The controversy trailing the parliamentary system of government adopted at the local government levels in Osun state by the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has again continued to generate reactions as lawyers now engage in accusations and counter-accussations. Writes LATEEF DADA
When Aregbesola introduced the system in 2015, the chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ilesa branch, Kanmi Ajibola, challenged the system in court and joined the state House of Assembly, Osun State Independent Electoral Commission and eight political parties in the suit.
The matter was rested temporarily
According to the appellant, the makers of the law which is the state assembly and the governor of the state as well as the law itself: ‘State of Osun Local Government Areas (creation and administration) Law, 2015’ upon which the processes of the election are based are strangers to the 1999 Constitution and are non-existing.
The lawyer in a 56-paragraph affidavit sought for 13 reliefs including a declaration that the ‘State of Osun Local Government Areas (creation and administration) Law, 2015’ and ‘State of Osun Local Government Areas (creation and administration) amendment (No.1) Law, 2017’ having been enacted by the legislative body that is not known to the constitution and for the state not known to the 1999 Constitution, and having been assented to by the governor in that manner are as such illegal, unconstitutional and should be set aside.
When the local government election was fixed for January 27 2018, the continuation of the proceedings of suit filed by Ajibola was slated for Thursday January 25. Surprisingly, the state government hurriedly declared Thursday and Friday as holiday for workers to prepare for the election, thus stalling the proceedings.
After the election, Justice Kola Adegoke, granted the prayer of the appellant, but the respondents have approached the appeal court to challenge the ruling. The case is still pending.
Revisiting the matter
However, the issue resurfaced recently when a lawmaker representing Obokun/Oriade federal constituency of the state in the House of Representatives, Hon Oluwole Oke, faulted the system still subsisting in the state.
The law maker who described the system as an aberration which should be dispensed without further delay, said the parliamentary system of government under the country’s presidential system of government is abnormally capable of birthing a crisis of monumental proportion. He enjoined the state assembly, in conjunction with the state executive to ensure a speedy reversal of the obnoxious system in order not to bungle the spread of dividends of democracy in the state.
Swift counter reaction
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, the senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Ajibola Basiru, in a statement said, “Ordinarily, we would have ignored the news item as the rantings of another uninformed mind seeking attention but on a second thought, we deemed it necessary to pen this reply because the maker of the statement is a ranking member of the House of Representatives.
He said he decided to respond to Oke’s claims, as according to him, “It has the capacity to mislead the general public and portray the government of Osun in a very bad light. The motive of the lawmaker in raising this issue now is suspicious because the local government law has been operational more than two years ago. One wonders how he suddenly woke up.”
Reacting to the argument, an ex-NBA chairman, Kanmi Ajibola, who has been a critic of the system, described the system as a constitutional aberration and oddity. He chided the former Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s adminstration for running Osun local government parliamentary system contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
According to Ajibola, “During the tenure of Ogbeni Aregbesola as the governor, among others, two ignominious onslaughts were uncorked against the Constitution of Nigeria on the advice of the then Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, now a senator, Senator Ajibola Bashiru.
“For the reasons best known to him, he has made Osun state a subject of constitutional controversy to date. The two blitzkriegs against the constitution are changing the name of the state to ‘State of Osun’ and introducing parliamentary system into the administration of local governments in the state.
The lawyer quoted Sections 2 (2), 3 (1) of the 1999 Constitution while noting that the import and linkage of those sections are that without local government areas, there cannot be a state and where there are no states, there cannot be the federation.
“The Constitution of Nigeria embraces separation of powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary. This is not so under the parliamentary system of government where the functions of the executive and legislative are fused.
“This is to the effect that any law made anywhere in Nigeria which does not embrace this separation of powers cannot be said to be constitutional and legal.”
He cited the Supreme Court in the cases of INEC VS Balarebe Musa (2003) LPELR-24927 (SC) and Attorney General of Abia and ors versus Attorney General of Federation (2003) LPELR-610 (SC) while noting the lawmakers of the state in their act of making laws cannot go outside or beyond what is in the constitution.
“In all, I call on all Nigerians to pay serious attentions to the law making activities of the National Assembly. Should the majority members be the like of Senator Ajibola Bashiru, Nigerian legal system would definitely have some problems and what more, Nigeria’s name may be changed to Banana Republic,” he added.
Meanwhile, the interpretation of the Local Government Administration Law, 2015 has created confusion as the judiciary had on several occasions queried the power of legislators regarding the law.
The state House of Assembly recently suspended the chairman, Ife North local government, Hon Taiwo Orosanya, a decision that attracted condemnation by the bar.
The NBA Osogbo branch in a letter addressed to the speaker, Hon Timothy Owoeye and signed by the secretary and legal adviser, Messrs Saheed Abiona and Maruf Adediran, said the legislators went beyond its power to pronounce suspension of the elected chairman.
According to NBA, the assembly should have transmitted its findings on the alleged gross misconduct to the parliamentarians and not to usurp the power of the parliamentarians.
“We must, with utmost respect, state that the assembly does not possess the power it purports to wield in this respect.
“However, contrary to what the law requires the assembly to do thereafter, it went beyond its powers to usurp the functions of the elected parliamentarians of the Ife north local government by directing the embattled chairman to proceed on suspension for two months.
“We are not oblivious of the fact that the assembly relied on Section 11 of the State of Osun Local Government Areas (Creation and Administration) Law, 2015 to impose the suspension verdict on the chairman.
“We however wish to assume on behalf of the assembly that the reliance was an oversight as the said provision is no longer alive. It had long been killed and buried by the assembly itself.
“The said Section 11 was enacted in 2015 to be an additional subsection to the provisions of Section 32 of the Local Government (Administration) Law, Cap. 72A, Laws of Osun state, 2002.
“However, by Section 20 of the same State of Osun Local Government Areas Creation and Administration) Law, 2015, the totality of the said 32 which above-mentioned Section 11 is an appendage) has been repealed.
“The effect, in plain language, is that Section 32 of the 2002 Law (which is the foundation) and Section 11 of the 2015 Law (which is the superstructure) have been bulldozed by Section 20 of the 2015 law thereby no longer alive or useful for any purpose.
“Mr speaker Sir, we understand that there could be some political reasons for the sssembly’s decision. However, it needs to be emphasised that a well-intentioned act shall remain null and void, no matter the beauty of its result, as long as it is against the law.
“While still retaining our benefit of the doubt, we are confident that if there would be any act of lawlessness, it must not emanate from the law giver itself. This is because if the assembly can be flouting the laws made by it, what would its reactions be if such are done by the governed.
Shortly after receiving the letter, Hon Owoeye, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Kunle Alabi, stated that the system of local government administration in the state is a creation of State of Osun Local Government Areas Creation and Administration Law 2015, insisting that the system is constitutional.
Owoeye who said the bill was duly presented to the assembly by the former governor, Aregbesola, stated that, “Any insinuation or claim that the system or law is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution is misconstrued or mischievous.”
The assembly has recently passed a local government administration amendment bill, preventing parliamentarians from impeaching their chairmen without passing through the House of Assembly.
As the state now prepares for the local government election coming November, political gladiators have continued to watch with keen interest to know if Governor Gboyega Oyetola would adopt the controversial system or reverse to the popular presidential system of government being practised throughout the country.