Transition Committees running affairs of local councils in A’Ibom illegal—Court

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  • Orders dissolution of transition committees in the state

An Akwa Ibom State High Court has declared as illegal the appointment of Transition Committee to run the affairs of the 29 out of the 31 local government areas of the state pending the election of democratically-elected council helmsmen.

The presiding judge, Justice Ezekiel Enang, in a ruling, held that the setting up of the caretaker committees by the sitting governor was unlawful as there were no provisions for such positions within the Nigerian Constitution for the administration of councils.

The court which consequently sacked members of the recently appointed Transition Committee held that though it was aware that the state house of assembly had empowered the governor to appoint persons to occupy local government offices, it however said such law by the state lawmakers  was null and void for being inconsistent with the constitution.

Since the removal from office members of the transition committees for Ukanafun and Itu Local Government Areas, the state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has not appointed replacement rather the two councils are being managed by their Heads of Local Government Service.

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Again, since coming on board 2015, the governor had strongly relied on the services of caretaker committee members appointed by him to run the administration of the third tier governments in his state until about two months when he announced plans to conduct election into the councils.

But on Tuesday, the state High Court sitting in Abak Local Government Area of the state declared as illegal, the continued administration of various local government councils in the state by the caretaker committee members.

The court had made the pronouncement after listening to the submission of a lawyer from the chamber of the Nsikak Akai and Associate and ordered the state governor to dissolve the local caretaker committees of the council with immediate effect.

Akai had submitted that the Nigerian constitution has no provision that empowers the governor to set up caretaker committees to run the local governments in the state.

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Fielding questions from journalists shortly after the ruling, Akai said he was happy for the judgment, describing it as a victory for democracy and the people of the state.

He said: “For once, Akwa Ibom people can hold their governor to account subsequently whenever a governor intends to or even contemplate appointing caretaker committees in the state.

“The grievance we had was that the persons that were being appointed as caretakers were only answerable to their benefactors who see them as stooges, while the people bear the brunt.

“Once we have elected representatives at the grassroots level, then we can hold them to account.”

Meanwhile, the state government has expressed shock over the judicial pronouncement on the appointment of caretaker committee members to run councils in the state.

The state Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko, said the state government objected to the ruling indicating readiness to go on appeal; explaining that there were certain circumstances that make the setting up of transition committees applicable in the matter.

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He posited that the appointment of caretaker committees for the administration of councils in the state was often supported by law duly passed by members of the state assembly.

According to Nwoko who stood in for the state government during the trial, the inability of the state government to conduct the local council election was because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had failed to make available to the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) the voters’ registers in the state.

He had equally argued that it would have been improper and thousands of people in the state could have been disenfranchised “if we had gone back to use the 2012 voters’ registers which INEC itself has discarded.”