LG Chairmen Tenure Elongation: Court Strikes Out Case

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The tenure of the various local government chairmen in Kogi State came to an end on July 28, after a three-year tenure of office. Consequently, the state government finally dissolved the 21 local government councils last Thursday. The council chairmen were thus directed to hand over all government property in their possession not later than July 28.

In a statement signed by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Joe Abraham, the 21 local government chairmen were expected to hand over to the Directors of Local Government in their respective councils. The statement added that the directors should take over the running of the councils’ affair in the interim after the exit of the chairmen from office last Thursday, after a three-year tenure.

But before the expiration of the tenure of the council chairmen, a legal practitioner, Mr Yemi Muhammed, had instituted a case before the state High Court, Lokoja, urging the court not to allow the state government to dissolve the local councils. According to him, the chairmen should be allowed to stay in office pending when a fresh local government election would be conducted.

However, in his judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Nasir Ajana struck out the case. Justice Ajana, who is the Chief Judge of Kogi State, said the first defendant is not legally bound to conduct fresh elections into the local government councils in the state within the time frame of not earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the expiration of the tenure or term of office of the local government administrators.

According to the trial judge, the first defendant is also not bound to comply with Section 108 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 for the purpose of exercising its power under Sections 18 and 37 of the Kogi State Local Government Electoral Law 2004 with particular reference to the issuance of notice of elections into the local government Councils in Kogi State. Justice Ajana averred that, by virtue of Section 18 of the Local Government Electoral Law 2004, the first defendant is to publish a notice not less than 14 days before the date of a local government council election, stating the date of the election and appointing the place at which nomination papers are to be delivered.

He posited that no law has been made by the National Assembly on the procedure for the conduct of local government election which is contrary to the provisions. He noted that if the first defendant were to issue the required notice in accordance with Sections 18 and 37 of the Kogi State Local Government Electoral Law, he would have not failed in their duty to do so.

“The failure to issue the said notices before the filing of this suit cannot therefore amount to dereliction or abandonment of duty. This suit was rather hastily or prematurely filed, not failed in their duty to do so”, he said.

Before the judgment by Justice Ajana, the Kogi State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)had threatened to take the state government to court if it goes ahead to appoint either a caretaker or a transition committee to take over the affairs of the 21 local government councils in the state. The state chairman of the party, Alhaji Hadi Ametuo, said it was unconstitutional for the government to appoint a caretaker or a transitional committee, instead of the Director of Local Government, to oversee the affairs of the councils pending when election will be conducted.

According to him, the state government was fully aware that the tenure of the chairmen will end last Thursday as it was expected that before now the state government and the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) would have concluded all arrangement for a time-table for the election.

He said that since the state government and the SIEC were not ready to conduct local government election, the state Director of Local Government should be allow to oversee the affair of the councils till election is conducted. He therefore warned that any attempt to bring in a caretaker committee or a transitional committee would leave the ACN with no other option than to take the state government to court.

Also reacting, the Minority Leader, Kogi State House of Assembly, Honourable Yori Afolabi, called on the Kogi State government not to appoint a caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of local government councils in the state at the expiration of the tenure of the present chairmen. Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, Hon. Afolabi noted that any appointment in whatever guise, rather than conducting an election to have council chairmen is unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and would not be in the interest of the people of the state. According to him, the people would want to be governed by representatives of their own choice rather than appointees that will be an appendage of the government that appointed them.

The Minority Leader pointed out that the only recognised system of government in Nigeria is a democratically elected government, noting that various courts in the country have made pronouncements in this regard. Noting that the tenure of the present democratically elected local council chairmen and councillors in Kogi State lapsed on the July 28, 2011, he said that the state government, through the agency responsible for conducting election to the local councils was neither preparing, nor prepared to hold election to the various councils before the expiration of the present local government council administration.

Though the contention rages on, the dissolution of the local councils, last Thursday, had laid to rest the speculation that the state government wanted to appoint caretaker committee for all the councils. The decision of the government to dissolve the councils was however not devoid of criticisms.

Reacting after the dissolution, a chieftain of ACN in the state, Honourable Hamza Sheriff Aliyu, said the recent dissolution of the local government councils calls for sober reflection. According to him, it was pathetic to note that the nearly three-year tenure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led local government administration in the state had nothing to show for the huge federal allocations accruable to the state.

He said that the ACN is calling on the state government to put the necessary machineries in place towards organising a local government election, declaring that it would be an illegality to have a vacuum in democracy.


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