LG Autonomy: Supreme Court orders states to file defence within seven days

The Supreme Court has mandated the 36 state governors to file their defence within seven days in a suit filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), seeking local government autonomy. The AGF was given two days to reply after receiving the governors’ defence.

“That within 2 days of service, the plaintiff will reply after being served the reply of the defendant’s counter affidavit,” the court stated.

The directive was issued by a seven-man panel led by Justice Garba Lawal during a ruling on the application for abridgment of time argued by Fagbemi. The court emphasized the urgency of the matter and noted the absence of objections from the state Attorneys-General.

“The decision of the court was predicated on the national urgency of the suit and the non-objection from the Attorneys-General of the states of the federation,” Justice Lawal said.

Additionally, the court ordered that all state Attorneys-General absent during the proceedings be present on the next adjourned date, with fresh hearing notices to be served to them.

“All defendants absent should be served with fresh hearing notice and be in court on the adjourned date,” it stated.

The Attorneys-General of Borno, Kano, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Sokoto states were absent despite being served with hearing notices. Dr. Ben Odo, the Attorney General of Ebonyi State and chairman of the body of state Attorneys-General, confirmed on behalf of his colleagues that they had no objection to the suit.

“I have the consent of all the Attorneys-General not to oppose the motion,” said Odo.

Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), representing the Anambra State Attorney General, requested more time, but the AGF highlighted the urgency of the matter.

“We have filed our written address; from the nature of the case, it requires urgency and I am happy to report that there is no counter affidavit. I want to state that the importance of this matter underscores all the state of the various Attorneys-General of the state,” said Fagbemi.

The court granted the state governors seven days to file their responses and adjourned the hearing to June 13.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, filed by the AGF on behalf of the Federal Government, seeks to prohibit state governors from the unilateral, arbitrary, and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

The Federal Government contends that as a federation, Nigeria is bound by the 1999 Constitution, which the President has sworn to uphold. The suit accuses the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power in this regard.

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