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Akwa Ibom Transition Committees legitimacy: Court fixes April 29 for hearing of suit

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Consequent upon the lawsuit filed against Akwa Ibom State Transition Committees, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has fixed April 29, 2024, for the hearing of the suit challenging the legality of the Transition Committees.

Recall that News Band reported on January 21, 2024, that a legal practitioner, Uyoakam Ekerete, Esq., approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, FCT, Nigeria for an order restraining the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) and the Accountant General of the Federation, from allocating revenue from the Federation Account to Akwa Ibom State, for the benefit of the Transition Committees constituted for the 31 Local Government Councils in the State by the State Governor, Uno Bassey Emo, who is joined as the 4th Defendant in the suit.

The Plaintiff in the suit filed on 14/12/2023 and marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1684/2023, asked the court to determine amongst other things:

  1. Whether in the light of Section 7(1)(4) of the 1999 Constitution, the Governor in the absence of any emergency in the State has powers under Section 5(2) of the Akwa Ibom State Local Government (Administration) Law, 2017 to constitute interim administration for the 31 Local Government Councils in the State in violation of the plaintiff’s right to vote or be voted for in an election to a Local Government Council; and also,
  2. Whether the Local Government Councils whose system of government by democratic election is guaranteed in Section 7(1) of the Constitution is one and the same Local Government Councils referred to in Sections 7(6)(a) and 162(5) of the same Constitution.

A date has, therefore, been confirmed for the adoption of addresses in the suit instituted at the Abuja Federal High Court by Ekerete, Esq. as plaintiff, for Monday, the 29th day of April, 2024.

Upon being served, the 4th to 6th Defendants in the suit filed their respective Counter Affidavits as well as Notices of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit.

In their various addresses, the objectors contended that the Plaintiff does not have the locus standi to institute the action and moreover, that the Federal High Court is not the proper court to adjudicate on the suit whose subject-matter, they stated, is the violation of the Plaintiff’s right to participate in a democratic election to his Local Government Council.

Responding, the Plaintiff argued that as a registered voter, his constitutional right to participate in a democratic election to his Local Government Council has been violated by the setting up of the Transition Committees instead of democratically elected Local Government Councils.

The Plaintiff contended that in line with the legal maxim “ubi jus, ubi remedium” he is amply clothed with the legal capacity to seek redress for the violations, whether or not other registered voters in the State have decided to waive their rights. The Plaintiff submitted that in that connection, he has the locus standi to institute the action.

The Plaintiff argued further that the subject matter of the suit is not merely the violation of his right to participate in a democratic election. He stated that the suit also challenges the constitutionality of the allocation of revenue from the Federation Account to the Transition Committees, being the by-product of the violation of the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and which Committees, the Plaintiff argued, do not have the electoral mandate referenced under Section 7(1)(4) of the Constitution.

To the extent as canvassed above, the Plaintiff contended that the Federal High Court has jurisdiction under Section 251(1) (p)(q)(r) of the Constitution to determine whether the 1st to 3rd Defendants, namely, Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Federation Accounts Allocation Committee(FAAC) and the Accountant General of the Federation respectively, as agencies of the Federal Government, managing the Federation Account, are constitutionally justified in their decision to continue to allocate revenue from the Federation Account to the Transition Committees which is not one of the beneficiaries of the Account under Section 162(5) of the Constitution.

It could be noted that the Akwa Ibom State Government on 6/12/2023 constituted Transition Committees for Local Government Councils in the State in place of democratically elected Local Government Councils as provided under Section 7(1)(4) of the Constitution.

The setting up of the Transition Committees resulted in the institution of the instant suit on 14/12/2023 by the Plaintiff at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The Plaintiff in the Originating Summons is alleging that the setting up of the Transition Committees at the expiration of the last tenure of democratically elected Local Government Councils in the State is in violation of his right to vote and be voted for in an election to his Local Government Council. He stated further that the Transition Committees is an illegality which do not have the electoral mandate of the people to administer the Local Government Councils using the funds from the Federation Account established by the same Constitution which recognizes democratic election as the only means of legitimizing government at the Local Government Councils.

All relevant processes in the suit have been filed and exchanged. The matter is fixed for the 29th of April, 2024 for adoption of all final addresses in respect of both the Notices of Preliminary Objection and the substantive suit.

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