Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq
Inadequacy Of Approach Nullifying Dissolution Of Local Government Councils –By Johnson O. Esezoobo
Recently, the Supreme Court declared null and void the dissolution of Local Government Councils by Governors of Oyo and Katsina States and replacement with Caretaker Committees. In reaction to the decision, Mr. Nwodo a legal practitioner has proposed going to court for orders for refund of salaries paid to members of the Caretaker Committees as the same is not their money. This move is a plausible approach which raises issue of adequacy of the current approach of merely declaring the action illegal.
Dissolution of democratically elected Local Government Councils in Nigeria is not new. It started with the return of democracy after the exit of the military. And often as it occurs, so often has the Courts declared it illegal; in several cases. Yet, the Governors persist in it. This is why Mr. Nwodo’s view is considered as throwing a challenge that is worthy of consideration for restraining illegality and in the interest of good Government.
An order for refund of salaries in a situation under consideration is not new. It was ordered by the Apex Court in the case of Jenkins Geese v Delta State House of Assembly …NWLR PT.1673)… when the person wrongly returned by INEC was ordered to vacate the seat and return all salaries and allowances paid to him by the House during the period he was in the House. With such an order, those who rig elections or improperly procured their return by INEC will think twice and refrain from such. This is what makes Mr. Nwodo’s approach a good one.
Merely declaring dissolution of Local Government Councils by Governors and replacing them with Caretaker Committees is not adequate to check the menace. It does not fully exhaust the remedy that should meet the need of the society. If men are to be restrained and society moved forward, the law must go beyond where it has stopped. This is so because dissolving Local Government Councils has a more serious effect than the Supreme Court seems to appreciate by settling the point at just nullifying it. One, beneath it all is politics that is not consistent with the purpose and essence of law under the Constitution.
Two, it promotes a one-man totalitarianism as under military regime, leaving the Governor to dictate the pace of governance at the Local Government level. In other words, as against a democratically elected government enjoined at that level by the Constitution, the Governor now stands in as Local Government Council through his appointed Caretaker Committees. There is therefore, a subversion of the Constitution which is in breach of Section 1(2) thereof.
Three, the subversion has its implications on Section 8 of the Constitution relating to requirements for creation of States and boundary adjustment. The same is the effect on Section 9 with respect to amendment of the Constitution in that the requirement of the input of the Local Governments will automatically be that of the Governor represented by his appointed Caretaker Committees.
Four, dissolution of Local Government Councils is a veritable tool for perpetuating corruption. This is so because the procedure for Administration and management of funds of the Local Government Councils gets eroded through the dissolution. The funds get cornered by the Governors and diverted to other uses such as satisfying other political or personal interests. It is common knowledge that one of the sources of free funds with which Governors induce members of the House of Assembly in their so-called political lobbying is the Local Government Councils. This is alleged to be one reason the House of Assembly never complains.
Five, it disrupts the performance of the constitutional duty or functions of the Local Governments. Personal experience from some cases shows that Local Governments never execute projects of their own in due performance of their constitutional responsibility. Governors have been known to purport to take over or collaborate with their Local Government Councils only to abandon the projects with the contractors unpaid as experienced in Isitua Udobi v Oshimili South Local Government Council…Six, there is usurpation of the functions of the Local Government Councils by the States. Lagos State excels in this by its bizarre enactment of delegation by the Local Governments of their duty with respect to collection of tenement rates to the State under the Land Use Charge Law. Under what principle of law does an inferior (or junior) body delegate it’s powers to a superior (or senior) body?
Furthermore, can a Local Government Council whose functions are spelt out under the Constitution without a provision for delegation of same delegate it’s functions to the State Government?. It is against the foregoing that merely declaring the dissolution of Local Government Councils and replacing them with Caretaker Committees as illegal is not sufficient.
Since it is of the essence of law to restrain arbitrary actions to avoid their consequences, the Courts ought to go further to make consequential orders such as refund of the salaries paid to the illegal appointees of members of the Caretaker Committees.
It is also not too much to make award damages against the Governors personally on the principle that the dissolution is not an act of State but personal action of the Governor.This makes the immunity provision of the Constitution inoperative. All this, in addition to the approach of asking for refund of the salaries paid to members of the Caretaker Committees may serve to discourage the Governors with their political collaborators and beneficiaries of the dissolution and set the law straight to imbue the people with the discipline of it (law).
Johnson Odion Esezoobo Esq Can Be Contacted Via -:+234 803 320 0595