Governor Kayode Fayemi during his swearing in as Ekiti state governor in Ado Ekiti, recently
The Nigerian House of Representatives has condemned the dissolution of the Ekiti State Local Government Councils by the State Government before the expiration of their term of office and directed the Accountant General of the Federation to withhold all funds due the 16 Local Governments until the Local Government Chairman are returned to their offices.
The House of Representatives passed the resolution that federal allocation to Ekiti, Edo, and Ondo States be stopped until their sacked council Chairmen are reinstated.
This followed a motion moved by an honourable member, Femi Aribisala (PDP, Ekiti) following a petition submitted by the Chairmen of the Ekiti State Local Government Chairmen sacked by the newly sworn governor, Kayode Fayemi.
However, Speaker Dimeji Bankole expressed pessimism on the enforceability of the resolution, saying the concurrence of the Senate is essential for it to have bite.
Recall that after spending about 22 months in office as the elected chairmen of their respective councils, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi ordered the dissolution of all the 16 local government councils in Ekiti State, just as the affected council chairmen have vowed to jettison the directive of the state government.
Earlier an Akure High court, Friday, struck out the interlocutory application filed by the former Council chairmen in the state.
Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State had also dissolved the councils he inherited from Olusegun Agagu in 2009.
In Edo, Governor Adams Oshiomhole dissolved councils on October 26, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti followed suit on October 29.
Secretary to the Government,[SSG] Dr Ganiyu Owolabi, said the action was in line with the belief of the State Government in the rule of law, since the Court had struck out the plea of the affected officials to remain in office.
Reacting on behalf of the embattled council chairmen, the chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria [ALGON] , Prince Sanmi Olubunmo in a statement said the dissolution was unknown to ‘ law’, a position supported by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Federal House of Representatives.
According to the ALGON chief, the purported dissolution of democratically elected officials of councils cannot be done by radio announcement, but through a due process of law and official notice
The council chairmen pointed out that the governor cannot single handedly dissolve the council through fiat, noting that he needed the concurrent approval of the lawmakers. Outside the Chambers, the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) knocked the decision, backed by Ayo Fayose, a member of the Labour Party (LP) who was once Ekiti Governor. After putting the request for expeditious discussion of the motion to vote, with a positive response from fellow lawmakers, Bankole allowed Aribisala to move the motion.
Patrick Ikhariale from Edo State, however, moved an amendment to the motion asking that resolution to be passed should also take care of Edo and Ondo.
Aribisala insisted that the dissolutions run contrary to the Constitution that recognises councils as the third tier of government, with their independence from arbitrary dissolution by Governors guaranteed.
He said Fayemi did not cite any misdemeanor to warrant the sack of the council Chairmen, stressing that the people of Ekiti reserve the right to elect their representatives at any level of government.
He recounted that the state’s lawmakers were away to Germany on official assignment when Fayemi announced the dissolution without the support of the state Assembly.
Aribisala was supported by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislators but opposed by others in the ACN.
Halims Agoda (PDP, Delta), who supported the motion, canvassed the House to back actions that would aid development, and to ensure that the interests of Nigerians are protected at all times.
Cyril Maduabum (PDP, Anambra) said the dissolution of the councils by Fayemi is illegal.
However, ACN made a counter argument, kicked off by Jumoke Okoya-Thomas, who said the tenure of the council Chairmen in Ekiti was based on illegality as Oni – who conducted their election – was an illegal Governor.
Okoya-Thomas reminded the House that Oni ignored a court order to conduct the election.
Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos) added that Fayemi’s action is in line with the Constitution as it is in the interest of the people of the state.
He cautioned the House against making incursion into state matters as the National Assembly (NASS) is not a court of law.
Monsuru Owolabi (ACN, Lagos) toed the lines of his colleagues and warned the House against handling the matter with levity which could have negative consequences on the image of the House.
Patrick Obahiagbon (ACN, Edo) said when there is a conflict, it is the duty of the court to interpret the law and not the legislature .
He warned the House to stay away from personal issues and dwell on national ones.
The ranks of the opposition swelled with contributions from Emmanuel Jime (PDP, Benue) and Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers), both of who asked the House to be mindful of actions that could usurp the role of the judiciary.
They maintained that the best option is for the sacked council Chairmen to seek redress in court, instead of the House dragging itself into a matter that does not concern it.
However, when the original motion was put to vote, the “Ayes” carried the day.
The resolution asked the federal Accountant General to stop allocations to all states whose council officials were not elected, and urged Fayemi to reinstate those he fired.
Bankole banged the gavel to approve the resolution, but brought to the knowledge of the lawmakers its futility, because it must get concurrence from the Senate to be enforceable.
If the Senate refuses to concur, the resolution will at best be kept for the records, he warned.
In Ado Ekiti, Fayose on Tuesday visited Fayemi and declared that his LP will give the new helmsman maximum support.
“You have no fear about the Labour Party. The Labour Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria are the same. The LP is the other shoulder of the ACN,” Fayose explained.
Said he: “ I would have criticised (Fayemi) if he had dissolved the councils on his own. Nothing indicated that he was going to dissolve the councils until the former Chairmen went to court to restrict him from tampering with the councils.
“The dissolution of the councils is a closed case. They can reawaken it by going to court but since (Fayemi) has dissolved them, they stand dissolved.”
ACN National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, described the resolution of the House as lawless, petty, and vindictive.
He asked the federal Accountant General to disregard the “meaningless resolution” in view of the ruling of the Supreme Court in the Lagos case that no one, not the President or the NASS, has the powers to withhold council allocation for whatever reason.
‘’The resolution passed by the House of Representatives is therefore unconstitutional, illegal and ultra vires, and should be ignored by the executive.
“The Senate should also be careful not to lend its backing to such an irresponsible and arrogant show of power by the House of Representatives.
“The resolution, which is very typical of the PDP and the institutions it dominates, makes a mockery of the Supreme Court, whose decisions override any law, and undermines the judiciary,’’ Mohammed said in a statement.