Yesterday (Friday, December 9th, 2016), the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave a momentous and landmark decision which has put paid to the question whether or not State Governors in the country have the power to dissolve Local Government Area Councils in their State and replace them with Caretaker Committees appointed by them.
The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative and held that no State in the country has the power to dissolve Local Government Area Council in their State and replaced them with Caretaker Committees appointed by them.
The decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria also resolve the question if State Assemblies can enact laws that are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 8 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) that the Government of every State shall subject to Section 8 of the Constitution (supra), ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structure, composition, finance, and functions of such councils.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria arose from a case filed by Local Government Area Councils challenging the decision of the then Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to dissolve the 16 Local Government Area Councils on the 11th October, 2010 through a radio announcement despite the fact that the tenure of these councils still had up to December 29th, 2011 to end.
The Supreme Court trenchantly in the decision end the action of then Governor, Dr. Fayemi and describe the rampant dissolution of local Government Area Councils by State Governors as tantamount to ‘’ executive lawlessness’’.
The pertinent question is: What is the implication of the decision of the Supreme Court on the local government system and the rampant dissolution of elected local government councils by State Governors and replacing them with undemocratic Caretaker Committees?
The implication is that the Supreme Court has set a precedent on this issue and henceforth any State Government that dissolve a democratically elected local government council in its State and substitute it with undemocratically appointed caretaker Local government council is acting unconstitutionally, and such a decision is ultra vires, null and void and of no effect.
Also, another implication is that undemocratically elected local government area Councils are not entitled to enjoy the monthly allocation of revenue from the Federation accounts.
Conversely, any State Law that infringes on Section 8 of the Constitution that provides that the Government of every State shall subject to ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structure, composition, finance, and functions of such councils is illegal, null and void.
In my State-Cross River, the three years tenure of the present Local Government Councils will expire on December 20th, 2016!
Despite this, the State Independent Electoral Commission has not set up any timetable for the conduct of local government elections.
There has been endless speculation that Governor Ben Ayade is nurturing the thought of constituting Caretaker Committees to replace the present Local Government Area Councils which will end on December 20th, 2016!
It is evident that such a move will amount to a flagrant and egregious breach of the Constitution and the judgment of the Supreme Court enunciated in the Ekiti State case.
The implication is that by December 21st, 2016 the existence of the present local government councils would become extinguished and otiose by virtue of constitutional lapse of time and illegal.
It follows that by December 21st, 2016 there will be no democratically local Government Councils in the State that will be entitled to the allocation of revenue from the Federation accounts.
Conversely, these local government area Councils will no longer in the eyes of the law legal and illegitimate.
The consequence for the Local government councils will be dire if they are no longer in a position to enjoy allocations from the Federation Accounts.
Is a constitutional crisis brewing in the Cross River State local government system in the light of the issues discussed above? Your answer is as good as my own.
(Note that view canvassed above is the private opinion of the author).