By March 24, the two-year tenure of local government councils in Nasarawa State would end. DONATUS NADI takes a look at the likely turn of events as the Nasarawa State House of Assembly is opposed to possible tenure extension for the council chairmen.
Local government chairmen in Nasarawa State and the House of Assembly are on a collision course over the tenure of office for the former and their councillors.
The council chairmen under the aegis of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, (ALGON), are reported to enjoy the backing of the state governor, Umaru Tanko Almakura. These set of council chairmen had emerged during his tenure, helping to solidify his hold on grassroot of the state.
The local government chairmen in the state were sworn into office on March 24 2014, on the strength of a one year tenure of office enacted into law by the 7th Assembly a few weeks before the local elections were conducted. They had passed the law in 2013.
But that move by the assembly was largely condemned as politically motivated being that the then assembly was dominated by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who were in the opposition. At the time PDP had 20 lawmakers while APC had just four.
On assumption of office the chairmen went to court challenging the legality of the action of the state assembly in reversing their tenure of office from two to one year.
Interestingly, out of the 13 local government areas, PDP has only two chairmen while APC controlled 11.
Delivering her judgement at the state High Court in Lafia, Justice Aisha Ahmed, had on July 15, 2015 nullified the one year tenure of office for council chairmen and reversed it to a two-year tenure.
Meanwhile, on February 8 2011, Nasarawa state High Court sitting in Mararaba Gurku under Justice J. G. Abundaga, had ruled that local government chairmen and councillors were supposed to serve for three years.
The history of local government in that state seemed to create an exploitable scenario. The first judgment in 2011 was on the strength of 2003 local government law which stipulates three year tenure for council chairmen, the second judgment of 2015 was on the strength of the 2009 amended law which provided for two years.
After succeeding in elongating their tenure by a year through legal process, council chairmen have returned to court seeking to further elongate their tenure by yet another year on the strength of the lacuna created by the two conflicting judgements on the matter.
Adducing reasons for their decision to seek another elongation of temure through the courts, the state chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, (ALGON) Alh. Suleiman Wambai, said the chairmen were in court to seek interpretation regarding the two previous judgements on the tenure of office of local government chairmen in the state.
He said the association was at a loss as to which of the two judgements takes precedence which will also determine which local government law is in force since those of 2013 and 2009 had both been previously suspended in favor of that of 2003.
Many political analysts however view the decision by the chairmen to return to court as a ploy by Governor Almakura to extend the tenure of the chairmen through the backdoor.
This view sold easily given the fact that as the chairmen have barely a month to vacate their offices.
This prompted the Assembly to take a decisive position on the matter by rejecting any move to use the courts to extend the tenure of office of local government chairmen from two years as specified by the 2009 extant laws on which they were elected and sworn-in to three years as provided by 2003.
The lawmakers also recommended that the Almakura-led administration should set modalities in place for the conduct of fresh elections, insisting that no Transition Monitoring Committee would be approved for local government administration from March 24 when the tenure of current chairmen expires.
The House committee chairman on Information, Makpa Malla, who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the matter said: “Among the recommendations we stated categorically that the 2009 local government law is the extant law having been upheld by the court which nullified the supposed 2013 law.
“I can tell you categorically that the House of Assembly has no intention whatsoever to extend the tenure of the present leadership of local governments in Nasarawa state”.
“As a matter of fact one of the recommendations of the committee on Judiciary was that the tenure of local government chairmen, and by extention councillors and even those appointed stand dissolved on the 24th March, 2016, and recommended that the governor set in motion the process of conducting election in accordance with 2009 law for transition to elected leadership”.
The lawmaker further explained that, “there is no provision for Transition Management Committee or any such thing in our law”.
However after deliberations on the floor of the Assembly and adoption of the report of the committee on Judiciary, Ethics and Privileges on the tenure of office of elected leadership of the local councils, the Speaker of the House, Alh. Ibrahim Abdullahi, reiterated that the Assembly would not entertain any move to breach the law with respect to leadership of local governments.
Barr. Abubakar Kana, the chairman, House committee on Judicairy, Ethnics and Privileges recalled that on August 17 2014, a suit was filed by chairmen of ten local governments against the state Assembly’s decision for reducing their tenure from two years to one.
“A dissection of the judgment of the Federal High court, Lafia, is that the Nasarawa state House of Assembly did not, in strict sense, observe and follow the procedure spelt out under the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended in amending the 2009 local government law to one year, and so we will abide by the court judgment of two years local government chairmen and councilors.”
He continued “It is in view of this that we strongly recommend that the state government should set up machinery for the conduct of the local government elections”.
The committee also recommended for the immediate appointment of Development Area Management Committees (DAMCs) to run the affairs of the Development Areas pursuant to section 72 of the 2009 laws.
Commenting on the brewing controversy, former Attorney General of the state, Barr. Innocent Lagi, differed with the position of the State Assembly.
He cited the judgement of Justice J. G. Abundaga, in the case of Mr. Sani Bawa on the authority of the 2003 local government laws, noting that chairmen and councillors were supposed to serve for three years.
Lagi, who was a member of the State Assembly when the first amendment to local government laws was made in 2009, said “When Almakura won election he was persuaded to settle Sani Bawa in any way possible so that we don’t create a bad precedence but he refused and said Sani Bawa could go and complete his tenure of office without councillors”.
He said judgement was given in favour of Sani Bawa on the grounds that the two years spelt out in the 2009 amendment did not follow due process in dissolving the local government councils after two years.
“So by effect of the judgement, the standing law for Nasarawa state local government is the one that returned back Bawa to complete his tenure of three years” he said.
“The amendment we made in 2009 was set aside, so also the judgement of the last Assembly was set aside, so the Nasarawa state local government law in force is the local government law of 2003 which prescribed tenure of office as 3 years for local government chairmen” he continued.
The former Attorney General noted that “another budding controversy in the 2003 law is the fact that councillors have two years which is subject to being questioned but for chairmen it is three years”.
“Since the judgement in Sani Bawa’s case is still subsisting, the courts would tell you its three years and not two”.
Points of concern still remain the seeming silence of the state government towards the conduct of local government elections. Though many view it as a result of lack of funds to finance the exercise which gulped over N600 million in 2014, others still believe it is intent upon extending the tenure of chairmen in the state.
However with APC having the majority in the State Assembly this time (APC 20 and PDP 4), it is yet to be seen how its government in the state would rally its members in the state legislature to swing the situation it’s way.
The post Nasarawa: ALGON, State Assembly Tussle Over Tenure Extension appeared first on Nigerian News from Leadership News.