Supreme Court Pressures State Governors to Defend Against Local Government Autonomy Allegations


The Supreme Court has given the 36 state governors seven days to file their defense against a federal lawsuit alleging misconduct in managing local government affairs. The lawsuit, initiated by the Federal Government, seeks full autonomy for the 774 local government areas.

A seven-member panel, led by Justice Garba Lawal, also gave the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) two days to respond to the governors’ defenses. The hearing on the suit is scheduled for June 13. The court also ordered fresh hearing notices to be served to the eight states absent from the proceedings: Borno, Kano, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Sokoto.

Justice Garba Lawal emphasized the national urgency of the case and noted no objections from the state attorneys general. The AGF, Lateef Fagbemi, argued for a shortened timeline to allow all parties to file and exchange their processes.

The lawsuit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, seeks to prevent state governors from unilaterally dissolving democratically elected local government councils. Fagbemi argues that such actions violate the 1999 Constitution and undermine local government autonomy. He is asking the court to ensure that local government funds from the federation account are directly channeled to them, bypassing state-controlled joint accounts.

The AGF also requested an injunction to stop governors from appointing caretaker committees to manage local governments, advocating instead for constitutionally mandated democratic elections.

The case is grounded in 27 arguments, asserting that the Nigerian Federation, as defined by the 1999 Constitution, requires a democratically elected local government system. Fagbemi insists that the state governors’ failure to establish such a system subverts the Constitution.

Fagbemi’s affidavit, filed on behalf of the federal government, argues that the governors’ actions represent a deliberate attempt to undermine constitutional governance at the local level. He maintains that the federal government should not be obligated to disburse funds to states that lack democratically elected local governments.

The Supreme Court’s involvement underscores the significance of this issue, as it seeks to ensure compliance with constitutional provisions and promote local government autonomy across Nigeria.

Mike Ojo

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