***orders payment of salaries, allowances of sacked Chairmen, Councillors
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Supreme Court, on Friday, declared the dissolution and sack of elected Local Government Chairmen and Councillors in Oyo State by Governor Seyi Makinde, as unconstitutional and illegal.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgement by a five-man panel of Justices, held that governor 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, LGAs, as well as 35 Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs, 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 Governor 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 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 N20million 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 LG Council bosses who were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and sworn in at the twilight of the administration of late former governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi, had before Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, took over, filed a suit to secure their positions.
Following their suit, Justice Aderonke Aderemi of Oyo State High Court, in a judgement on May 6, 2019, restrained the state from dissolving the elected LG Chairmen and Councillors.
However, immediately after he assumed office on May 29, 2019, governor 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”.