A former member of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and presently an APC South South Zonal Committee member, Hon Dr Uwem Udoma, has faulted the publication by the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission, AKISIEC, on the creation of additional 39 wards, stating that the State Electoral Commission does not have such powers, only the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is by law, empowered to create wards, he insists.

Speaking to newsmen in Uyo on Monday, the former state lawmaker said he suspects AKISIEC is not ready to conduct the 2020 local government election because the 2007 AKISIEC law they are quoting, it’s provisions are subject to the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.

“The AKISIEC law does not stand on it’s 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.

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Hon Udoma 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 it’s 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 it’s 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.

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He advised 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.

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Hon Udoma 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 Adminstration 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 asked. He called on AKISIEC to withdraw the purported creation of new wards as such illegality will not stand legal and judicial scrutiny.