The 23 suspended Local Government Chairmen in Benue State would be retaining their offices as the motion submitted to the State High Court by the State Governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Iormem Alia for “a judicial review of the ruling of the National Industrial Court (NIC)” suffered rejection.
Governor Alia had submitted a plea to the State High Court, praying the court to invalidate the judgment obtained by the 23 suspended Local Government (LG) chairmen from the Makurdi Division of the National Industrial Court.
This was as the suspended chairmen filed a suit against the governor for unconstitutionally ordering their suspension from office.
They argued that it was unconstitutional for Alia to attempt to sack them before the expiration of their tenures which is meant to be exhausted on June 29, 2024.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Innocent Essien at the National Industrial Court, Makurdi Division, restrained the defendants which included the Governor, the Benue State Government, Speaker of the State Assembly, and three others from “dissolving or suspending the elected Council Chairmen without due process before the expiration of their tenure in office among other reliefs.
This led the Governor, the Benue State Government, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, and three others who were dissatisfied with the ruling, to file an application seeking “a judicial review of the ruling of the Court.”
But the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese on Wednesday, rejected the application on the basis that it lacked merit.
Justice Ikpambese asserted that “a court can only review the judgment of a court of the same level if the judgment is a nullity or obtained fraudulently,” adding that, “the court is not authorized to review the judgment of a fellow court, especially when the issue of jurisdiction was already addressed in the initial judgment.”
He adviced the applicants to rather appeal the decision of the National Industrial Court in an Appeal Court.
Meanwhile, the suspended chairmen had also originated summons before the High Court Judge, challenging their suspension by the Benue State Governor.
The court however, ruled that the same reliefs sought in their suit were already granted by the National Industrial Court, which is a court of the same level and this, cannot be reviewed.
Reacting to the development, Orjiir Gbajde, the Chairman of Kwande Local Government council in Benue State said he considers the High Courts’ disposition a sound and significant victory for democracy.
Governor Alia, since the inception of his tenure in office, has employed several measures to ensure a more transparent system of government while addressing some of the lapses of past administrations.
In a bid to achieve his goals, he ordered the suspension of the heads of various government establishments and parastatals in the state while setting up various committees to investigate and audit the accounts of the affected establishments cum agencies.
Alia has also frozen the bank accounts of the affected establishments including Radio Benue Corporation, Makurdi and the Board of Internal Revenue, BIRS while permanently relieving the latter’s former boss, Mrs Mimi Orubibi on charges of mismanagement of official funds.
On numerous occasions, the Governor has been quoted as saying public properties have been left battered and mismanaged by the past administrations who he alleged used their offices chiefly for self enrichment.
Oftentimes, he would lead his team to various government establishments and offices unannounced just to access the condition of things there
Alia, among other political leaders who were sworn in on June 12 2023, has spent nearly three months in office with no major appointments made to the people of the state, thus, his administration runs without commissioners or any other cabinet members except his Chief Press Secretary and a few others.
His efforts toward revitalizing the condition of the state has stirred a lot of reactions in the state as some indigenes opine that the new Governor is “over-doing”
One of such cases include the suspension of the 23 Local Government chairmen which the State High Court held otherwise in it’s judgement.
Recall that he has in recent weeks, seized over 50 vehicles from the immediate past Governor, Samuel Ortom through the asset recovery committee set up to recover all assets of the state looted by political gladiators across the state.
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