The collapse of out-of-court settlement of the logjam over the sack of local government councils in Oyo State may have created a slippery path for Governor Seyi Makinde in local government administration and ultimately, the journey to 2023, writes Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE

Governor Seyi Makinde has been projected in the public sphere as a leader who brought change to Oyo State since May 29, last year. But if he has recorded any good scores at the state level, grassroots administration has suffered in his hands since he took the reins of governance nine months ago.

His decision to sack elected chairmen and councillors is proving to be both a legal and political mistake judging by the crisis it has created.

Makinde removed the councils only two hours after he was sworn in as the 8th civilian governor of the state. He made the pronouncement through his Chief of Staff, Chief Bisi Ilaka.

But the sacked chairmen, under the aegis of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), have fought tooth and nail through legal means to reclaim their mandate. Their efforts have prevented proper governance at the 33 local governments and 35 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) of the state as their positions were vacant till November last year when the governor appointed caretaker chairmen to the local governments and sole administrators to the LCDAs.

Yet, the appointed caretaker chairmen have been having it rough with the sacked chairmen. Civil servants were also reluctant to cooperate with them initially due to the litigations surrounding their appointment.

The workers withdrew their services earlier in February when the Inspector General of Police Abubakar Adamu directed the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State to supervise reinstatement of the sacked councils. They only returned to work after both parties opted for the court to resolve the reinstatement issue.

Preparing for Makinde’s foreseen action, the Oyo State chapter of ALGON had obtained a judgment from an Oyo State high court restraining the incoming governor and the House of Assembly from sacking them early May last year. The judgment also restrained the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) from conducting another election into the local governments until after the expiration of their tenure on May 11, 2021. They were sworn in on May 12, 2018.

In a letter dated January 23, 2020 and addressed to the Oyo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Akin Oke, Adamu asked him to liaise with Olukolu to facilitate the implementation of the legal opinion of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).

The AGF had, in a January 14 letter, advised the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state to advise Governor Seyi Makinde to sack the recently appointed caretaker chairmen and reinstate the elected councils. He based his legal advice on the judgment of the Supreme Court which stated that governors and houses of assemblies do not have the power to sack democratically elected local government councils.

How the crisis developed

The last election conducted into local government offices in Oyo State was during the reins of former governor Rashidi Ladoja between 2003 and 2007. Ladoja’s successor Adebayo Alao-Akala was unable to conduct election due to litigation by sacked elected council members against the government and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) Board. The litigations dragged till 2018 when Governor Abiola Ajimobi dispensed with them according to the Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, Hon. Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye.