Tenure Reduction: Council Chairmen, SDP, Others Floor N Govt, Assembly In Court

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*we’ll appeal judgment  – Niger Govt

By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna

Niger State Government has reacted sharply to a High Court judgement which ousted it’s powers to temper with the tenure of elected local government councils’ Chairmen in the state.

A High Court sitting in New Bussa, Borgu Local Government Council of the state had penultimate Wednesday ruled against the Niger state government and the State House of Assembly decision to truncate the three year tenure of elected council chiefs executives by reversing an earlier law passed in the state which reduced the tenure of elected local government chief executives to two years from three as had previously been in place prior to 2016 in the state.

In a suit filed by the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) along with 14 other registered political parties and 5 local government Councillors in the state over the reduction of the tenure of Local Government Council Chairmen in the state, the plaintiffs had prayed the court to interpret the relevant laws on the tenure of local government council and compel the respondents, the Niger State House of Assembly and the Niger state government to respect the constitution.

But in a swift reaction, the Niger state government had expressed reservations over the verdict and said it will challenge the High Court’s judgement handed down in New Bussa which invalidated the earlier law passed by the state government in 2016 which had fixed the tenure of Local Government Council Chairmen to two years.

The Court presided over by Justice Mohammed Mohammed had ruled that the state House of Assembly, (NSHA) in particular, lacked the powers to amend the Local Government (Amendment ) Law, 2016 of Niger state published as Niger Legal Notice No1 based on which the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello had appended his signature to make it become law sometimes in 2016.

The Social Democratic Party, (SDP), and 14 other political parties in the state  had last year iminitiated the suit via an originating summons on November 15th, 2017.

But the suit was however amended in pursuant to an application dated 7th December which was filed before the same court on the 11th December and was consequently amended on the 14thof December last year.

In his ruling on the matter contained in a 37 page judgement, Justice Mohammed Mohammed had, for almost 3 hours, held that the failure of the 1stdefendant, (NSHA) to comply with the constitutional requirements of amending the Local Government Council Law 2001, rendered the amended law ‘unconstitutional, invalid and as well lacking legal status’.

On the argument whether or not the 1stdefendant, (the NSHA) has powers to ‘make laws reducing the tenure of elected local government council Chairmen in Niger state from 3 to 2 years’, Justice Mohammed Mohammed declared that ‘i do not think so’.

The Presiding Judge affirmed that “on the contrary, it is my humble view that the powers enumerated in sections 4 and 7 of the constitution does not extend to powers to either extend or reduce the tenure of elected local government councils’ executives in Niger state”.

To further buttress his points, he explained that “where a law is invalidated, it would be as if it had never been and the old law will subsist”.

By this, Justice Mohammed further added that “in this instance, where the law was invalidated, the only recourse on local government council tenure would be on the old law”.

The sole issues formulated for determination, according to Justice Mohammed Mohammed were resolved in favour of the plaintiffs and consequently granted all the prayers of the plaintiffs.

Justice Mohammed therefore directed that the ‘defendants, their agents, privies or servants were hereby restrained from taking any action or steps whatsoever pursuant to, or giving effect to any of the provisions of the Local Government (Amendment) Law 2016 of Niger state published as ”Niger State Legal Notice NO 1 of 2016’’.

Meanwhile, Niger state government has expressed reservations over the verdict and noted it’s preparedness to appeal against the High Court judgment which reversed the amendment worked by the state government which pruned the tenure of elected local government councils’ executives from three years to two.

The court’s ruling had carpeted the state government and gave leeway to elected councils’ executives who the verdict gave the right to enjoy a three year tenure as against what the state government wanted to impose on them.

Niger State Government addressing journalists in Minna on the issue, represented by the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Dan-Malam Nasara faulted the New Bussa judgement but gave no detailed explanations or reasons why the state government wants to challenge the verdict.

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