July 23, 2024

Supreme Court refuses to join state assemblies in Nigerian Govt’s LG autonomy suit


The Supreme Court on Thursday in Abuja bluntly refused to allow the State Houses of Assembly to be joined as defendants 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 held that the Houses of Assembly have no business to be in the matter for reasons of law and jurisdiction.

President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, at Thursday’s proceedings applied on behalf of the Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly to be joined as a party in the matter.

However before the senior lawyer could proceed further, Justice Garba Lawal, leading a secen-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court, cut in and asked if the State Houses of Assembly can legally join a matter between the Federal Government and the state governors.

Justice Garba Lawal also asked the NBA President if the apex court has jurisdiction as a court of first instance in any matter involving the State Houses of Assembly.

Based on the hint of the court, Maikyau attempted to cite legal authorities to back up the request of his client but in the end, the authority did support the request.

He promptly withdrew from the proceedings after which processes of the Federal Government and those of the state governors were ordered to be adopted.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AGF, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, had on behalf of the Federal Government, initiated the legal action against the governors, primarily seeking full autonomy for local governments as third tier of government in the country.

In the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, the AGF is praying the Apex Court for an order restraining state governors from unilaterally, arbitrarily and unlawfully dissolving democratically elected local government councils.

The AGF, in the original summons which he personally signed, is also praying the Supreme Court for an order to allow the funds in the appropriations of the local governments to be channeled directly to them from the Federation Account in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution against the alleged illegal joint accounts created by the governors.

He also sought the order of the Apex Court to prevent the governors from constituting inner committees to conduct the affairs of the local governments, against the democratically recognized and guaranteed system.

In addition, the Federal Government sought an order prohibiting governors, their agents and privies, from receiving, spending or handling funds released from the Federation Account for the benefit of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is in place.

The governors were sued through their respective state Attorneys General.

The suit is predicated on 27 grounds, which include the fact that the Federation of Nigeria is a creation of the 1999 Constitution, with the President as the head of the federal executive arm of the Federation and sworn to uphold and implement the provisions of the Constitution.



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