By OLA AJAYI
The administration in Oyo State as in other states perpetuates the practice of illegal caretaker administrations for its local councils it has, however, set the pace in using legal convolutions in perpetuating the illegality
As in other parts of the country, local government councils in Oyo State have not had free hand to operate in the state. Where they are not starved of funds, they are under strict control of the state government.
The practice, however, did not start with the incumbent Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN administration as its predecessors had played the same game.
Though, Governor Abiola Ajimobi has succeeded in reducing financial recklessness which had been the hallmark of the third tier of government, agitation for more autonomy for the local governments is almost everywhere.
At the inception of the administration, the 33 local government caretaker chairmen wrote proposals to the Ministry of Local Government Affairs notifying it of the projects they had in view.
Irrespective of the amount involved, the state government put a limit of N1 million on the projects they could execute though this was relaxed after some time.
The 33 local government councils are complaining of being stifled with funds alleging that there is virtually nothing left for them after the payment of workers’ salaries. Some of them confided in Vanguard that they have not more than N5m after paying their staff.
Even worse than the absence of financial autonomy is the absence of democratic expression in the third tier.
The present administration has spent more than two years without conducting any election in the local government. Opposition parties like the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Accord who have cried foul over the issue with former Governors Adebayo Alao-Akala and Rashidi Ladoja challenging Ajimobi to conduct the elections to test the popularity of his administration.
“There is no other political party in the state as both the PDP and the ACN have been polarized,” Ladoja the leader of Accord in the state said recently.
The pressure to conduct the council elections is also coming from disaffected chieftains of the ACN who are spoiling to use the opportunity to score points with Ajimobi.
But, Governor Ajimobi apparently would not given in to what he believes to be political gimmicks. Speaking through his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ojo Mutalubi Adebayo, the governor argued that legal, rather than political consideration was the reason why the state had not held the local government elections.
According to him, the legal constraints, which hindered the constitution of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC), have made the conduct of the local government elections to be put in abeyance until a competent court of law pronounces on the matter.
“In 2007, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala unconstitutionally sacked members and Chairman of OYSIEC appointed by his former boss, Senator Ladoja and replaced them with his own protégés. Chief Oyemomilara Okunola and others appointed by Senator Ladoja and who were sent packing by Otunba Akala thus filed an action at the High Court, Ibadan to challenge their unlawful removal from office because the constitution guaranteed them a fixed term of 5 years from 2003 to 2008”.
“Oyo State High Court Hon. Justice P.O.Ige (as he then was) and now of the Court of Appeal, gave judgment in favour of Senator Ladoja’s appointees and held that they were illegally and unconstitutionally sacked by Gov. Akala. The court declared their sack as null and void and ordered that all their entitlements up to 2008 be paid,” Adebayo explained.
He said that the Chairman and members of OYSIEC appointed by Alao-Akala in 2007 also went to court in 2011 to challenge their removal from office by the current governor, Senator Ajimobi, as a follow-up to the judgment obtained by the Ladoja’s OYSIEC men.
The Attorney General said that the Oyo State High Court through Hon. Justice M.O. Bolaji-Yussuff, also awarded judgment in favour of this set of OYSIEC men and ordered the state to pay them their entitlements.
“It is obvious that the state government is confronted with two sets of judgments from the High Court of the state, with each of the judgments validating the appointment of the claimants before each of the court and also with the earlier judgment declaring as nullity the appointment of the latter OYSIEC men of Otunba Alao-Akala,” he said.
Adebayo said it will certainly amount to contempt of court for the State government to urge the state House of Assembly to proceed with the screening and clearance of the Chairman and members of OYSIEC already forwarded to the House of Assembly by Governor Ajimobi, in view of the court judgments.
He said that the state government therefore chose the path of honour and constitutionalism by subjecting the latter judgment to the Court of Appeal for determination, while the state also settled all the entitlements of the OYSIEC men of 2003 to 2008.
The Attorney General said that the appeal on the case is yet to be heard by the Court of Appeal, Ibadan where it is lodged.