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Monday, July 22, 2024

Activist drags Soludo, Ngige, Obi, Obiano to court over alleged use of unelected officials to run LGs

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By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja

Anambra State-based activist, Chief Ifeanyi Okonkwo has dragged the Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo and three of his predecessors, Chris Ngige, Peter Obi and Willie Obniano to a Federal High Court for allegedly running the affairs of the 21 local government areas in the state with unelected officials.

Okonkwo is praying the court to hold that by administering the councils through officials who are not democratically elected, Soludo and his predecessors have contravened both Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and a subsisting judgment of the same court, which he said declared that the Anambra State Government has no powers to appoint officials to govern the local government areas.

The plaintiff is claiming that having acted contrary to the Constitution which they swore to uphold, the defendants should be barred by the court from contesting election or occupying public office or seeking for re-election under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The suit with no FHC/AWK/CS/90/2024, was instituted through originating summons at the Federal High Court, Awka, but the court process sighted in Abuja by our Correspondent.

The plaintiff seeks nine consequential reliefs against the defendants premised on the interpretation of the previous judgment of the court in suit no. FHC/EN//CS/2005, delivered on September 26, 2006.

Listed as 1st to 8th defendants respectively in the latest matter are the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Governor of Anambra State, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State and Anambra State House of Assembly.

Others are former governors, Ngige, Obi, Obiano, for themselves and on behalf of their transition chairmen and councilors and Mr. Livinus Onyenwe for himself and on behalf of transition chairmen under the Soludo administration.

Other consequential reliefs sought by Okonkwo include an order to compel the 2nd to 8th defendants to render public account before the court, of all funds, illegally expended by them or agents and privies, during their respective administrations, while executing their illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of offices at the local government council areas in Anambra State, by tampering with public funds, excluding salaries and allowances of local government council employees and workers expenditure.

“An order directing that the defendants namely: Governor of Anambra State (2nd defendant), Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State (3rd defendant), Anambra State House of Assembly (4th defendant), breached the mandatory duty cast upon them in Sub section (4) of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and flagrantly violated a subsisting judgment on the matter.

“An order barring the 2nd to 8th defendants from presenting themselves either for nomination or standing for election or occupying public offices in Nigeria for their unconstitutional, careless and contemptuous violation of the subsisting final judgment of the Federal High Court, delivered on September 26, 2006 and marked as “Exhibit A.”

The plaintiff equally asked for an order, directing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th defendant to publish before the Court, the FAAC Allocation to the respective 21 local government areas in Anambra State from 2006 to 2024.

In addition, he asked the court to order the 1st respondent (the Federal Republic of Nigeria) to put into effect the unanimously passed resolution of the Senate, asking the Federal Government to halt the statutory allocation of funds to local government area councils, where chairmen and councilors were not democratically elected.

Okonkwo demanded for exemplary damages of N100 billion in his favour, against the 2nd to 8th defendants.

Besides, he requested for an order, nullifying/setting aside all the purported directives, financial expenditures, presentment of “Igwe elects” by town unions to chairmen of transition councils, and issuance of certificates of recognition to them as His Royal Highnesses (H.R.H) for government recognition, purportedly made by the illegal and unconstitutionally constituted caretaker/transition committees with effect from September 26, 2006 by the 2nd to 8th defendants, having not been democratically elected.

It will be recalled that in judgment in suit no. FHC/EN/CS/90/2005, delivered on September 6, 2006, the Federal High Court, Enugu Division, declared that by the combined effect of Section 7 (1) and 318 (i) (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Governor of Anambra State has no power for the appointment and approval of caretaker management committee, or in whatever name so called, to administer respectively, the 21 Local Government Council Areas in Anambra State.

Justice A. L. Allagoa entered the judgment in favour of Okonkwo, an indigene of Nnobi in Idemili South L.G.A of Anambra State, who complained to the court that he was being denied the right guaranteed him in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, Cap A, 9 Articles 13 (1) 24;28 and 29 (2) of the L.F.N.2004 vol. 1, to participate in his domestic government in Idemili South and the third tier of government-the Local Government Council-which Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution decreed.

In the judgment, Justice Allagoa held that the Anambra State law providing for caretaker committee is inconsistent with Section 7 (1) of the Constitution.

Allagoa said, “Looking at the provision literally, it is clear that the constitution of the local government by democratic system is guaranteed by the constitution itself. The constitution then imposed a duty on the state government to ensure the existence of such democratically elected local government.”

The judge further held that the powers of the State House of Assembly under Section 7 (1) of the Constitution, to legislate concerning local government councils, clearly did not include power of the State government to appoint caretaker committee to run local government.

Consequently, the court ordered the 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents-the Governor of Anambra State, Anambra State House of Assembly and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State-to pay the sum of N5 million as exemplary damages to the plaintiff.

The last local government election in Anambra State was said to have been conducted at the twilight of the Obi administration in November 2014 and had since remained the only local government election conducted in the eight years of the Obi administration, which administered the local governments with handpicked officials, operating as transition committees.

While Obi conducted council polls once, his successor, Obiano was said to have conducted none throughout his eight years in office as Governor of Anambra state.

Before Obi, Dr. Chris Ngige was said to have appointed caretaker committees for the councils during his short-lived 34 months tenure.

Although the incumbent Governor, Soludo has stayed more than two years in office, plaintiff claimed that there was nothing on ground to suggest that his administration intends to hold council polls in the near future.

Meanwhile, no date has yet been fixed for hearing of the fresh suit.

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