By Haruna Salami
Senate has urged the Federal Government to withhold statutory allocations to local councils not democratically elected.
Senate resolution followed the adoption of a motion of “urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy: the dissolution of elected councils in Benue State” sponsored by Senator Abba Moro (Benue South).
Moro in his motion expressed dismay over the dissolution of democratically elected councils in Benue state and replacing them with caretaker committees.
He said the placing of caretaker committees to replace elected councils was an aberration and alien to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Moro said that section one of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees a system of local government by democratically elected councils.
He said it was the constitutional responsibility of every state to ensure the existence of local government councils by law.
According to him, “there are subsisting court rulings directing the governor, the House of Assembly, their agents, privies, among others not to tamper with the tenure of the elected councils”.
He said the governor and government of Benue State have not appealed the judgments, adding that it was against the rule of law.
Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra Central), who seconded the motion said section seven of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees that there shall be a democratically elected official of the local government areas.
He said the elected officials across all tiers of government take the oath of office and allegiance to uphold the Constitution.
He said the emasculation of elected local government officials and replacing them with the caretaker committee with the intent of taking over their funds from the Federation Account was a violation of the constitution.
He said the parliament should rise to protect the laws it made by defending the constitution.
Senator Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North) said the truth has no political affiliation, saying that he supported the motion, adding “The Supreme Court had pronounced that state governors do not have the power to dissolve elected local government officials, saying that he resisted pressure to dissolve elected officials of the local government as a governor.
He urged the Senate to prevail on the Minister of Finance not to release funds to any unelected local government officials.
Speaking in the same vein, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South) revealed that about 16 states in the country run their local governments through the caretaker system.
He emphasized that the best the Senate could do was to prevail on the Ministry of Finance, using its oversight powers to stop the release of funds to local government areas operating caretaker committee.
Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) proposed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct local government council elections as the only way to tame the state governors.
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio said it was worrisome that the current scenario was happening in a state controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying that the party should avoid such practice.
He said as governor, he conducted local government elections twice, suggesting that the nation could look in the direction of saddling the responsibility of conducting elections of local government areas to a designated body established by law.
Senate, in its further resolutions, condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue state, and other states of the federation.
It urged the governor of Benue state to adhere to his oath of office to obey the rule of law and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It further urged the governor to review his dissolution of the elected councils and the constitution of caretaker committees and reinstate the elected councils.