A Kaduna state High Court, sitting in Zaria, has ordered the Kaduna state government to reinstate all the dethroned 77 district heads, pending the determination of a case filed by them.
Delivering a ruling, Judge Kabir Dabo held that Governor Nasir el-Rufai had no constitutional rights to tamper with judicial matters pending in a court of law.
Justice Dabo adjourned the matter until January 16, 2019 for the continuation of hearing.
NAN reports that on June 13, 2017, the Kaduna state government sacked 4776 district and village heads as well as their staff as it began the implementation of the recommendations of the committee it set up to review the number of such personnel in the state.
According to the government, the essence of the sack was to shore up the finances of local government councils in the state.
The judge said in spite of the served notice ordering that the issue of “district heads sack” was before the court, the governor went ahead to dethrone the 77 district heads.
The judge described the action of the governor as disrespect for court order which contravened section 6(6) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
He said the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognised the three arms of government; the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
According to him, Dabo said each of arms of government has its constitutional role that should not be tampered with by any other arm, adding; “there is a need for the governor to respect a court order.”
He ordered that both parties maintain status-quo pending the determination of the case and adjourned the case to January 16, 2019 for the continuation of hearing.
Commenting shortly after the ruling, counsel to the plaintiffs, Yemi Adekunle said: “I was the one who brought the application to set aside the appointment, because the appointment was made against lawful order of the same court. That order was served on the defendant, they are aware of it.
“Notwithstanding the pendency of the suit, notwithstanding the order made by the court, they decided to act contrary to the terms of that order.
“Some people will ask why don’t we didn’t we file contempt proceedings, but it is a choice. It is not all the time that you go for contempt proceedings, the law also permits the same court to set aside whatever was done against an order of a court,” he said.
He said at the end of the day the court had done what it considered as most appropriate.
When contacted for his comment, the state counsel, Abdurrahaman Suleiman-Haladu declined comment saying that he was not authorised to speak to reporters.
NAN reports that district heads in 2017, filed a suit seeking an order of court stopping el-Rufa’i from dethroning them.
The government had argued that apart from paying salaries, the state government was providing official vehicles which had now been purchased for distribution to the third-class chiefs and the maintenance of palaces, 10 of which were recently renovated.
One of the problems the government said it inherited was the “practical insolvency” of many local government councils. Some local government councils are unable to pay their bills, especially salaries, without support from the state government.
The government said that the bloated wage bills of these councils indicate “that they are carrying more than they can bear”.
That is why it said, for two years, many local government councils were unable to pay their district and village heads. (NAN)