Court Hears Case Against 36 State Governors May 30

Court Hears Case Against 36 State Governors May 30

Federal government has commenced legal action against the 36 governors at the Supreme Court over alleged misconduct in local government affairs.

The attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice (AGF), Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who filed the suit on behalf of the federal government, is seeking full autonomy for local governments as the third tier of government in Nigeria.

Consequently, the apex court has fixed May 30 for hearing of the suit.

Perceived stifling of local governments across the country by state governors has remained a major issue in the country.

Besides the questionable handling of local government finances in the name of joint account, governors have also been accused of wantonly removing elected council chairmen, installing caretaker committee chairmen as well as refusing to allow for the conduct of council polls as and when due.
However, in the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, the AGF is praying the Apex Court for an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.

The AGF in the originating summons is also praying 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.

He also sought order of the Apex Court stopping governors from constituting Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratic system.

Besides, the federal 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 suit is predicted on 27 grounds among which are that the Nigeria Federation is a creation of the 1999 Constitution with the president as head of the Federal Executive arm of the Federation and has sworn to uphold and give effect to the provisions of the Constitution.

The prayers read in part: “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 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 a 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.”

Fagbemi SAN 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 democratically 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.

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