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Tenure of FCT area council chairmen, councillors expires June 2026, says INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday said that the tenure of the incumbent chairmen and councillors of the six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will expire in June 2026.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood  Yakubu made the clarification in Abuja at a meeting of the commission with the leaders of  Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) FCT chapter, led by the council’s National Chairman, Yusuf Dantalle.

The delegation was at INEC with the sole purpose of seeking the commission’s clarification on the tenure of the current officers of the six area councils as well as the 62 councillors in the FCT.

He said that based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), the current elected executives of FCT area councils have a four-year tenure.

Yakubu said that INEC had earlier received inquiries from some law firms, an individual, a political party and one FCT Chairmanship Aspirants’ Forum regarding the tenure of FCT area councils and demands for the Commission to release timetable for the elections.

He said that the inquiries were based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which was the subsisting law at the time the area council elections were held on Feb. 12 2022.

“The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides for a three-year tenure for Chairmen and Councillors which, in their opinion, expires 2025.

“However, Nigerians are aware that the National Assembly has since repealed and re-enacted the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) as the Electoral Act 2022.

“In particular, in the exercise of its powers as the law-making body for the FCT, the National Assembly extended the tenure of the Area Councils from three to four years, thereby aligning it with executive and legislative elections nationwide.

“This is one of the important provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. The Act came into force on Friday Feb. 25 2022, two weeks after the last Area Council elections in the FCT.

“By the time the elected Chairmen and Councillors were sworn-in four months later on June 14, 2022, they took their oath of allegiance and oath of office on the basis of the new electoral Act (i.e. the Electoral Act 2022) which provides for a four-year tenure.

“Consequently, their tenure therefore expires in June 2026,’’ Yakubu said.

The INEC chairman said tenure was not defined by the date of election but the date of the oath of office for executive elections or the date of inauguration for legislative houses.

Yakubu said that an officer-elect (president/vice, governor, senator, house member, chairman or councillor) cannot exercise the powers of office and draw from the remunerations attached to it until such a person is sworn-in or the legislative house is inaugurated.

“The Constitution empowers INEC to hold elections not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the end of tenure of incumbent officers.

“In the case of the FCT, Section 108(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 under which the current Chairmen and Councillors were sworn-in on 14th June 2022 is clear and therefore unambiguous:

“(1) An Area Council shall stand dissolved at the expiration of 4 years commencing from the date –

(a)          When the Chairman took the oath of office; or (b) when the legislative arm of the Council was inaugurated whichever is earlier”.

Yakubu added that there were several judicial authorities; including the judgement of the Supreme Court that tenure begins from the date of oath of office and not the date of election.

“The Law Firms that have written INEC on behalf of their clients ought to have drawn their attention to both the law and judicial pronouncements on the matter.

“You may also wish to note that when the Electoral Act 2022 was signed into law two weeks after the commission conducted the last area council elections in the FCT, the incumbent holders (chairmen and councillors) challenged us;

“That we conducted the election too early, claiming that the new Electoral Act extended their tenure from three to four years.

“We reminded them that they took their oath of office under the old law before the coming into force of the new Electoral Act. Therefore, their tenure will expire in June 2022,’’ Yakubu said.

He reassured IPAC that INEC was aware of its responsibilities under the law, hence would release the timetable and schedule of activities for the election at appropriate time.

He said that the FCT area council election conducted by INEC remained a model for local government elections in the country.

He pledged that INEC would continue to uphold the sanctity of tenure and improve the credibility of those elections.

Yakubu appealed to all persons with ambition to contest for the positions of chairmen and councillors in the FCT to be guided by the provisions of the law and judicial pronouncements on the issue of tenure.

He also appealed to political parties to enlighten their members accordingly

Speaking earlier, Dantalle they were at INEC for the commission to clarify the tenure of the FCT area council.

“ There have been issues about if they are meant to spend three or four years in office.

“I recall that in the previous meeting, the national leadership of political parties have with the commission, this issue has been clarified.

“But I feel it will be necessary to invite IPAC general assembly of the FCT to come with me to the commission for first-hand information about the status of the tenor of the elected officers in FCT,’’ Dantalle said.(NAN)

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