In recent times, there has been a lot of focus on religious organisations, as to their proliferation, operations, organisations and utility. Without the churches, mosques and other faith-based entities, perhaps the case of Nigeria may have been worse than we are currently experiencing, given that many of them have become more of alternative government. This piece is thus meant to assist them to appreciate their legal status, in order to guide their operations more meaningfully.
The freedom of association is well guaranteed under section 40 of the 1999 Constitution to the extent that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests’. Spiritually speaking, God Himself sanctioned the association of persons in Matthew 18:20, where it is stated that ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. The number of churches and mosques in Nigeria are by far now countless and indeed the registered ones are far less than those operating without legal recognition. The emphasis in this piece is on the ones registered by law, specifically by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), in an attempt to help them streamline their administration and management, in line with legal requirements.
Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act deals with Incorporated Trustees and in section 590 of CAMA it is stated as follows:
“Incorporation of trustees of certain communities, bodies and associations:
(1) where one or more trustees are appointed by any Community of persons bound together by custom, religion, kingship or nationality or by any body or association of persons established for any religious, educational, literary, scientific, social, development, cultural, sporting or charitable purpose, he or they may, if so authorized by the community, body or association (in this Act referred to as ‘‘the association’’) apply to the Commission in the manner hereafter provided for registration under this Act as a corporate body.
(2) upon being so registered by the Commission, the trustee or trustees shall become a body corporate in accordance with the provisions of section 679 of this Part of this Act.”
Pursuant to the above provisions of the law, all religious organisations are required to be registered under Part C of CAMA as incorporated trustees and those previously registered under the Land (Perpetual Succession) Act are deemed to be registered under CAMA. The general thrust of the above quoted law is that churches and mosques should be registered and operated as a single central entity, although they are free to have branches all over. Thus, such an organisation becomes incorporated because it has been accepted by law, through its trustees, who are deemed to own all its properties and assets. It is in the same way that companies, such as banks and other legal establishments, have a single registered name with branches spread around for administrative convenience. Now to the issues.
From the foregoing analysis, it is only the trustees of the church or mosque that can legally acquire land or other property on behalf of the church, in the name of the incorporated trustees only. In other words, where branches of the church or mosque desire to acquire land or other assets, they can only do so legally, in the name of the incorporated trustees and not the branch. Even though it may have a constitution, that should only be a document to guide its operations, as the trustees are deemed to be the principal actors in the eyes of the law. Anything done outside the trustees, such as buying land or other assets, will not be covered by law. Afortiori, it can only sue or be sued in the name of the incorporated trustees, for such suit to be competent and justiciable.
What operates in practice presently however, is a different ball game altogether, as most churches or mosques just gather together some persons as figure heads, name them as trustees and then continue to operate outside their influence or authority. In most cases, the trustees are not even part of the day to day administration of the registered entity, as with a case where the leader of the church or mosque is different from and more powerful than the trustees. In many instances, the trustees themselves defer to the leader, especially in matters of decision making. The major challenge is that of mixing culture with law, where for instance, it is deemed to be a taboo for the trustees to question the decisions of the leader, which in most cases are taken under spiritual cover. So, you have a case where some of the branches have acquired land or other assets in their own branch names and have built mighty mansions thereon, in the name of the branch. The Courts have been very emphatic that such assets are as good as wasted or having no owner, as a non-registered entity cannot claim to acquire or own any asset in law.
The technical point to note is that all things must be done in the specific name of the ‘incorporated trustees’ and not any other name or entity. According to the learned authors of Webster’s Dictionary, “Incorporation” is defined to mean ‘to unite closely or so as to form one body, to form into or become a corporation.’ On the other hand, registration means: ‘1. the act of registering 2. an entry in a register 3. the number of persons registered 4. a document certifying an act of incorporation.’
The church or mosque becomes incorporated by virtue of its registration and acceptance. In most cases, the name retained for the church or mosque is ‘Registered Trustees’, instead of ‘Incorporated Trustees’. Section 591 of CAMA makes provision for the method of application as follows:
‘(1) Application under section 596 of this Act shall be in the form prescribed by the Commission and shall state-
(a) the name of the proposed corporate body which MUST contain the words ‘’Incorporated Trustees of’’.
What this then means is that there is no name as ‘Registered Trustees’ under Part C of CAMA which would confer legal personality on such entity, to acquire assets in the name of or to sue or be sued in its corporate name. In law, there is a world of difference between ‘Registered Trustees’ and ‘Incorporated Trustees’ and both of them cannot be used interchangeably. Part C of CAMA only recognize ‘Incorporated Trustees’, and as such, any other description goes to no issue at all and will not be countenanced by law. In the case of Amasike v. Reg.-General, C.A.C., the Supreme Court upheld this position of CAMA, when it stated that for an association to be registered under Part C of CAMA, the name of the proposed body must contain the words “Incorporated Trustees’’. Similarly in the case of Registered Trustees of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) v. Jacob Konah Sheriff, the court in interpreting section 673 (1) & (2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990, which is a similar provision with the provisions of sections 590 and 591 of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004 stated as follows:
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the primary purports of the foregoing provisions of the 1990 Act are the need for registration of a religious body among other designated bodies by the Corporate Affairs Commission. Upon such registration, the religious body shall be known and addressed with the prefix ‘’Incorporated Trustees of …’’
In the above cited case, the court went further to hold that the names, The Church of the Lord (Aladura) and the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Victory Chapel had common disabilities because none of them was registered in accordance with the provisions of sections 673 and 674 of the 1990 Act and that neither of them can sue and be sued in order to protect the proprietary interest of their organizations. Sections 673 and 674 of the 1990 Act have similar provisions with sections 590 and 591 of the Companies and Allied Matters, Act 2004. This is surely not a matter of semantics, as the provisions of CAMA in this regard speak of a binding legal obligation to recognize the registered entity as ‘Incorporated Trustees’ only. No other name or description will suffice. The two scenarios that must be addressed urgently by all churches and mosques are: (i) illegal acquisition of assets by and in the name of their branches, and (ii) acquisition of assets in the unknown name of ‘Registered Trustees’. Good enough that both situations can be and should be addressed by all entities concerned in order not to run foul of the law. In a matter in which the writer was involved up to the Supreme Court recently, the Court dismissed a case that had been tried since 1984, from the High Court, to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court, mainly because the property concerned was acquired in the name of the branch of a church and the suit itself was filed in the name of the said branch, which the Supreme Court held to be unknown to law. To be forewarned, is to be forearmed, as they say.
The House of Representatives is considering a bill to make the Federal Government’s ministries, departments and agencies to reserve 20 per cent of job slots for physically-challenged Nigerians.
The law is being proposed in a bill sponsored by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill 2017, which was first presented in the Eighth National Assembly, was reintroduced and passed the first reading in July 2019.
* ….Head of Civil Service under pressure to quit
More vouchers on the alleged N3 billion contract scam linked to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, have been retrieved by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigators.
There were indications last night that Mrs. Oyo-Ita may face trial along with a former minister and some civil servants linked to some phony contracts.
It was learnt that she has been under intense pressure to quit through voluntary retirement.
Although rumours were rife in Abuja yesterday that the embattled HoCSF had opted to retire by serving a notice, the Presidency said it had not received any such letter.
The only memo sighted by one of our correspondents was Mrs. Oyo-Ita’s notice of days off work from August 14 to August 19.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita did not report at work on Monday, and was absent at the presidential retreat organised for ministers-designate in Abuja.
Investigation by The Nation revealed that additional contract papers and payment vouchers were retrieved from two more ministries by EFCC detectives.
It was also learnt that some permanent secretaries and directors have confirmed their readiness to testify against Mrs. Oyo-Ita.
Preliminary investigations indicated that “if Mrs. Oyo-Ita refuses to appear for further interrogation, there is enough evidence to put her on trial.”
It was gathered that she might be prosecuted along with a former minister, who had earlier been interrogated by the EFCC and some officials involved in the alleged contract scandal.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Our detectives have received more contract papers and payment vouchers, statements from banks and account profiles.
“Certainly, we have more questions to ask from Oyo-Ita whose recovery we are monitoring. We need more sessions with her in the light of revelations from some permanent secretaries and directors of finance from some ministries.”
The source added: “With our investigation in the last eight to 10 months, we have appreciable evidence to put her on trial with a former minister and some top government officials and companies.
“We hope she will help the cause of justice by returning to the EFCC for further interrogation. She is on administrative bail, but her passports are already seized.”
It was learnt that Mrs. Oyo-Ita was under pressure to quit office by proceeding on voluntary retirement.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a text message, said the Presidency was not in possession of any letter of intent from the HoCSF to retire from service.
“Thanks. We have no such letter here, in the event that such a letter exists. This is our position,” he said.
A top civil servant, however said: “Shehu might be right with his response on Monday but the letter might be undergoing routine bureaucratic procedures.
“The truth is that she has been advised by her associates, relations and colleagues in the civil service to quit in order to clear her name.
“Some political bigwigs who have interceded on her behalf also advised her to step aside. I think she might have weighed her options by now. This explains why the speculation of her retirement was rife.”
The Office of the HoCSF yesterday denied receiving any directive from any permanent secretary on the allegation that Mrs. Oyo-Ita had either retired or resigned.
The spokesperson for HoCSF, Mrs. Omowumi Ogunmosile, said: “I have not been briefed by any senior officer or received any official information that the HOCSF has resigned. I have been getting calls from the media. When I asked how they got the information, they said through Mrs. Oyo-Ita’s relatives.
“The only circular I have received from madam’s office is a circular informing the office that she was indisposed and won’t be available in the office from the 14th to 19th of August. That was all. I think by today she should be at the retreat for incoming ministers.”
Culled from TheNation
Kaduna State Chief Judge Justice Muhammad Lawal Bello has sworn-in 40 magistrates, warning them against engaging in any form of corrupt practices.
Administering the oath of office on the magistrates on Monday, Justice Bello told them that they must live above board in administering justice according to the oath of their office.
He, however, asked them to master the code of conduct for judicial officers and the rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners.
The CJ said: “Your conduct must be geared towards saving the legal profession and invariably the entire structure with which justice is administered.
“You must also not forget that the true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good governance..”
The chief judge, however, hailed Governor Nasir El-Rufai for his cooperation, support and good work to the judiciary.
But, the magistrates, who took oath of office one after the other, swore to eschew corruption in the discharge of their duties.
The Directorate of Secret Service (DSS) has explained to the National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Benin City how it investigated some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the February 23rd House of Representatives election in Ikpoba-Okha/Egor.
It said it contacted the Nigeria Communications Commission to do proper confirmation of the phone numbers quoted in its statement of oath.
The DSS was testifying in the petition filed by Hon Ehiozuwa Agbonyinma against the election of Hon Jude Ise-Idehen for the Ikpoba-Okha/Egor Federal Constituency seat.
Hon Ehiozuwa is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the election.
At the last hearing, the tribunal listened to audio tape of an INEC staff making statement on how he manipulated figures for the PDP in Ward Six.
An operative of the DSS, Friday Nwinudee Dumka, who appeared on behalf of the body, tendered statements obtained from some ad hoc staff INEC, statements they gave, and the charge sheets with which they were charged to court in Abuja.
During cross-examination, Friday said the DSS investigated the INEC official in charge of Ward six Ikpoba-Okha local government, Suleiman Ikhuoria.
Friday said Suleiman personally wrote the statement tendered.
He said he didn’t visit INEC office during investigation but wrote to the Commission.
Hon Agbonyinma, however, closed his case with the testimony of the DSS operative.
Counsel to Ise-Idehen, G.C Igbokwe requested for time for him to give his exhibits to the petitioners for them to view.
He said he would call only four witnesses.
Counsel to INEC and the PDP, Akahomhe T.A and A.I Osarenkhoe respectively said they would call eight witnesses.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice O Ogundana, complained about time and adjourned hearing to August 20th, 2019.
The Head, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo, and Partner at Ayodele Akintunde & Co, Ayodele Akintunde SAN, are among those scheduled to speak at one of the plenary sessions of the 2019 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.
The session will be held at Lantana Hall Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Monday 26th August, by 14:00-15:30.
The speakers will discuss on the topic “CULTURAL. LIABILITY AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS”.
Other speakers for this session are; Damilola Odufuwa, a social media strategist, Adedunmade Onibokun, Managing Partner, Adedunmade Onibokun & Co., and Chioma Agwuegbo, the founder of TechHer.
The right to bail is a direct offshoot of the constitutional right to liberty guaranteed under Section 35(1)(a), the right to freedom of movement, presumption of innocence as well as the right to fair trial all in chapter iv of the Constitution.
Bail is the longstanding concept of presumption of innocence, the very basis for the security given by accused persons for their attendance in court at their trial. It has a Constitutional as well as Statutory foundation. What then is bail? Simply put, it is the process by which an accused person is released temporarily from state custody to sureties or in certain cases, on personal recognizance on conditions given to ensure his attendance in the court whenever he is required, until the determination of the case against him.
Bail usually arises in three instances in the criminal justice system thus:
The gravamen of this piece however shall be on bail pending trial and the intendment for bail condition vis-à-vis its emerging trends in the Nigerian judicial space. It is apposite to state here however that the right to bail is not automatic and is therefore not granted as a matter of course. While it is well established that bail can be granted in respect of almost all the offences known to law, certain conditions must be fulfilled before a person is admitted to bail.
It is important to note however that the imposition of conditions are discretionary powers of the court that must be exercised judicially and judiciously to which is primarily aimed at securing the attendance of the accused in court but not suggestive of a conviction and or declarations of innocence. In Abacha V. State, it was held inter alia that the most proper test whether bail should be granted or refused is the probability that the accused will appear to take his trial….”
This criterion is regarded as not only the omnibus one but the most important. As a matter of law and fact, it is the mother of all criteria. All other criteria are parasitic on the omnibus criteria of availability of the accused to stand trial.
Having briefly stated the rather elementary aspect of the concept of bail with specifics on bail pending trial, I shall now examine the case under review and the conditions as given by the court.
The Economic & Financial Crimes Commission had on the 8th day of August, 2019 arraigned a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on a four count charge bordering on fraud before a vacation Judge of the Federal high Court sitting in Lagos. Iwu was/is alleged to have between December 2014 and March 27, 2015 aided the concealment of over 1.23billion in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited, an act, the anti-graft agency posit, is contrary to sections 18(a) and 15(2) (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and liable upon conviction, to be punished under section 14(3) of the same Act to which the defendant pleaded not guilty on all the counts. Considering the bail application of the Defendant the court admitted the Defendant to bail in the like sum:
Section 165(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provides that the conditions for bail in any case shall be at the discretion of the court with due regard to the circumstances of the case and shall not be Excessive.
Let’s have a closer look on the 4th condition to wit:
“Both sureties are to furnish the court with the statement of their bank accounts showing a minimum balance of one billion naira”.
The courts have held on what amounts to be “Excessive, punitive or stringent bail conditions to mean conditions that are too harsh and may not be easily met or fulfilled by the defendant and thus defeating the very essence of the bail: see Akila & Ors V. Director General State Security Service & Ors. The Mariam-Webster Dictionary defines “Excessive” as amount or degree too great to be reasonable or acceptable.
As stated earlier in this piece, the very essence for the grant of bail is securing the attendance of the accused person.
On the strength of the above therefore, can it be rightly said and yours truly that a professor and or a civil servant in the Federal Civil Service of the Federal can be reasonably presumed to have in his account a minimum balance of N1 billion Naira, can the legitimate income of a civil servant of grade level 16 have (him) in his account such a humongous sum? In Uduesegbe V. FRN (2014) LPELR- 23191 (CA) the court held.
“Trial courts are enjoined to be liberal in their approach to grant of bail and the conditions thereof in non-capital offences. They are thus to grant bail on favourable and affordable conditions. It has been held that it is against the spirit of the law to impose excessive and stringent conditions for bail as that would amount to a refusal of bail. Where the conditions are stringent, the trial court or an appellate court has a duty to vary the conditions.”
The right of an accused person to be released on bail is germane to the just and efficient dispensation of criminal justice the world over. While it is agreed that such a right is not automatic or absolute, effort must be seen not to refuse bail for punitive reasons but for valid reasons and reasons that will further the cause of justice. Where any bail condition is seen to be excessive or punitive, it loses its purpose, function and goal.
The right to bail is a fundamental human right provision in our Constitution, it is my humble view that the condition to be considered for granting same should not be left to the discretion of any individual, panel or a group.
 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. see also sections 35(4 &5) and section 38
See Onyebuchi v. FRN (2009) All FWLR (Pt. 458) 341
. note that persons accused of an offence punishable with death shall not be released on bail except in special circumstances.
. (2002) FWLR (PT. 98) 863
. The State v Kasimu (2014) LPELR-23468 (CA) per Akeju JCA, (pp.14-15 paras G-D): Asari Dokubo v. FRN (2017) All FWLR (Pt. 375) 588 Per Tobi JSC @ 589 PARAS a-d.
. emphasis are mine
Written by L.G Jamala, Esq.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has proceeded on annual vacation in line with the democratic practice as a letter had been transmitted to the state House of Assembly, to transfer powers to his deputy, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, who will act as governor for the period.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, who said the governor would commence his 14 -day working leave on “Monday, August 19, 2019, and expected to resume Wednesday, September 4, 2019.”
Ajiboye, in the statement, said: “Ondo State governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, on Monday, August 19, 2019, begins a 14-day working vacation.
“The governor is to resume on Thursday, September 4, 2019.
“Before he proceeded on the annual leave, Arakunrin Akeredolu transmitted a letter to that effect to the state House of Assembly.
“The deputy governor is to perform the functions of the governor’s office while the governor is away.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has banned the use of the English language as a means of communication during any traditional events in any part of the state.
The governor, who gave the directive on Monday in Ado-Ekiti during the First Ekiti State Arts and Culture Stakeholders’ Forum, said it has now become an offence for anyone to communicate in the English Language during traditional events.
Fayemi said his administration was desirous to promote arts and culture in the state through Yoruba and Ekiti dialects, saying this will make the step imperative at this point in time.
Fayemi, who was represented at the event by the Head of Service, Mr. Deji Ajayi, revealed that the state will hold its Festival of Arts and Culture in December as part of the ways to boost its economy.
The governor added that there were empirical statistics and evidence to prove that there was a need for the state to enhance the skills and capacities of the youths since government alone can not solve the issue of endemic unemployment in the system.
“From today, henceforth, the government has banned the speaking of English in any cultural programme. Whoever that will participate in any traditional programme must speak Yoruba or our dialect.
“In the primary school teachers’ recruitment exercise we advertised recently, we wanted to employ 1,100 teachers and over 19,000 had applied on our website. This shows that the government must develop the skills and capacities of our youths to be able to be on their own.
“We are going to organise Ekiti State Festival of Arts and Culture in December this year to enhance our capacities in crafts, dancing, weaving and other vocational areas of arts.
“We should not forget to teach our children those values that will make Ekiti to remember their heritage and sustain our culture as a people.”
Fayemi said that the government would build a new traditional rulers’ Secretariat for monarchs in the state to make them more active and functional.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJLS) of different states of the Federation and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJL) have provided for new vistas that will improve the jurisprudence of the Justice Delivery System in Nigeria and stem the improper use of Investigative Powers.
Section 323 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Edo State 2016, though enacted in 2018,(which is impari materia with similar Sections in other ACJLs and the ACJA), provides inter alia and if I may paraphrase,that when an Investigating Officer of the Police or any Agency of Government charged with Law Enforcement profers a Charge against a Defendant in a Criminal Trial, which Charge is later found to be frivolous or the facts upon which the Charge is brought are found to be false ,the Investigating Officer is liable to pay compensation to the Defendant who is now treated as a victim for the pain and damage suffered by him due to the indiscretion of the Investigating Officer.
The Section also provides that if the Officer fails, refuses and/or neglect to pay the compensation that enures due to his indiscretion after an Order of Court that he should pay the victim the compensation ,the Officer shall be liable to be sent to prison ,until he purges himself of the now contempt of Court by paying the Court Ordered Compensation .
This Provision is quite apposite, as it now precludes the abuse of Investigating Powers and brings any improper use of Investigating Powers under Judicial Review and possible Judicial Hammer.
The fact alone that an improper Investigation can lead to liability, is a great red flag that will put the Investigating Authorities on their toes. The awareness of this new provision, however, is quite obscure even among Counsel.
It is my submission that a Court which comes to a finding of facts after trial, that Investigating Officers have abused their Powers should even suo moto invoke the Section of the ACJL or the ACJA that provides for compensation for victims and give a proportionate penalty, during its Judgement.
It may, however, be the duty of Counsel to bring this Section to the attention of the Judge during the final written address and also his duty to get the victim during his Examination-In -Chief to state facts that will allow the Judge arrive at the irrefutable conclusion that the Investigating Officers have abused their investigating powers.It is also my submission that liabilities flowing therefrom from the abuse of Investigating Powers can accrue against every member of the Investigating team and even the supervisory officer that upheld their recommendations to proceed with an arraignment of an innocent victim.
I also submit further that should the Judge gloss over the issue in his Judgment and refuses to make the proper order, the victim or his Counsel can by an Application or an Originating summons approach the Court to get the compensation for the victim.
The Courts should, however, have the courage to ensure retributive justice by slamming Orders to pay compensation to victims on erring Investigating Officers and their Supervisors to serve as a deterrence to others and interrogate the seemingly impunity, that currently pervades the process.
It is an axiomatic fact that one of the most innate and cancerous problems In Nigeria today is corruption. You will agree with me that this logjam(corruption) has been the order of the day right from the birth of the giant of Africa and has become so pandemic that it has dug deep into the fabrics of various institutions in the country- social, economic, political, educational, legal, etc.
Public officers, in fact, are said to be the most vulnerable citizens to the waves of this churlish phenomenon. Thus, this stimulated the enactment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (hereinafter referred to as The Act) in 1991 by the Babangida led administration.
The Act is established to provide for the establishment of the code of conduct bureau and tribunal to deal with the complaint of corruption by public servants for the breach of its provision. It aimed to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standard of public morality and accountability (see section 2 of The Act). In other to achieve this aim, The Act did not only establish a code of conduct tribunal with the power to hear and determine the breach and non compliance with the The Act (see section 20 and 21 of The Act), but also established a body known as the CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU.
The functions of this bureau are enumerated under section 3 of the Act but the function which is quite relevant here is section 3(d) which reads thus;
3d) receive complaint about non compliance with or breach of this act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaint to the code of conduct tribunal established by Section 20 of the Act in accordance to section to the provision of the section 20 and 25 of this Act:
Provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non –compliance, no reference shall be necessary.
The Act remains laudable for it houses overwhelming and surmountable provisions. However to what extent can it maintain its laudability? To my mind, to the extent of it not contravening the provisions of the the supreme law of the land; the constitution and In this case, The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999( as altered) (hereinafter referred to as The Constitution) for the constitution is the supreme law of the land and if any law is inconsistent or contravene the provisions of the constitution, such law is liable to scream for survival in the abyss of voidability, nullity and unconstitutionality. See the cases of NURA OCAHALA VS FRN suit No: SC. 728/2013, INEC VS MUSA(2003)3NWLR PT 806 pg 72. Also relevant is section 1 of The Constitution.
Having this in mind, the appraisal of the proviso to Section 3(d) is compelling. To do this, the pertinent question that begs for answer is worded thus: IS THE PROVISO TO SECTION 3D TO THE CODE OF CONDUCT TRIBUNAL ACT CONSTITUTIONAL?
By section 4 of The Constitution, the National Assembly is empowered to make law for peace, order and good government. According to Dr. Sambo A.O.(a lecturer in the Department of Public law, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, during a constitutional law class in 2018), the phrase” for the peace order and good government” Is incorporated to express the widest amplitude of the extent of the legislative powers. As wide as this power is however, it is not devoid of circumscription. Thus, One of those limitations can be seen in section 4(8) of The Constitution. The provision is reads;
“save as otherwise provided by this constitution… and accordingly, the National Assembly shall not enact any law, that oust or purport to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law” ( italics mine)
The import of the above provision is that the National Assembly are restricted from making any law that will expressly or impliedly preclude a court of law or any judicial tribunal established by law from exercising the jurisdiction given to it by the constitution or law.
Premised on the above, it is my humble opinion that the proviso to section 3(d) of The Act purports to oust the jurisdiction the Code of conduct Tribunal and as such is unconstitutional, null and void. For ease of reference and clarity, I deemed it fit to reproduce the proviso and demystify the the words; oust, purport and jurisdiction.
The proviso reads thus;
Provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non –compliance , NO REFERENCE SHALL NOT BE NECESSARY.( italics mine)
From the stable of Bernard Garner’s BlacksLaw Dictionary, OUST is defined to mean “ To force ( a person) from a position of power for the purpose of serving as a replacement”. JURISDICTION is defined by the same dictionary to mean “the court’s power to decide a case or issue or decree while PURPORT by the English Dictionary, in its verbatical form, is defined to mean “ TO INTEND”.
Based on the foregoing, it is my humble submission that this proviso intends to force the tribunal from the power invested in it by The Act to hear and determine the breach or non-compliance with The Act by replacing with a written admission. This intention can be discerned from this assumption: let’s say the person concerned has made a written admission but, the bureau goes further to make reference to the code of conduct tribunal and the person concerned raised the defence that he has already admitted in writing. What is expected of the tribunal? To strike the case out for it is not necessary in view of the compellable nature of the proviso even if there it glaring that the person actually breach or did not comply with the code.
Alternatively, it is my view also that the proviso is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution. The reason being that in the case of INEC VS MUSA, the Supreme court was of the view that a law is not only inconsistent with the provision of The Constitution where it goes contrary to it but also if it competes with its provision in an area it has already covered. Thus, on a legal foray through the constitution, particularly the 3rd schedule to The Constitution; paragraph 3 which exhaustively enumerate the functions of the CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU, the paragraph does not contain what the proviso in question reads despite the fact that it has the provision similar to that of section 3(d). Based on this, the proviso is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution and as such null and void pursuant to section 1(3) of the constitution.
In conclusion, I am of the opinion that the proviso to the section 3(d) of the code of conduct tribunal Act is unconstitutional, null and void for it purports to prevent the code of conduct tribunal from exercising their power to hear and determine cases relating to the breach or Non compliance with the Act, when the person who breaches the provision of the Act makes a written admission to that effect.
Written By U.O Erinle, A 300 LEVEL LAW STUDENT OF FACULTY LAW, UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN
DAILY LAW TIPS (Tip 394) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)
REQUIREMENTS FOR BEING A COMMISSIONER IN ANY STATE IN NIGERIA.
Appointment of commissioners of the government of any state in Nigeria, is guided and regulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As such, no governor or state House of Assembly can change, modify or alter the guidance and regulation of the constitution on appointment of commissioners f government of a state. The only requirements for any person to be made a Commissioner in any government of any state in Nigeria are the same requirements for any person to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly of any state in Nigeria. And, the requirements are;
A Commissioner of a government of a state in Nigeria, must;
1. Be a Nigerian citizen
2. Be more 30 years old or more
3. Be educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
4. Be a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.
5. Not be a person that is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth but is also a citizen of another country by any other means apart from by birth.
6. Not be a person that is adjudged or declared to be lunatic or of unsound mind under any law in Nigeria, except where such decision is on appeal before any court of law and such appeal is not withdrawn or abandoned or completed.
7. Not be a person that has a sentence of death imposed on him or sentence of imprisonment or fine for offence involving dishonesty or fraud or for any other offence imposed on him by any court of law or tribunal or competent authority. Except where such decision is on appeal before any court of law and such appeal is not withdrawn or abandoned or completed.
8. Not be a person that has within less than ten (10) years from the date of his appointment as Minister has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or contravention of the Code of Conduct.
9. Not be a person that is undischarged bankrupt, having been declared bankrupt by any law in Nigeria except where such decision is on appeal before any court of law and such appeal is not withdrawn or abandoned or completed.
10. Not be a person that is employed in the public service of the Federation or any state and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment at least 30 days before the date of his appointment.
11. Not be a person that is a member of a secret society
12. Not be a person that has not presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, it must be noted that although the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, provides that the requirements for a person to be appointed a Commissioner are same for any person to be elected to the House of Assembly of a state in Nigeria, the constitution failed to mention that the clearly elective specific requirements of “being a member of political party” and also the “presentation of forged certificates to INEC” will be waived for appointment as a commissioner. Hence, following the requirements for a person to be elected as member of House of Assembly as those for any person to be appointed a commissioner, strictly, may cause some boat rocking. To some persons this issue may appear trivial and mere academic but it can be a point for one to approach the courts for interpretation. There is need for this part of our constitution to be amended for clarity.
My authorities are sections 28, 106, 107, 192(4), 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
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ACTIVISTS and members of a civil society group, Global Integrity Crusade Network (GICN), have urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to order the arrest and prosecution of a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN), in the next seven days for alleged corruption and abuse of office.
In a petition addressed to the chairman of the anti-graft agency, dated Tuesday, August 13, and titled: “Pending allegations against Mr Micheal Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN) bordering on fraud, corruption, flagrant abuse of his office as Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice between 2007 to 2010 as well as involvement in the $182 million Halliburton scam,” the group spoke in Abuja through its Director of Special Duties, Akan Augustine Eneji.
The petitioners alleged that in 2010, Aondoakaa was stripped of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, following several petitions against him for alleged unethical conducts while he was the AGF.
The petition reads: “We recall with bitterness how Aondoakaa, being a close associate of James Ibori, the disgraced former governor of oil-rich Delta State, worked openly to undermine the independence of the EFCC and to derail domestic and international efforts to bring Ibori to justice.
His strong-arm tactics and near usurpation of the powers of the commission earned him considerable notoriety…”
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation shall be hosting a sensitization seminar for external Solicitors at Abuja and Lagos respectively on the theme: “THE ROLE OF DEPOSIT INSURANCE IN PROMOTING FINANCIAL SYSTEM STABILITY”.
According to the Leadership Report of August 15, 2019, not TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), the schedule is as follows:
Venue: Zeus Paradise Hotel, 1 Gitto Street Mabushi, Abuja
Date: 19th August, 2019
Venue: Colonades Hotel, 24 Alfred Rewane Street, Ikoyi, Lagos
Date: 22nd August 2019
Keynote Address shall be delivered by Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, FCIB, mni, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Belema A. Taribo, Board Secretary/Director Legal Department, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Thursday empaneled two committees to screen the party’s governorship aspirants Kogi State and Bayelsa State.
The committees will commence the screening exercise on Monday, August 19.
The venues for the committees’ sitting are the NWC Hall of the party’s national secretariat in Wuse, Abuja, and the PDP’s Legacy Office in Maitama, Abuja, for Kogi State and Bayelsa State respectively. Both screening will begin by 9 am. Abuja at 9am.
The Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde will head the screening of the Kogi State’s governorship aspirants while Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, will head the screening of Bayelsa State’s governorship aspirant.
Other members of the Kogi State’s screening committee are Senator Clifford Pediatrician, Lamis Shehu Dillon, Hasana Dikko while Chief Boyelayefa Debekeme will serve as secretary of the committee.
Those on the committee to screen governorship aspirants in Bayelsa State are Chukwuka Onuema, Mrs. Laurentia Mallam and Aisha Aliyu. Maurice Tsav will serve as the committee’s secretary.
In addition, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, will head appeal screening committee, which is expected to sit on Wednesday, August 19.
Other members of the appeal committee include Abubakar Mustapha, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Ibrahim Kazuare, Dr. Essy Olafeao, Emmanuel Ogodo, Austin Umahi, G. T Kataps, Theophilus Dakashan, Mrs. Dewunmi Williams and Ms. Devine Arong Amina, Victor Kwon will serve as secretary of the appeal committee.
According to a document signed by the National Organising Secretary of PDP, Col. Austin Akobundu (RTD), the setting up of the panels were in line with party’s Electoral Guidelines for primaries.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan has reiterated his appeal to the executive arm of government on the need to be on the same page with the National Assembly to reverse “the undesirable trend of the current budget cycle in Nigeria.”
Lawan was quoted in a statement by his spokesperson, Ola Awoniyi to have spoken at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on his return from the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia yesterday.
“We need to work for a budget that will be passed by the National Assembly by December. That requires that we work assiduously with the executive arm of government, to have the budget laid before the National Assembly by the end of September, and for the National Assembly to lock up the whole of October this year for budget defence, so that it can be processed and passed before we go on Christmas break. It is doable, it is achievable and attainable.
“I’m sure if we are able to achieve that, Nigeria’s economy will witness a boost. Businesses in Nigeria will have something predictable to work with. I believe that together with the executive arm of government, we should be able to do this, as this is fundamental to us in the National Assembly, and I’m sure the executive arm is also looking forward to that,” Lawan said.
He said, with the recent constitution of the relevant parliamentary committees, the ninth National Assembly is now more prepared and ready to work for Nigerians.
Lawan was full of gratitude to God for the opportunity to be part of the over 60,000 Nigerians that participated in this year’s Hajj.
“We prayed for our country to achieve optimal security, to have stability, peace and progress.
“We prayed for the National Assembly too. It is our prayer that the ninth National Assembly will be one to work for Nigerians and for the benefit of those who voted for us,” he said.
Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN has assured all students coming to the school of their safety in all campuses.
In an interview with THISDAY, Chiroma said security of both students and staff remained a top security of the school.
The assurance came on the heels of complaints by students and parents who claimed that students who studied law abroad were being posted to Yola Campus where security remained an issue.
But the DG of the law school dismissed such fears.
“I have no reason to post somebody to where his/her security would be compromised because I am the head of this institution and I am accountable, nobody knows anybody except me.
“If there is a security risk, I see no reason why I will have to post a student to that area. This is our own mandate to do our own job the way we should do it and I am sure somebody would not sit down somewhere and decide how this job is to be done.
“As a journalist, I believe you place the society first and foremost above other interests because that is what we, in the legal profession do,” Chiroma said.
He described the allegations that students were being posted to Yola in order for him to benefit as baseless.
He said: “The issues you raised are mere allegations because I have been here in the last one and a half years. If you turn behind you, you will see the number of director-generals that have been here before me and they served very well.
“Since I became the director-general, we have posted foreign students just once. The issues you raised on indiscriminate posting of students to campuses without security consideration is something I don’t understand.
“You mentioned Kano and Yola. What is the security challenge in Kano and Yola? I can tell you there is no security challenge in Kano. Even in Yola, there is no security threat. I think the allegation is coming because I am from there.
“I have no reason to post my students where there is a security risk. It may interest you to know that I am the founding director-general in Yola. I went there to open that campus and I served there for about five years. I went there at the peak of Boko Haram. So, I can tell you if there is security issue or not in Yola.”
He explained that the issue of posting students in the Nigerian law school was a simple one.
“For me as the director-general and as an academic, I don’t treat students differently. Whether you are from oversea or Nigeria, we are all Nigerians and it is our duty to treat all of them equally,” he said.
He explained that in the past students who studied abroad used to be in Abuja.
“But the issue is, I cannot treat those who studied overseas differently from those who studied in Nigeria because they are all Nigerians. When we post, we don’t look at where you are coming from, we post based on available space in our campuses.
“We have five campuses and Abuja. Since I came in, I said each and every student is a Nigerian, he or she must be posted to campuses and that is what I have been doing.
“That is what we did in the last posting and I want to assure you that it will continue. On the allegation that I am posting people to Yola for personal reasons, the total capacity for Yola campus is 370, so if it is something else I would have increased the quota to 1,000 like Abuja or 1,400 like Lagos. People think for others the way they think. I am here sitting in trust, I see no reason why I will post people to Yola just because I want to increase their quota.
“We posted students to Yola, to Enugu, to Yenagoa, to Kano and to Lagos, why is there no allegations that we are posting people to Lagos that has capacity for 1,400 or Kano that has capacity for over a thousand or Enugu that has capacity for 900, it is only Yola that is the least of all, 370. Bayelsa has 404.
“Well if you occupy public office, these are some of the things that must happen, we are however grateful for giving us the opportunity to hear our own side of the story.”
He also said there was no backlog of students.
According to him, students on our various campuses just left about two weeks ago.
“Our council approved a backlog session for all students in Nigeria and I am pleased to tell you that only 2,400 students applied, that means there are no law students waiting outside,” he added.
Chiroma said before he came in, there were about 6,000 to 7,000 seeking admission, but said this year only 2,400 students applied meaning that there were no students outside.
Police in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, have arrested a woman who was recently seen in a recorded video flogging and locking a 10-year-old boy in a kennel with dogs.
In the said video which went viral on social media this month, the woman, who has been identified as 24-year-old Onyinye, is seen beating the child with a belt before dragging him into the kennel. She then locks the kennel and walks away.
Her actions were secretly filmed by a neighbour and after the video went viral, many social media users who were outraged called on the police to take action.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmos, said the suspect had been arrested.
“Last week, we got the report of a lady who beat up a lad and threw him into a dungeon of dogs.
“The domestic violence response team of the Lagos State Police Command was activated. The team went into action and the lady was arrested.
“The suspect is in custody and will be charged to court. The boy who happens to be an orphan has been rescued and kept in a shelter provided by the Lagos State Government,” Badmos wrote on her Instagram page.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Bala Elkana, gave further details in a statement cited by Punch.
He said Onyinye, who lives in Aguda, Surulere in Lagos, claimed after her arrest that the child, who happens to be an orphan, had stolen an item in the house.
“On August 14, 2019, a team of detectives from the Gender Unit, Command’s Headquarters Ikeja, arrested Onyinye for assault and child abuse. This followed a viral video on the social media showing the suspect torturing one Chibike of same address.
“The video also showed the suspect locking the boy up in a kennel, sharing space with dogs. The video was widely condemned by well-meaning Nigerians.
“The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Zubairu Muazu, ordered the Gender Unit of the command to identify the woman in the video, rescue the child and make the suspect face the full weight of the law.
“The Domestic and Sexual Response Team, Alausa, Ikeja, also added its voice to the call for investigation with a petition addressed to the Commissioner of Police to that effect.
“The Gender Unit traced the suspect to a liquor store in Surulere and her residence at Aguda. The boy was rescued and taken to a secure shelter. The suspect admitted that she was the one in the viral video flogging the child with belt, but she denied locking the survivor in a cage with dogs. That she only locked him in an empty dog kennel where bags are kept.
“She claimed to have locked up the boy for a few hours before bringing him out. She alleged that the boy took a hot drink in their refrigerator and was misbehaving. That the suspect smashed the side mirror of her Toyota Camry with stone which made her detain him in the kennel.
Found this video on IG: @pinkberryblooom and I think this needs to be investigated. If there’s anyone with any useful info on the source of this video, kindly hit me up. Cc @TunjiDisu1 @aleeygiwa @PoliceNG_CRU @PoliceNG @MirabelCentreNG @thepamilerin @channelstv @YourViewTVC pic.twitter.com/TczvaNlpHR
“Investigation revealed that the survivor lost his parents and was brought to Lagos in 2012 from Anambra State by the mother of the suspect along with his two siblings. The suspect and the survivor are cousins.
“The suspect’s mother is the elder sister of the survivor’s father. The suspect will be charged to court.”
The police have, so far, applauded the resident who recorded the video and reported the incident for further actions to be taken.
The video below shows the child being dragged into the kennel:
* President may suspend top official -N600m found in aide’s account
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has quizzed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita over alleged N3billion contract scam.
She was also interrogated for alleged abuse of duty tour allowance, money laundering and stealing of government funds.
After a four-day grilling during which she was in custody of the anti-graft agency beginning from August 8, Mrs Oyo-Ita has landed in the hospital after being granted an administrative bail. She has been given restricted access to visitors at the private hospital in Jabi area of Abuja where she is receiving treatment.
Although the administrative bail was granted so that she could be reporting for further interrogation from her office, she has not been able to return to the anti-corruption agency’s office since she was allowed to go.
About N600million has been traced to the account of one of her key aides who has been unable to give any justifiable explanation for it.
The EFCC has blocked the account and has initiated the process of obtaining an interim forfeiture clause to seize the cash.
Preliminary findings confirmed that about N3billion has been traced to the Head of Service which came in through proxy companies.
Detectives, it was gathered, uncovered slush funds linked to the Head of Service while probing the activities of a former Minister under who she served as Permanent Secretary.
A source privy to the ongoing investigation said: “Preliminary investigation confirmed that she used different fronts or cronies to obtain contracts from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)
“While tracing embezzlement by the ex-Minister, detectives stumbled on diversion of funds into proxy companies which the Head of Service has relationship with.
“The startling revelations made detectives to dig further into her activities as a Permanent Secretary and Head of Service.
“There were proofs of how she secured contracts through proxy firms from some ministries including Special Duties, Power, Works and others. There was a case of abuse of office because there was evidence of pressure on Permanent Secretaries to get her contracts. She moved from one ministry to the other.
“Investigators also discovered that she was involved in falsification of Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and estacodes
The source added: “About N600million has been traced to the account of one of her aides. This illicit account has been blocked and the EFCC is in the process of invoking interim forfeiture clause.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to apply Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the court.”
A source with full knowledge of the investigation said: ”We have only covered a fraction of the preliminary findings, she will still have to return after completing her treatment.”
But there was a pall of silence in government circle because of the sensitive nature of the EFCC’s findings.
Top government officials, who were aware of the grilling, kept mute in anticipation of a soft landing for the head of service.
But going by precedent, she is likely to be suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
A source added: “Although she is a former official of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) where she worked under President Muhammadu Buhari, the law will take its course if she is indicted by EFCC.
A brief on the Head of Service on the website of the Public Service Institute of Nigeria reads: “Winifred has an impressive and well-documented work experience spanning over 30 years, including being the first female indigenous Managing Director/CEO of Cross River Estates Limited, between 1993 and 1995.
“She later transferred her service to the federal civil service where she was appointed to the rank of Assistant director in July, 1997 and rose to the position of a director, Finance and Accounts in January, 2009 in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
“Mrs. Oyo-Ita Winifred was appointed to the position of Federal Permanent Secretary on the 16th of March, 2013 and posted to the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs as the pioneer Permanent Secretary of the re-established Ministry.
“She was redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in April, 2014. She was appointed as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in acting capacity in October 2015 and confirmed in January 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.”
In line with its tradition of taking hard and difficult decisions with far-reaching implications on the Nigerian system, the present government recently re-emphasized financial autonomy to local governments in Nigeria.
This reminder was contained in a release by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to the effect that from June 1st, 2019, disbursement from the joint state/local government accounts in relation to local government allocations should be credited to local government Account and that states would cease to participate in the meddling of their accounts. This was a seal to the autonomy many Nigerians had been calling for the serially abused local government system in Nigeria. The NFIU directive stopped the control of local government funds by states and limited the cash withdrawals by local governments to N500,000 daily. The move is seen as the most radical in giving the local governments the needed power to manage their affairs and resources outside the states which have treated local government funds as its own and have released paltry amounts to the councils.
The decision has been widely lauded and seen as a way of ensuring the third tier of government lives up to its real constitutional roles as the tier of government nearest to the people and with constitutional capacity to attend to their basic needs more than other tiers of government. Simply put, local governments have been conquered vassal estates of the states and their resources spent at the whims and caprices of the state governments who have perfected the art of rail-roading their hirelings to control these local governments on their behalf. Through a ubiquitous state/local government joint account, the allocations for local governments have been spent as the state governments deem fit and this has grandly defeated the idea behind the third tier of government as the local governments were reduced to mere appendages that satisfy the desires of the states and nothing more.
But with the emphasis on financial autonomy by the present government through this NFIU directive, there is no doubt that the local governments will play more expansive and vital roles in the lives of the citizens if they manage the resources that accrue to them justly. There is no doubt that the bold decision of the NFIU is freeing the local governments from the stranglehold of the states and unleashing their real potentials on the populace, if the monster of corruption and fiscal brigandage is curbed with this new order. There is no doubt that this decisive impetus granted local governments by this government is going to initiate a regime of responsibility, which has been denied this vital tier of government for the greater parts of its existence.
Before this directive, the local government has undergone a macabre rape by politicians and sundry interests that see the system as a milk cow for them and their cahoots while the interests of the people suffer. Every month, humongous allocations have been released to the local governments and these allocations are appropriated by the states through the notorious state/local government joint account and frittered away in reprehensible manners. Through a shambolic state electoral system, state governors effortlessly impose their lickspittle and feckless hirelings to control these local governments and these were often so powerless to ask questions about the resources of the local governments or challenge the governors to let free these resources. So, with this order, the local governments became more appendages of the state governments while the important roles they should play in the lives of the citizens and for which they were created were abandoned to rot.
Successive governments, especially since the advent of the present democratic dispensation 20 years ago, have moaned in criminal helplessness as this misnomer thrived. Yes, the civil society, local government workers and other motley interests have raised a weak call for the reversal of this order but nothing substantial was done to correct this. The Obasanjo regime whelped in sterile helplessness that the local governments had become mere 774 stealing centers but that regime did nothing to correct this in its eight years in power. The Yar’adua government did not even betray any knowledge of the fact that the system was raped by states and their political actors at will. The Jonathan regime, notorious for its lack of will to even recognize the problems afflicting the nation it pretended to govern, showed no inkling that there was any problem with the local government system when he was moonlighting all over. At best, what happened was the raising of some splotches of noise here and there about local government autonomy and nothing more, as the system practically wobbled under the undue meddlesomeness of state governors.
But with the new directive by the NFIU which is notable for taking hard but necessary decisions that stand to nudge the nation forward, there is no doubt that the original intendment behind the creation of local governments would be realized. There is no doubt that from the ashes of near-death, the local government is about to spring forth and take up its constitutional roles and be held accountable for its actions and inactions. This indeed, is a laudable and far-reaching decision that will not only impact on governance but delivery of democracy dividends for the citizens and generations yet unborn will relish this revolutionary action by the Buhari government which enriches the quest for restructuring more than the slanted political manipulations it had suffered in recent times.
However, this new status calls for some follow-up actions and two of these actions stand out for their presumed impact in ensuring the ends of this radical decision are not defeated in the long run. One is on the quality and conduct of elections into local governments and the other is on the focusing of anti-corruption klieg lights on the local governments to ensure they conform to the noble intents behind this decision.
On the conduct of local government elections, one is positively inclined to recommend that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) take over the conduct of elections to local government councils from the state electoral committees who are merely inclined to ram in the cronies of state governors to control this vital tier through the shambolic and horrific elections they conduct to local councils. INEC should take over the conduct of local government election and streamline it with the national election calendar so there would be form and content to local government administration in line with the new lease of life it had been granted. Leaving the conduct of local government elections in the hands of state electoral commissions will wholly defeat the essence of the bold decision to grant financial autonomy to local governments for governors will merely railroad their cronies in as local government chairmen and in cohorts with them, fangle out ways of still controlling the purses of local governments.
Equally important is the need for the various anti-corruption agencies to increase interests in local governments by closely monitoring the finances of the local government to ensure they are not frittered away by the helmsmen of these councils. Granted, a daily cash withdrawal limit has been set but knowing Nigerian politicians for what they are, there is no gainsaying that they will device ingenious ways of short-circuiting the directive as well as other anti-corruption measures put in place to drain the resources of the councils and leave us just at the macabre state the system is now. The anti-graft agencies will have to come closer the local councils and closely monitor their activities if the new policy is not to be frustrated by corrupt players at that level. One way to ensure probity and accountability is to ensure the publication of the monthly allocations for each local government council to enable citizens compare such with the service they receive from these councils. But let the anti-corruption agencies carry out regular swoops on the local councils to ensure they don’t become new drain pipes for the resources of the people.
There are very many other reforms needed to make the local government more effective but granting them financial autonomy as had been done by this regime, is like granting it a soul. This indeed is revolutionary but it behooves on all of us as citizens and shareholders of the local governments to ensure that the noble aims behind this bold decision are not defeated by pernicious politicians and their very many sly ways. We can do this by focusing more attention on the business of local governments and reporting misdemeanors in the system to relevant disciplinary agencies for redress.
All said, this new directive merits any worthwhile praise and commendation for mustering the scarce political will to take this radical decision that will not only restore the potency, viability and importance of this tier of government but redraw the governance map in Nigeria at the local government level.
Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani Esq, Former 2nd NBA.