Yantaba & Ors. v. Governor of Katsina State & Ors. [2022] 1 NWLR (Pt. 1811) 259

On 9 September 2014, Chairmen and Councilors of the 34 Local Government Councils in Katsina State assumed office. On 10 July 2015, the Governor of the State issued a notice published in the Gazette dissolving all the 34 Local Government Councils in the State. This was based on the report of the Committee set up by the Katsina State House of Assembly which found all the Chairmen and Councilors liable for illegal diversion of funds totalling about 7 Billion Naira.

The Governor acted pursuant to its “powers” to dissolve Local Government Council(s) as stipulated under Section 81(a) of the Local Government Law of Katsina State 2000 (as amended).

The Chairmen and Councilors challenged the dissolution up to the Supreme Court and succeeded. On 7 May 2021, the apex Court held that by virtue of Section 7(1) of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended), the system of Local Government under the Constitution is guaranteed and that Section 81(a) of the Local Government Law of Katsina State is unconstitutional and consequently invalid.

At pages 338-339 of the report, Okoro, JSC sent a strong message to the Federal, State and Local Governments:

It is clear as noon day that all tiers of Government in this country, i.e., Federal, State and Local Government do have issues bordering on corruption by certain officials of these tiers of Government. I am yet to see the Federal Government being dissolved simply because an official or more have embezzled money or misbehaved in certain other way. I have also not seen a State Government being dissolved in like fashion. The question is, why is the Local Government always dissolved at the slightest provocation? The simple answer is that it is a political weapon against rival political parties because more often than not, it is an incumbent political party that dissolves a Local Government which is manned by a rival political party. This is unhealthy and for the sake of generations yet unborn, must be put to rest forthwith…

Of course, his Lordship did not leave anyone to wonder whether the issue of the alleged embezzlement of funds by the Chairmen and Councilors in Katsina State at the time was inconsequential. Rather, the Learned Jurist explained the solution thus:

Where a Local Government misbehaves or embezzels money or is involved in any fraudulent activities, the solution is not to dissolve the entire Government. There are agencies of Government e.g. the Police, EFCC, ICPC and others which can be invited to investigate the matter and where anybody is found culpable, should be sanctioned in line with available laws governing the matter. The dissolution of Local Governments based purely on political considerations must stop. Henceforth, no Local Government shall be dissolved based on unconstitutional laws made by State Houses of Assembly. I need not say more on this.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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