By Bukola Kayode
……. Asks Court To Declare Removal of Elected Local Government Officials A Coup D’etat
Sesugh Akume an Abuja based public policy analyst has instituted a case against the Benue State governor, Father Hyacinth Alia over the suspension of elected Local Government Council chairmen in the state.
The popular activist among other prayers is seeking that the court declares that the Benue House of Assembly-backed suspension of the chairmen is a coup and should not be acceptable in a democracy.
According to a statement issued by Akume in Abuja on Tuesday, his lawyers have instituted legal proceedings at the High Court of Benue in Makurdi against the governor of Benue, Father Hyacinth Alia, (along with 4 others: the state attorney-general; speaker of House of Assembly; the House of Assembly; and the special adviser, Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as the 5 respondents) marked suit number MHC/347/2023, for sacking (indefinitely suspending) all elected local government officials exactly 4 months ago today, on 23 June.
He noted that the sacking of the chairmen has left “the local government system—which is the most critical tier of government, being closest to the people—rudderless with no executive or legislative councils and no governance going on at all”.
The statement read in part: “It would be recalled that on 15 June, the National Industrial Court in Makurdi ordered the respondents against suspending the 23 local government chairmen of the state, but out of impunity and outright disregard for the law, the respondents flouted the direct order of the court and not only suspended the chairmen but the entire local government executive and legislative councils.
“It is also important to note that, the 1999 Constitution which is the supreme law of the land under which every other law bows recognises only democratically-elected local government councils. Further to this, the Supreme Court, which the highest court in the land in a plethora of cases has condemned the suspension/removal of elected local government officials and the appointment of unelected officials. It has vehemently stressed that elected local government officials are not employees of the state government and, therefore, cannot be suspended, sacked or councils dissolved by a governor and/or House of Assembly, not even on allegations of corrupt practices. It has gone further to nullify provisions of local government laws in Nigeria that authorise governors and Houses of Assembly to suspend/remove elected local government officials and/or appoint unelected officials”.
“Drawing from the above, in this suit I ask the court to determine whether or not the governor and House of Assembly have the power to suspend elected local government executive and legislative councils; whether or not the appointment of local government transitional/caretaker committees, interim/sole administrators (or whatever name called) is lawful; and whether or not sections 62, 147 and others in the Local Government Law that provide for the suspension of elected officials and appointment of officials are valid and constitutional?
“Furthermore, whether or not the action of suspending the 23 local government councils despite an order of court stopping it is in order; and finally whether or not the removal of elected officials is not a coup d’etat? A coup d’etat is defined by the dictionary as ‘an illegal and overt attempt by military or government elites to unseat the incumbent leaders. A coup d’etat, therefore, is not only carried out by the military but by civilians as well.
“I ask the court to declare the obvious that the governor and House of Assembly have no power whatsoever to suspend elected local government officials, not even on allegations is corrupt practices, and that it is an abuse to do so; and that any local government administration, insofar as it is not democratically elected is an illegality”, the statement further read.
Recall that in June Governor Alia suspended all 23 local government chairmen and their councillors.
Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ode Ochelle, announced their removal in a letter dated June 23, 2023.
The State House of Assembly had recommended the sack of the chairmen and legislative arms of the 23 local governments of the state.