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Saving Local Governments from the Grip of Governor’s Minions in Kwara
A civil group, the Elites Network for Sustainable Development, (ENetSuD), has accused the Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazak, of intentionally delaying the conduct of Local Council Election in 16 Local Government Areas.
Governor Abdulrazak, also bags a garb of surrogate and a locum, pinch-hitting the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) Chairmen to run Local Government Areas under his jinxing godfathering spell, the group said.
The TICs were selectively handpicked in March 2021. And since then, have been boxed in the power cubicle created through the help of the Abdulrasak’s frigging sleight of hand.
Six months after, following the suit filed by ENetSuD, an Ilorin High Court Judge, Justice Hassan Gegele sacked the Chairmen while, describing the appointment as “illegal.” Justice Gegele, also ordered for the conduct of proper election to usher in new executive members. But Mr Abdul is not planning to hearken the voice of the law.
Rather bowing to the ruling, Special Assistant to the Governor on Political Communications, Alhaji Bashir Adigun sharply roved for qualified lawyers with a shameful boast, reneging from the rule of law that “they are already studying the judgement,” and a stern assurance that they “will appeal the judgment.”
In its address dated October 22, 2023, ENetSuD declared that Governor Abdulrazak, is using a calculated attempt to delay the conduct of the LG election till 2025. This is true of Nigeria’s States where it has become a normal practice for new governors on the assumption of office to dissolve local government administrations. The latest is with the Plateau and Benue State governors, Caleb Mutfwang and Hyacinth Alia, respectively, being ones to carry on with the practice, Darisu Yakubu for the Punch Newspaper.
Mutfwang dissolved the 17 local government councils in the state, citing the failure of the chairmen to give a proper account detailing their revenue and expenditure profile, while Alia anchored his decision to suspend the 23 local government chairmen on the recommendation of the state House of Assembly, which accused them of corruption.
As expected, the actions of the two governors elicited state-wide criticisms, with many accusing them of lacking respect for the rule of law and acting as if they were sole administrators in a military regime.
In 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, shortly after his inauguration, dissolved the local councils, a decision the Supreme Court later declared as illegal. The sacked officials, under the aegis of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, filed a suit at the state High Court to challenge their sacking. However, the court ruled in favour of the state.
Dissatisfied by the ruling, they approached the Court of Appeal, which ruled in their favour, nullifying the ruling of the lower court. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of justices, held that Makinde acted beyond his powers when on his assumption of office on May 29, 2019, he sacked the chairmen of the 33 local government councils as well as the 35 local council development areas in the state.
The apex court also fined the Makinde administration N20m.
According to analysts, the usual practice of governors, sometimes in collaboration with the Houses of Assembly, dissolving the local councils has undermined democracy at the grass roots.
Apart from the usual disruption to their administration, the governors have also been repeatedly accused of diverting funds meant for the local governments. Efforts by successive governments to halt the diversion have failed to address the problem.
In December 2022, former President Muhammadu Buhari said the stunted development at the local government level was caused by governors and local government officials, who “pocket” their funds.
In a twist and whirlwind of event for the Kwara stooges and their master, the ENetSuD group berated the governor and declared that he has disregarded the law by unlawfully sacking democratically-elected Local Government councils and impose TIC in all the 16 LGAs of the State. It attributed the act to flagrant disregard to the Courts on different occasions.
It continued that Governor Abdulrazak, has no moral standing to hide under harmonization of state electoral law with the Federal Government electoral act for his personal agenda.
Kwara PDP Chairman, Babatunde Mohammed said the party is worried about the continued encroachment and usurpation of local government administrations since the inception of the Abdulrahman-led government.
“Local government operations have been so far stalled, with our people at the grassroots denied of the hitherto dividends of democracy and seriously bearing the brunt. The rural parts of the state have been enveloped by insecurity, violent crimes, gangsterism, kidnappings, and wanton killing of our people, including missionaries, clergymen, and farmers, as a result of a lack of legally recognized structures at the grassroots which can use peculiarities of each local government to arrest this ugly trend. Despite several concerns raised and court orders to that effect, the Kwara state government has been defiant and individualistic in its conduct.
“You all will recall that immediately after the APC came on board in May 2019, the first casualty of its rascality and abuse of power were the sixteen elected council chairmen who were based on politically motivated trump-up charges, illegally dissolved with the help of the Kwara State House of Assembly which has so far presented itself as a tool in the hands of Governor Abdulrahman led executive. This action was in flagrant disobedience to court orders barring the state governor or any of its representatives, including the House of Assembly from suspending or dissolving democratically elected council chairmen or interfering with their financial activities until the lawful expiration of their tenure.
“Apart from reckless disregard for the court rulings, the Abdulrahman-led government also replaced the sacked chairmen with his surrogates who were tagged Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) chairmen to illegally superintend local government administrations and their resources in the state. This action, which was an affront to our judiciary and constitution, was not only condemned by well-meaning Kwarans, including some members of the APC but also challenged in court by a popular Kwara-based civil society organization, the Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD), which is reputed for drawing public attention to bad government policies, financial recklessness and misappropriations and anti peoples programmes.”
In the same vein, ENetSuD Coordinator Alagbonsi Abdullateef, PhD, told the Kwara State House of Assembly to either pass the bill if the commencement date of the amendment will be in 2025 or decline the bill and reconsider it after LG election.
“So, if there is no controversy, why do we need to make the LG election in Kwara state (whose 16 LGAs have been ruled by illegal Transition Implementation Committee [TIC]) delay further for over one year? The answer is glaringly one! The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, is not willing to facilitate conduct of LG election that will allow people to democratically elect their preferred representatives as Chairmen and Councilors, as he is very comfortable with the illegal TIC caucus that he singlehandedly appointed. Impliedly, he has disenfranchised over 3 million Kwarans by appointing a few people loyal to him in lieu of Chairmen and Councilors for the 16 LG councils. These illegal TIC caucus have been consistently sacked by high and appeal courts, but they have conspiratorially (with the governor as their strength) imposed themselves on Kwarans, and thus, they are responsible to the Governor only, not to Kwarans who own the patrimony they illegally sit on.”