You've no power to suspend us, former Chairmen tell Mutfwang - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Friday, June 2, 2023

You've no power to suspend us, former Chairmen tell Mutfwang

The suspended Chairmen of the 17 local government areas of Plateau State have kicked against their suspension and said such action is potentially damaging to the democratic order. 

Recall that the State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang on Thursday approved the suspension of the 17 LGA chairmen to pave the way for the investigation being carried out by the State House of Assembly.

The Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor, Gyang Bere in a statement said, "The Executive Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang receives a correspondent from the Plateau State House of Assembly vide letter Ref No S/PLHA/ADM/124/VOL.VI/XXX  dated 1st June 2023 recommending the suspension of the 17 Local Government Areas Chairmen. 

"The recommendation for the suspension was based on their inability to make available records of their income and expenditure to the House. In the light of the foregoing, His Excellency hereby approved with immediate effect the suspension of the 17 Local Government Areas structures to pave the way for the investigation being carried out by the House. Furthermore, all property belonging to the Local Government Areas should be immediately handed over to the Directors of Personnel  Management, please." 

In a swift response through a press conference on Friday,  the suspended Chairmen led by the State ALGON Chairman, Alex Naantuam from the Shendam LGA said, "Our attention was drawn to a press release issued by Gyang Bere, Special Assistant Media, to the Governor, conveying the purported decision of the Governor of Plateau State, approving with immediate effect the suspension of the 17 Local Government Area Structures.

"Having painstakingly gone through the said press release, we make the following preliminary observations:
The Governor did not cite any constitutional or statutory support, enabling him to suspend what they described as ‘17 local government areas structures," a phrase which does not lend itself to easy comprehension. If we do indeed understand the actions contemplated by the State Assembly, it was a mere resolution, which is advisory to the Governor.

"In any case, such advice will not override existing legislation establishing the Local Government Councils, as enshrined in the constitution, which is domesticated by relevant laws on the same subject matter in Plateau state. We have gone through the Plateau State Local Government Council Law and we have found out that there is no part or whole of the law donating such powers to the House of Assembly. The powers of the House of Assembly may neither be used to encumber the smooth operations of the local councils nor request or recommend the Governor to suspend or remove any local government chairman or councillor.

"The Plateau State House of Assembly is the maker of the Plateau State Local Government Council law. To act in contempt and utter disregard of the laws made by them is to devalue their functions...  The dispatch with which the Governor acted on the said unconstitutional request leaves no discerning mind in any jot of doubt that the request was procured. The Governor hid behind the finger of the said request to inflict this potential damage on our democratic order."

He added,  "The resolution of the House upon which the Governor allegedly acted is said to be rooted in a petition by an unknown and unascertainable person alleging undisclosed financial improprieties or malfeasance against the 17 Chairmen and members of the Legislative Councils of the 17 Local Government Councils. The petition was not served on any of us. This is nothing but a Machiavellian ambush to achieve a premeditated goal.

"In the light of the foregoing:
In any event, the power to remove the Chairmen for any gross misconduct does not reside with the House of Assembly or the Governor. The procedure for removing a local government chairman is explicitly set out in Section 37 of the local government council law. Just like the Governor, who cannot be suspended from office because he is the chief executive of the state, it is with the chairmen of local government councils.

"Before the purported suspension, the 17 local government chairmen and the legislative councils had approached the court, invoking its interpretative jurisdiction to determine, among others, whether the governor has the power to terminate, suspend, truncate, or disturb their tenure in light of Section 7 of the constitution, which states that "The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed."

"Under the said suit, we filed a motion for an interlocutory injunction seeking the court's order of interlocutory injunction restraining the governor, either by himself or his privies, from disturbing, disputing, terminating, suspending, or truncating the tenure of the local government chairmen and the legislative council. The said motion was served on the Governor on June 1, 2023, at 12:43 p.m. The manifest implication of the above is that having had notice of the said motion, the Governor was under an obligation by law to await the decision of the court on the said motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

"Instead, the Governor poked his hand into the eye of the law. He resorted to self-help. He treated the court process with disdain and went ahead to act despite it...  We have no force of brute power, but we believe in the force of the law, and we believe that the force of the law will prevail. We will report this brazen affront to the law to the court, to which we had run for protection. We have abiding faith in the judiciary to invoke its disciplinary powers to overturn this unconstitutional behaviour. In the eyes of the law, we remain chairmen and councillors, respectively, until the court determines otherwise."

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