21 States Run Local Government Areas With Caretaker Committees

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These states are running the affairs of local government councils with caretaker committees appointed by state governors.

This is against the provisions of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees the operation of local government by democratically elected officials.

There are 774 local government areas in the country, but the efficiency of the third tier of government has been hampered by the actions of some governors who have been accused of mismanaging funds meant for the administration of local governments.

In the last few months, calls for local government autonomy have increased in Nigeria. President Bola Tinubu has also supported these calls. In May, the Federal Government approached the Supreme Court with a suit seeking to compel governors of the 36 states to grant full autonomy to the local governments in their domains.

Currently, the Federal Government receives 52.68 per cent, states receive 26.72 per cent, and LGs receive 20.60 per cent of the country’s monthly revenue allocated by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, which is domiciled under the Presidency, and is disbursed by the Federation Account Allocation Committee.

LG funds are paid into a joint account operated by state governments and local governments in their domains.

A former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Audu Ogbeh, who was recently interviewed on Channels Television, stated that the Federal Government should discontinue the payment of LG funds to such joint accounts, and move them to accounts solely operated by local government administrations.

“I cannot be sending you money that disappears. You don’t repair primary schools, you don’t do anything. The money vanishes and they say they are paying workers; for which work? Strolling around in the morning and drinking palm wine? These are the issues. Those failures are creating dangerous problems for the country,” he said.

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He added that some governors appointed their stooges as caretaker chairmen for local governments, gave them stipends, and diverted large chunks of the money allocated for local government administration to questionable quarters.

On June 28, 2024, the government of Jigawa State dissolved the elected council chairmen of the 27 local governments in the state.

Earlier, the Jigawa State House of Assembly had amended the local government law, extending the time for fresh local council elections by one year and ordering the appointment of caretakers before the election.

Though the government has yet to provide further information regarding the issue, it is believed that based on the amendment by the assembly, the caretaker committee may take up the task.

Recently, the Governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, appointed caretaker chairmen to take charge of LG councils in the state following a power tussle between him and the erstwhile governor of the state, Nyesom Wike.

On June 20, 2024, the Governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo, through the state’s House of Assembly, confirmed the appointment of transition committee chairmen and councillors for the 21 local government areas of the state.

The assembly confirmed the appointment in line with Section 208 of the Local Government Law, 1999 as amended, as requested by Soludo.

The newly-appointed chairmen are Ifeanyi Chiweze (Anambra East), Fidelis Nnazo (Anambra West), Romanus Ibekwe (Anaocha), Chinedu Okafor (Awka South), Alphonsus Ofumele (Ayamelum), Chijioke Ozumba (Dunukofia), and Stanley Nkwoka (Idemili North).

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Others are Chinedu Ononiba (Njikoka), Val Ezeogidi (Nnewi South), Franklin Nwadialu (Ogbaru), Anthony Nwaora (Onitsha North), Casimir Nwafor (Orumba North), and Shedrack Azubuike (Orumba South).

The state noted that the local government transition committee chairmen will serve for three months in the first instance.

In Imo State, the last council poll was conducted on August 25, 2018; and was the first LG election in seven years.

In Kwara State, the last council election was in November 2017, and caretaker committees had been in charge since 2020.

In Zamfara, the last grassroots poll was held on April 27, 2019, and the state returned to appointees after the chairmen’s tenures expired. In May 2024, the state assembly approved a six-month extension for the caretaker committee.

In Benue, however, elections are scheduled to be held on July 6, 2024, for LG council chairmen.

Other states affected include Bauchi, Plateau, Abia, Enugu, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Yobe, Ondo, Osun, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, and Cross River.

Speaking to our correspondent on the matter, the National President of the National Union of Local Government Employees, Hakeem Ambali, described the constitution of caretaker committees as illegal, adding that it went against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Caretaker committees remain illegal. State governments should therefore abide by the rule, especially with total respect to Section Seven, Subsection One of the 1999 Constitution. It further reinforces the correctness of the President Bola Tinubu-administration in taking a bold step in seeking legal intervention against the violation of the constitution with impunity by state political actors,” Ambali added.

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Recall that the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, had dragged the 36 states to the Supreme Court over the issue of LG autonomy.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, was filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government urged the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from the unilateral, arbitrary, and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicated on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds meant for local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments, rather than through the state governments.

The justice minister also prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents, and privies from receiving, spending, or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefit of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is in place in the states.”

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratic system.”

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