The twenty three local government chairmen in Benue State who were suspended by the State House of Assembly have insisted they remain chairmen and can’t be suspended by the Assembly and the state governor, Alia.
The suspended chairmen rejected their suspension in a joint press conference addressed today at the State Secretariat of the Benue State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The embattled chairmen said that they do not recognize the purported directive issued by the state lawmakers and the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
According to them, it’s illegal to suspend chairmen democratically elected by the people of their respective local government areas. They argued that they weren’t appointed and no one can illegally remove them from office.
“We address you here this day, 24th June, 2023 as elected chairmen of the 23 local government councils in Benue State over the lingering matter of our purported suspension from office, they said.
It said, “Our suspension is by now an issue which you the press are aware of and have even reported widely in your various mediums, as was purported by the Benue State House of Assembly on 21st June, 2023, and only yesterday, 23rd June, 2023, by a correspondence from the office of the Permanent Secretary in the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
“We state without the slightest modicum of ambiguity or prevarication that we do not recognize such purporting of our suspension from office from such quarters as are purporting it, neither do we consider ourselves under any obligation to give heed to same or comply with any directive as emanates from it.
“Our position derives a fundamental base from the incontrovertible fact of our offices being a creation of law as guaranteed under the supreme umbrella of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended in 1999) which recognizes the tier of government we function at as the third in a tripod made up of the Federal, State and Local.
“We were elected as council chairmen on 30th April, 2022 in the local council elections conducted by the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) and sworn into office on 29th June, 2022.
“We, in line with the provision of extant law proclaimed the legislative councils in our various areas which were also duly elected and thereafter forwarded to them our nominations for the offices of Supervisors whom we swore into the various statutorily designated offices, together with Special Advisers to our offices.
“We were not appointed into office but were elected by the electorate of Benue State and vested with a mandate which is guaranteed under law, with the procedure for the administration of the councils under our leadership clearly provided for under the Local Government Establishment Law of Benue State.
“It is, therefore, not known to us under such law, that we and the entirety of the government at our tier of it can be sacked in the manner as purported by the state Assembly and the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
“We equally refer to the judgement of the National Industrial Court holden in Makurdi which barred the government of Benue State at all levels from taking any action as seeks to temper with our lawfully recognized mandate as elected council chairmen.
“That judgement of court is still subsisting and we are not even aware that government appealed against it.
“We expect the government of Benue State to lead the way on the quest for strengthening an order of law and respect for due process in Benue, rather than promoting impunity and the sort of anarchy we are seeing in the actions of the state Assembly and the local government bureau.
“We as Chief Security Officers of the 23 local government areas of Benue State are critical stakeholders and leaders in the state and will at all times be willing to tow the path of peace, law and order, and this we have been doing since being sworn into office in our various councils.
“However, we will not surrender to illegality and impunity as is being contrived against us.
“If we surrender to the unlawful purported suspension preferred against us, we will be doing a disservice to Benue State.
“In resisting the impunity, we are doing a duty to the state in line with our sworn oath to discharge the functions vested to our office for the good of the people.
“We reiterate that we do not recognize the purported suspension of our councils together with the legislative arms of our councils, and as such will not comply with it,” the statement concluded.