SUPREME COURT GRANTS FINANCIAL AUTONOMY TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

SUPREME COURT GRANTS FINANCIAL AUTONOMY TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has barred the 36 state governors from withholding or using funds designated for the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the country.

The court ruled that it is illegal and unconstitutional for governors to seize funds allocated to LGAs in their states. This practice, which has persisted for over two decades, was deemed a clear violation of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.

Justice Emmanuel Agim, delivering the lead judgment, stated that no State House of Assembly has the authority to make laws interfering with LGA funds. The Supreme Court emphasized that LGAs must be governed by democratically elected officials and ordered that funds must be paid directly to LGAs from the federation account.

“The law requires a progressive interpretation. The federation can pay LGA allocations directly or through states. However, since the latter has failed, justice demands direct payments to LGAs,” the court held.

Additionally, the court declared the appointment of caretaker committees by governors to run LGAs as unconstitutional, asserting that states must ensure democratic governance at the local level.

This judgment followed a suit filed by the Federal Government seeking financial autonomy for LGAs. The court also dismissed preliminary objections raised by the state governors challenging the suit’s competence.

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