The FG, in a statement by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, maintained that section 7 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, guarantees the existence of a system of democratically elected Local Government Councils throughout the federation.
According to the AGF, “The attention of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to the lingering controversy that has trailed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Judicial Division in Appeal No. CA/OW/215/2011, Barr Enyinna Onuegbu & 26 Ors v. Attorney General of Imo State & 3 Ors dated July 5, 2012 which declared as illegal and unconstitutional the action of the Governor of Imo State, purporting to dissolve the democratically elected Local Government Councils in the State before the expiration of their constitutionally guaranteed tenure.
”It is apposite to note that section 7 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, guarantees the existence of a system of democratically elected Local Government Councils throughout the federation. The judgment of the Court of Appeal aforementioned has only confirmed this position.
”I therefore call on all concerned to respect the judgment of the Court of Appeal and give due regard to the provisions of the Constitution which all elected officials of government have sworn to uphold. This will not only inspire confidence in the polity but will also deepen our fledgling democracy.
Imo govt should respect Court of Appeal judgment
”In the light of the foregoing and in consonance with this administration’s avowed commitment to the enthronement of the rule of law in the federation, I hereby call on Imo state government and all relevant agencies of government to abide by the judgment of the Court of Appeal and ensure that the judgment of the Court of Appeal is given its full effect.”
It will be recalled that upon his assumption of office under the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Governor Okorocha, sent the 27 LG chairman and Councillors who were in office whilst his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held sway, packing.
However, the Owerri Division of the appellate court, on July 4, voided the action of the governor, directing that he should recall the sacked LG chairmen.
In a unanimous judgment, the court which was presided over by Justice Uwani Abbaji, stressed that the governor lacked the powers to sack elected governments at the third-tier of governance in the state, just as the panel equally nullified the appointment of Transition Committee Chairmen by the governor to replace the sacked council chairmen.
Governor Okorocha had in his maiden broadcast in June 2011, announced the sacking of the elected council chairmen, and later appointed transitional committee chairmen to run the 27 council areas in the state.
His action led the sacked officials to seek redress before an Owerri High Court, contending that the governor acted beyond his constitutional powers.
Consequently, the trial court, presided by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Benjamin Njemanze, held that the governor had no powers to remove the chairmen from office.
The court, however, noted that the council chairmen failed to prove that they were sacked from office as they claimed, resulting in the filing of the appeal by the council chairmen.
Delivering judgment at the appellate court, Justice Abbaji observed that all the submissions and arguments of the appellants and respondents were reviewed.
She noted that the high court in its earlier judgment confirmed that the governor axiomatically had no power to sack the democratically elected chairmen.
She further held that the local government system was a constitutional matter and any action on the system ought to have followed constitutional provisions.
Therefore, the court overruled the governor, even as he was restrained from interfering in the administration of the Local Government administration system in the state.
BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI