Govs lack powers to sack democratically elected LG chairmen, councillors – Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court, in two judgments on Friday, set aside the decision by Governors Aminu Masari and Seyi Makinde to dissolve elected Local Governments Councils in their states.

A five-man panel of the apex court was unanimous in holding that no Governor has the power to sack democratically elected LG chairmen and councillors.

It held that Masari and Makinde, by sacking democratically elected Local Government Councils, acted in breach of section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.

The two judgments were on the appeals filed by sacked LG Chairman and Councillors from Katsina and Oyo states.

The LG Chairman and Councillors from the 34 LGs in Katsina, led by Abubakar Ibrahim Yantaba, were elected under the banner of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) but were sacked in 2015 by Masari of the All-Progressives Congress (APC).

Those from the 33 Local Government Areas, (LGAs) as well as 35 Local Council Development Areas in Oyo, led by Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, were elected under the banner of the APC, and sacked in 2019 by Makinde of the PDP.

Justice Adamu Jauro read the lead judgment in the appeal relating to Katsina, held that Masari acted illegally and unconstitutional by sacking the appellants on allegation of financial misappropriation of councils’ funds.

Justice Jauro ordered the Katsina State Government to pay the appellants all their entitlements from the date of their illegal dissolution to the date they were supposed to lawfully vacate office.

In the Oyo case, Justice Ejembi Eko, in the lead judgment, held that Makinde acted “invidiously and in contemptuous disregard of a High Court judgement,” when he dissolved the democratically elected Chairmen and Councillors, and appointed Caretaker Committees to replace them.

Justice Eko set aside an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, which validated Makinde’s action, noting that the lower court was wrong when it held that there was no reasonable cause of action in the suit the appellants
filed to prevent their sack.

He noted the three-year tenure of the sacked Chairmen and Councillors had since expired but proceeded to hold that they deserved to be compensated for their tenure that was “illegally truncated” on 29 May 2019.

Justice Eko ordered the Oyo State Government to pay the sacked Chairmen and Councillors their accrued salaries and allowances and directed the Attorney-General of Oyo State to, before 7 August year, file an affidavit confirming the payment of the salaries and allowances to the appellants. He equally awarded a cost of N20 million in favour of the appellants.

Other members of the panel, Justices Kekere Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Ibrahim Saulawa and Adamu Jauro, agreed with the lead judgment.

It should be noted that this is not the first time the Supreme Court was declaring unlawful the practice by state governors to dissolve elected LGs upon assuming office.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had pointed out this fact when he faulted Makinde’s decision, in a letter dated 14 January 2020.

In the letter marked: HAGF/OYO/2020/Vol.1/1, which was addressed to Oyo State’s Attorney General, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo, Malami drew Makinde’s attention to past decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue and advised him to reverse the dissolution.

But rather than heed the AGF’s advice, Makinde queried Malami’s jurisdictional competence, claiming among others, that the issue was internal to Oyo State.

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