S’Court begins hearing on FG’s suit to bar state govs from handling LG funds


The Supreme Court has fixed May 30, this year to begin hearing in a constitutional lawsuit filed by the Federal Government seeking to bar state governors from further hijacking the statutory funds of local councils under them.

The apex court is also set to decide on whether or not state governors have the powers to arbitrarily dissolve the local councils under them and set up caretaker committees to run their affairs endlessly as it is done in virtually all states of the Federation.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola is said to have empaneled justices of the Supreme Court to hear the suit.

But it was reliably learnt that membership of the panel is being jealously guarded as at the time of filing this report.

The lawsuit is the first in a long while by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to challenge one of the evident constitutional breaches in the on-going Fourth Republic.

Although this is not the first time the Federal Government would intervene in the administration of local councils in the country through court actions, the administration of Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN as the Attorney-General of the Federation which began in 2015 did not consider this approach for the eight years it was in the saddle.

The incumbent Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN on behalf of the federal government instituted the instant court action against the governors.

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 chief law officer of the federation in the originating summons he personally signed, is also praying the Supreme Court for an order permitting the funds standing in the credits of local governments to be directly channeled 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 an order of the apex court stopping governors from constituting  Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognized 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 governors were sued through their respective state attorneys general.

The suit is predicated 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 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.

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.

The AGF also prayed 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-paragragh 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 local government system recognized by the Constitution is a democratically elected local government councils and that the amount due to local government Councils from the Federation Account is to be paid to local government system recognized by the Constitution.

The deponent sought to tender during 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 of public interest on the issues of autonomy for local governments in Nigeria.

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

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