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Court overturns local government tenure extension in Rivers State

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A high court in Rivers State has struck down a controversial law that extended the tenure of local government chairmen by six months.

The ruling, delivered by Daketima Kio on Tuesday, declared Local Government Law No. 2 of 2024 – passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly under the leadership of Speaker Martins Amaewhule – as “inconsistent with the 1999 constitution.”

The lawsuit, brought by Enyiada Cookey-Gam and six others against the Governor of Rivers State and others, challenged the legality of the tenure extension.

Kio ruled that the extension violated both the Nigerian constitution and a Rivers State law (No. 5 of 2018) which established a three-year term limit for local government officials.

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The judge emphasized that the attempt to extend the tenure was “unlawful” and a breach of the officials’ oath of office.

This decision comes amidst a period of political tension in Rivers State. The Amaewhule-led assembly amended the local government law in the midst of this crisis, granting itself the power to extend the terms of elected officials if elections were not held before their original terms expired.

The plaintiffs sought a clear declaration from the court: that the legal term for local government chairmen and councilors in Rivers State is three years, and that their terms would expire on June 17, 2024, in accordance with their swearing-in date of June 18, 2021.

The lawsuit further requested that the court issue a permanent injunction preventing any attempt to extend the officials’ terms and restrain the governor, government house, and attorney-general from recognizing any such extension.

This court decision throws the future of local government leadership in Rivers State into uncertainty. New elections will likely be required to fill the vacant positions, with the exact timeline yet to be determined.

(Edited by Oludare Mayowa; omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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