Only a day after the welcome sealing of the 17 Local Government Secretariats in the state based on directive by the Inspector General of Police to forestall imminent breakdownof law and order, we were once again stunned by a purported Press conference credited to the Plateau State House of Assembly which, amongst others, effortlessly tried justify their recent illegal suspension of democratically-elected Chairmen and Councillors of the 17 LGCs in the State.
Hon. Sylvanus Namang,
APC State Publicity Secretary in a statement he personally signed and made available to this medium states that Hon. Ishaku Maren, the spokesman of the 10th House of Assembly in the said Press Conference, insinuated that the Inspector-General of Police has been misinformed by the Commissioner of Police, CP Bartholomew Onyeka on the sealing of the secretariats.
We also learnt that the House has passed a Vote of No Confidence on CP Bartholomew Onyeka, the Commissioner of Police with a call for his redeployment from the State for what they have referred to as “his partisanship”.
Their stance is not only laughable but also betrays their ignorance of the Constitutional powers of the Inspector-General of Police as spelt out and delegated to the Commissioner of Police in Chapter 6, Sections 215 & 216 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Nigerian Police Act 2020.
There is no gainsaying the fact that their position on the Plateau State Commissioner of Police is clearly hypocritical and self conceited especially when viewed against his similar previous sealing the State Assembly Complex which some Members of the 9th House of Assembly, under an impostor Speaker, broke into and carried out sundry illegal and unconstitutional activities to their delight.
It is rather regrettable that the PDP-dominated Plateau State House of Assembly has dramatically turned into a “law-breaker” much against its constitutional role of a lawmaking institution.
More fundamentally, the APC in Plateau state sees the action of the PDP government in the state as a deliberate attempt to pitch the state against the APC – controlled federal government which would not aurgur well for the state in the end.
It is clearly in the public domain that the sealing of the Local Government Secretariats in Plateau state was necessitated by the irresponsible and desperate behaviour of some of the so- called appointed Local Government Interim Administrators who broke and forced their ways into the local goverment offices as against the duly elected Chairmen which is a clear invitation to chaos.
The Inspector General of Police acted in the best interest of the citizens by directing the Commissioner to do the needful.
For the PDP members in the House to call for the Police Commissioner’s transfer from the state is totally mischievous and inconceivable.
The main duty of the police is to protect lives and property, as such it would not wait to see a situation which was fast dovetailing into a breakdown if law and order thus abetting the precarious security situation in the State.
Nevertheless, it is the position of the Constitution which is our groundnorm (section 7 thereof) that the system of Local Government is by democratically elected Local Government Councils. This has been sufficiently settled by Courts of competent jurisdiction including the Supreme Court.
For instance, the Supreme Court of Nigeria. See BASHORUN MAJEED BOSUN AJUWON & ORS VS GOVERNOR OR OYO STATE & ORS (2021) LPELR – 55339 (SC) AT PP 31-40.
“The Law on this point or issue is well established and it is no longer a scholarly secret that a democratically elected Local Government Council does not exist at the pleasure of whims and caprice of either the Governor or the House of Assembly. The misconception by the State authorities that the constitution does not intend to grant and guarantee autonomy to the Local Government is only a brain wave nurtured by sheer aggrandizement and megalomaniac instinct to conquer and make the Local Government mere parastatals of the State.
That is what section 7(1) of the Constitution has set out to address, and it must be so real and construed purportedly. The Constitution and its provisions are to be read and construed broadly and liberally to promote their purpose”.
Furthermore, THE STATE (1980) 9-11 SC 130, ONYEMA VS OPUTA (1987) 6 SC 362 AT 371, thus as Nweze JSC, had put in GOVERNOR OF EKITI STATE VS OLUBUNMO (supra) “the intendment of the constitution is to vouchsafe. The inviolability of the sacred mandate which the electorate at that level democratically donated to the Local Government Chairman and Councillors”. Also, in EZE & ORS VS GOVERNOR, ABIA STATE (supra).
‘ …It is almost becoming a universal phenomenon that democratically elected Governors have constituted themselves a specific most dangerous to democracy in this country”.
We have copiously quoted these extant judicial decisions in order to re-echo here that the flagrant disregard of subsisting Court decisions on the status of democratically elected Local Government Councils by the Plateau State Government, which the Plateau State House of Assembly has laboriously defended shows clearly the State Government’s anti-democratic tendencies.
We condemn in its entirety the unconscionable stance of the Plateau State House of Assembly in defending anti-people actions especially those capable of stifling the growth and development of the grassroots.
We therefore, call on the Inspector-General and the Commissioner of Police to not only discountenance the nuances of the Executive Governor and House of Assembly and execute the subsisting order of the Court by providing security to the 17 democratically-elected Chairmen and Councillors to resume their offices.
Once again, it should be reiterated as Abdullahi, PCA and Ndukwe-Anyanwu JCA – did say respectively in ABUBAKAR VS A.G FEDERATION (2007) 3 NWLR PT. 1072, 601 CA AT 619 AND A.G BENUE STATE VS UMAR (CA) (SUPRA) AT 363, that an elected person is not an employee of anybody except the electorate that voted him in. It is only the electorate that voted him into that office that can fire him.
Democratic elections should always be sacrosanct in this country like in any other country. For democracy to thrive, Local Government Chairman and Councillors being persons duly elected by the people cannot just be removed and their Councils dissolved whimsically and arbitrarily by any other elected persons in clear abuse of their office and powers.
It is not right in law and under the constitution to do that’.
By and large we align ourselves with the position of the law as adumbrated in Seyi Makinde vs ALGON (2021) by the Supreme Court that the “practice of Governors dissolving democratically-elected Chairmen is unconstitutional, null and void “, and nothing more!
What the Plateau State House of Assembly has done in active collaboration with Governor Caleb Mutfwang is a direct affront on the tenets of democracy, simpliciter, and we shall have none of it under whatever guise!
In this context, we humbly appeal to Mr President and the powers-that-be to direct a prompt restoration of dissolved Local Government Councils in compliance with Supreme Court decision in YANTABA Vs GOVERNOR OF KATSINA STATE (2022) 1 NWLR PT. 1811 AT 259 and similar landmark judgments enforcing Section 7 (1) of the Constitution.
Finally, we wish to once again commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR for his visionary leadership and for rising in defence of democracy while also saluting the courage, resilience and professional proactiveness of the Inspector-General of Police and the Plateau State Commissioner of Police towards forestalling the break down of law and order in the State.