Lagos – The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) at the weekend bowed to pressure mounted on it by some of the political parties over what they termed exorbitant and illegal administration charges fixed for the July 22, 2017 Lagos council polls and agreed to review the fees.
The decision followed a consultative meeting between executive members of the lnter-Party AdvisoryCouncil (IPAC),Lagos State chapter, and LASIEC top officials on how to resolve the crisis over the controversial administrative fees.
Independent gathered that the agency’s chairman, Hon. Justice Ayotunde Philips, has already agreed to reduce the amounts to N50,000 for chairmanship candidates, N30,000 for the vice chairmen and N20,000 for the councillorship candidates to save the elections and avoid mass boycott by parties.
Prior to the review, the agency had fixed the administrative charges at N100,000 for Chairmanship candidates, N75,000 for Vice Chairmanship candidates and N50,000 for Councillorship candidates.
However, some of the parties, especially the National Conscience Party (NCP) and the Labour Party (LP), described the charges as illegal and threatened to go to court as they maintained that such fees are illegal and had no place in the nation’s Electoral Act.
The reduction followed a special appeal by the IPAC, through its Chairman, Mr. Kola Ajayi, who had urged the commission to effect the review to allow many parties participate in the election process, as some of the aspirants might not afford the fees.
Independent gathered that after serious and heated deliberations and advice by top LASIEC officials, Justice Philips agreed to the review the charges downwards, although she reportedly maintained that the fees would not be completely scrapped as demanded by the parties.
It was also gathered that during the meeting, the IPAC executive also appealed to the commission for an extension of the period for the submission of nomination forms by two weeks, from May 27 to June 9, 2017 to enable the participating political parties in the elections to have enough time to collate the results of their primaries.
In her response to the IPAC requests, Justice Philips, assured that the commission would meet to deliberate on the demands, even as she commended the body for employing the option of dialogue to resolve the disagreement between the commission and the political parties in the state.
Justice Philips also assured the IPAC executive that the commission would ensure fairness and due process in the conduct of the July 22, 2017 council elections, which happens to be her first since she was appointed the LASIEC Chairman by Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode.
Hon. Olushola Omolola, the IPAC Secretary in the state, who spoke to Independent, confirmed the decisions at the meeting, adding that apart from him and Mr. Ajayi, the IPAC Chairman, other executive members of the body were also in attendance as well as the LASIEC executive members.
He said: “Some parties will reject the decision. It does not matter. All the parties may not agree with the decision. Any party that disagrees can go to court. The LASIEC chairman has agreed to obey any court order that says she cannot collect the fees and that she should return the money collected.
“The administration fees will not stop the elections. We can only agree to disagree. Nobody likes the administration fees. The court is the last hope of the common man. But, if you go to court, will you boycott the election?”
Reacting to the development, Olaseni Ajai, the NCP Director of Publicity and Publications, said that what his party and some others had been fighting for was the total scrapping of the administrative fees and other conditionalities stipulated by LASIEC in its regulations which his party consider illegal.
He maintained that if LASIEC failed to scrap the administrative charges, which he maintained, was unknown by the nation’s Electoral Act, the NCP would fulfill its threat of going to court, even as he confirmed that his party was at the verge of filing its papers in court.
Meanwhile, Independent gathered that the IPAC would hold its General Assembly meeting on Monday to consider all the developments concerning the July 22 council election.