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LG autonomy: FG, 36 Govs know fate today as Supreme Court delivers judgement

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LG autonomy: FG, 36 Govs know fate today as Supreme Court delivers judgement

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Supreme Court will today deliver judgment on the suit the Federal Government filed to secure full autonomy for the 774 local government areas in the country.

The apex court had conveyed to the Federal Government the judgement date through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, but state Governors were informed through their respective attorneys-general.

Recall that a seven-man panel of the court, led by Justice Garba Lawal, had on June 13, reserved judgment on the matter, after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument.

But the states, in separate preliminary objections they filed before the apex court, sought the dismissal of the suit with substantial cost.

They argued that the AGF, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who initiated the action on behalf of the LGAs, lacked the locus standi (legal right) to do so.

The Ondo State Government, in particular, described the AGF as “a busy body and a meddlesome interloper” that is interfering in local government affairs.

According to Ondo State, Section 232 of the Constitution only permitted the invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court where there is a dispute between the Federation as plaintiff and states as defendants, which involves any question of law or fact on which the existence or extent of the legal right of either the federation or states depends.

The state argued that FG lacked the legal right to maintain the action, adding that the funds complained of in the suit belong to local governments created by the Constitution as a distinct and different tier of government independent of the Federal Government.

Citing Section 162(3) of the Constitution, Ondo State averred that any amount standing to the credit of the Federation account shall be distributed among the Federal and State governments and the local government councils in each state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

It added that the sharing, among the three distinct tiers, was not subject to the discretion or any terms and conditions of FG.

In addition to Ondo, some other states, including Lagos and Taraba, argued that they already had democratically elected LG officials in place, insisting that the suit by FG amounted to an abuse of the judicial process.

They argued that FG ought not to have joined them in the matter.

Similarly, Imo state, through its Attorney General, Mr C. O. C. Akolisa, told the court that it has concluded plans to organise its LG elections, saying the process was only delayed by pending litigation.

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