By Mumini AbdulKareem
Vice Chairmen and Councillors across the 16 Local Government Areas of Kwara State have rejected the extension of the suspension of council chairmen by the state government describing the action as illegal.
To this end, the local government officials have reportedly dragged the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to court over the matter.
It was gathered that the case which was instituted at the Ilorin High Court, last week, has been slated for hearing on January 17, 2020.
The Chairman of the Local Government council Vice Chairmen, Hon Yusuf Salihu Mohammed confirmed the latest development to this reporter last night during a telephone chat adding that the vice chairmen and councillors will be addressing a press conference today (Monday) to update their colleagues on the issue.
Governor Abdulrazaq initially suspended the council chairmen for six months following the recommendation of the Kwara State House of Assembly over allegation of mismanagement of funds.
The Governor however extended the action for another six months after the initial suspension lapsed last week. Both moves were however rejected by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among other opponents of the ruling administration describing it as unconstitutional, an allegation that the government denied.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairmen and Councillors of the 16 local government councils in the state have described the act as lawlessness and impunity in strong terms.
In a press statement jointly signed by the Chairman of the Local Government Council Vice Chairmen, Hon Yusuf Saihu Mohammed and Kwara State Local Government Councilors, Hon Habeeb Olalere Quadri, directed all elected Councilors, vice chairmen, Secretaries and Supervisors to immediately resume work since the period of illegal suspension has expired.
The statement read in parts:
“…Both the Executive and Legislative Councils of the 16 LGAs in Kwara State were suspended on the 18th June, 2019 based on the recommendation of the state Assembly arising from a frivolous petition written by one Saidu Aliyu from Ilorin West LGA which alleged misappropriation of funds amounting to N33billion FAAC and over N10billion IGR accruing to the councils.
“To our dismay, the petition was deliberated upon by the state House of Assembly on Tuesday 18th June, 2019, resolution was passed on the same day Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, graciously approved the House recommendation the same day.
“The speed at which the event took was a clear breach of the section 29 of Kwara State local government law Cap 33. The action of the Governor and House amount to executive and legislative rascality…
“Based on public outcry on the ways and manners the House handled the petition, the lawmakers later invited the Council Chairmen, speakers, DPMs, accountants and treasurers for questioning, an action that supposed to have taken place before the illegal suspension which was based on suspicion.
“The House recommendations allegedly indicted the 16 Council Chairmen on the remittance of 10% IGR being paid to their personal accounts. As at this moment, the concerned Sixteen Local Government Vice Chairmen have not been invited for either questioning or interrogation, while the speakers who were invited by the House of Assembly were not found guilty. It’s our contention that the whole episode is a breach of our fundamental right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36(1) of 1999 constitution as amended”, the statement added.
Some of the resolutions reached by the group include:
“Directive for all affected staff to resume work immediately since the period of illegal suspension has expired. We are already in Court to ensure that such illegal act does not persist.
“Implored the Governor and the State House of Assembly to extend their hands of magnanimity to the councils in order to move the State forward and we strongly belief that the Government will abide by the rules and regulations as enshrined in the 1999 constitution which recognizes the Local Government Councils as the third tier of Government.
“The constitution made provision for only democratically elected Local Government. So, if the local government is democratically elected and they have fixed tenure, then nobody can remove them based on suspicion…
“Most unfortunately, in flagrant disobedience of the constitution and the local government law, the State Government foist an illegal 6months Suspension on us. The illegal Suspension was not accepted because we were not guilty of any offence; but we remained at home for peace to reign.
Curiously again, on 17th December 2019, an illegal extension was pronounced by the Government. This extension is not known to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, it is nothing but a rape on our fundamental right. The suspension is therefore rejected.
“We are in support of Federal Government strategies aimed at fighting corruption because it is now universally accepted that corruption poses critical challenges to economic and social development and diverts resources from legitimate causes beneficial to society at large; but due process is key in curbing the menace.
“Supreme Court Judgement has laid to rest argument whether or not the State Governor has power to dissolve the duly elected council chairmen and councilors. It amounts to executive recklessness for Governor to dissolve duly elected councils. The judgment goes further to say that there is no provision for TIC or Sole Administrators. Our Suspension from office is flagrant attempt to override the clear position of the law and constitution and foist the unpopular and undemocratic caretaker committee on the Council”.