On illegal dissolution of Councils and State Independent Electoral Commissions,The Supreme Court recently held in Oni & Ors V Governor of Ekiti State & Anor (2019) 5NWLR Part 1664, Pg 1@27 that:
“The tenure of the Governor of a State under the 1999 constitution, as well as that of the legislature is 4 years. However, the constitution grants members of a State Independent Electoral Commission a tenure of 5 years. It ought not to escape attention that the deliberate purpose of the constitution is to create an Electoral Commission, the lifespan of which exceeds those of both the Governor and the State Legislature. This is done with the view to create continuity and stability in the electoral process and governance. The same is done in relation to the State Civil Service Commission, and the State Judicial Service Commission. It is not the intendment of the constitution that the membership of the Commissions should change with the fortunes of the political parties in a state ”
This emphatic pronouncement of the Supreme Court remains the law of our land, but it seems our Governor is fabricating his own law to contradict and despise our Supreme Court. The first action of the Governor upon being sworn in was to dissolve elected Local Government Councils, dissolve all statutory Commissions including OYSIEC, Civil Service Commission and Judicial Service Commission, among many others contrary to all existing laws. Is this the PDP interpretation of their obedience to the rule of law,.. by despising the Supreme Court and yet threatening to carry out more impunity? The PDP in a disingenuous attempt to justify illegality keep shooting themselves in the foot. While on one hand seeking to invalidate the Local Government elections on grounds that it was conduted in defiance of a non-existent court injunction, they claim to invalidate the election also by reason that it was conducted into both LGs and LCDAs. Such foolery calls one to ask them the question that if PDP claims to nullify by their “militarized decree” a valid election on the ground that it was held in 68 LGs and LCDAs (which they falsely claim is unconstitutional) rather than just 33 LGs, will it not be a fallacy for the same Governor to now be trying to illegally appoint caretakers to the LCDAs they claim elections ought not to have been conducted? If their claim is that LCDAs are unconstitutional, why dont they then cancel the LCDAs totally then if they are unconstitutional? Can they also appoint Caretaker Heads to the same allegedly unconstitutional LCDA they claim elections cannot be held? More importantly, has any court in Nigeria at any level declared any elected LCDA leadership in other states unconstitutional? The more questions we ask, the more their rascality becomes apparent. It is sad that for selfish and crude partisanship, this government applies selective interpretation to the same constitution it swore to uphold. Does it mean that what they claim is unconstitutional for APC will suddenly become constitutional for PDP? Such is the one chance bus parked in Agodi now.
Interestingly at a recent outing by the Governor, while addressing members of the legal profession, he promised to abide by the laws of our land and obey the courts. Except this is a rethink of his position perhaps realizing he was speaking to a body of lawyers, the reality on ground is that the Governor has acted in total opposite of what he said and continues to threaten more disobedience to the courts. Today there is no law in Oyo State providing Caretaker appointments over Local Governments and any such act by the Governor or the House of Assembly is pure illegality. Further, the Supreme Court and the Oyo State High Court judgments have clearly set aside the regime of Caretakers, illegal dissolution of Councils and hostile takeovers of Local Councils by any sitting Governor. Is this the legacy this administration now seeks to bequeath on the state?
They take glee in referring to the former Governor Ajimobi as “Constituted Authority”, yet this incumbent Governor carries on with an “Unconstitutional Authority”, acting illegally, with his party the PDP, dancing on the shallow grave they have dug to bury our hard fought democracy, and our constitution. The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka recently claimed the proposed Caretakers will only be ‘for a short while’. What a laughable admission of guilt. So to him, their short term illegality is preferred by this government to a tenured constitutional term provided elected Chairmen under our laws?…such a shame coming from the people we call leaders to defend our constitution. Let the usurpers note that under the NFIU financial guidelines issued on management of Local Government funds, a Caretaker Head (not being an elected Chairman, especially where a court has even declared such illegal as in Oyo State) is not constitutionally empowered to approve and deal with Council funds and any such proposed nominee shall face the whip of the law accordingly.
It was President John Kennedy that said at a time of great disregard for law and court orders in his country, in 1962 that:
“.. in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law. If this country should ever reach the point where any man or group of men by force or threat of force could long defy the commands of our court and our Constitution, then no law would stand free from doubt, no judge would be sure of his writ, and no citizen would be safe from his neighbors .” Let the Governor’s public speak align with his demostrated action. Acting contrary to a public claim of abiding with the rule of law,while continuing to act in disobedience to court judgments is being a hypocrite.
As recently as last week, the Supreme Court again reiterated their position that Caretakers are an anomaly and an unconstitutional illegality. The court described as “ executive recklessness ” the now rampant acts of governors dissolving democratically-elected local government councils in their states and replacing them with Caretaker Committees.
The court also nullified the provisions of the laws enacted by States’ Houses of Assembly empowering Governors to carry out such dissolution and replacing them with Caretaker Committees.
This is regrettably the anarchy the Governor and House of Assembly want to unleash on us. We sound a note of warning on the Speaker and members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, the Attorney General of Oyo State (whose responsibility it is to properly advise and guide the government), and other state functionaries to cease and desist from their direct disobedience to an extant judgement of the Oyo State High court declaring Caretakers illegal and restraining the government from appointing any such Caretakers, even if the Governor is foisting the illegality on them because he has immunity under the law. We shall not fail to, among other legal steps we shall take, cite for contempt the Attorney General, members of the House, nominee Caretakers and any officer that carries out or conspires with the Governor to undermine the jurisdiction of our courts. We will continue to stand on the side of the law and with the Supreme Court in defending our constitution as decided in the cases quoted above. We remain resolute on the side of a permanent change in Oyo State from brigandage to constitutionality.
Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye
Oyo State Chapter