The Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia has insisted that the 23 Local Government council chairmen remain suspended until the investigation against them is complete.
This decision follows the governor’s move to enable an investigation into their financial activities, based on recommendations from the state’s House of Assembly.
The Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affair (BLGCA) instructed the chairmen to pass the reins of their positions to the most senior staff in their respective councils on Friday.
However, at a press conference on Saturday, the chairmen confirmed their decision not to obey these instructions.
Speaking on behalf of his peers, Mike Uba, Chairman of the Association of Local Governments Of Nigeria (ALGON), Benue State chapter, declared their refusal to submit to what they perceive as “illegality”. Uba argues that to do so would mean a disservice to the state.
Uba stressed that they were lawfully elected to their positions, along with their councillors, on April 30, 2022, for a two-year term.
However, in what seems to be a reply to their revolt, the governor has said the council chairmen should be patient, as they will get the opportunity to defend themselves before the House of Assembly committee.
Alia said only council chairmen whose hands are clean would be reinstated, but pending when that would happen, they remained suspended.
The governor in a statement through his spokesman, Tersoo Kula, rather expressed shock at the way the council chairmen decided to react to the situation.
Alia, who premised his action on the advice of the state assembly, maintained that they were suspended for investigation purposes, not sacked.
The governor, who denied knowledge of the existence of a court order stopping their sack noted there even if there is any, it was speculative because no action with regards to that has betaken.
According to him “Recall that the Benue State House of Assembly had during a plenary session on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, recommended for the suspension of all the 23 local government chairmen as well as their various legislative arms over corruption allegations.
“The recommendations were upheld by the state executive and the chairmen were directed to hand over their offices to the various DGSAs of their councils.
“So, even if there existed a court order not to sack council chairmen, at least there is none barring anyone from investigating them.
“But are they really insulated from appropriate sanctions by the extant constitutional provisions? They should come to equity with clean hands. Perhaps, they may have been misled into assuming that they are entitled to political immunity as ‘elected’ council chairmen.”