Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, Imo State, has ordered the reinstatement of chairmen and councillors of 27 local government councils in the state sacked by former Governor Emeka Ihedioha when he assumed office.
The council officials elected during governor Rochas Okorocha’s tenure were suspended in June last year by Ihedioha.
In November 2019, they headed to court, also suing the Federal Accounts Allocations Committee (FAAC), the Attorney-General of the Federation(AGF) as well as Ihedioha.
Governor Hope Uzodinma also followed suit when he assumed office as he set up an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to manage the affairs of the council areas of the state.
But delivering judgment on Wednesday, Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim, held that the dissolution of the council officials was wrong and ordered that the Imo State Government reinstate the sacked officials ‘immediately’.
The judge also held that the affected local government area without elected officials should not be funded with the Federal Allocation.
Justice Ringim said that the Governor had no right to ‘dissolve local government officials elected by the people.’
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the judgment, counsel to the plaintiffs Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, described the judgment as historic.
‘Today, we’ve made history because the governors have been consistently treating judgements of the courts with levity as they pretend to the dissolution of elected local government officials. Today, that has been reversed,’ Maduabuchi said.
‘From now onwards, any governor that attempts to dissolve elected local government officials will be doing that in vain because they will no longer get a penny from the federal allocation. That’s why we are excited and happy.
‘We must commend the judge because of his bravery. It is the state government that dissolved and the judge had the temerity to give judgment against the state government. It is not every judge that can give judgment against the government of the state where he is posted.
‘How can a governor wake up and dissolve local government elected by the people. Has the president ever dissolved any state? No. Why would any state governor wake up and dissolve the local government?
‘The implication of this judgment is that the local government officials should start working today and henceforth, any local government that is not elected should not be funded.’