Direct FAAC to stop allocations to LGs with caretaker committees, senior lawyer asks AGF

A constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), has called on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to direct the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to stop payment of monthly allocations to State Local Government Areas without democratically elected Chairmen.

It would be recalled that Malami had recently described the operation of caretaker committees at the local government level as illegal, unconstitutional and has directed all the affected state governments to disband them with immediate effect and called on the affected state governments to revert and go back to democratically elected representatives.

This was contained in a letter dated January 14, 2020, and addressed to the Oyo State Attorney General, Professor Oyewo Oyelewo, by the AGF, where-in Malami described the caretaker committees as illegal and unconstitutional amounting to a breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

In a statement in Abuja, Maduabuchi stated that state governors have developed a nauseating propensity for treating the 1999 constitution with alarming levity.

That section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution guaranteed a system of democratically elected Local Government Councils and further urged the various state governors to ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structures composition, finance and function.

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“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 set 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 Local Government Councils as elected by the people and in their stead, appoint what is known as interim management to run these Local Government Councils.”

The senior lawyer observed that this virulent assault on the nation’s ground-norm (the constitution) has resulted to various litigations and the courts have all maintained that the governors do not have the vires to either dissolve the duly elected Local Government Chairmen or to appoint interim management Committee in their stead.

He referred to a litany of case law including Akpan Vs Umah & Ors (2002) LPELR-7099; AG Benue State &Order Vs Umar & Ors (92207) LPELR-8-76; AG Plateau State Vs GOYOL (2007) LPELR-12875; Onuegbu &Ors Vs Imo State & Ors (2012) LPELR 19691 among others to buttress his position.

In addition, he referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on December 9, 2016, where the apex court in the case Governor of Ekiti State & Ors Vs Prince Sanmi Olubunmo and 13 Ors, wherein the Supreme Court held that: “It is obvious from the constitution that section 7 (1) thereof guarantees democratically elected Local Government Councils throughout Nigeria by establishing their existence. To the contrary, section 23(b) of the Local Government Administration (Amendment Law) provides for an arbitrary removal/dissolution of the elected Councils by the appellants and thereby replacing them with appointed caretaker committees. This is a very dangerous trend and which does not work well for an organized and objective system of administration. It will not give room for continuity but rather open room for the rule of man to rule as against the rule of law.

“The constitution has guaranteed a system of Local Government by democratically Local Government Council and it is enjoined on the Government of every state to ensure their existence. Ekiti State is not exempted.”

With the above decision of the apex court, Maduabuchi said: “This should ordinarily put paid to this irritating penchant for governors upon assumption of office to assault institutions set up by the same constitution that set up the office of the governor. But this is even more alarming and atrocious that they are aided and compassed by the Chief Law officers of the various states – the Attorneys General.”

The lawyer explained that the AGF, “is both a person and authority within the contemplation of section 287 of the 1999 enjoined to enforce the judgments of the superior courts in Nigeria.

“We find it odious that these management committees members 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.

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