Nigeria: Supreme Court bars state governors from withholding local government funds

Supreme Court
Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

By Marvellous Nyang

July 11, 2024

The Nigerian Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for state governors to withhold funds meant for local government administrations.

Delivering the judgement on Thursday, Justice Emmanuel Agim, on behalf of a seven-man panel, declared that the 774 local government councils in Nigeria must manage their own funds.

“The government’s power is divided among three tiers: the federal, the state, and the local government,” stated the court.

Additionally, the court affirmed that state governments do not have the authority to appoint caretaker committees for local councils, stressing that these councils must be governed by democratically elected officials.

“A democratically elected local government is sacrosanct and non-negotiable,” Justice Agim asserted.

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The court criticised state governments for bypassing democratic processes by appointing loyalists to local councils, who can be dismissed at their discretion.

Justice Agim dismissed the objections raised by state governors.

The lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government, sought full autonomy and direct funding for all 774 local government councils.

The 36 state governments, through their attorneys general, contended that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

However, in Thursday’s ruling, Justice Agim upheld the Attorney General’s authority to initiate the lawsuit and enforce the constitution.

“The plaintiff’s request is hereby approved, and all the reliefs granted,” concluded Justice Agim.