- Last Updated on 04 April 2013
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A proposal to extend the term of office of local government chairmen in Lagos State from three to six years has invited the anger of frontline Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana who has vowed to challenge any such move in court, describing it as “illegal and unconstitutional.” Falana has already served notice of his intentions to Governor Babatunde Fashola and the members of the state House of Assembly.
Though the lawmakers have been silent on this clause that is part of a bill for a law on the Local Government Administration of the state, it was learnt that the issue had remained controversial with some lawmakers supporting it and others kicking against it. A planned public hearing on the bill was last week cancelled with the House giving no specific reason for the action.
Falana, while kicking against the planned tenure extension, cited cases and legal provisions to show the illegality of the move adding that should the House retain the clause and pass the bill, he would see the face of the court if the State Governor assented to it.
According to Falana, the proposal remains illegal in every way and has to be withdrawn or struck down in the overall interests of the people of the state who are already preparing to exercise their franchise should the tenure of the present chairmen and councillors elapse towards the end of this year.
"Therefore, an amendment of the Lagos State Local Government Law, 2001 under which they were elected CANNOT extend their tenure from three to six years under any disguise. Since the proposed amendment takes effect if and when it is passed into law it cannot retrospectively extinguish vested rights and obligations of the out-going chairmen and councillors. In other words, the proposed amendment to the Lagos State Local Government Law cannot take a retrospective effect and thereby elongate the tenure of the chairmen and councillors from three to six years.
"No doubt, the House of Assembly of each State is vested with the powers to make laws for the local governments in the State by virtue of Section 7 of the Constitution. But in exercise of such legislative powers the House of Assembly cannot enact laws with retrospective effect in a way that accrued rights of the people are abrogated," he said adding that in this regard, the constitutional rights of the people of the state to take part in periodic elections of not more than three years to elect chairmen and councillors cannot be extinguished by the House of Assembly.
Warning that the law, if eventually passed, would not endure the test of time because of its controversial nature, the lawyer drew the attention of the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly to the case of the Attorney-General of Abia State & 35 Ors V Attorney-General of the Federation (2001) 17 WRN 1 wherein the Supreme Court held that even though the chairmen and councillors of local government councils throughout the country were elected under Decree no 38 of 1998 which had been repealed, their three-year tenure could not be extended or prolonged by any law enacted by the National Assembly.
"In the same vein, the three-year tenure of chairmen and councillors fixed by the Lagos state LG Law, 2001 cannot be elongated by any amendment whatsoever and howsoever. It is pertinent to remind the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly that their predecessors unanimously kicked against the tenure elongation of President Olusegun Obasanjo through a fraudulent constitutional amendment," he stressed adding that the members of the state Assembly had no moral justification to manipulate the law into elongating the tenure of elected chairmen and councillors in Lagos State.
"Having regard to the penchant of the political class in Nigeria to copy bad examples the Lagos House of Assembly should not be allowed to set a dangerous precedent by engaging in the illegal extension of elected chairmen and councillors in Lagos State. If the tenure of the local government chairmen and councillors in Lagos State is extended through an anomalous amendment of the Local Government Law, all other public officers in Nigeria who were elected via the 2011 General Elections may also want to take advantage of the proposed amendment of the Constitution to elongate their tenure to 2019 without contesting any election in 2015.
"In the light of the foregoing, we urge the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly to jettison the proposed elongation of the tenure of chairmen and councillors of local government councils in Lagos State forthwith. However, if the dangerous bill is passed by the House and signed to law by Governor Raji Fashola (SAN), we shall not hesitate to challenge its legal validity in court without any further notice," Falana threatened.