do the right thing, they could have notified INEC and made their recommendations for the wards to be created by INEC. He queried if AKISIEC was not prepared for elections that it gave out Notice of Election on July 20, 2020, putting election procedures that will end on October 30, 2020, only to come out to purportedly create wards and re-issue another modified Notice of Election.
“Notice of Election by law is six months, anything less in illegal and unlawful and where there is a clash between a state and a federal law, the federal law overrides. So what Ikowak’s AKISIEC is doing is an exercise in futility. I don’t see his actions being backed by law”, he said.
Udoma called on the AKISIEC boss to check if his Notice of Election is in consonance with the Electoral Act because even though AKISIEC is empowered by law to fix dates for election, it must follow procedures that are in consonance with the Electoral Act. “The Notice of Election is defective as the timeframe violates the six months stipulated timeline the law requires”, he warned.
He stated that AKISIEC’s excuse of creating new wards due to Covid19 to decongest overcrowding during voting is baseless as elections are not conducted in the wards but at the 2918 polling units in the state and that only collation of results are done at the wards level.
He noted with dismay that at a time everybody is working on cutting down the cost of governance due to dwindling revenue as a result of Covid19, AKISIEC is increasing the state’s financial burden by creating additional wards, wondering if the ward creation is synonymous with a gang sharing loot whereby everybody grabs and picks whatever they can and runs with it.
The APC stalwart also called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to as a matter of urgency review the AKISIEC law 2007, which is due for modification as it is older than the 2010 electoral acts as amended as well as the Local Government Administration Law and others with a view to expunging clauses and provisions that are inconsistent with the current Electoral Act and the Constitution.
He also called on the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to ensure that laws passed by the state legislature are gazetted and printed in hard copies for the people to have copies, read and understand them.
“Most of the laws being enacted are not known to the Akwa Ibom people because they hardly see copies of these laws. The Attorney General should ensure that these laws are printed. Akwa Ibom people are governed by laws they don’t even have copies or know. Why do you pass a law and it is shredded in secrecy,” he queried?
Position of Supreme Court On Creation of Wards
The Supreme Court in February 2018 set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Calabar which compelled the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct elections in the 10 wards of Ikang town in Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Delivering the judgment, Justice John Okoro held that it was the constitutional responsibility of the electoral body to create electoral wards and not the state.
The Cross River State House of Assembly had adjusted the old three Ikang wards in Akpabuyo Local Government Area to 10 in line with Law No. 7 of Cross River State 2007.
The judge also held that the state had the right to make such law, adding that the “Law No.7’’ was not illegal.
He said the law did not create any constituencies, but adjusted boundaries of Akpabuyo to accommodate Bakassi.
Okoro, therefore, said albeit the two lower courts were wrong to have ordered INEC to conduct elections in areas it did not delineate for that purpose.
“The decision of the Court of Appeal, Calabar is set aside but the commission should do the needful by formally delineating the 10 wards in Ikang for election purposes.
“The people of Bakassi have suffered enough and they should be made to have a sense of belonging,’’ he said.
Dissatisfied with the decisions of the lower court, INEC had approached the apex court praying it to set aside the two judgments.
The other appellant in the matter was the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Cross River State.
The appellants by this appeal registered their grievances with the decision of the Court of Appeal, Calabar delivered on Dec.6, 2013 dismissing their appeal against the judgment of Justice A.F.A Ademola of the Federal High Court, Calabar.
The respondents were Muri Asuquo, Chief Antigha Cobham, Chief Bassey Etim, and Chief Effiong Iman.
The respondents had initiated the case on behalf of the people of Ikang Clan, Esighi Clan, Antigha Ene Eyo Clan and Eduhu Idim Ikot Eyi Clan of Bakassi Local Government Area.
Based on the notice and grounds of appeal filed as aforementioned, the Appellants formulated four issues for formulation.
They had urged the apex court to ascertain whether or not the law No.7, 2007 which the lower court upheld in its judgment, was enforceable, lifeless, in-abeyance and or inchoate.
The appellants further sought the court’s explanation of whether or not the lower court was right when it entertained in suit No. FHC/C/41/2012 for the second time the same issues it had conclusively resolved.
They also asked the court to decide on whether or not the creation and delineation and adjustment of the boundaries of the tow local government area in No.7 for the 2012 governorship election were legal.
The appellants further asked to know whether or not the judgment of the lower court which ordered the appellants to conduct the 2012 governorship election in the 10 wards was not illegal.