There is disquiet in Kwara state’s political circle following last Tuesday’s suspension of chairmen of all the 16 local government areas of the state by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
The governor, acting on the advice of the state house of assembly sacked all the council chairmen and the legislative organs of the councils in one fell swoop.
But, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former house leader in the state have punctured the executive and legislature’s decisions on the elected local government administration.
They argued that the decisions of the governor and the legislature were suspect given the fact that both the legislative process and the executive concurrence on the issue took place in less than eight hours.
All the sacked chairmen were elected on the platform of the PDP in November 2017 and have just spent about two out of their three years tenure of office.
The suspension o the 16 Local Government Council Executive and Legislative Committees was announced in a statement signed by the governor’s chief press secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye.
The statement explained that the governor’s decision was “in line with the earlier recommendation of the State House of Assembly.
“Pursuant to the resolution of the Kwara State House of Assembly dated this 18th day of June, 2019, and Section 29 of the Kwara State Local Government Law Cap. K33, 2006, I, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the executive governor of Kwara State, hereby suspend the executive and legislative committees of all the Sixteen (16) Local Government Areas in the state for a period of six months or pending the outcome of the investigations into allegations of misappropriation of public funds by the Kwara State House or Assembly.
“The suspension came hours after the House of Assembly recommended the suspension of the local council executive and legislative committees.
“The House had, in the resolution earlier in the day, urged the governor “to immediately suspend all the 16 Local Government Executive and Legislative Committees in the state pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations of misappropriation of public funds levelled against them so as not to jeopardise the process of investigation”.
“Section 29 of the Kwara State Local Government Law Cap. K33, 2006 empowers the governor to suspend the chief executive of the local council for six months.
“The Constitution, on the other hand, empowers the House of Assembly to investigate the local councils for alleged infraction and corruption,” it added.
The recommendation of the state house of Assembly on the need for the suspension of the council bosses followed a resolution of the House after it had considered a petition written by one Seidu Aliyu against the councils chairmen, alleging misappropriation of the councils funds. Aliyu’s petition was presented at Tuesday’s plenary in house of assembly.
The House Leader, Magaji Olawoyin, tabled the petition, which was unanimously considered after a debate, prompting the lawmakers to recommend the suspension of the councils bosses.
The petitioner alleged that the council chairmen had mismanaged and misappropriated N33billion received from the federation accounts in the last two years.
The house leader called for a thorough investigation of the council chairmen in view of their alleged misconduct.
In his submission, a member representing Ipaye/Malete/Oloru, Babatunde Paku, said the House had been inundated with reports over alleged fraudulent activities in the councils in the last two years.
His counterpart from Afon Constituency, Abdulwahab Opakunle, urged the House to look into the matter critically since the lawmakers represent the interest of the people.
Also speaking, a member representing Ojomu/Balogun Constituency of Offa Local Government Area, Saheed Popoola, said there was need to properly investigate the alleged financial impropriety against the council authorities, adding that local government chairmen are public officer, and thus accountable to the people.
Salaudeen Ganiyu of Omupo Constituency moved a motion for the suspension of the council chairmen pending the outcome of the investigation and was seconded by Awolola Olumide of Isin Constituency.
Reading the resolution of the House, the Speaker, Hon. Salihu Yakubu Danladi, urged Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to suspend all the local government chairmen in the state to allow gorproper investigation of their alleged mismanagement of council funds in the last two years.
He referred the petition to the joint House Committees on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Ethics, Privileges and Judiciary, asking the committees to report back in the next two weeks.
But, in a swift reaction, the opposition PDP kicked against the recommendation by the State House of Assembly for the suspension of the local governments chairmen in the state, demanding its immediate retraction.
In a statement signed by its Chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu, the party described the move by the legislature as illegal and undemocratic, stressing that it was wrong for the House to recommend the suspension of the council bosses on allegation of financial misappropriation when they had not been properly investigated or invited for questioning.
“It should be noted that neither the House nor the governor has the power to suspend the council chairmen who were lawfully elected by their people.
“The council chairman were lawfully elected in 2017 by the people for a three-year tenure which will expire in 2020. Neither the governor nor the State assembly has the power to suspend or sack them before the expiration of their administrations.
“We wish to remind the lawmakers of a subsisting court order barring the State Governor or any of his representatives including the State House of Assembly from suspending or dissolving elected local government chairmen or interfere in their financial activities until the lawful expiration of their tenure in 2020.
“It is also instructive to note that the Supreme Court had also declared as illegal and unconstitutional the dissolution of local government councils by State governor and the state assemblies.
“The decision of the Kwara State House of Assembly to suspend the elected council chairmen, therefore, amounts to reckless disregard of court order, abuse of power, and rape of democracy that must be resisted by all lovers of democracy. We must not allow our democracy to be subverted by anti-democratic elements.
“It is unfortunate that lawmakers who are supposed to be advocates of justice and due process are the ones compromising the law and perpetrating illegality to serve the interest of their paymasters.
“We wish to state that we are currently studying the situation and will contest the suspension of the council chairmen and ensure that justice is served.
“The party, therefore, urges Kwarans to disregard the illegal suspension of the local government chairmen they freely elected into office. As far as our laws are concerned, they remain the duly elected chairmen and will remain so till their tenure expire next year.”
Corroborating the position of the PDP, a former Majority leader ,Kwara House of Assembly, Hon. Hassan Oyeleke viewed the suspension of the councils bosses as unlawful.
He posited that the suspension of those whose investigation are not yet commenced let alone indicted is alien to the legislature’s tradition and looks like a wild
Oyeleke further clarified :”With great respect I wish to shed light on the issue under discussion; the suspension of the 16 local governments council by the state house of Assembly based on a petition from one Mallam Aliu. “
“As a member of the state house of assembly for eight years and as a former Chairman Public Account committee and House leader , I humbly wish to enlighten us on some of the relevant House Rules and Local Government laws.
“When a petition is read at the plenary , and the House agreed to discuss it further , a relevant committee of thee House or ad-hoc committee shall be set up to go into the issues . The committee shall be given a duration of time to report back to the House. The committee shall invite the petitioner and the respondent . The committee shall write the parties concerned, indicating the day , time and venue of the meeting .
“The sittings of the committee shall be recorded on tape and verbatim . The House committee shall report back to the House for further decision .”
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