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Dissolution Of Local Government In Oyo State: Legal Gymnastics Of Those Who Oppose The Governor's Order

Source: OLAJIDE OLANIPEKUN ESQ.

It is no more news that Oyo State voted out the hitherto ruling party the All Progressive Congress (APC) during March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election in the state and overwhelmingly voted in the People Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Engr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde as the new State Governor.

That the new Governor was sworn in on Wednesday 29th May, 2019 at Liberty (Obafemi Awolowo) Stadium, Ibadan and has assumed office immediately by taking charge of the governance of the state is also not a news.

So what is the trending news? The dissolution of the administration of the Local Government and the Local Council Development Areas in Oyo State! Should that be a news? I will say NO! Why do I say NO? Anyone that follows with keen interest the evolution of Local Government administration in Nigeria and the Lacuna in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria concerning local Government administration vis-a-vis its election, tenure of office etc, which are not adequately provided for in the Constitution will not be surprised that Local Government in Nigeria is not autonomous and the state government through the Governor and House of Assembly holds the ace of control.

I decided to put up this piece in order to set the records straight and to show the hypocritical submissions of those opposing the dissolution of the Local Government administration in Oyo state by the Governor. I will limit my analysis of events to that of the immediate past Government of Oyo state led by Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi.

The immediate past Governor of Oyo state was elected for 8 years and was sworn in on 29th May, 2011. The Governor conducted local government election only once - on May 12, 2018 barely a year to the end of his two term tenure of office. The governor used, for 7 years, Caretaker Chairmen/Transition committee to control the Local Governments. There were many Legal issues that surrounded the none conduct of Local Government elections during the immediate past administration who was hiding under the litigations in the court until May, 12, 2018 when he conducted the so called election against a clear order of the Court restraining the Government from going ahead with conduct of the election. The May 12 election ended up being a sham which cannot stand the test of time. But Oyo state people were patient, they waited for 2019 general election to speak with their votes by sending into Political oblivion, the hitherto ruling party. Now, should the illegalities perpetrated by the last Government stand? My answer is an emphatic NO!

Let me be more clearer by showing the inconsistency in the arguments of those using the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of GOVERNOR OF EKITI & ORS V. PRINCE SANMI OLUBUNMO (2017) 3 NWLR (Part1551) at page 1 and the recent judgement of Oyo state High court restraining the Oyo state government from removing the products of a sham election of May 12, 2018 and who inteprete the action of the new Governor of Oyo state as unconstitutional or more bemusing, contempt of Court!

On the 3rd day of February, 2017 I filled a case on behalf of aggrieved Accord Party candidate in AFIJIO Local Government against the Governor of Oyo state and 9 others to compel the government to conduct Local Government election in Oyo state. The case with suit no FHC/IB/13/2017 - MR AIKOMO EMMANUEL OLUFEMI V GOVERNOR, OYO STATE & 9 ORS was an explosive one when it lasted.

The immediate past Attorney General of Oyo state who I have great respect for, Mr. Oluseun Abimbola personally appeared in the matter. He filed defence on behalf of the 1st to 4th defendants who viz: Governor, Oyo State, Oyo State Government, Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly and Oyo state House of Assembly. His conditional memorandum of appearance was dated 28 day of February 2017 but filed on 1st March, 2017. He also filed a notice of preliminary objection against the suit with copious and brilliant submissions on why the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

In his defence, the Learned Attorney General of Oyo state relied on section 11(1) of the local Government (Amendment) Law of 2002 as amended to support his submission that the governor has the power to appoint transition committees to be in charge of the local Government when it has become impractical to conduct election. He argued that until when the law is set aside, it remains the law in oyo state. There were so many other legal position canvassed by the AG which I wouldn't want to go into now. The bottom line was that the usage of caretaker chairmen/ Transition committee to rule Out state for 7 years was justified by the AG using the law!

The most interesting occurrence during the pendency of the suit was that the Oyo state government appointed new Chairmen to man the 33 LGs and Newly created LCDAs as published in Nigerian Tribune of Thursday 13th April, 2017 without waiting for the outcome of a suit challenging such appointment!

May I quickly digress a bit to say that part of the excuses of the then Government for not conducting the Local government election was the Ex parte order granted in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/16/2017 - CHIEF OLADOKUN ABIOLA & 14 ORS V ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION &13 ORS ( I was the counsel to the 11 to 14th defendants in the suit). The ex parte order granted by the Hon. Justice J.T. Tsoho was to the effect that no election should be conducted into the newly created 35 LCDA as the plaintiffs in the suit were challenging the creation of LCDAs. But it was convenient for the Oyo state government to halt the the proposed local government election slated for February, 2017 because if the ex parte order granted on the 20th January, 2017 which the AG Oyo state vacated (in part) on 7th day of February, 2017!

During the pendency of the suit which I filed and was pursuing vigorously in Federal High Court, Ibadan before the Hon. Justice N. Ayo-Emmanuel, the Oyo state government continued the business as usual of renewing the tenure of LG caretaker Chairmen/transition committees every 3 months until May, 12, 2018 when it conducted LG elections against another court order stopping such election. The case I filed could not go on as it became an academic excrcise as the main claim was to compel the Government to conduct LG election though there were other claims that would have been beneficial and broaden legal jurisdiction on Local Government administration in Nigeria if granted.

The crux of this piece is to show that the immediate past Government in Oyo state ran the Local Governments aground using caretaker/transition committees while choosing which court order (s) was convenient to obey. The Government then, against court order conducted a sham election on May 12, 2018 and want Oyo state people that rejected the party to be binded by the election for 3 years even after the expiration of the Government that perpetrated the illegality! No way!

It will be recalled that the chairmen of the LG and LCDAs who were the products of the May 12, 2018 elections went to the court against the Government and Governor who put them there to seek interpretation of the Constitution and Oyo state Law so as to prevent the new Governor and Government from removing them! Such an arrangee suit, with due respect cannot stop Engr Seyi Makinde from sacking them! The recent judgment of the Oyo state High court will surely be tested on appeal up to the supreme Court but the products of May 12, 2018 cannot remain in office till supreme Court rules!

Again, it should be noted that the products of the May 12 ,2018 election were more or less sole administrators as they have no executive members and legislative arm until May, 2019 when the Government was about to expire, the Government appointed executive for them and sworn in the councillors!

Also, the products of May 12, 2018 election never carried out any major project until after March 9 election when Oyo state rejected their party. Your guess, on the rush to perform and tar roads at the wee hours of the Government, is as good as mine.

CONCLUSION
I will conclude by saying the legal gymnastics engaged by those who are condemning the LG dissolution will only be laid to rest by the supreme Court where the provisions of section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be interpreted again using the peculiar situation in Oyo state vis- a -vis the sham election of May 12, 2018 and distinguish same from the situation in Ekiti state case of Governor of Ekiti v Olubunmo.

The only lasting solution to the Local Government administration in Nigeria is for the Constitution to grant autonomy to the Local Government. There should be amendment to the Constitution to clearly provide for the tenure of office of the Local Government officers and also make the INEC to conduct the election periodically. If I may ask, how did Oyo state 8th Assembly( with APC as clear majority) voted during the botched amendment to grant the Local Government autonomy?

Until then, whoever is faulting the dissolution of the Local Government administration in Oyo state by Governor Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde, is playing the ostrich and an hypocrite.

Olajide Olanipekun practices Law from Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria and he is the Oyo State Publicity Secretary of the Zenith Labour Party.

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