The Supreme Court on Friday declared the dissolution of the dully elected Local government Council Chairmen in Katsina and Oyo States by their respective Governors as illegal.
In an unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Adamu Jauro in a zoom conference, the apex court directed that the unlawfully dissolved council officials be paid all their entitlements from the date of their illegal dissolution to the date they were to vacate office.
The apex court, therefore, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Governor Aminu Masari had on assumption of office in July 2015 dissolved the state dully elected Council officials on allegation of financial misappropriation of councils funds, a decision which the apex court declared as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
The Supreme Court also awarded costs to the Appellants and insisted that it should be complied with within a time frame.
The Katsina State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party had dragged Masari and the State House of Assembly to court over alleged move to dissolve the 34 local government councils in the state.
Joined in the suit were the Attorney general of the state as second defendant, while Masari and the state assembly are the first and third defendants respectively.
The PDP also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from suspending or in any other way removing all or any of the 34 local government councils in Katsina State before the expiration of their tenure.
The party also asked for a declaration that upon declaration of relevant laws, including the amended Katsina State Local Government law, the tenure of the 34 local government councils in the state will still be two years.
It alleged that Masari has no legal right to dissolve, suspend or remove any of the 34 local governments before expiration of their tenure.
The PDP insisted that its move was informed by an announcement by the governor, indicating the intention of his administration to dissolve the local government councils.
In a similar judgment, the Supreme Court also declared the dissolution of the local governments chairmen in Oyo State as illegal.
The apex court held that Governor Seyi Makinde acted beyond his powers when on his assumption of office on May 29, 2019 he sacked the Chairmen of the 33 Local Government Areas as well as 35 Local Council Development Areas in the state.
Stressing that no governor has the constitutional power to illegally terminate the tenure of democratically elected LG Chairmen and Councillors, the Supreme Court, in its lead verdict that was read by Justice Ejembi Eko, noted that Governor Makinde took the action despite a subsisting court order.
It held that Makinde acted “invidiously and in contemptuous disregard of a High Court judgement” when he dissolved the democratically elected Chairmen and Councillors, and appointed Caretaker Committees in their stead.
It held that his action was in breach of section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The Supreme Court held that governors were duty bound to preserve democratically elected Local Government Councils.
Consequently, it invoked its original jurisdiction on under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act and vacated the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, which earlier validated governor Makinde’s action.
It held that the appellate court was wrong when it held that there was no reasonable cause of action in the suit the appellants filed to forestall their sack.
Though the Supreme Court acknowledged that the three-year tenure of the sacked Chairmen and Councillors had since expired, it held that they deserved to be compensated for their tenure that was “illegally truncated” on May 29, 2019.
It therefore ordered the Oyo State Government to pay each of the sacked Chairmen and Councillors their accrued salaries and allowances.
The Supreme Court further directed the Attorney-General of Oyo State to before August 7 file an affidavit attesting to the payment of such salaries and allowances to the appellants.
Besides, it awarded a cost of N20 million in favour of the appellants.
Other Justices that concurred with the lead judgement the apex court delivered during a virtual session it held on Friday were Justices Kekere Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Ibrahim Saulawa and Adamu Jauro.
The Council bosses who were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and sworn in at the twilight of the administration of late former governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi, had before Makinde of the PDP took over, filed a suit to secure their positions.
Following their suit, Justice Aderonke Aderemi of Oyo High Court in a judgment on May 6, 2019 restrained the state from dissolving the elected LG Chairmen and Councillors.
However, immediately he assumed office on May 29, 2019, Makinde lodged an appeal against the High Court judgement, even as he sacked all the Local Government Chairmen and Councillors.
The appellate court subsequently dismissed the case of the LG Council bosses on the premise that it was “pre-emptive, premature, speculative and failed to disclose reasonable facts”.