By Samuel Adegoke
Following last Friday’s Supreme Court judgement that ordered Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to pay salaries and allowances of the sacked elected local government councils for the remaining two years of their tenure, the state has been plunged into over N3 billion needless debt.
The apex court’s judgement implied that the Oyo State Government will pay the salaries and allowances of 68 chairmen, 68 vice chairmen and 610 councilors who the court said were illegally relieved of their jobs after being democratically elected.
According to salaryscale.com, each of the 68 chairmen is entitled to N3,181,611 salaries and allowances per annum while each vice chairman is also entitled to N2,803,392 in salaries and allowances. Each of the councilors is entitled to N2.4 million per annum. The above does not cover severance package.
A rough estimate of the debt, which the Supreme Court ordered the governor to pay by August 7, indicates that while chairmen will rake in average of N432.6 million, vice chairmen will receive N381.2 million. The over 600 councillors will receive N2.9 billion, bringing the total rough estimate to N3.7 billion.
Speaking on the judgement, the outgoing chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, said the Supreme Court judgement has confirmed the chairmen’s position that Makinde was corrupt and lacks respect for rule of law.
He said: “ We are happy with the judgement and it affirmed what we have been saying that this government (of Seyi Makinde) has no respect for rule of law.
“It also shows his( Makinde) recklessness and corrupt act because we have been saying that the illegal arrangement of appointing caretaker committee members was wrong. He has been paying them the same money we will collect again. Oyo State is the one losing.”
The chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors took office on May 14, 2018. They are of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but the governor, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), within hours of his swearing-in on May 29, 2019, sacked them by a fiat, saying their election violated the constitution.
The sacked council members, however, approached the state high court to upturn their removal which they posited violated a subsisting high court judgement obtained on May 6, 2019. The judgement had restrained the governor and the House of Assembly from dissolving the councils since they were democratically elected.
It also restrained the state electoral commission from conducting another election before the expiration of their tenure on May 14, 2021.
The judgement added that it also took its strength from a Supreme Court judgement which declared that governors and houses of assembly have no power to sack democratically elected officials at the local government level.
While the case went to the Appeal Court last year, Governor Makinde had opted for an out-of-court settlement. He offered the sacked council members full payment of their salaries and other entitlements as a compensation but they rejected the offer, insisting that the only acceptable condition for settlement was for the governor to reinstate them. They also posited that it would amount to corruption to get paid for a job undone, and not ordered by the court.
They insisted that the litigation was to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level, noting that it is not about money. They argued that since a president can not remove an elected governor, there was nowhere in the constitution where governors are allowed to sack elected council officials.
Meanwhile, the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party has chided the APC over its celebration on the judgement, saying it only got what the governor had earlier offered them.
Dateline in the crisis
May 12, 2018: Council members elected for a three-year tenure.
May 6, 2019: They obtained a high court judgement restraining the governor and House of Assembly from sacking them.
May 29, 2019: They were sacked by Makinde,two years before their tenure expires.
May 31, 2019: APC wrote the police and the Department of State Services about the dissolution.
June 18, 2019: The state government appealed the May 6, 2019 judgement
December 16, 2019: While the litigation was going on, Makinde appointed caretaker councils for the local governments
December 18, 2019: ALGON directed its members to also return to their offices,with the aim of preventing appointed caretaker members from replacing them.
December 19, 2019: Police warned ALGON members against taking law into their hands.
January 14, 2020: Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) wrote Governor Makinde urging him to reverse his decision on the sack, saying it was illegal
January 27, 2020: Based on Malami’s letter, ALGON members resumed at their offices
January 28, 2020: Oyo State Government sought a 14-day injunction restraining ALGON members from returning to office.
February 5, 2020: The state government opted for an out-of-court settlement
February 10, 2020: Negotiation broke down
February 20, 2020: ALGON wrote state government, saying pay-off without a court order was a violation of anti-corruption law.
February 21, 2020: government asked for more time to explore out-of-court settlement.
February 10, 2021: Supreme Court reserved judgement for May 7, 2021.
February 15, 2021: state government fixed May 15, 2021 for local government election.
May 7: Supreme Court delivered judgement