Fact Check

Constitutional Showdown: Supreme Court to rule on LG autonomy battle Thursday

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria is set to deliver a landmark judgment on Thursday in a case that could redefine the autonomy of Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the country.

The case, initiated by the Federal Government, seeks to grant full autonomy to the 774 LGAs in Nigeria, challenging the powers of state governors over local governance and finances.

The Federal Government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, filed the suit (SC/CV/343/2024) to secure judicial approval for several key demands. These include direct allocation of funds from the Federation Account to LGAs, preventing arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders by state governors, and halting the appointment of caretaker committees in place of elected officials.

The legal battle has seen strong resistance from several states, including Ondo, Lagos, and Taraba, which argue that the Federal Government lacks the legal standing to interfere in local government affairs. They contend that under the constitution, local governments are a distinct tier of government with financial allocations determined by state legislatures, not the federal government.

In response, the AGF defended the suit, emphasizing that the aim is to enforce constitutional provisions that guarantee autonomy and democratic governance at the grassroots level. He asserted that the states have failed to demonstrate full compliance with constitutional requirements in managing local government affairs.

During proceedings, the Supreme Court rejected applications from Speakers of state Houses of Assembly seeking to join the case, asserting that such intervention was not permitted under the original jurisdiction invoked.

The impending judgment follows months of legal arguments and deliberations, with both sides presenting their final briefs of argument before a seven-man panel led by Justice Garba Lawal.

The decision is expected to have significant implications for the structure of governance and financial management at the local government level across Nigeria.

Observers anticipate that the Supreme Court’s ruling will not only clarify the constitutional roles of federal and state governments but also set a precedent for future disputes over local government autonomy and governance in Nigeria.