By Peter Amine
The Chairmen of the 17 local governments of Plateau have taken Gov. Caleb Mutfwang to court over their suspension from office.
Mr Alex Na’antuam, Chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) Plateau chapter, who briefed newsmen on Friday in Jos said that their purported suspension was unconstitutional.
Na’antuam who is the Chairman of Shendam Local Government told journalists that in any event, “the power to remove the chairmen for any gross misconduct does not reside with the House of Assembly or the governor”
The ALGON chairman stated that the procedure for removing a local government chairman is explicitly set out in Section 37 of the Local Government Council Law.
He stated that just like the governor, who cannot be suspended from office because he is the chief executive of the state, so it is with the chairmen of local government councils.
“Before the purported suspension, the 17 local government chairmen and the legislative councils had approached the court.
“We went there to invoke its interpretative jurisdiction to determine, among others, whether the governor has the power to terminate, suspend, truncate, or disturb our tenure in the light of Section 7 of the constitution.
“The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed.
“Pursuant to the said suit, we filed a motion for interlocutory injunction seeking the court’s order of interlocutory injunction restraining the governor, either by himself or his privies, from disturbing, disputing, terminating, suspending, or truncating the tenure of the local government chairmen and the legislative council,” he stated.
He said that their attention was on Thursday drawn to the purported decision of the governor approving with immediate effect the suspension of the 17 local government area structures to pave the way for the investigation being carried out by the Government.
Na’antuam said that governor did not cite any constitutional or statutory support, enabling him to suspend what they described as “17 local government area structures”.
The chairman said that actions contemplated by the state assembly was a mere resolution and advisory to the governor.
“In any case, such advice will not override existing legislations establishing the local government councils, as enshrined in the constitution, which is domesticated by relevant laws on the same subject matter in Plateau state.
“We have gone through the Plateau Local Government Council Law and we have found out that there is no part or whole of the law donating such powers to the House of Assembly.
“The Plateau State House of Assembly is the maker of the Plateau State Local Government Council law and to act in contempt and in utter disregard of the laws made by them is to devalue their functions,” he added.
According to him, the resolution of the house upon which the governor allegedly acted “is said to be rooted in a petition by an unknown and unascertainable person alleging undisclosed financial improprieties or malfeasance against the 17 chairmen and councillors”.
He stressed that the purported petition was not served on any of them.
“We have abiding faith in the judiciary to invoke its disciplinary powers to overturn this unconstitutional behaviour.
“In the eyes of the law, we remain chairmen and councillors, respectively, until the court determines otherwise.
The local government is not a mere parastatal of the state and Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the autonomy of local government councils,” he said.(NAN)