LG Autonomy: Ondo’s Response To FG Suit Doesn’t Mean We’re Fighting, It’s An Intellectual Struggle – Kayode Ajulo

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By Allen Sowore, Esq.

I just saw a screaming news headline: “LG Autonomy: Ondo Tackles AGF, Calls Federal Meddlesome Interloper,” as published by some major newspapers. I quickly called the state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kayode Ajulo SAN. I asked him, “Sir, what is happening? Are we fighting the Federal Government?”

He laughed on the other end of the line and explained, “Allen, you know we’re not the only state that has responded to the suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, but our response is getting the most attention. It’s an intellectual struggle. You know I have practiced all my life as a lawyer with a particular interest in constitutional matters, so I was able to raise objections on 27 grounds. Some states responded with only two grounds. Our arguments are sound and very logical.”

At that moment, I was so proud of him. Among the responses from other states, only the reply from the Sunshine State is trending. He must have put in a lot of effort, due diligence, and solid arguments based on statutory provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws.

The Ondo State Government has formally joined issues with the Attorney General of the Federation in a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking autonomy for the 774 local governments in the country, praying the Apex Court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.

Like other state governments opposing the federal government’s suit, the Ondo State Government claimed that the federal government lacks the locus standi to institute the suit on behalf of the local governments.

In the Notice of Preliminary Objection filed by the Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Olukayode Ajulo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the federal government was described as a busybody and a meddlesome interloper in local government affairs.

The objection by the Ondo State Government, which is the 28th defendant in the FG suit, was based on 27 grounds of objections.

Among the grounds, Ajulo, on behalf of Ondo State, claimed that the Attorney General of the Federation cannot single-handedly rewrite the Nigerian Constitution by asking the Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit, which he filed in flagrant violation of Section 232 of the 1999 Constitution, Section 1 of the Supreme Court Act 3, 2002, and Order 3, Rule 6 of the Apex Court.

The notice of objection stated that Section 232 of the Constitution only permits the invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court where there is a dispute between the federation as plaintiff and states as defendants, involving any question of law or fact on which the existence or extent of the legal right of either the federation or states depends.

This reminds me of my days in secondary school, when we were paired into debate groups. I remember a particular topic: “Monogamy is Better than Polygamy.” I was asked to argue in favor of monogamy. My father, who had three wives, was one of the invited guests. How could the son of a man in a polygamous arrangement argue against it? Behold, I did very well, and my father was proud of me.

Later that evening, when we got home, he whispered to me, “My boy, it was an intellectual struggle. Don’t be carried away. I am only with each of my wives one at a time, and they never see me as a polygamist.”

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