LG Autonomy: Supreme Court Gives 36 Governors Seven Days To File Defence

By Sunday Etuka, Abuja

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The Supreme Court has given the 36 state governors seven days to file a defence to the legal action taken against them by the Federal Government.
The seven-man panel led by Justice Garba Lawal also ordered the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi to file his reply within two days, after receipt of their defence.
Justifying the decision of the court, Justice Lawal explained, it was due to the national urgency of the suit and the non-objection from the Attorney General’s of the states of the Federation.
However, the Supreme Court ordered that all filing processes be completed within the same time, and fixed June 13 for hearing of the suit.

As for the eight states that were absent from the Thursday proceedings, Justice Lawal ordered they should be served with fresh hearing notice.

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The federal government had taken the 36 state governors to supreme court over allegations of maladministration of the local government councils.

In a suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, the federal government is demanding full autonomy for all local governments, and an order to restrain the state governors from unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government executives.

The suit is also seeking for an order to allow the local governments get their shares directly from the federation account in line with the provisions of the constitution as against the current practice of joint accounts being operated by the governors.

It prayed the Supreme Court to stop the governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognized and guaranteed democratic system.

Part of the suit read: “That by the provisions of the constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and that the constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than democratically elected local government system.

“That in the face of the clear provisions of the constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“That the failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place, is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 constitution which they and the president have sworn to uphold.

“That all efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 constitution in terms of putting in place, a democratically elected local government system, has not yielded any result and that to continue to disburse funds from the federation account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 constitution.

“That in the face of the violations of the 1999 constitution, the federal government is not obligated under section 162 of the constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place,” it read.

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