Monday, 27 May 2024 04:44

FG sues 36 governors, seeks full autonomy for LGs

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The Federal Government has asked the Supreme Court to nullify the actions of 36 states accused of withholding local government funds. The lawsuit, filed by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, seeks to prevent state governments from disbanding elected local government chairmen and replacing them with caretaker committees.

The suit, dated May 20, 2024, calls for a declaration that, under Section 162(5) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, state governments are merely agents of local governments in collecting funds from the federation account. These funds, once received, must be paid directly into the state joint local government account and subsequently distributed to each local government.

In the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, comprising 27 grounds, the Federal Government also seeks to invoke Sections 1, 4, 5, 7, and 14 of the Constitution to mandate governors and state houses of assembly to uphold a democratically elected system at the local government level.

A 13-paragraph affidavit supporting the originating summons was filed by Kelechi Ohaeri of the Federal Ministry of Justice. The affidavit includes publications from national newspapers and broadcast media from 2023 to 2024, highlighting the public interest in this litigation.

The AGF's suit demands a declaration that the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by governors or state powers is unlawful, unconstitutional, null, and void. It further asserts that states failing to establish a democratically elected local government system are in breach of the 1999 Constitution and should not be entitled to receive and spend funds meant for local governments.

Among the reliefs sought are:

- A declaration that local government councils are entitled to direct payments from the federation account for funds standing to their credit when state governments fail to transfer these funds.

- An injunction preventing states from receiving or tampering with local government funds if no democratically elected local government system is in place.

- An order for the federal government to pay local governments directly from the federation account when states fail to do so.

- Immediate and successive compliance by state officials with the terms of the court's judgment and orders.

The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for May 30. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum has not yet responded to the suit. When contacted, the acting Head of Media for the NGF, Halimah Salihu Ahmed, declined to comment.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling on December 9, 2016, voiding laws that allowed governors to appoint caretaker chairmen for local governments, many states have continued to violate this ruling. State governments have historically resisted local government autonomy. On January 24, 2023, the Senate revealed that among the 35 constitutional amendment bills rejected by state assemblies were those seeking financial and legislative autonomy for local governments.

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