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Supreme Court reserves judgment in LG autonomy suit

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Supreme Court reserves judgment in LG autonomy suit

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Supreme Court on Thursday, reserved judgment in the suit filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) on behalf of the Federal Government, against the 36 State Governors of the federation over Local Government councils’ autonomy.

The suit is seeking full autonomy for all the 774 local government areas councils in the country.

In the suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, Federal Government wants the Supreme Court to enforce the autonomy of the local government by, among other things, stopping state governors from appointing caretaker committees to administer local governments in their states.

FG wants the Supreme Court to rule that any local government manned by a caretaker committee, instead of an elected local government chairman and councillors, should have their funds from the Federation Account withheld.

Government also wants the court to rule that funds due to local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to them instead of through the state government to guarantee their autonomy.

The Justice Garba Lawal-led seven-man panel of the Supreme Court announced that parties in the matter would be communicated when the judgment was ready following the adoption of processes by parties in the suit.

All the 36 state governments in their response opposed the FG’s suit and appealed to the court to throw out the suit.

But AGF on his part asked the apex court to grant all the reliefs sought by the Federal Government in the suit.

He said, “I adopt and rely on these processes. I urge my lords to overrule the various objections and grant the originating summons.”

While some states claimed that they were denied a fair hearing and weren’t served, the AGF clarified that he sent copies of the affidavits to the defendants via WhatsApp and emails.

He added that the court bailiff also served the defendants in their various state liaison offices in Abuja.

In the suit, Federal Government is urging the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments rather than through the state governments.

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratic system.”

The AGF, therefore, urged the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the state governors and state Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

He also urged the court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the governors or anyone using the state powers derivable from laws enacted by the state Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

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