Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) has written to the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and the state’s Attorney General, Charles Titiloye, warning them against violating the constitution through local government caretaker appointments.
NBA-SPIDEL expressed dismay over reports that Akeredolu recently nominated 51 unelected persons as caretaker committee chairmen for local councils, which were approved by the state assembly.
In separate letters by its leadership, the lawyers’ body stated this contravenes Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees governance of LGAs through democratically elected councils.
Quoting several Supreme Court judgments which outlawed such interim committees, NBA-SPIDEL described the appointments as “illegal and unconstitutional”. It called on the officials to respect binding judicial precedents.
While acknowledging Governor Akeredolu’s positive legacy as a Senior Advocate and past NBA President, the section urged him to abide by his oath of office and professional creed to uphold rule of law.
It similarly told the Attorney General to advise the state appropriately on constitutional implications rather than encourage violations that could warrant disciplinary action.
NBA-SPIDEL demanded immediate steps to void the caretaker appointment list and make preparations for democratic local government elections in Ondo.
The body warned of potential misconduct complaints against the state’s top lawyer if the LG matter is not handled properly in line with its advisory.
As lawyers drew a line against erosion of constitutional safeguards, the response of Ondo authorities remains to be seen with regard to adhering to principles of legal ethics and popular democratic governance.
Below the full text of the letter
December 4, 2023
Charles Titiloye, SAN,
The Honorable Attorney, Ondo State,
Attorney General’s Chambers,
Akure, Ondo State.
Our Dear Honorable Attorney General,
PURPORTED APPOINTMENT OF 51 PERSONS AS CHAIRMEN AND VICE CHAIRMEN OF CARETAKER COMMITTEES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS IN ONDO STATE; AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACT WHICH HAS BEEN DEPRECATED BY THE SUPREME COURT IN MULTIPLE DECIDED CASES.
The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) is one of the Sections of the NBA that is mainly devoted towards protecting public interest and entrenching rule of law in the conduct and activities of government officials.
The attention of the leadership of NBA-SPIDEL was drawn to a viral publication indicating that the Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN nominated the names of 51 persons and presented them before the Ondo State House of Assembly, for approval to be appointed as unelected caretaker Chairmen of Local Government Areas of Ondo State. Sadly, we understand that the Ondo State House of Assembly has since approved all the 51 names for appointment as Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of Caretaker Committees of Local Governments Councils in the State. It is instructive to state that section 7(1) of the Constitution, CFRN, 1999 provides that “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed, and accordingly, the Government of every State shall subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils”
It is trite law in Nigeria as the Supreme Court has decided in a plethora of cases that local governments in Nigeria can only be managed/governed by democratically elected officials. The Supreme Court has had cause to declare unconstitutional, the contraptions called “Caretaker Committees or Interim Committees” at the Local Government level in various cases. May we kindly commend the following cases to your much esteemed self, for guidance:
Eze v. Gov., Abia State (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 791) pg. 1399 @1416, paras B-C, ratio 3. Akpan v. Umah (2002) FWLR (Pt. 110) @1838-1839, D-C). Ekiti State vs. Olubunmo (2017) All FWLR (Pt. 873) page 1592 G. Plateau State v. Goyei (2007) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1059 page 57 @ 94 paras A-B. G. Benue State vs. Umar (2008) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1068) pg. 311 @ 363B-F. Honorable Attorney General Sir, we trust that as the Chief Law Officer of the Ondo State it is your noble duty to properly advise the Ondo State Government on the true position of the law before the government undertake any action, particularly on issue of monumental constitutional implications. It will be well to remind you sir, that before your assumption of office, you swore to an oath of allegiance to uphold and abide by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, without fear or favour.
We also wish to remind you sir, that as a legal practitioner called to the Nigerian bar, you are duty bound by the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, particularly Rule 1 thereof which provides that
“a lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.”
This Rule sir, requires you to be honest in every advice that you give and not to encourage any act or omission that may be interpreted as a deliberate infraction of the law and/or encouragement of same. The position of the Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court on this issue, which are now in rem, are well known to you.
Sir, as a learned Senior Advocate who has “achieved distinction in the legal profession”, there is nothing to teach you about the law or professional ethics. So, it is very safe to assume that you understand all we have said or trying to say.
Consequent upon the foregoing, NBA-SPIDEL kindly urges you to use your good office to advise and prevail on the Ondo State Government and/or any arm/organ/department/official of the Ondo State Government to immediately desist from further flouting the sacred provisions of Section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and recall the purported list of appointees and advise the Ondo State Government to take immediate steps to conduct elections that will enable the people at the local government level to elect their own leaders, in accordance with the sacred provisions of section 7(1) of the Constitution.
NBA-SPIDEL, trust that as a well-respected member of the legal profession, whose primary duty is to ensure respect for the rule of law, you will consider our advisory in utmost good faith and quickly do the needful as mandated by the provisions of section 195 of the 1999 constitution.
We absolutely trust that you will not fail to discharge your constitutional and professional duties hereinbefore mentioned, so that NBA-SPIDEL would not have any reason howsoever to initiate any complaint against you before the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee for acts constituting gross professional misconduct.
Our Honourable Attorney General, we hopefully look forward to your ensuring compliance with the afore-cited constitutional provisions and respect for the Supreme Court decisions, in accordance with our advisory herein. Please, do accept our regards and kind assurances at all times.
John Aikpokpo-Martins Funmi Adeogun
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