Supreme Court Grants LG Financial Autonomy 

The Supreme Court declared on Thursday that it is unconstitutional for state governors to hold funds allocated for local government administrations.

The seven-man panel, in the judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, declared that the 774 local government councils in the country should manage their funds themselves.

The apex court held that the power of the government is portioned into three arms of government, the federal, the state and the local government.

The court further declared that a state government has no power to appoint a caretaker committee and a local government council is only recognisable with a democratically elected government.

“A democratically elected local government is sacrosanct and non-negotiable,” the court said.

The judgment held that the use of a caretaker committee amounts to the state government taking control of the local government and is in violation of the 1999 Constitution.

The court ruled that state governments are perpetuating a dangerous trend by refusing to allow democratically elected local government councils to function, instead appointing their loyalists who can only be removed by them

The court stated that it is the local government that should receive and manage funds meant for local government.

Justice Agim declared, “I hold that the state’s retention of the local government funds is unconstitutional.

“Demands of justice requires a progressive interpretation of the law. It is the position of this court that the federation can pay LG allocations to the LGs directly or pay them through the states.

“In this case, since paying them through states has not worked, justice of this case demands that LG allocations from the federation account should henceforth be paid directly to the LGs.”

The judgment held that the local government council funds must be paid to only democratically elected local government councils stating that “anything other than this will be taken as a gross misconduct.”

“A declaration that the state government has no power or control to keep the local government council money or funds.

“An order of injunction restraining the defendants by themselves, agents or privies from spending local government allocation.

“A declaration that no state government should be paid any money meant for the local government.

“An immediate compliance to this judgement,” the apex court declared.

Justice Agim dismissed the objections filed by state governors.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Federal Government, seeking to grant full autonomy and direct funding to all 774 local government councils in the country.

The AGF, in the suit predicated on 27 grounds, urged the apex court to issue an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

The FG further contended that Nigeria as a federation, is a creation of the 1999 Constitution with the President as the Head of the Federal Executive arm of the Federation and has sworn to uphold and give effects to the provisions of the constitutions.

The 36 state governments, through their attorneys general, filed a counterclaim, arguing that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

They claimed that the AGF lacked the locus standi to institute the suit for the local governments.

In Thursday’s ruling, Justice Agim affirmed that the AGF has the legal authority to initiate the lawsuit and uphold the constitution.

Justice Agim said, “I hold that the plaintiff’s request is hereby approved and all the reliefs granted.”

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