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Tension in Anambra as Governor Soludo in dilemma over DDM’s expose on illegitimate LG Transition Committees



Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo of Anambra State

There is palpable confusion in Awka, the state capital of Anambra State, Nigeria, as the state governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, is reportedly in dilemma following the expose by Diaspora Digital Media (DDM) on the chequered Transition Committees constituted in the 21 Local Governments in the state.

According to a source, the Professor Soludo government has cancelled cheque meant to be distributed to the 21 Local Government Transition Committees following the damming report.

The expose affected four former state governors — Dr. Christopher Ngige, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, Chief Williams Maduabuchukwu Obiano and the current governor, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo.

The issue revolves around the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) funds to the 21 Local Government Councils in the state since 2003, beginning with the administration of Dr. Ngige.

Trouble started when the Plaintiff, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, approached the Federal High Court of Anambra State of Nigeria, Awka Judicial Division.

Dr. Okonkwo informed the court that the Transition Chairmen and Councillors were unconstitutionally appointed and, thus, served under illegal regimes for the period covering 2006 to 2024.

According to the report, the suit was filed on April 17, 2024, with case no. FHC/AWK/CS/90/2024.

The Plaintiff sought, amongst other things, “an order nullifying/setting aside all the purported directives, financial expenditures the presentment of “Igwe elects” by the Town Unions to Chairmen Transition/Caretaker Committee, and issuance of Certificate of Recognition of His Royal Highness (Traditional Ruler/Igwe) for Government recognition purportedly made by the illegal and unconstitutional constituted Caretaker/ Transition Committees for the 21 Local Governments in Anambra State with effect from the 26th day of September, 2006, by the… Defendants, having not been democratically elected”.

Okonkwo also sought “an order for exemplary damages against the… Defendants in favour of the Plaintiff for one hundred billion Naira” for denying him the right to vote or be voted for at an election to a Local Government Council.

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According to Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “the system of Local Government by elected Local Government Councils is under this Constitution guaranteed…

“Accordingly, the Government, of every State shall subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”

According to Okonkwo, based on the segment of this Constitution, there is a duty cast upon the Government of Anambra State to ensure that every person, himself included, have the right to vote or be voted for at an election to a Local Government Council.

He pointed out that the last council poll was held in Anambra State in 1998 before the emergence of the Nigeria’s democratic dispensation in 1999 and that the tenure of the set of Local Government Chairmen and councilors ended in the year 2002.

Having been denied the right to vote or be voted for at an election to a Local Government Council, the Plaintiff demanded one hundred billion Naira in compensation.

He also asked that all the purported directives and financial expenditures by 21 Chairmen of Transition/Caretaker Committee be nullified and be made illegal and unconstitutional, having not been democratically elected.

According to feedback from a source, an official that retired from Local Government Service, the suit is causing ripples in Anambra Government quarters.

A note from the retired official on Anambra local government administration saga stated:

“The above development has started causing confusion in Awka.

“The Secretary (State Local Government Joint Allocation) cancelled cheque meant to be distributed to 21Local Government Transition Committees, for Routine Expenditure of the Council for the month of May.”

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In the meantime, neither the current state government, nor any of the past administrations, nor even their surrogates, have issued a statement or made a comment to counter the narrative contained in the suit.

None of them have also refuted the contents of the publication made by DDM dated May 3, 2024.

Another resident of the state, while hailing the move by the plaintiff, said: “History will record you as the man that stopped political banditry in Anambra State.”

Meanwhile, it could be recollected that a Federal High Court sitting in Enugu had, in a landmark judgment on suit no. FHC/EN/CS/90/2005, filed by Dr. Okonkwo, the plaintiff, ruled that the Anambra State Government has no power to appoint officials to govern local government areas.

The presiding judge, Justice A. L. Allagoa, in the judgment made on September 26, 2006, and by virtue of Section 7 (1) and 318 (i) (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, warned the Governor of Anambra State against appointing and approving of caretaker management committee to administer the 21 Local Government Councils in the state.

Dr. Okonkwo had approached the court, stating that he was being denied the right to participate in his domestic government in Idemili South, being the third tier of government for the Local Government Council, as enshrined in Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.

Ruling, Justice Allagoa held that the Anambra State law providing for caretaker committee is inconsistent with the Constitution.

He stated: “Looking at the provision literally, it is clear that the constitution of the local government by democratic system is guaranteed by the constitution itself.

“The constitution then imposed a duty on the state government to ensure the existence of such democratically elected local government,” he added.

Allagoa also succinctly clarified that the powers of the State House of Assembly to legislate over and above local government councils does not include power of the state government to appoint caretaker committee to run local government.

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He, therefore, ordered the respondents, the Governor of Anambra State, Anambra State House of Assembly and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State, to pay the sum of N5 million as exemplary damages to the plaintiff.

Speaking with DDM correspondent, Okonkwo recollected that the defendants complied with and did not appeal the judgment, hence, it subsists till date.

He, therefore, wondered how eighteen years after, Anambra State governors continue to run local government affairs using undemocratically elected officials in the name of transition committees.

He noted that Mr. Peter Obi, the twilight of his administration in November 2013, “mischievously” conducted local government election in the state, barely few months to go.

The human rights activist regretted that Mr. Obi ran the councils with transition committees for over seven years.

Miffed by the audacity of his successors to constitute transition committees amidst a subsisting court judgment, Okonkwo dragged Soludo and three of his predecessors to the Federal High Court, Awka.

He requested the court to, on the basis of the previous court judgment in suit no. FHC/EN//CS/2005, delivered on September 26, 2006, to nullify the appointed transition committees, while upholding the previous judgment.

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