Financial Autonomy: State govs suffer defeat at S’Court, will no longer withhold LG funds

In a landmark decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court declared that it is unconstitutional for state governors to withhold funds allocated for Local Government (LG) administrations. The ruling aims to end a practice that has persisted for over two decades, significantly impacting local governance across Nigeria.

Justice Emmanuel Agim, delivering the lead judgment, emphasized that the 774 local government councils in the country should have financial autonomy and manage their funds independently.

He noted that state governors have long controlled the funds meant for local governments, effectively depriving them of their financial autonomy.

“The refusal of state governments to grant financial autonomy to local governments has gone on for over two decades,” Justice Agim remarked.

He dismissed the preliminary objections raised by the state governors, affirming the local governments’ right to manage their finances.

The case was brought to the court by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi, who sought an order to prevent state governors from arbitrarily dissolving democratically elected local councils and withholding their funds.

Justice Agim upheld the AGF’s right to file the suit, asserting that the move was necessary to protect the constitution.

“The AGF has the right to institute the suit and protect the constitution,” Justice Agim stated.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court directed that allocations from the Federation Account meant for local governments should be paid directly to them, ensuring that local councils can operate independently and effectively.

This decision is seen as a significant step towards strengthening local governance in Nigeria, ensuring that local governments receive the funds necessary to fulfill their responsibilities and serve their communities effectively. The ruling is expected to bring about positive changes in the administration and development of local government areas across the country.

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