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LG Autonomy: Supreme Court Gives States Seven Days to File Defense

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court gave the governors of the 36 states seven days to file their defense in the case brought against them by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).

The court also instructed the AGF to file his reply within two days upon receipt of the governors’ defense.

“Within two days of service, the plaintiff will reply after being served the defendant’s counter-affidavit,” the court stated.

A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Garba Lawal, issued this order while ruling on the application for abridgment of time argued by Fagbemi. The court emphasized the national urgency of the case and noted the non-objection from the state Attorneys-General.

The Supreme Court mandated that all processes must be filed and exchanged within the specified timeframe. Additionally, the court ordered all state Attorneys-General who were absent to appear in court on the next adjourned date.

“All defendants absent should be served with a fresh hearing notice and be present in court on the adjourned date,” the court stated.

The Attorneys-General from Borno, Kano, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Sokoto were absent despite being served with hearing notices.

Dr. Ben Odo, the Attorney General of Ebonyi State and chairman of the body of state Attorneys-General, stated that he had the consent of the other AGs to not oppose the motion. “I have the consent of all the Attorneys-General not to oppose the motion,” he said.

Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), representing the Anambra State Attorney General, requested more time. The AGF, however, asked the court to limit the extension to seven days, noting that nine days had already elapsed. Fagbemi stressed the urgency of the matter.

“We have filed our written address, and from the nature of the case, it requires urgency. I am happy to report that there is no counter-affidavit. The importance of this matter underscores the state of the various Attorneys-General of the states,” Fagbemi said.

The court granted the state governors seven days to file their responses and adjourned the case until June 13 for a hearing.

Fagbemi, representing the Federal Government in a suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, has taken the 36 state governors to court seeking full autonomy for local governments. The AGF filed the suit through the respective State Attorneys General.

The AGF, basing the suit on 27 grounds, urged the Supreme Court to prohibit state governors from unilaterally, arbitrarily, and unlawfully dissolving democratically elected local government leaders. The suit contends that Nigeria, as a federation, is established by the 1999 Constitution with the President as the head of the Federal Executive arm, who has sworn to uphold and enforce the Constitution’s provisions.

The suit accuses the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

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