When Governor Seyi Makinde was inaugurated on May 29, 2019, one of the first unpopular decisions he took on that same day was the dissolution of the Local Government Councils. Chief Bisi Ilaka, his former Chief of Staff announced the sack of the elected Local Government Chairmen and their Councilors.
But the purportedly sacked Local Government officials did not fail to avail themselves with the opportunity presented to them by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in fighting their battles. They stood their ground on the subsisting judgement earlier obtained from the Oyo State High Court which held that neither the governor nor his agents has the constitutional power to truncate their tenure.
Thereafter, they began to mount pressure on the State Government to reverse the illegality. This eventually forced the government to approach the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan. After a few months of legal tussle, the court ruled in favor of the government, giving them a temporary relief.
But on the 7th May, 2021, the Supreme Court nullified the purported sack and declared that the governor and his agents lacked the power to axe the Local Government elected officials. In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, it was held that Governor Makinde acted “invidiously and in contemptuous disregard of a High Court judgement” when he dissolved the democratically elected Chairmen and Councilors, and appointed Caretaker Committees in their stead. It held further that his action was in breach of section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Consequently, it invoked its original jurisdiction under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act and vacated the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, which earlier validated governor Makinde’s action. It held that the appellate court was wrong when it held that there was no reasonable cause of action on the suit the appellants filed to forestall their sack.
It therefore ordered the Oyo State Government to pay each of the sacked Chairmen and Councillors their accrued salaries and allowances. The Supreme Court further directed the Attorney-General of Oyo State to before August 7, 2021 file an affidavit attesting to the payment of such salaries and allowances to the appellants.
Two years down the line, has Governor Seyi Makinde fully complied with this landmark judgement of the Supreme Court? The answer is NO. He has refused not only to lead by example, but by his conduct and countenance denounced the oath he took to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What a country! What a democracy!! What a governor!!!
Few months after the deadline given by the Supreme Court to pay the totality of the entitlements of the sacked officials, the governor only paid a token. He then promised through a written document signed by his then Attorney-General to offset the rest within a period of six months. Since then, the governor has been dilly-dallying, hiding behind his fingers and giving flimsy excuses. This is a good example of executive rascality.
Having waited for so long a time for the governor to do the needful but failed to yield positive results, the embattled sacked Local Government Chairpersons took another step. They approached and secured a garnishee order nisi against the Oyo State Government over N3.3 billion debt from a federal capital territory (FCT) high court. Justice A. O. Ebong, the presiding judge issued the order while ruling on a motion ex-parte marked FCT/HC/BW/M/238/2023 filed by the ex-chairpersons and councillors led by Bashorun Majeed Bosun Ajuwon and others. The ruling was delivered on March 2, 2023.
In spite of the magnanimity of Justice Ebong to the judgement debtor, that is, the Oyo State Government by spreading the payments for a period of one year to make it easy, which is contrary to the three months earlier ordered by the Supreme Court, governor Seyi Makinde still refused to comply. The State Government thereafter appealed against the garnishee order, and that is the status of the case as at today.
The bottom line of this drama is that Mr Governor has taken the immunity he enjoys by virtue of his office to the level of impunity. He has chosen to disregard the judgement of the Apex Court of the land with ignominy and reckless abandon. This unwarranted affront on the judiciary call to question whether the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a toothless bulldog or not.
As the case is interestingly heading back to the Supreme Court again, one wonders what will likely be the dispositions of the judges that will hear the case again. Firstly, towards the Attorney general of Oyo State who is the Chief Law Officer that supposed to give proper counsel to the government. And secondly, towards his principal, Mr Governor who has chosen to spit saliva into the faces of the judges and trample upon the sacredness of the judiciary.
Disobedience to court order has been a serious issue in Nigeria, especially by the people in power who ought to be the defenders of justice. Section 287 of the Constitution which imposes a binding duty on all authorities and persons to obey the judgement delivered by any properly constituted court has been rendered irrelevant as the section is seen as an abrogated section in the Nigerian Constitution.
In a case of Ibrahim vs. Emein (1966) 2 (pt 430)323 CA, the court held that “…It is indeed a sorry situation that such highly placed government functionaries should descend so low to disobey a clear order of this court with reckless abandon. They are supposed to set good example for the people to follow, but instead they tenaciously promoted indiscipline of the highest order by openly promoting lawless in our nation from the vantage point of their seal of power. It is indeed very regrettable to place such type of people in a position of authority.”
This case in question is a judicial battle that Governor Seyi Makinde (GSM) has lost forever no matter what he does. For him to be using his surrogates in the State House of Assembly to attempting to harass, witch-hunt and intimidate the ex-local government chairpersons with trumped-up charges is weird. This is nothing but a legislative abuse, a wayward indictment and an aberration of the highest order. More clearly put, it is an afterthought!
It is indeed laughable that after taking a bowl of pounded yam and topping it with burukutu, the honorable members have now regained their hitherto dead conscience, lost memories and muted voices. They now have in their widest imaginations that certain wrongs were committed between 2018 – 2019 by the ex-council chairmen. I challenge them to tell the whole world what they have been doing since 2019.
One wonders if the intention of Mr Governor is to approach the court he has been consistently disparaging to deal with the “thieves” he has suddenly caught. Now that he has decided to be chasing another wild goose, it is apparent that he will lose both in the court of law and in the court of public opinions. Maybe Mr. Governor has forgotten that he who goes into equity must come with clean hands.
Let him be reminded that the jurists at the Supreme Court are waiting for him and his lawyers to come and convince them to reverse their earlier judgements and overrule themselves. Recently and for the umpteenth time, the Apex Court warned lawyers from bringing back to them the case already decided. I’m cocksure that Seyi Makinde’s lawyers will come back from their new adventures to the Supreme Court technically wounded and with their tails between their legs.
While the ex-local government chairpersons remain the heroes of democracy and rule of law for fighting injustice to a standstill, Mr Governor will cease to be the Executive Governor of Oyo State after May 29, 2027, all things being equal.
The lesson to be drawn from the above scenario is that nothing lasts forever.
“Even the darkest night will end, and sun will rise”- Victor Hugo.
Power is ephemeral!!!
B. Aderemi Ogundele (Jagunmolu)
Governor Seyi Makinde, Local Government, Nigeria, Politics, Government, People