Liborous Oshoma: Governors’ Use of Caretaker Committees To Administer Local Governments Illegal 

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Lawyer and Human rights activist, Liborous Oshoma, has stated that governors’ use of caretaker committees is illegal and a form of indirect tenure extension, contributing to the crisis in Rivers State.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, Oshoma highlighted the legal and democratic issues surrounding the lack of local government elections.

He remarked, “You can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stand. There’s obviously something that gave rise to the crisis in Rivers State. Assuming the local government elections were conducted before now, there wouldn’t be struggles to hold on to positions that have expired.”

While Oshoma criticised the practice of encouraging governors to use caretaker committees, he pointed to Section 7 of the constitution, which mandates democratically elected officials at the local government level.

“Today, Rivers State just joined as the 18th state without elected local government officials. This should not be encouraged in Nigeria,” he said, referencing similar statements by Ugochinyere.

Addressing the legal aspect, Oshoma discussed Section 91 of the constitution, which outlines the membership of state houses of assembly. He noted that the alleged elongation of tenure by 23 members in Rivers State is currently under legal scrutiny.

“Until that matter is decided, you can’t say you have passed a law and extended the tenure,” he added.

Oshoma emphasised that there was no crisis that made it impossible to conduct local government elections in Rivers State, making the attempt to extend local government tenure an aberration. He condemned the practice of imposing local government chairmen under the guise of caretaker committees, labelling it anti-democratic.

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“We have criticised so many states for failure to conduct local government elections, and Rivers State should not be an exception,” Oshoma asserted. He warned that elder statesmen supporting this aberration will hinder the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

Oshoma stressed the importance of having valid elected local government officials for effective governance at the grassroots level. He blamed both parties for allowing tenure extensions to cause chaos and urged state independent electoral commissions to conduct elections as required by law.

He called for a truly independent state electoral body and criticised the over-bloated federal government, advocating for power delegation to federating units.

“The governors should be willing to give and take so you have a resemblance of elections at the local government level just the way we have at the federal level,” he suggested.

Oshoma highlighted the need for collaboration and independence in electoral bodies, comparing the situation to America’s system. He criticised the current practices where election results are often pre-determined, causing crises.

On the constitutionality issue, Oshoma stated, “Any attempt of any state house of assembly to extend the tenure of a local government officer whose tenure had expired is unknown to our constitution.” He called for constitutional amendments to give proper recognition to local governments, akin to the state and federal levels.

Oshoma concluded by emphasising the necessity for local governments to manage grassroots issues, such as the distribution of palliatives, which should not be a federal responsibility. He urged constitutional reforms to enhance the functionality and recognition of local governments.

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