* Akpabio advocates separate electoral agency for council polls.
Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to withhold statutory allocation to the local governments whose chief executives and councillors are not democratically elected.
The resolution of the red chamber was sequel to a motion by the Senate Minority Leader, who is representing Benue South Senatorial District, Senator Abba Moro on Friday.
Moro’s motion was titled, ‘Urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy: The dissolution of elected Councils in Benue State’.
The lawmakers, in their various contributions, adjusted the scope of the motion by extending the sanctions to other states in the country that had put in place unelected council executives.
They condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue and other states in Nigeria.
The lawmakers urged the governor of Benue State to adhere to his oath of office by obeying the rule of law and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
They also sought the review of the governor’s dissolution of the elected councils and constitution of caretaker committees.
They specifically advised Governor Hyacinth Alia, a suspended Catholic priest, to reinstate the elected council executive forthwith.
Moro had, in his motion, noted that placing caretaker committees to replace elected councils was an aberration and alien to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
He said that Section (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees a system of local government by democratically elected councils.
He argued that the constitutional responsibility of every state was to ensure the existence of local government councils by law.
Moro however said he was aware that there were subsisting court rulings that had prevented the governor, the House of Assembly, their agents and privies against tampering with the tenure of the elected councils.
He said: “The Senate is aware that neither the governor nor the Government of Benue State have appealed the judgments and it is against the grain of the rule of law.”
In his contribution, Senator Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North) said the Supreme Court had pronounced that state governors do not have the power to dissolve elected local government officials.
He said that he resisted pressure to dissolve elected officials of the local government when he was a governor.
He, however, said no fewer than 16 state governors in Nigeria are currently running the councils with caretaker committees.
In his contribution, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) described as a misnormal, a situation whereby 16 states in the country run their local governments through the caretaker system.
He emphasised that the best the Senate could do was to prevail on the Ministry of Finance, using its oversight powers, to stop the release of funds to local government areas operating caretaker committees.
He urged the Senate to prevail on the Minister of Finance not to release fund to any unelected local government officials.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) said the Electoral Act should be amended to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct local government elections.
Buhari’s suggestion was however amended by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary.
Akpabio frowned upon the establishment of multiple federal agencies but advocated the creation of the National Electoral Commission for local governments so that governors would no longer have overlapping influence on council polls.