The Oyo State Government, on thursday rejected the purported intervention of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over the ongoing controversy surrounding local government dissolution in the state.
Reacting to a letter allegedly written by Malami to his office over the dissolution of elected local government council executives, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo, in a four-page letter to Malami, said although the AGF did not submit the said letter to his office, he had to source the same from the social media in view of the weighty nature of the issue.
According to Oyewo, the AGF has no business dabbling into the matter of local government dissolution in the state which is pending before the Court of Appeal. He added that the letter credited to Malami was uncalled for, misguided and lacking in merit, as far as the constitution of Nigeria is concerned.
He said: “I must note that under Section 7(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which you referred to in your letter, it is the law of the state government that is to ensure the existence of the system of local government by democratically elected local government council by providing for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils and not a Federal Law/Act.
“It is therefore not clear under what Act of the National Assembly the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice was acting in writing the letter under reference. It should be borne in mind that our Constitution has established a federal system of government whereby the state government is not under the command of the federal government, neither are we under military era when the federal government could give a binding order to the state government by mere proclamation and at will. We are now in a civilian dispensation and the position of every officer whether at the federal or state level is guided by the provisions of the Constitution and relevant law.”
The commissioner maintained that Malami’s letter dated 14 January, 2020, was written without adequate information and knowledge of the current position of the subject matter of local dissolution government in the state.
He noted that the issue of local government dissolution in the state is a subject of stay/appeal that is pending before the Court of Appeal in two cases including Governor of Oyo State Vs Basorun Bosun Ajuwon, appeal no CA/IB/300/2019 and Basorun Majeed Bosun Ajuwon Vs Governor of Oyo State, appeal no CA/IB/362/2019, declaring that only the court and not the AGF could pronounce an order on the matter, which was sub judice.
“For the avoidance of doubt, please note further that in Oyo State, the issue of local government administration is presently before the court of competent jurisdiction and by our adjudicatory system, whoever is aggrieved by the decision of a court has the constitutional right of appeal. Until such right is exhausted, the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice cannot dabble into such matter. We are aware of the provisions of Section 174 (1) to (3) of the CFRN, 1999 (as amended) but they only relate to criminal proceedings and not civil matters as in this case.
“The action of the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice is therefore uncalled for with respect to a matter that is sub judice. It is only a court of law that can give such an order and not the office of the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice. All the cases referred to in your letter mentioned above are not on all fours with the present cases involving Oyo State because the facts are not the same. A case is an authority for what it decides.
“It will therefore be in interest of justice to allow the rule of law to prevail by letting the pending cases involving Oyo State on the dissolution of local Governments in Oyo State to run their full course in the law courts.
“It is also instructive to note that parties have filed their respective briefs of argument and the appeals have now been fixed for the 19th of February, 2020,” the commissioner said.
He further stated that the Constitution of the country had empowered states to ensure the existence and functioning of local governments, noting that it was not aware of any Act of the national assembly that empowered the AGF to write the letter in which he purportedly “barked orders at the state government.”
Oyewo urged Malami to rise above partisan politics and advice parties to await judgement of the court in the various appeals.