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FG VS STATE GOVS: Why The Supreme Court Denied State Assemblies’ Involvement In LG Autonomy Suit

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The Supreme Court has refused to join State Houses of Assembly as defendants in the Federal Government’s lawsuit seeking local government autonomy.


The Supreme Court on Thursday in Abuja denied the request to include State Houses of Assembly as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Government seeking full autonomy for Nigeria’s 774 local governments. The apex court ruled that State Houses of Assembly have no legal standing or jurisdiction in the matter.


During the proceedings, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), applied on behalf of the Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly to join the case. However, Justice Garba Lawal, leading a seven-man panel, questioned the legal basis for including State Houses of Assembly in a case between the Federal Government and state governors.


Justice Lawal asked Maikyau if the Supreme Court has jurisdiction as a court of first instance in matters involving State Houses of Assembly. Maikyau attempted to cite legal precedents to support his request but ultimately withdrew when it became clear the authorities did not back his argument.


The lawsuit, initiated by Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, aims to secure full autonomy for local governments, preventing state governors from dissolving elected local councils and ensuring direct funding from the Federation Account to local governments as mandated by the Constitution.


The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, seeks several orders from the Supreme Court, including restraining governors from handling funds meant for local governments, and stopping the creation of joint accounts and interim committees by governors to manage local government affairs.


The governors were sued through their respective state Attorneys General. The Federal Government’s case rests on 27 grounds, asserting that the 1999 Constitution establishes Nigeria’s federation and mandates the President to uphold and implement its provisions.


This significant legal battle highlights the ongoing struggle for local government autonomy in Nigeria and the constitutional roles of federal and state governments.

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