Ola Ajayi – Ibadan
Following a letter by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) asking Governor Seyi Makinde to dissolve the caretaker chairmen in the 33 local government areas of Oyo State, the state government has warned him not to meddle in Oyo council issue.
Speaking through the Attorney-General of Oyo State, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo, in a four-page reply, the government said, the AGF has no business dabbling into the matter of local government dissolution in Oyo State which is pending before the Court of Appeal.
In a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Taiwo Adisa, the government described the statement credited to Malami as uncalled for, misguided and lacking in merit, as far as the constitution of Nigeria is concerned.
The Government of Oyo State led by Seyi Makinde maintained that Malami’s letter dated 14 January 2020, was written without adequate information and knowledge of the current position of the subject matter of dissolution of local government in the State.
According to the statement, the issue of local government dissolution in Oyo state is a subject of stay/appeal that is pending before the Court of Appeal in two cases including Governor of Oyo State Vs Basorun Bosun Ajuwon, Appeal no CA/IB/300/2019 and Basorun Majeed Bosun Ajuwon Vs Governor of Oyo State CA/IB/362/2019.
“It is also instructive to note that parties have filed their respective briefs of argument and the appeals have now been fixed for the 19th of February, 2020,” the statement read.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Oyo State equally declared that only the court and not the AGF could pronounce order on the matter, which was sub judice.
The Government called on Malami to rise above partisan politics and advise parties to await the judgment of the court in the various appeals.
The Government added that the Constitution of the country had empowered States to ensure the existence and functioning of local governments, noting that it was not aware of any Act of the National Assembly that empowered the AGF to write the letter in which he purportedly barked orders at the State Government.
Professor Oyewo said: “I wish to note that your letter Ref. No, HAGF/OYO/2020/Vol.1/1 of 14th January 2020 dealing with the above subject matter was never served on us, but we read about it and had to secure a copy from the social media.”
“I must note that under Section 7(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which you referred to in your letter, it is the Law of the State Government that is to ensure the existence of the system of Local Government by democratically elected Local Government Council by providing for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils and not a Federal Law/Act.
“It is therefore not clear under what Act of the National Assembly the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice was acting in writing the letter under reference.
“It should be borne in mind that our Constitution has established a Federal system of government whereby the state government is not under the command of the Federal Government, neither are we under Military Era when the Federal Government could give a binding order to the State Government by mere proclamation and at will.
“We are now in a civilian dispensation and the position of every officer whether at the Federal or State level is guided by the provisions of the Constitution and relevant law.”
The Oyo AG referred the AGF to two cases including Attorney-General Lagos Vs Attorney-General Federation (2004) 18 N.W.LR (PT.S 904)II and Attorney General Abia Vs Attorney-General Federation(2002) 6 N.W.L.R (PT. 763)264.
The letter continued: “We are of the firm belief that your letter under reference was written without adequate information and knowledge of the current position with respect to the subject matter of Local Government Dissolution in Oyo State.
“A careful diligent search would have shown that the issue of Dissolution of Local Government in Oyo is presently a subject matter of stay/appeal and pending at the Court of Appeal in the following cases; a.) Governor of Oyo State vs Basorun Bosun Ajuwon Appeal NO CA/IB/300/2019 and b.) Basorun Majeed Bosun Ajuwon vs Governor of Oyo State CA/IB/362/2019.”
The Government of Oyo State, however, took exception to perceived threats by Malami, especially his directive to some federal agencies to “ensure compliance,” noting that until the constitutional right of appeal, which is guaranteed in the country’s adjudicatory system, is exhausted, Malami had no right to dabble in the matter of the local government dissolution or threaten the State.
“We, therefore, want to advise the Attorney-General of the Federation to rise above partisan politics and advise parties to await the judgment of the court in the various appeals.
“To do otherwise is to foist a fait accompli on the court. As a law-abiding Government, we are prepared to abide by the decision of the court when eventually delivered.
“We are, however, unperturbed by the subtle threat in your letter and your directives to take steps to ensure compliance of a cited judgment in which Oyo State was never a party and on a live matter in which an appeal is pending.
“For the avoidance of doubt, please note further that in Oyo State, the issue of Local Government administration is presently before the court of competent jurisdiction and by our adjudicatory system, whoever is aggrieved by the decision of a court has the constitutional right of appeal.
“Until such right is exhausted, the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice cannot dabble into such matter. We are aware of the provisions of Section 174 (1) to (3) of the CFRN, 1999 (as amended) but they only relate to criminal proceedings and not civil matters as in this case.
“The action of the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice is therefore uncalled for with respect to a matter that is sub judice. It is only a court of law that can given such an order and not the office of the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice.
“All the cases referred to in your letter mentioned above are not on all fours with the present cases involving Oyo State because the facts are not the same. A case is an authority for what it decides.
“It will, therefore, be in the interest of justice to allow the rule of law to prevail by letting the pending cases involving Oyo State on the dissolution of Local Governments in Oyo State to run their full course in the law courts.”