The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has clarified the tenure of council chairmen and councilors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), confirming they will remain in office until 2026. This clarification came from INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu during a meeting with the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Abuja, following calls for fresh elections in the FCT.

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According to Prof. Yakubu, the tenure of elected officers starts from the date they take the oath of office, not the election date. He explained that the National Assembly’s repeal and re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2010, now the Electoral Act 2022, extended the tenure for chairmen and councillors from three to four years. This change aligns the tenure of local officials 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, 25th February 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 14th June 2022, they took their oath of allegiance and office under the new Electoral Act, which provides for a four-year tenure. Consequently, their tenure expires in June 2026,” Yakubu stated.

He further cited Section 108(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, which specifies that an Area Council shall stand dissolved four years from when the chairman takes the oath of office or when the legislative arm of the Council is inaugurated, whichever comes first. Yakubu emphasized that judicial authorities, including the Supreme Court, support that tenure begins from the date of the oath of office.

Yakubu also addressed the challenges INEC faced when the new Electoral Act was signed into law shortly after the last Area Council elections. Incumbent chairmen and councillors initially contested that their tenure should be extended under the new law. INEC reminded them that their oath of office was taken under the previous law, confirming their tenure would end in June 2022.

Yakubu reassured the public and prospective candidates that INEC remains committed to upholding legal responsibilities and maintaining election integrity. According to Section 28(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC is required to release the timetable and schedule of activities 360 days before the election date, and not two years ahead of the elections.

“INEC’s conduct of the Area Council election in the FCT serves as a model for local government elections across the country. There is stability of tenure for chairmen and councilors, and no caretaker committees have been needed in any Area Council in the FCT. Regular democratic elections are conducted, ensuring no single political party dominates all the constituencies,” Yakubu added.

He appealed to those aspiring to contest for positions of chairmen and councilors to adhere to the provisions of the law and judicial rulings regarding tenure. He also urged political parties to educate their members about these legal provisions. At the appropriate time, INEC will release the timetable and schedule of activities for the next election.

Prof. Yakubu’s clarification aims to dispel confusion regarding the tenure of FCT council officials, ensuring that all stakeholders are well-informed and prepared for the upcoming electoral processes.