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57 Lgs/ Lcdas: Fg Drags Lagos To Supreme Court - As Ultimatum Expires Today - La - Politics - Nairaland

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57 Lgs/ Lcdas: Fg Drags Lagos To Supreme Court - As Ultimatum Expires Today - La by naijatoday: 3:57am On Jul 28, 2009
IT is almost certain that the Federal Government and the Lagos State government would be returning to judicial trenches over the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) created by the state to complement the existing 20 local governments.

As the ultimatum issued the state by President Umaru Yar’Adua expires today, feelers at the seat of power, in Abuja, revealed that the central government had, in anticipation of Lagos State being adamant as it did, put the necessary machinery in motion for a judicial review of the development by the Supreme Court which had earlier declared the additional 37 local councils inchoate.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had withheld the council funds due to the state, when former Governor Bola Tinubu created the 37 development areas as additional local governments.

Though the Supreme Court declared Obasanjo’s act illegal, he refused to release all the accrued funds despite a political solution that saw the new councils being redesigned as development areas.

Yar’Adua eventually ordered the release of the outstanding funds weeks after becoming president and looked the other way when the state conducted elections into the 37 LCDAs despite protestation by his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which boycotted the said elections.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that the Yar’Adua administration’s rule of law mantra has made it difficult for it to stop the funds due the local governments in the state from the federation accounts, but had decided to tap into a piece of advice by the apex court while giving judgment in the case instituted by Lagos State under Tinubu, challenging the decision of Obasanjo’s administration to stop the state’s council’s funds.

The apex court had held that: “If the Federal Government felt aggrieved by Lagos State creating more local governments, the best solution is to seek redress in a court of law, without resorting to self-help. In a society where the rule of law prevails, self-help is not available to the executive or any arm of government.”

It was further learnt that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoaaka SAN, who is seen as the main actor in the ongoing saga, had decided to take his cue from the apex court’s advice, though the Federal Government, according to sources, would also be mounting surveillance to see if Lagos State would be using the funds meant for the constitutionally-recognised 20 local governments on the LCDAs in order to get more facts to nail the state government.

According to the source, “Federal Government will want to see how it (monthly allocation) would be shared so that we will have a good ground to challenge the state at the Supreme Court.

“It is illegal for them to use part of the allocation to run the illegal council areas.”

Aondoaaka is currently out of the country and the legal fireworks may begin immediately he returns to the country.

The Federal Government on July 14 issued a 14-day ultimatum to the state government to close down the 37 LCDAs.

But the state government, through its governor, Mr. Babatude Raji Fashola, had, in a letter to President Yar’Adua, rejected the ultimatum, saying that the apex court never declared them illegal.

Nigerian Tribune equally gathered that the Lagos State government had also been lining up a series of strategies to tackle the fresh offensive from the Federal Government.

Apart from preparing for a long legal battle, the Nigerian Tribune gathered that the state might also go on the offensive which, according to a source, “is the best form of defence.”

One of the options being touted in the state’s camp is stopping the Federal Government from collecting due taxes from the state, which a source put at millions of naira every month.

Apart from this, hardliners in the state government are also said to be pushing for the disruption of operations of Federal Government’s agencies in the state.

However, all these options, according to the Nigerian Tribune source, would only be considered if the Federal Government decided to seize the funds belonging to the council areas in the state, a decision which is said not to be on the central government’s cards for now.

However, there was apprehension among the local government chairmen and their councillors in Lagos State, on Monday, ahead of the expiration of the of the 14-day ultimatum given by President Yar’Adua to Governor Fashola.

The office of one of the councils in Surulere, for example, on Monday, witnessed an unusual turnout of persons, especially councillors and members of the Action Congress (AC), who milled around the premises discussing the presidential directive in hushed tones.

None of them was willing to speak on record on the matter for fear of being sanctioned by the leadership of the AC and other higher authorities.

However, many of the public officials were worried that less than 24 hours to the expiry of the presidential deadline, they had not been briefed on the next line of action by the state government.

Most chairmen, who reported for work, still carried out their duties with gusto, though their offices recorded a relative large turnout of visitors.

Meanwhile, more angry reactions have continued to trail President Yar’Adua’s letter to Governor Fashola, with a former Secretary to the State Government, Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, demanding an apology from the president on behalf of Lagosians.

In a statement made available to the Nigerian Tribune, Basorun described the letter as “provocative and distabilising,” asserting that the president lacked the power to issue such an order under the 1999 Constitution.

He said there was no section of the constitution, which makes the governor a surrogate of the president.

“In April 2007, the President was elected for a term of four years by the electorate in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while Governor Fashola was also elected by overwhelming votes of Lagos State electorate for a term of four years.

He said there was no section of the constitution which makes the governor a surrogate of the president.

“In April 2007, the President was elected for a term of four years by the electorate in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while Governor Fashola was also elected by overwhelming votes of Lagos State electorate for a term of four years.

“In the performance of his duties as governor of Lagos State, the Constitution does not make him to be responsible to the President in any form or shape, directly or indirectly. He (the President) cannot and should not frighten a functionary (here Governor of Lagos State) who is not under him,” Basorun affirmed.

Basorun also asserted that Local Government Administration was under the exclusive matter for states in the Constitution, citing Section 7(1) of the document to support his submission.

It reads, “The system of local government by democratically-elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance, and functions of such councils.”

According to him, The key words in the section were ‘establishment’, ‘structure’, ‘composition’ and ‘finance’.

“Other provisions in the Constitution relating to local government have not controverted or tampered with the provision in section 7(1). As it stands today, there is only one local government structure in Lagos State and it has 20 local government councils,” he said.

He stated that the 37 LCDAs created by the Lagos State House of Assembly were development centres, which the ingenuity and political sagacity of those in charge in Lagos produced not only to accelerate development but also to “serve as necessary dependable complement to the action-packed and result-oriented service delivery by the state governor.”

Former national secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Debo Adeshina, has said that, the letter written by President Umaru Yar’ Adua, that Lagos State should revert to 20 local government-structure was uncalled for, and negated the spirit of federalism.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in a telephone interview, he explained that if the president disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling on the creation of the additional 37 councils in the state, the ideal thing was to approach the court for further clarification.

Mr. Adeshina said that the president needed not to issue a threat to the state, stressing that “under a federal system of government which Nigeria operates, no tier of government was empowered to usurp the power of another.”

Speaking in the same vein, Lagos State chairman of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), Chief Supo Shonibare, stated that any person that supported federalism should commend what Lagos State was doing, and that what the Federal Government was doing was an attempt to destabilise the polity.

He said rather than the president to pay attention to a lot of issues at the front burner, his concern was to add to those issues.

Expressing a contrary view, Lagos state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Honourable Sentonji Koshoedo, said it was illegal for the state to be running the 37 local council development areas with the money meant for the recognised 20 local government areas.

He explained that doing so gave room for fraudulent practice, and it was a way of enriching some people fraudulently, and if any money should be spent on the LCDA, there must be viament.

Our correspondent also observed that President Yar’ Adua’s letter was the main topic of discussion in the metropolis on Monday as people at newsstands advised the president to tackle the problems of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities; incessant power failure and Niger Delta issues.

According to Mr. Thompson Ajayi, the problem of this country is not about 57 local government areas, adding, “The president should concentrate on the national problems. He should leave Lagos alone and face the national problems.”

He stated that the letter was an avenue by the presidency to distract the attention of Nigerians from its shortcomings.

“I have two cousins who are supposed to be in school now but because ASUU is on strike, they are with me at home doing nothing. The president should better do something about it instead he is talking about Lagos State,” he said.

A civil servant in the state, who simply identified himself as Segun said, “Yar’Adua should leave us alone. Why is he interested in the local governments issue? We want it like that. He should leave us alone, moreover, he only gives funds for 20 local government areas and we know how we manage ourselves.”

Segun described the letter as the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob, saying that some enemies of progress were behind it. “I don’t know why some people hate progress. This is the only state that has won the hearts of international communities because of its level of progress. Why a central government should wake up to stand against this progress? I advise the president to better drop what ruined his predecessor’s governance.”


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