The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, on Sunday swore in four local government caretaker committee chairpersons following the extension of their tenures by the state House of Assembly last week.
Bauchi has 20 local government areas and 16 of the chairpersons have been told to continue in office by the state lawmakers.
The governor said four council bosses had to go through swearing-in protocol because their predecessors had either resigned or were sacked before their tenures expired.
Mr Mohammed disclosed this at the swearing-in of the four caretaker chairpersons for Darazo, Kirfi, Tafawa-Balewa, and Ningi local governments.
He said some of their predecessors were sacked for alleged corrupt acts that involved illegal deforestation and sale of government land.
Governor Mohammed who had earlier promised to conduct local government polls by June said he had to shift the polls due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I did not want to come out for the swearing-in ceremony because I knew I had promised Nigerians that we are going to hold the local government elections very soon,” he said.
“But here we are faced with the doctrine of necessity which demands that we are going to swear in and get an extension of the tenure of the local government caretaker chairmen from the state assembly in view of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevents us from abiding by the time table set up by the state independent electoral commission.”
He said the elections would hold “as soon as feasible,” stressing that all arrangements had earlier been concluded for the elections.
“That is the only way we can deepen democracy in Nigeria. We know that the caretaker system is not democracy – it is unconstitutional, but we have to do that to fill the vacuum.
“We as a government are encouraged to open the frontiers of governance and provide opportunities for citizens of Bauchi to exercise their right of universal suffrage.”
He said some of the sworn-in chairpersons were newly appointed to replace those that resigned or were sacked.
“Those that we have removed are very close to me as a person. But governance is not all about Bala Mohammed; it is not even about you or anybody; It is about trust given to us on behalf of the people,” he said.
“You know all the circumstances that brought you to the office, I don’t want to say anything here lest I insult anybody out of humility and respect. You are not sacrosanct, you are not tin gods.
“Some of you were even selling government lands without allocation or approval; that is not acceptable.”
He urged the new appointees to cooperate and carry members of their local government areas along, especially as their major task would be the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Mohammed said a local government implementation committee has been formed to carry out the campaigns at the grassroots using templates set up by the state COVID-19 Committee.
“Community engagement is very important to stop the pandemic and we are not going to shy away from our responsibility in doing that.
“Today we have locked down three local government areas because they have become very pandemic, but some of the other local government to are not also safe.”
He said though the state has been able to “flatten the COVID-19 graph, the state government has released money for the local government councils to produce face masks ahead of the enforcement of mask-wearing culture that will be ordered at end of the lockdown.
He said the mass production of face masks would be given to only the vulnerable groups in the state, “including students and pupils.”
“But civil servants and traders would be asked to produce their own masks as part of their contributions to the state.
“We cannot afford to produce seven million masks, and I don’t pretend but we will come with ways and means to ensure everyone gets and wears it.”