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Court fixes May 23 for suit on sack of elected council officials in Benue

Justice P. T. Kwahar of the Benue State High Court, sitting in Makurdi, has fixed May 23, 2024, for the hearing of a suit challenging the unconstitutional sacking of elected local government officials in the state and the subsequent appointment of caretaker committees in violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The suit, marked MHC/346/2023, was filed by activist, Sesugh Akume against the Governor of Benue and four others.

Akume alleges that the sacking of elected council chairmen and councillors in the state by Governor Hyacinth Ali’s administration and their replacement with cronies was unconstitutional.

Recall that Akume, suing as a private citizen, dragged Governor Ali, the Attorney-General, the Speaker and House of Assembly, and the Special Adviser, Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, before the Benue State High Court.

Akume contends that Governor Ali’s action of sacking or indefinitely suspending elected local government officials since June 23, 2023, without justification, has left the local government system rudderless, with no governance in place.

He said the 1999 Constitution recognizes only democratically-elected local government councils as the supreme law of the land, under which every other law bows.

In a statement personally signed by Akume on Saturday, he said the court had fixed May 23 for the preliminary ruling.

“In the same vein, the matter of Sesugh Akume v Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) (with suit number MHC/449/2024) to compel BSIEC to conduct local government elections ready for the incoming administrations to be sworn in on 29 June when the term of the current officials ends, before the Honourable Mr Justice J M Shishi also in Makurdi, filed since 13 March has been fixed for the same 23 May.

“The reason given in both instances is that the courts are undergoing renovation. It may be noted that courts in Nigeria usually go on vacation for 2 months from some time in July through the whole of August and resume in September.

“In the former case, it is expected that the court will hear (and hopefully grant) our application to put aside proceeding to rule on whether it has the legal authority (jurisdiction) to hear our case, but to adopt or hear all our processes (including our amended originating summons) before it first, as proceeding with the ruling without hearing us would be premature, a miscarriage of justice, as well as a violation of the rules of the court, etc.

“In the latter case, it is expected that the court will hear (and hopefully grant) our application to set aside its usual processes and expeditiously hear and conclude our case to compel BSIEC to conduct local government elections with the winners ready to be sworn in within the next 5 weeks as they normally should.” The statement reads in part.

Court fixes May 23 for suit on sack of elected council officials in Benue

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