• Monday, July 22, 2024
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S’Court delivers judgment on LG autonomy today

Local government autonomy: The perversity of the Supreme Court judgement

The Supreme Court is today expected to deliver judgment in the suit filed by the Federal Government against the 36 state governors seeking full autonomy for the 774 local governments in the country.

The apex court has notified all parties in the suit through their respective lawyers.

The Supreme Court had on June 13, reserved judgment on the suit against state governments. At the last proceedings, a seven-man panel led by Justice Garba Lawal declared the matter ready for judgment after hearing arguments from the governors of the 36 states, represented by their respective attorneys general.

Read also: Supreme Court reserves judgement in LG autonomy suit

The states had argued that Lateef Fagbemi, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice lacked the legal standing to initiate the action on behalf of the Federal Government.

They also argued that the AGF violated their right to a fair hearing by failing to serve them with a copy of a further affidavit supporting the suit, and prayed the court to dismiss the suit.

The AGF, however, insisted that he sent copies of the affidavits to all defendants through various communication channels, including WhatsApp and emails. He also said the court bailiff served the defendants.

He, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss all preliminary objections filed by the States.

After considering all submissions, the judge said the judgment date would be communicated to the parties involved.

The AGF, in the suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, is praying the apex Court for an order prohibiting state governors from unilaterally, arbitrarily, and unlawfully dissolving democratically elected local government leaders.

The AGF is also praying to the Supreme Court for an order permitting funds allocated to local governments to be directly transferred from the federation account to the LGAs, as stipulated by the constitution, instead of being funded through allegedly unlawful joint accounts created by the governors.

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the AGF accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The AGF also seeks an order preventing governors from establishing caretaker committees to manage LGAs, insisting on adherence to the constitutionally mandated democratic system.

Read also: LG autonomy critical to address insecurity, development — RMAFC boss

Additionally, the AGF is requesting an injunction to prevent governors and their representatives from receiving, spending, or interfering with funds designated for local governments from the federation account in the absence of a democratically elected local government system in the states.

The suit underscores all previous efforts to ensure governors comply with the 1999 constitution’s requirement for democratically elected local governments have been unsuccessful.

It argues that continuing to disburse funds to governors for LGAs without elected officials undermines the constitution’s integrity. Consequently, the Federal Government contends that, under Section 162 of the constitution, it is not obligated to release funds to any state lacking a democratically elected local government system.

The AGF is, therefore, urging the court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically-elected local government councils by 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.”