Monday, April 15, 2024

Govs’ve no power to sack LG chairmen –FG

The Federal Government has described the operation of  caretaker committees at the local government level as illegal and unconstitutional.

The directive issued by the Attorney General of  the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), called on the affected state governments to revert and go back to democratically elected representatives.

In a letter dated January 14, 2020, addressed to the Oyo State Attorney General, Professor Oyewo Oyelewo, Malami described the caretaker committees as illegal and unconstitutional.

In the letter with reference number HAGF/Oyo/2020/Vol.l/l, the AGF further stated that  the committees amounted to a breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution.

The Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, who confirmed the development said the minister had written similar letters to all the 36 state of the federation.

“The essence is to ensure that only democratically elected local government chairmen should be put in place.”

Malami also said the actions of some governors in dissolving elected local government councils “was unconstitutional, null and void and continued disobedience of the Supreme Court judgment of December 9, 2016 in the case of Governor of Ekiti State & Ors vs Prince Sanmi Olubunmo & 13 Ors.”

The AGF in the letter titled “Unconstitutionality of Dissolution of Elected Local Government Council and Appointment of the Caretaker Committee: The urgent Need for compliance with Extent Judicial Decisions,” said such actions not only violated the provisions of the 1999 constitution, but also the judgment of the Supreme Court.

He accordingly, requested “all their excellencies, state governors and speakers of state houses of assembly, who are currently acting in breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and also acting in disobedience of the Supreme Court judgment highlighted above, to immediately retrace their steps by ensuring compliance with the above in the overall interest of the rule of law and our democracy.”

However, the letter has sparked verbal exchange between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State.

The PDP, who in a statement, by its Publicity Secretary, Akeem Olatunji, said Nigeria was being governed by the constitution and not by decrees, described Malami’s statement as unexpected of the number one legal officer of the federation.

The statement read in part: “Nigeria as a country is practising federalism not a unitary system of government, hence the need for separation of power and avoid ridiculous action that can jeopardise the image of Nigeria within the comity of nations.

“Furthermore, the Supreme Court judgment delivered by Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, CJN, on the 10th of December 2004 stated clearly that pursuant to section 162 (5) of the Constitution; if the President or any of his agents has any grievances or whatsoever with any tier of government, he should go to court.

“Oyo State PDP as the ruling party is advising APC in Oyo State to look for their saviour elsewhere as Mr Abubakar Malami is not constitutionally empowered to assist them in foisting illegality on the good people of Oyo State at the grassroots level.

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“Hence, the caretaker chairmen across the 33 Local Councils and 35 LCDAs are enjoined to face the herculean task before them and disregard the former illegal chairmen who are merely seeking attention.”

However, the APC has applauded the Attorney-General over his intervention.

In a statement issued by its Assistant Publicity Secretary, Prince Ayobami Adejumo, Oyo APC regretted that the PDP administration in the state was bent on bringing the third tier of government down on its kneels for no just reasons than dirty politicking.

“It is unfortunate that the Pacesetter State had to be in the news again for the wrong reasons despite spirited efforts from various stakeholders who pleaded with the governor to toe the line of rationality and constitution by allowing council officials, who had been in office a year before him, serve out their three year term. But he preferred governance at the grassroots level to be grounded to a halt than work with members of other political parties apart from his own PDP.

“With this latest development, we have been made to know that Nigeria is still blessed with competent, dutiful and courageous individuals who are ready to act right in any situation.

“The Minister of Justice has just demonstrated the zeal to safeguard constitutional democracy and the sanctity of the court since the nation’s Supreme Court had also given a verdict that no state governor or House of Assembly has the power to sack elected council officials before the expiration of their tenure.

“It is only a politically naive person that would misinterpret the intervention of the nation’s Chief Law Officer or encourage Governor Makinde to waste any time further to comply and allow peace to reign in the state. There should not be a question of party affiliation where good governance is prioritised and it is on this note we are calling on the concerned council officials to cooperate with the governor.

The Chief of Staff to Governor Makinde, Chief Bisi Ilaka, a lawyer, who announced the dissolution of the local government executive on May 29, 2019, confirmed that the Attorney-General of the state has received the letter, and was studying it, adding that appropriate reaction would be given as soon as possible.

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