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Cablegate: Struggles Over State Electoral Commissions Precede Lga

VZCZCXRO0309
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0629/01 2611045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181045Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9408
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9184
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000629

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR INR/AA
DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NI
SUBJECT: Struggles Over State Electoral Commissions Precede LGA
Elections

1. (U) Summary: Elections in the 353 Local Government Area (LGA)
Councils of Nigeria's 17 southern states are scheduled to be held in
the last quarter of this year. Struggles continue over control of
the State Electoral Commissions which handle the LGA electoral
process. End Summary.

---------------------------------------
PDP Schedules LGC Elections in December
---------------------------------------

2. (U) LGA council elections are scheduled to be held nationwide
before the end of this year. In June, the National Executive Council
of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) directed all PDP controlled
state governments to conduct LGC elections during the month of
December. (Note: In 14 of the 17 states in the south, PDP controls
both the Governorship and the State Assembly. Anambra and Imo States
have non-PDP governors, but PDP controls the State Assemblies. In
Lagos State, the Action Congress (AC) controls both the governorship
and the House of Assembly. End Note.) In advance of the elections,
tussles for control of the State Electoral Commissions that conduct
the LGC elections are continuing. (Note: State governments are
empowered by the constitution to conduct local council elections, to
establish Electoral Commissions and to pass laws that regulate their
affairs. States also determine the tenure of elected council
officials. Electoral laws vary as to the term of office of State
Electoral Commissions, and LGA council members. End Note.)

3. (U) Opposition parties and even members of losing PDP factions
are concerned over control of the State Electoral Commissions. In
Ogun State, an Action Congress (AC) member who aspires to the
chairmanship of an LGC told Political Assistant he would likely
withdraw from the race because he was certain the PDP dominated
commission would manipulate the electoral process. In Rivers State,
a PDP member of the House of Assembly who supported Rotimi Amaechi,
winner of the PDP primary for Governor, complained that all five
appointees for the commission are members of Governor Celestine
Omehia's faction, and that the chairman pro tempore of the
commission headed one of Governor Celestine Omehia's campaign teams
during the April elections.

----------------------------------
New Governor Fights to
Control State Electoral Commission
----------------------------------

4. (U) In Edo State, Governor Lucky Igbinedion (PDP) appointed a
State Electoral Commission headed by Justice Gabriel Okungbowa
before he left office. However, his successor, Governor Oserheimen
Osunbor (PDP) appointed a new commission, headed by Justice Anthony
Okunega, shortly after taking office. In a May 30 ruling, an Edo
State High Court (court of first instance) declared unconstitutional
the action of the House of Assembly directing Governor Osunbor to
dissolve the Okungbowa Commission. The court went on to warn that
any election conducted by any commission other than Okungbowa's
would be null, void and of no effect. The Edo State Government has
appealed the ruling. The Action Congress has gone to court to seek
an injunction restraining Okunega from conducting election
preparations, an Action Congress representative told Political
Specialist.

----------------------------------
APGA Awaits Departure of
Anambra Electoral Commission Chair
----------------------------------

5. (U) In Anambra State, where Governor Peter Obi (All Peoples'
Grand Alliance, APGA) was re-instated by the Supreme Court in early
2007 so he could carry out the remainder of his 4 year term, the
State Electoral Commission, which began its four year term in 2004,
plans to hold elections in November. Opposition parties claim the
Chair of the Commission, Cornel Umeh, is a PDP loyalist, and would
prefer to delay LGC Elections until after Umeh's term expires.
Governor Peter Obi has not released funds for the November LGC
election.

--------------------------------
Opposition Walks Out of
Screening for Ondo Commissioners
--------------------------------

6. (U) According to press reports, ten opposition members of the
Ondo State Assembly walked out of a session screening nominees to
the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC), protesting
that all members were drawn from the PDP. The Assembly's PDP

LAGOS 00000629 002 OF 002


majority approved the nominees. Reportedly, opposition parties
including the Action Congress, Alliance for Democracy (AD),
Democratic Peoples' Alliance (DPA), and Labour Party (LP) have
formed an alliance to oppose LGA elections until after the election
tribunals have decided all pending cases.

-----------------------------------------
Lagos Plans Elections in Old and New LGAs
-----------------------------------------

7. (U) In Lagos State, the tenure of the existing State Electoral
Commission, composed of AC party members, has not yet expired, and
seems likely to continue as constituted. The press reported AC
Governor Babatunde Fashola had announced his decision to hold
elections not only in the 20 constitutionally recognized LGAs but
also in the 37 Local Council Development Centers (LCDCs) created by
former Governor Bola Tinubu. (Note: In 2004, Governor Tinubu
created 37 additional LGAs, but called them Local Council
Development Centers following criticisms that their establishment
violated the constitution. President Obasanjo withheld budgetary
allocations meant for the 20 LGAs and vowed not to release them
until the Lagos State Government dissolved the LCDCs. After a
rigorous legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lagos
State, saying that state governments have the constitutional power
to legislate on LGAs, including the creation of additional councils.
End Note.)

--------------------------------------------- ---
New Gov. Refuses to Recognize Early LGC Election
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (U) In Oyo State, former Governor Rasheed Ladoja (PDP) held LGC
Elections in the last days of his governorship. Current Governor
Bayo Alao-Akala (PDP) refused to recognize the results of the LGC
Election, and plans to hold Elections on December 15.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (U) Seats on Local Government Area Councils, to which the states
pass funds intended for use in providing education, health and water
services to local citizens, are much sought after as rewards for
party loyalists and campaign supporters. State Election Commissions
are key to gaining control of those LGA seats, and struggles over
their membership are likely to continue. End Comment.

McConnell

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