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S’court reserves judgement in FG’s suit seeking full LGA autonomy

Supreme court Supreme court

The supreme court has reserved judgment in the suit seeking full autonomy for Nigeria’s 774 local governments.

All 36 states of the federation are the defendants in the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024.

The federal government is also asking for an order preventing the governors from arbitrarily dissolving democratically elected councils.

We have an originating summons dated and filed 20 May, 2024.

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At the court session on Thursday, all the states, represented by their attorneys-general and lawyers, adopted their respective processes and prayed the court to dismiss the suit.

Some of the states also said they were being denied fair hearing adding that the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) failed to serve them with the process of his further affidavits filed on June 10.

In his submission, Lateef Fagbemi, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), prayed the court to dismiss all preliminary objections filed by the states and grant the originating summons.

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“I adopt and rely on these processes. I urge my lords to overrule the various objections and grant the originating summons,” the AGF said.

On the issue of fair hearing, the AGF said he sent copies of the affidavits to the defendants via WhatsApp and emails. He said the court bailiff also served the defendants.

After listening to the lawyers in the suit, a seven-member panel of justices, led by Garba Lawal, said a date for judgment will be communicated to the parties.

BACKGROUND

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It is commonplace for governors to sack elected councils and impose caretaker committees in their stead.

In the suit filed by Fagbemi, the federal government also requested the supreme court to authorise the direct transfer of funds from the federation account to local governments — in accordance with the constitution.

The suit is hinged on 27 grounds.

“That the constitution of Nigeria recognizes federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognized tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the federation account created by the constitution,” the originating summons reads.

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“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.

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“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 governments is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 constitution.”

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The federal government asked the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the constitution to declare that the governors and state houses of assembly are under obligation to ensure democratically elected systems at the third tier.

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