Alex Enumah in Abuja
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Oba Maduabuchi, has called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to direct the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to withhold monthly allocations of local government areas manned by appointed officials.
Maduabuchi predicated the call on what he described as the increasing disregard of the constitution and judgments of the Supreme Court by governors with respect to local governments’ autonomy in the country.
Governors of some states have continued to appoint caretaker committee to supervise and run the activities of local government in their state in flagrant disobedience of the judgment of the apex court.
The apex court had consistently held that running of local government by caretaker committee put in place by some state governors is unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful and a breach of the constitution.
The apex court in a landmark judgment in 2016 held that governors of states in the federation lacked legal authority to remove elected local government officials from office, or even dissolve their tenure and appoint unelected officials.
Flowing from this decision, dissolved elected local government officials in Oyo State recently threatened a showdown with the state government, prompting the minister to direct all the affected state governments to disband such unelected government with immediate effect.
In a letter dated January 14 and addressed to Oyo State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Prof. Oyewo Oyelewo, the minister described the caretaker committee as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
Malami had in the said letter with reference number HAGF/Oyo/2020/Vol.l/l, claimed that the committees amounted to a breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Similarly, Maduabuchi, who is also a constitutional lawyer, while condemning the action of the affected governors, accused them of displaying high disregard for the 1999 Constitution.
“It is elementary knowledge that it is the same constitution that established the office of every state government and also that of the President. The same constitution also sets up the three tiers of government, all independent of each other unless as limited by the same constitution.
“But the first thing almost every governor does is to dissolve the elected local government executives and in their stead appoint what is known as interim management to run these local governments,” he said.
He described the development as a very dangerous trend which does not work well for an organised and objective system of administration, adding that this would not give room for continuity, rather it would the local governments to arbitrariness.
He therefore called on the minister to discourage FAAC from making further payment to such local government caretaker committees.
The lawyer explained that the minister “is both a person and authority within the contemplation of section 287 of the 1999 Constitution, who is enjoined to enforce the judgments of the superior courts in Nigeria. He is the chief law officer of the federation and he has the power and duty to ensure that the constitution is protected and obeyed.”
“We find it odious that these caretaker committees set up in defiance of the constitution can continue and do take benefits from the constitution even though they are non-existent in the eyes of the constitution. FAAC cannot and should not continue to fund illegal contraptions,” he said.