• Supreme Court ruling on LG autonomy wrong, assault on true federalism – Ibori

    Supreme court ruling on lg autonomy wrong assault on true federalism ibori - nigeria newspapers online
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    Supreme Court ruling on LG autonomy wrong, assault on true federalism – Ibori

    Former Delta Governor James Ibori

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    By Ayorinde Olukun/Abuja

    Former Delta governor James Ibori has described the Thursday’s ruling Court on the autonomy of the local governments as wrong and an assault of true federalism while insisting that there are two tiers of government in a federal system of government.

    Ibori said this in a statement published on his X handle few hours after the apex court ruled that all federal funds for local government councils should be paid directly into their accounts.
    Justice Emmanuel Agim, who led a seven-member panel of justices of the apex court delivered the judgment in a suit filed by the federal government against the 36 state governors.

    The Supreme Court in the judgment also directed that payments of local government area allocations should no longer be made to state government accounts. The apex court also prohibited the governors from receiving, tampering with, or withholding funds meant for local governments.

    In addition, Supreme Court also barred the governors from dissolving democratically elected officials for local governments and deemed such actions a breach of the 1999 Constitution.

    But while reacting to the judgment, Ibori said the ruling by the apex court was a severe setback on the principle of federalism as defined by section 162(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

    “Ibori noted that the section expressly provides that,”Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments and the Local Government Councils in each State on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly”.

    “Sections 6 provide further clarity on the subject matter. (6) Each State shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State.

    The former Delta State Governor said going by the provision of the Constitution above, the federal government has no right to interfere with the administration of Local Governments in under any guise whatsoever. There are only two tiers of government in a federal system of government.

    Ibori said he is opposed to fiddling with the allocations to the Joint LG Accounts at the state level. But he was emphatic that that in itself does not call for this death knell to the clear provisions of section 162 of the constitution.

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    He further pointed out the implications of the ruling:

    1. Constitutional Interpretation: The Supreme Court’s ruling appears to contradict the explicit provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution. This raises questions about judicial interpretation and whether the court has overstepped its bounds in reinterpreting clear constitutional language.

    2. Balance of Power: The ruling potentially shifts the balance of power between the federal government and states. By allowing federal intervention in local government finances, it arguably centralizes more power at the federal level, contrary to the principles of federalism.

    3. State Autonomy: This decision could be seen as an erosion of state autonomy. States are meant to have significant control over their internal affairs, including the administration of local governments, in a federal system.

    4. Financial Independence: The ruling may impact the financial independence of states and local governments. If the federal government can directly intervene in local government finances, it could potentially use this as a tool for political leverage.

    5. Precedent Setting: This decision could set a precedent for further federal interventions in areas traditionally reserved for state governance, potentially leading to a more centralized system of government over time.

    “That Local Governments must be “democratically elected “ goes without saying. Yes, I agree, that’s the position of the constitution but withholding their allocation is not the way to go. It’s wrong.

    “In the coming days, we will begin to fully understand the implications of the Supreme Court decision. An assault on the constitution is not the answer to fiddling with the Joint LG Account. If the ruling is saying Governors cannot temper, touch, fiddle with the Joint Accounts, that’s fine because they shouldn’t be doing that in the first place. But asking the Federal Government to pay Local Governments allocations to the account of the Local Government directly is utter madness.

    “Like the Hon. Justice Oputa JSC of blessed memory once said in describing the Supreme Court ” we are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final”.

    “It is my sincere hope that the judgement delivered today will be reviewed at the earliest time possible because it clearly stands the concept of federalism on its head,” Ibori said.

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