The Lagos State House of Assembly has suspended three local government council chairmen over alleged disregard for the guidelines governing their activities.
The lawmakers took the action Tuesday, saying the House can no longer continue to watch while the council chairmen continue to flout the state’s local government guidelines.
The suspended chairmen include Ogidan Mukandasi Olaitan of Lekki LCDA, Suleiman Jelili of Alimosho local government area, and Tajudeen Ajide of Surulere local government area.
Their suspension was unanimously approved by members of the House in a voice vote with no opposition shortly after Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) raised a complaint against Mr Olaitan.
Mr Yusuff, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Industry, narrated to his colleagues how allegedly ”rude Mr Olaitan had been”.
He complained that Mr Olaitan even accused the lawmakers carrying out an oversight function on a memorandum of understanding in relation to the issue that arose from a resettlement programme in Lekki of being ignorant of their jobs.
He further said the council chairman had total disregard for those in his domain whom he was elected to govern.
According to him, his action, ”even as a lawyer, was an insult to true governance and respect for the authority”.
Supporting Mr Yusuff, another lawmaker, Fatai Mojeed (Ibeju-Lekki 1), said Messrs Jelili and Ajide have been under investigation for graft.
Mr Ajide had earlier been suspended by the legislative arm of Surulere local government over allegations of abuse of office. As council boss in 2014, the councillors in the LGA had also accused him of financial impropriety.
He urged his colleagues to suspend the chairmen pending the outcome of the investigations.
The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, while speaking on the issue, noted that the House had received petitions from many councillors in the state against the chairmen.
Mr Obasa said ”the House cannot continue to watch while council chairmen flout the laws they were supposed to uphold”.
“Total disregard for the local government guideline is something that should not be tolerated.
“We cannot continue like this. We can’t be breeding monsters in our local government councils,” Mr Obasa said.
The Speaker added ”it would not be ideal to gloss over the issue as it would be creating a precedence of disobedience to the law by council chairmen especially at a time the state is planning elections for new council chairmen”.
“This will also serve as a deterrent. We have received many petitions from councillors,” Mr Obasa added.
The Speaker directed the Clerk of the House, Olalekan Onafeko, to write to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and others concerned about the decision of the House.
Legality of suspension
Meanwhile, several lawyers interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES expressed divergent opinions over the legality of the move by the state lawmakers.
Peter Ano-Obong said it is “generally not legal” for the House to suspend or remove elected officers.
“They are elected into office by people. The constitution is clear, there are lots of precedents about it that people who hold electoral offices cannot be suspended or removed except by certain provisions,” he said.
Another lawyer, Afe Oyaletor, said the House of Assembly does not possess such powers ”because local governments are creations of the Constitution” which, he said, is supreme.
“It has always been a total aberration even if the state House of Assembly claim to have made laws to empower themselves.
“The Constitution is supreme and cannot be overridden. Any other law, either by the state or other officials are not capable of changing the provisions of the constitution,” he said.
Mr Oyaletor added that the suspension of the chairman is “a technical removal.”
“If you are suspended till the end of your tenure, automatically you cannot function. That is a technical removal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gani Faniyi, a senior lawyer said the suspension of the council chairmen by the Assembly is legal.
“The House of Assembly has jurisdiction over the local government,” he said.
“Quite contrary to what many people think, the local government is not a third tier of government but the names of local governments have been entrenched in the Constitution which makes them very difficult and almost impossible to increase or decrease,” he said.
Mr Faniyi said regardless of their elected status, the chairmen can be sanctioned by the Lagos Assembly.
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