FG drags 36 govs to Supreme Court, wants full autonomy for local govts


The Federal Government has dragged the 36 state governors before the Supreme Court over alleged misconduct in the affairs of local governments, while seeking full autonomy for the third tier of governemnt in the country.

Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, filed the suit on behalf of the Federal Government, against the governors primarily seeking full autonomy for local governments as third tiers of government in the country.

In the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, the Federal Government  is praying the apex court for an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

In the originating summons personally signed by Fagbemi, the government  also prayed the Supreme Court for an order permitting the funds standing in the credits of local governments to be directly channelled to them from the Federation Account in line with the provisions of the Constitution as against the alleged unlawful joint accounts created by governors.

Fagbemi, also wants the apex court to make an order stopping governors from constituting  caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognized and guaranteed democratic system.

Besides, the government applied for an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.

The Governors were sued through their respective State Attorneys General in the suit predicted on 27 grounds, among which are that, the Nigeria Federation is a creation of the 1999 Constitution with President as Head of the Federal Executive arm of the Federation and has sworn to uphold and give effects to the provisions of the Constitution.

“That the governors represent the component states of the Federation with Executive Governors who have also sworn to uphold the Constitution and to, at all times, give effects to the Constitution and that the Constitution, being the supreme law, has binding force all over the Federation of Nigeria.

“That the Constitution of Nigeria recognizes federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognized tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution.

“That, by the provisions of the Constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and that the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than the democratically elected local government system.

“That, in the face of the clear provisions of the Constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“That, the failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place, is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 Constitution which they and the President have sworn to uphold.

“That, all efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place, a democratically elected local government system, has not yielded any result and that to continue to disburse funds from the Federation Account to governors for non existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution.

“That, in the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the federal government is not obligated under section 162 of the Constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.

The AGF therefore asked the Apex Court to invoke Sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the State Governors and State Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same Sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

He is also praying for invocation of Sections 1, 4,  5,  7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the Governors or anyone using the State powers derivable from laws enacted by the State Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.

A 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by one, Kelechi Ohaeri from the Federal Ministry of Justice averred that the AGF took out the suit against the Governors under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Federal Government.

The deponent asserted that the local government system recognized by the Constitution is a democratically elected local government council and that the amount due to local government councils from the Federation Account is to be paid to the local government system recognized by the Constitution.

The deponent sought to tender during the hearing, Daily Post online publication of January 29, 2024, titled “LG Administration; 15 Govs under scrutiny over Constitutional breach”, Vanguard online special report of September 12, 2023, Guardian editorial of January 23, 2024, Premium Times online publication of December 1, 2023, Vanguard online publication of December 1, 2023 and Arise online news of December 2, 2023 to justify the national importance public interest on the issues of autonomy for local governments in Nigeria.

The Supreme Court has fixed Thursday, May 30 for hearing of the suit.

 

 

Ame Zulu