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Supreme Court Gives Governors 7 Days To Respond To FG’s Suit on LG Autonomy

Joel Osaigbovo Aluge, Reporting

The Supreme Court has ordered the governors of the 36 states of the federation to enter their defense within seven days regarding the lawsuit filed by the Federal Government. This suit aims to secure full autonomy for the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the country. The directive highlights the critical nature of the case, which seeks to establish the financial and administrative independence of local governments from state authorities.

The order followed an application by the Federal Government, represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, seeking an accelerated hearing of the matter. The application also requested the abridgment of the time permitted for all state governors to file their responses to the suit. This move indicates the urgency and importance the Federal Government places on securing full autonomy for the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

The Supreme Court has issued a directive giving state governors seven days to respond to a lawsuit filed by the Federal Government concerning the issue of local government autonomy. This development is part of an ongoing legal battle over the extent of financial and administrative independence that local governments should have from state governments. The decision by the Supreme Court underscores the significance of the case in determining the balance of power between different levels of government within the country.

In its ruling, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Garba Lawal, directed that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) should respond within two days upon receipt of the processes containing the governors’ defenses. This order is part of the effort to expedite the hearing of the suit filed by the Federal Government to secure full autonomy for the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Meanwhile, Mr. Ben Odoh, the Chairman of the Body of Attorneys General of the States and the Attorney General of Ebonyi State, was present during the proceeding. His presence underscores the collective interest and involvement of the states’ legal representatives in the case concerning the autonomy of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Mr. Ben Odoh informed the Supreme Court that he was not opposed to the request for the abridgment of the hearing date. This indicates a willingness to expedite the legal process regarding the Federal Government’s suit to secure full autonomy for the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

However, he requested that the respondents be allowed 15 days to file their defense to the matter. This request was made despite not opposing the abridgment of the hearing date, highlighting the need for sufficient time for the governors to prepare their responses to the Federal Government’s suit regarding the autonomy.

While declining to extend the time for the respondents, Justice Garba Lawal stated that the Supreme Court’s decision was based on the matter’s utmost national importance and the urgency of the case. This underscores the critical nature and immediate attention required for the Federal Government’s suit to secure full autonomy.

The Federal Government, in the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, has petitioned the Supreme Court to grant full autonomy to all Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country, recognizing them as the third tier of government. This legal action underscores the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring that LGAs have financial and administrative independence from state authorities.

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