Lawyer drags Akwa Ibom Govt, RMAFC, FAAC to court, seeks to abolish “transition committees”
A legal practitioner, Uyoakam Ekerete, Esq., has 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 recently constituted for the 31 Local Government Councils in the State by the State Governor, 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, is asking the court to determine: 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: 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?
In the Supporting Affidavit attached to the Originating Summons, the Plaintiff averred inter alia, that the Governor in place of democratically elected Local Government Councils, constituted “Transition Committee” for each of the 31 Local Government Councils, contrary to Section 7(1)(4) of the 1999 Constitution; that there is no emergency in the State to warrant the setting up of the Transition Committees but that the Governor is rather possessed of the desire to have absolute control and management of statutory allocations due to the Local Government Councils; that the setting up of the transition committees is in violation of his right to vote or be voted for in an election to a Local Government Council in the State and also amounts to taking control of a part of Nigeria in a manner that is not prescribed by the Constitution.
In his argument, the Plaintiff submitted that the Governor in the absence of any emergency situation in the State, does not have the powers to abrogate the system of Local Government by democratic election guaranteed by the Constitution, that to so do is an unwarranted affront to the Constitution; He contended that the provision of Section 5(2) of the State Local Government (Administration) Law purportedly relied upon for the setting up of the transition committees is to be read and construed subject to the 1999 Constitution so as not to exceed the legislative power of the State Legislature. He cited and relied on Section 12 of the Akwa Ibom State Interpretation Law and the Supreme Court case of Ibrahim vs. JSC (1999) 14 NWLR (Pt. 584) 1.
The Plaintiff argued further, that revenue from the Federation Account is for the benefit of the Federal Government, the State Governments and democratically elected Local Government Councils. He stressed that the Nigerian Constitution being a written Constitution is to be construed as a whole and not as if it were partly written and partly unwritten. He therefore urge the Court not to pull the language of the Constitution to pieces and make nonsense of it but to construe its provisions to justify the hopes and aspirations of the makers of the Constitution.
In an exparte motion, the Plaintiff prayed the Court to direct that funds due to the 31 Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account be stored, saved and/or retained in the Federation Account Allocation Committee(FAAC) Withheld Escrow Account and further that the 1st to 3rd Defendants be restrained from issuing mandate letters to the Central Bank of Nigeria for payment to Akwa Ibom State, of the allocations due from the Federation Account to Local Government Councils in the State, pending the determination of the Motion on Notice. The State Attorney General and a representative of the Transition Committees are also joined as parties in the suit. The matter has been set down for hearing on the 1st of February, 2023.
By the provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, the Federation has a distributable pool account from which billions of naira are allocated monthly to the Federal Government, the State Governments and Local Government Councils. The Plaintiff in the suit is contending that the Local Government Councils referred thereto is the democratically elected Local Government Councils referred to in Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Some stakeholders in the Nigerian Project, appear to be interested in the instant suit. They all desire an end to the desecration of democratic governance at the Local Government level in the country.
About 20 States in the country presently, have undemocratically elected committees administering their Local Government Councils. The President is aware and concerned about this development and in his intervention to broker peace recently in the political crisis that rocked Rivers State outrightly condemned such system of undemocratic governance at the Local Government level and therefore called for the immediate return of democratically elected Local Government Councils in the State following its dissolution by the State Governor.
It could also be recalled that the Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Benue South in the Senate, Senator Abba Moro, sometime in the month of November, 2023 moved the Upper Chambers of the National Assembly for a resolution to abolish payment of statutory allocation to States having caretaker committees at their Local Government Councils, citing Benue State as an example. The distinguished Senator in moving the m
otion, described such caretaker committees as being undemocratic and unconstitutional. Since resolutions do not have the force of law, this suit if granted, will certainly herald the end of interim administration with whatever nomenclature at the third tier of government in Nigeria.