Kwara govt to Supreme Court: Why FG's suit on LGs autonomy should be thrown out


The Supreme Court

By Priscilla Osaje

The Kwara State Government has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit filed by the Federal Government seeking full autonomy for the 774 Local Government (LG) Councils in the country.

In a legal process filed at the apex court, the state contended that granting the reliefs sought by the federal government, “will further impoverish most Nigerians who are downtrodden in the local government areas”

This was contained in the counter Affidavit to the Originating Summons of the federal government filed by the Kwara Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Senior Ibrahim-Sulyman obtained on Tuesday in Abuja.

The state AG asked the apex court to dismiss the Originating Summons of the federal government and the reliefs sought therein, in the interest of justice.

NAN recalled that the Federal Government instituted the legal action against the Attorney General of the 36 states, over alleged misconduct in the administration of local government Councils.

The suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), is seeking full autonomy for all local government councils in the country.

In the suit, the Federal Government specifically prayed the court to issue an order, prohibiting state governors from embarking on unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

Fagbemi urged the court to grant an order for the withhold of the fund meant for the local governments in such states that unlawfully dissolve democratically elected local government officials and run them through illegal Transitional Implementation Committee.

He prayed the Supreme Court for an order to allow the monthly allocations of LGs to be directly paid to them from the Federation Account in line with the provisions of the Constitution as against the alleged unlawful joint accounts created by governors.

The Kwara AG, who is the 23rd defendant in the case, however, said the agitation of the plaintiff regarding joint account “is grossly misconceived and a contradiction to the provisions of Section 162 (6) and (8) of the Constitution.

The section, according to the AG provides that funds meant for the local governments “must be allocated to the state in a special statutory account and shall in turn be distributed to all the LGs in the state in such terms as may be prescribed by the state’s House of Assembly”

Ibrahim-Sulyman also argued that the misconception of the federal government should be nip in the bud because of an earlier decision of the apex court in a similar case, between Abia State and the Attorney General of the Federation.

He referred to the subsisting judgment of the court delivered by a former Supreme Court Justice, Late Justice Nikki Tobi, in the case, which held:

“The National Assembly cannot validly make a law permitting the direct allocation of funds to the local government Councils.

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“Rather, such money must be allocated directly to the state, which shall in turn pay same into the state joint local government account vide section 162 (6) of the Constitution”.

Ibrahim-Sulyman argued that, going by the decision of the court, the federal government in the present case “is turning itself into performing the function of the legislature.

“The ideal thing is for the plaintiff to ensure that a Bill is sponsored for the amendment of the constitution or a new statute to that effect.

‘The plaintiff cannot use the back door of the judiciary to import into our law what is not legislated upon by the National Assembly,” the AG said.

He added that contrary to the position of the plaintiff, there was no time Kwara state failed to disburse funds from the federation account meant for the local government.

“The allocation meant for the local governments in the state are released for the use of the local governments, monthly,” he said.

The Kwara AG also argued that the state was not in the habit of truncating democracy at the local government level as alleged by the federal government.

He said the earlier scheduled local government elections in the state could not hold due to protracted litigation on the tenure of the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission.

Ibrahim-Sulyman said the state had rolled out the schedule for the elections to hold into various local government Councils on Sept. 21, 2024.

Besides, the Kwara AG, said, the federal government has no power, whatsoever, to refuse to release the funds meant for the local governments to the states.

Sulyman said payment of the LGs monthly allocations from the federation account to the state is a mandatory statutory provision.

He cited a case between Lagos State Attorney General vs AGF, filed when Tinubu was Lagos state governor and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, withheld the allocation meant for the state for creating additional 37 Local Council Development Areas.

The apex court decision in the case, according to the AG is: “the President has no power vested in him to suspend or withhold for any period, whatsoever, the statutory allocations due to Lagos state pursuant to the provisions of Section 162(5) of the 1999 Constitution.
The AG, therefore urged the apex court to hold that the federal government has no constitutional power to stop, redirect or withhold the statutory allocations meant for the local government councils in Kwara.(NAN)


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