*POWER BELONGS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEGISLATORS HENCEFORTH*
*The Supreme Court of Nigeria in a five man panel headed by Justice Olubolade Joe in a unanimous judgement delivered on December 11, 2019 strips state governors of the power to sack elected local government (LG) chairmen and councillors. The appointment of caretaker chairmen by state governors has also been banned by the same court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that henceforth ‘the act giving legislative powers to state Assembly members to undertake the process of sacking elected local government chairmen is null and void’. The panel of judges unanimously declared that only the legislative arm of a LG Council is empowered with the residual constitutional backing to sack council chairmen that maybe found blameworthy of any gross misconduct or violations of rules guiding public servants. This judgement is sequel to an appeal filed by 16 Ekiti state LG chairmen who were elected during Ayodele Fayose’s tenure as Ekiti state Governor and were sacked by the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state. This Supreme Court judgement has finally put an end to the abuse of power by state assemblies and governors who sack elected LG chairmen at will.*
Justice Olubolade Joe-led panel also directed that a copy of the judgement should be served to all 36 State Houses of Assembly and the Minister of FCT on or before the December 30, 2019.
This is a landmark judgement that will guarantee the survival of democracy in the country. The judgement has not only defined where exclusive powers should begin and possible end but will forestall flagrant abuse of executive powers by state governors. Over the years, local governments in Nigeria have become the weeping child of many state governors. Their mandate and even constitutional roles have been reduced to being mere ‘errand aides’ whose survival in office is at the mercy of state governors.
At the slightest opportunity, governors dissolve local government councils who came into office through an electoral process; most times at the detriment of the affected electorate.
Unarguably, the, arbitrary, autocratic and highhandedness of some local government chairmen in Nigeria who have relegated the role and importance of the legislators at the local government level to the level of stooges by turning the elected councillors to mere ‘toothless bulldogs/ errand guys’ provided they (the local government chairmen) have cordial relationship with the state houses of assemblies at the detriment of the grassroots will be a thing of the past. While the condemnable tradition of picking incompetent, incapable, unfitted, unqualified people as councillors at the grassroot will naturally be challenged and halted.