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LG Autonomy: Supreme Court Gives States Seven Days To File Defence.

The Federal Government is seeking for full autonomy for the 774 local governments in the country.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has ordered the 36 State Governors to file their respective defence to a suit instituted against them by the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is seeking for full autonomy for the 774 local governments in the country.

The court also ordered the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi, to file his reply within two days, after receipt of their defence.

Leading a seven-man panel, Justice Garba Lawal issued the order while ruling on an application for abridgment of time argued by the AGF.

Justice Lawal said that the decision of the court was predicated on the national urgency of the suit and the non-objection from the Attorneys General of the states of the Federation.

The Supreme Court held that filing of all processes and exchanging of same must be completed within the time and subsequently fixed June 13 for hearing of the suit.

Justice lawal ordered that the eight states that were not in attendance at Thursday’s proceedings must be served with fresh hearing notice.

The states whose Attorney’s General were absent in court, despite being served with hearing notice include Borno, Kano, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Sokoto.

FG Vs States

The Federal Government, through Fagbemi, is seeking full autonomy for all local government areas in the country.

In suit, the Federal Government specifically prayed the court to issue an order, prohibiting state governors from embarking on unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

The suit is also asking for an order permitting the funds standing in the credits of local governments to be directly channelled to them from the federation account in line with the provisions of the constitution as against the alleged unlawful joint accounts created by governors.

The Federal Government also prayed the Supreme Court for an order stopping governors from further constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognized and guaranteed democratic system.

It equally applied for an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the federation account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.

In the 27 grounds it listed in support of the suit, the Federal Government argued that Nigeria, as a federation, was a creation of the 1999 Constitution as amended, with the president as head of the federal executive arm, swearing on oath to uphold and give effects to provisions of the constitution.

The Federal Government told the apex court that the governors represent the component states of the federation with executive governors who have also sworn to uphold the constitution at all times.

It holds constitution of Nigeria recognizes federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognized tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the federation account created by the constitution.

“That by the provisions of the constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and that the constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than democratically elected local government system.

“That in the face of the clear provisions of the constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“That the failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place, is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 constitution which they and the president have sworn to uphold.

“That all efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 constitution in terms of putting in place, a democratically elected local government system, has not yielded any result and that to continue to disburse funds from the federation account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 constitution.

That in the face of the violations of the 1999 constitution, the federal government is not obligated under section 162 of the constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.”

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