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Court ruling prevents Rivers State from withholding financial allocations of local governments

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Recently, a Federal High Court in Abuja issued a ruling that prevents the Rivers State Government from withholding the financial allocations of the 42 local government areas in the state. This decision will hold until the determination of a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed by the council chairmen against the state and nine other parties.

The court also ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Police Commissioner in Rivers, Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), and Director of the State Security Service in Rivers to refrain from withdrawing the security personnel of the local government chairmen until the final resolution of the motion.

Justice James Kolawole Omotoso issued the order maintaining the status quo among the involved parties in a case marked FHC/ABJ/CS/537/2024.

During the ruling, which followed an ex-parte application argued by the chairmen’s counsel, Aliyu Hussein, the Judge directed the Rivers State Government not to hinder the local government chairmen from carrying out their duties and providing services to their respective councils until the suit is resolved.

The chairmen sought interim injunctions against various parties, including the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Chairman of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and the Rivers State Government, among others. They also requested the court to prevent the withdrawal of security personnel and prohibit any obstruction of the enforcement of the amended Rivers State Local Government Law N:5 of 2024.

In an affidavit supporting the application, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, Chairman of Emohua Local Government, stated that the chairmen were democratically elected for a three-year term under the Rivers State Local Government Law. They claimed autonomy as a constitutionally recognized tier of government and highlighted the enactment of the Rivers State Amended Law to govern their affairs.

The chairmen alleged that the Rivers State Government, AGF, and Finance Commissioner were displeased with the amended law and had sought the withdrawal of policing and security services provided to them. They argued that such actions were aimed at obstructing the implementation of the amended law.

Furthermore, they expressed concerns that without the support of the IGP’s policing and security services, they would be unable to fulfill their duties effectively. They emphasized the importance of restraining the defendants, particularly the Rivers State Government, from taking matters into their own hands.

In the ruling, Justice Omotoso ordered all parties to maintain the status quo until the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction is heard and determined. He cautioned against taking any action that could undermine the pending motion.

As per the ruling, the plaintiffs, including Dr. Chidi Lloyd, Chairman of Emohua Local Government, and other local government chairmen, are scheduled to serve the motion on notice to the defendants for response. The matter is adjourned to the 2nd day of May, 2024, for the hearing of the motion on notice.

The plaintiffs named in the case include Hon Alwell Ihunda, Dr. Nwanosike Samuel, Barrister George Ariolu, Dr. Obbinna Anyawu, Hon Chidorom Nwaiwu, Hope Ikiriko, Barrister Benjamin Isreal Eke, Dr. Roland Sekibo, and others. The defendants listed are the IGP, CP Rivers, DG SSS, Director SSS Rivers, AGF, Chairman Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Rivers State Government, AG Rivers State, and the Finance Commissioner in Rivers State.

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