The Unfortunate Support For the Annulment of the Rights of the People And Their Representatives By Hon. Hope Ikiriko ~ Rivers APC

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The Unfortunate Support For the Annulment of the Rights of the People And Their Representatives By Hon. Hope Ikiriko

We have read the response offered by a representative of ALGON, Hon. Hope Ikiriko. We understand that Hon. Ikiriko is an elected Council Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Ikiriko is quoted as saying that we have no business either as individuals or as a political party to react to what we see as the unconstitutional action of the Rivers State State Governor in suspending three elected Local Government Chairmen. 

He is further quoted as noting that the Governor whose action we have roundly criticized derived the power to suspend elected chairmen who are not appointees from Section 64, sub section 3, of the Rivers State Local Government Law NO. 5 of 2018.

Our position on this matter has been properly articulated. We still hold that the Governor acted outside the provision of the Nigerian Constitution. We have stated responsibly that the Constitution has placed the burden of regulating,  monitoring or overseeing the activities of Local Government Councils on the laps of State Houses of Assembly.

In his hasty reaction, which runs counter to the foundational reasons for establishing ALGON, Hon. Ikiriko has not jettisoned our principled position on the illegality of the action taken by the Governor, no matter how well intended it may be.

Ikiriko may seek support for what is clearly a violation of the constitution in the provisions of the Local Government Law. For the avoidance of doubt, our country’s Constitution says in the section which deals with the Government And The People that “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” If Ikiriko is wondering where we derived the impetus, audacity or capacity to comment on this matter, this aspect of the provisions of our Constitution which encourages public participation should suffice.

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In clearly giving life to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its crafters stated inter allia, “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The Constitution further states, “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”

We think that the the suspension of the local government chairmen amounts to the annulment of the power of the people. The power of the people is the foundation of our democracy.

In guaranteeing the place of the people, the Constitution holds, “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.” The right to suspend or remove any elected official thus rests with the people, or their elected representatives who serve in the Legislative arm.

Besides, the Supreme Court in our country has repeatedly frowned at the arbitrariness exhibited by state governors who cultivate the habit of sacking elected local government officials, or interfering with the business of local government councils.

As a former lawmaker,  we expect that Hon. Ikiriko will understand the basis of our intervention. The position of the Local Government law, if it gives the power of punitive action to the Governor,  is defective.

We state emphatically that the operation of the Rivers State Local Government Law, based on the aforementioned provisions that we have copiously quoted, is not consistent in any way with the provision of the Constitution, which has allocated the schedule of duty under reference to the State House of Assembly.

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To the extent of its inconsistency with Constitutional provisions, Section 64, sub section 3, of the Rivers State Local Government Law NO. 5 of 2018, which regrettably empowers the Executive arm or the Governor, or both, to interfere in the affairs of local government  councils without the concurrence of the State Assembly is null and void.

It is our view that this obnoxious clause contained in the Local Government Law ought to be expunged through a review process that only the State House of Assembly is competent to handle.

The notion of separation of powers enunciated by the founding fathers of modern government, and which our system operates, notes that it is an aberration for an arm of government under our democracy to inherit the function of another.

We do not wish to join issues unnecessarily with all manner of persons, including Hon. Ikiriko, save to say that as a responsible political party, the APC shall continue to fulfill its statutory role either as a party in government, or as a party in opposition anywhere in Nigeria.

We advice Hon. Ikiriko to exhibit a high level of understanding of our laws as well as the spirit and letters  of the Nigerian  Constitution when next he chooses to comment on matters of state and national interest.

Accordingly,  we repeat our earlier call on the Rivers State Governor to take meaningful steps to rescind the suspension slammed on the Chairmen of Port Harcourt,  Abua/Odual and Degema Local Government Councils within 7 days. The APC would be prepared, should it become necessary, to test this constitutional breach in court if the Governor does not lift the suspension order.

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Ogbonna Nwuke.
Rivers APC.

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