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36 States ask Supreme Court to Dismiss Federal Government Suit on Local Government Autonomy

…Kwara AG Credits Governor AbdulRazaq’s Administration

In a significant legal challenge, the 36 states of the federation, including Kwara, have requested that the Supreme Court dismiss a suit filed by the Federal Government seeking full autonomy for Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Councils.

The states argue that granting the reliefs sought by the Federal Government would further impoverish many Nigerians living in local government areas.

In a counter affidavit to the Federal Government’s originating summons, obtained on Tuesday in Abuja, the Kwara State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Senior Ibrahim-Sulyman, on behalf of the 36 states urged the apex court to dismiss the case in the interest of justice.

The Federal Government, represented by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), is advocating for an order that prohibits state governors from unilaterally dissolving democratically elected local government leaders and seeks to ensure that local government funds are directly paid from the Federation Account.

“The agitation of the plaintiff regarding joint accounts is grossly misconceived and a contradiction to the provisions of Section 162 (6) and (8) of the constitution,” Ibrahim-Sulyman stated. He argued that funds intended for local governments must be allocated to the state in a special statutory account and subsequently distributed to all local governments within the state as prescribed by the state’s House of Assembly.

Citing a previous Supreme Court decision in a similar case between Abia State and the Attorney General of the Federation, Ibrahim-Sulyman emphasized that the National Assembly cannot validly make a law permitting the direct allocation of funds to local government councils. He reiterated the court’s position that such funds must be allocated to the state, which will then distribute them to the local governments.

“The federal government in the present case is turning itself into performing the function of the legislature,” he argued. “The ideal thing is for the plaintiff to ensure that a Bill is sponsored for the amendment of the constitution or a new statute to that effect. The plaintiff cannot use the back door of the judiciary to import into our law what is not legislated upon by the National Assembly.”

Ibrahim-Sulyman also refuted the claim that Kwara State had ever failed to disburse funds from the Federation Account meant for local governments. “The allocation meant for the local governments in the state are released for the use of the local governments, monthly,” he stated. He further denied allegations that the state truncates democracy at the local government level, explaining that local elections were delayed due to litigation concerning the tenure of the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission.

The Kwara State AG also referenced a precedent set in the case between the Lagos State Attorney General and the Attorney General of the Federation during President Bola Tinubu’s tenure as Lagos State governor. The Supreme Court had ruled that the President could not withhold statutory allocations due to Lagos State, setting a legal framework that Ibrahim-Sulyman argued applies similarly to the current situation.

“The President has no power vested in him to suspend or withhold for any period, whatsoever, the statutory allocations due to Lagos State pursuant to the provisions of Section 162(5) of the 1999 Constitution,” he cited.

Ibrahim-Sulyman concluded by urging the Supreme Court to affirm that the Federal Government lacks constitutional authority to stop, redirect, or withhold statutory allocations meant for local government councils in Kwara State.

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