LG: How AbdulRazaq disregarded S’Court to appoint caretaker chairmen

Despite the Federal Government’s opposition to the appointment of caretaker committee for the third tier of Government by state governors in the country and a Supreme Court judgment declaring such appointments as unconstitutional, the Governor of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has illegally appointed Transitional Implementation Committee (TIC) chairmen to oversee the affairs of the Local Councils in the state.
The Governor, by these appointments, it was gathered, acted in breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), which states thus: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
Background – ‘Investigation with no outcome’
The Governor had in June 2019 suspended the chairmen elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from office for an initial period of six months following allegations of financial misappropriation.
Upon the expiration of the suspension in December 2019, AbdulRazaq extended it by another six months.
He premised the decision on an ongoing investigation of the council bosses by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a subsisting resolution of the House of Assembly.
“The extension comes on the heels of the yet-to-be-concluded probe into the alleged financial infractions of the council heads and their legislative committees by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” a statement by his chief press secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye, in June, 2020 reads.
However, following their defections to the All Progressive Congress from the opposition party, the corruption cases were reportedly closed down and neither the anti-graft body nor the state assembly eventually made public resolutions of their respective findings. It was learnt that the ex-chairmen negotiated the closure of the cases with their cross-carpeting.
‘Appointment of caretaker c’ttee chairs’
Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, this medium leant the governor had appointed Transitional Implementation Committee for Local Government Areas in the State.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alh. Abdulrasaq Alabere in a letter dated March 5, 2021, addressed to one of the appointed chairmen and seen by this medium said the appointment is based on the excellent report of their loyalty, steadfastness and favourable disposition to the course of the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s administration.
“I am directed to convey the approval of His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, of your appointment as the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) of … with effect from Friday, 5th March, 2021,” Alabere’s letter said. “…It is my expectation that you will bring all these sterling qualities to bear on your assignment in a way that this Administration’s desire to take Kwara State to greater heights will be realized.”
The letter further added that the appointment is based on public trust.
“Therefore, it is hoped that you will justify the confidence reposed in you in the discharge of your responsibilities,” the letter said. “Kindly indicate your acceptance of this appointment in writing to this office within Forty-Eight (48) hours of receipt of this letter….”
Supreme Court forbade appointment of caretaker c’ttees
In the judgment delivered on December 9, 2016, the Supreme Court had voided laws enacted by states’ Houses of Assembly that empowered governors to sack elected local government chairmen and councilors and replace them with hand-picked administrators.
In the unanimous judgment of five justices, the Supreme Court described the sacking of elected local government administrators as “executive recklessness” that should stop immediately.
The judgment by the five-man panel, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, was given in an appeal over the dissolution of the 16 local government executives in Ekiti State by Dr. Kayode Fayemi during his first term as governor.
The Supreme Court, in faulting the law purportedly relied on by Fayemi to dissolve the local government administration, held that Section 23(b) of the Ekiti State Local Government Administration (Amendment) Law, 2001, which empowered the governor to dissolve local government councils, whose tenure was yet to expire, violated section 7(1) of the Constitution from which the state House of Assembly derived the power to enact the local government law.
Justice Centus Nweze, who delivered the lead judgment, held that the tenure of the local government councils could not be abridged without violating the supreme constitutional provisions.
Caretaker committees illegal, unconstitutional
In January 2020, The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, stated that caretaker committees were outrightly illegal and unconstitutional as they amounted to a breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
This is as he described the practice of some state governors dissolving elected local government councils as unconstitutional, null and void and continued disobedience of the Supreme Court judgment of 9th December 2016 in the case of Governor of Ekiti State & ORS vs Prince Sanmi Olubunmo & 13 Ors.
Malami, in a letter dated 14 January 2020, reference number HAGF/OYO/2020/Vol.I/I. entitled, “Unconstitutionality of Dissolution of Elected Local Government Councils and Appointment of the Caretaker Committee: The Urgent Need for Compliance with Extant Judicial Decisions”, addressed to Oyo state Attorney-General, Professor Oyewo Oyelowo, pointed out that the request for the dissolution of the committee was in upholding the rule of law and not hindering the much-needed grassroots development at local government level.
“…To this end, I hereby request all their excellencies, state governors and speakers of state houses of assembly, who are currently acting in breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and also acting in disobedience of the Supreme Court judgment highlighted above, to immediately retrace their steps by ensuring compliance with the above in the overall interest of the rule of law and our democracy. The need to immediately disband all caretaker committees and restore democratically elected representatives to man the local governments has, therefore, become obligatory,” Malami’s letter stated. “I hereby request that you take positive steps to ensure compliance in your state accordingly. In the coming days, Mr. President and other relevant agencies will be advised further on compliance measures that should be taken in the national interest.”
Legal practitioner kicks
Meanwhile, a legal practitioner from Kwara State who is the Chairman of the Arewa Young Lawyers’ Forum, O. D Jimoh Esq described the appointment of the caretaker committee Chairmen by the Governor of Kwara State as “illegal, unconstitutional and unwarranted”.
He said, “The provision of the constitution is unambiguous when it provides in section 7(1) that the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed and accordingly, the government of every state shall subject to section 8 of this constitution ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.
“As a way to go out of this perpetually, I will recommend that constitution be amended to directly prohibit this exercise and empower INEC as against states Electoral bodies to conduct elections into the offices of the local government Chairmen. You see, another problem is that amending our laws sometimes may not bring solutions to illegality without the operators and politicians changing their attitudes. Not our law that has problem, but the operators. Therefore, to improve our system, our leaders should change their attitudes towards implementation of laws.”
Governor’s reaction
Speaking on the Supreme Court judgment, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye stated that the decision of the apex court had to do with summarily sacking of elected LG officials and replacing them via appointments when they (the elected officials) are still within their tenures.
“It is important to note that no one’s tenure is being usurped which was the case in the matters resolved by the Supreme Court. So, I posit that the Governor has not broken any law or disobeyed any court judgment,” Ajakaye furthered.
‘Constituting TIC a child of necessity’
“TICs in Kwara at this time will be a child of necessity. Calling it unlawful will not be right. Because of pending lawsuits, the government is unable to constitute the KWSIEC which has the mandate to conduct elections at the local government level. In the interim, therefore, the government is constituting transition committees across the LGAs to hold forte until the KWSIEC board is constituted and new elections are held…,” Ajakaye stated.
He further questioned, “Can we hold LG elections without KWSIEC…? Should we ignore the pending court cases and constitute the KWSIEC board?”
‘Necessity doesn’t justify illegality’
Responding to Ajakaye’s question-like reaction, O.D Jimoh Esq said, “…the question before us is whether the Kwara State Governor or any governor in Nigeria whatsoever can appoint caretaker Chairmen for Local Government; the answer is ‘No’. Our discussion is centered on this. I want to say without any fear of contradiction that respective Local Government Chairmen must have the mandate of the people to validly occupy the offices of the Chairmen of their Local Government councils. This then brings us to other questions. Do these people appointed by the Governor have our mandate as provided in section 7 (1) of the Constitution? Is the appointment by the Governor tantamount to election envisaged by the constitution? The answers are ‘No’.
“Secondly, laws are meant to be obeyed by all and sundry including the government. No matter what, it is the responsibility of the Governor in a state to make sure that local government Chairmen are democratically elected. Otherwise, the Governor will be failing in his responsibility.
“CPS mentioned child of necessity to justify this illegality. Child of necessity for our understanding presupposes decision to take where nothing is impossible. I beg to disagree with him that the scenario in our state qualified as child of necessity because it is their doing. The Governor in his wisdom believed the right thing to do was to sack members of KWSIEC during the pendency of their tenure. These people went to court to challenge the decision of the governor sacking them. I can confirm to you, this matter is in court adjourned for judgment. The Governor should not have sacked them in the first place but allow them to continue with their job and conduct local government polls. Or are you telling me that the Governor is not proactive enough to know that this scenario would play out before sacking them? These people can also be reinstated. Our law allows persons illegally sacked to be reinstated. So if you agree with me that these people can be reinstated to continue their work, then where lies the chil of necessity? The claimed child of necessity argued by CPS puts logic on its head. They can’t run away from the constitutional problem they created to justify their illegality. It is wrong and condemnable. Child of necessity does not work that way. Where there is law, sentiment and child of necessity has no room to operate. If this illegality is allowed on the altar of child of necessity, Constitutional incongruity of our leaders will pass the test of constitutionalism.”
Ajakaye however refused to respond when asked if he agrees that ‘situation’ warranted the breach of provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
‘Opposition party called for elections’
Earlier this year, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the State had, through a press statement by its spokesperson, Tunde Ashaolu, called on Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to start the process of conducting local government elections in the state.
The opposition party had also warned the governor against appointing caretaker committees for the councils, stressing that such action is unconstitutional, undemocratic, null, and void.
The statement partly read, “It is public knowledge that the tenure of the suspended chairmen of all the 16 local government councils in Kwara State will expire on the 28 of November 2020. We, therefore, call on Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to immediately initiate the process to conduct elections that will usher in new chairmen, in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Local governments are the closest to the people and are pivotal to guaranteeing effective governance and even development in any State. It is therefore important that the councils are run by persons with proven capacity, competence, integrity, and are trusted by the people to do the job. The councils must not be left in the hands of charlatans that will be appointed by the governor and will only be there to do his biddings.”
Culed from TheInformant247

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