Officials of ALGON in Rivers State and the APC have been trading words, following the party’s call urging Governor Nyesom Wike to lift the suspension placed on three local government council chairmen.
Saturday, ALGON represented by a team of three council chairmen who appeared on a Silverbird Radio programme, Viewpoint, described the Spokesman of the APC in Rivers State, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke as an impostor.
The council chairmen, members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said that the suspension of serving local government chairmen by Governor Nyesom Wike is perfectly in order.
Citing Section 64, sub section 3, of the Rivers State Local Government Law, No.5 of 2018, the ALGON members described the action taken by the Governor as correctional.
But the APC in the statement which has triggered the ongoing debate criticized the decision by the governor to suspend elected council chairmen, saying the action was unconstitutional.
The APC held prior to the programme that the Nigerian Constitution has assigned the duty of oversight concerning local government councils to State Houses of Assembly.
It called on the Governor to rescind its decision to suspend elected chairmen within 7 days.
So far, there has been no reaction from the Rivers State House of Assrmbly, but Hon. Hope Ikitiko who spoke for ALGON noted that Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke lacked knowledge of the issue at hand.
The APC immediately fired back.
Responding to ALGON, the APC said on Friday through its Spokeman, Hon. Nwuke, “Ikiriko is quoted as saying we have no business either as individuals or as a political party to react to what we see as the unconstitutional action of the Rivers State Governor in suspending three elected Local Government Chairmen.
“He is further quoted as noting that the Governor whose action we have roundly criticized derived the power to suspend elected chairmen who are not appointees from Section 64, sub section 3, of the Rivers State Local Government Law NO. 5 of 2018.”
The APC noted, “We still hold that the Governor acted outside the provision of the Nigerian Constitution.
“We have stated responsibly that the Constitution has placed the burden of regulating, monitoring or overseeing the activities of Local Government Councils on the laps of State Houses of Assembly.”
The APC attacked Hon. Hope Ikiriko, accusing him of making comments which run “counter to the foundational reasons for establishing ALGON.”
“Hon. Ikiriko”, Nwuke reiterated “has not jettisoned our principled position on the illegality of the action taken by the Governor, no matter how well intended it may be”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our country’s Constitution says in the section which deals with the Government And The People that “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
” If Ikiriko is wondering where we derived the impetus, audacity or capacity to comment on this matter, this aspect of the provisions of our Constitution which encourages public participation should suffice.”
Nwuke, a former member of the National Assembly and a two-time Commissioner in the State said what the Governor has done is to annul the power of the people who elected the said chairmen.
“We think that the the suspension of the local government chairmen amounts to the annulment of the power of the people. The power of the people is the foundation of our democracy.”
The Spokesman of the APC further declared, “In guaranteeing the place of the people, the Constitution holds, “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.”
“The right to suspend or remove any elected official thus rests with the people, or their elected representatives who serve in the Legislative arm.
“Besides, the Supreme Court in our country has repeatedly frowned at the arbitrariness exhibited by state governors who cultivate the habit of sacking elected local government officials, or interfering with the business of local government councils.”
On the argument that the Governor acted within the confines of the Rivers State Local Government Law, No.5 of 2018, Nwuke reminded ALGON that where a law made in a State is not consistent with that made at the centre, that at the centre prevails.
He said it was wrong not to adhere to provisions which acknowledge the supremacy of the constitution.
“In clearly giving life to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its crafters stated inter allia, “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The Constitution further states, “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”
“To the extent of its inconsistency with Constitutional provisions, Section 64, sub section 3, of the Rivers State Local Government Law NO. 5 of 2018, which regrettably empowers the Executive arm or the Governor, or both, to interfere in the affairs of local government councils without the concurrence of the State Assembly is null and void”, Nwuke pointed out.
Stressing that “We do not wish to join issues unnecessarily with all manner of persons, including Hon. Ikiriko”, the APC pledged that it “shall continue to fulfill its statutory role either as a party in government, or as a party in opposition.”/
“We advice Hon. Ikiriko to exhibit a high level of understanding of our laws as well as the spirit and letters of the Nigerian Constitution when next he chooses to comment on matters of state and national interest”, Nwuke added.
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