Federal Government Sues Governors Over Local Government Autonomy

The Federal Government has initiated legal proceedings against the 36 state governors at the Supreme Court, alleging misconduct in the administration of local government affairs.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), filed the suit, seeking full autonomy for local governments as the third tier of government in Nigeria.
The Supreme Court has scheduled the hearing for May 30. State governors have long been accused of stifling local governments, with issues ranging from the mismanagement of finances through joint accounts to the arbitrary removal of elected council chairmen. The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, aims to address these concerns.
The Attorney-General’s suit requests several orders from the Supreme Court:
Prohibiting the dissolution of elected local government leaders: The suit seeks to stop governors from unilaterally dissolving democratically elected local government councils.
Direct disbursement of funds: The suit demands that funds meant for local governments be directly channeled to them from the Federation Account, bypassing the joint accounts controlled by state governors.
Stopping Caretaker Committees: The suit calls for an end to the appointment of caretaker committees by governors to manage local governments, insisting on constitutionally mandated democratic elections.
Injunction on funds: The federal government seeks an order preventing governors from receiving or spending funds allocated for local governments when there are no democratically elected councils in place.
The case is built on 27 grounds, highlighting that the 1999 Constitution creates a federal structure with the president as the head of the federal executive and mandates democratic governance at all levels, including local governments. The Constitution explicitly requires a democratically elected local government system and does not provide for any alternative governance structures at this level.
The federal government argues that the governors’ failure to establish democratically elected local governments constitutes a deliberate subversion of the Constitution. It asserts that continuing to allocate funds to states without elected local governments undermines the constitutional framework.
Fagbemi (SAN) has urged the Supreme Court to declare that the state governors and state houses of assembly are constitutionally obliged to ensure a democratic system at the local government level and to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.
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