Tenure Elongation Of Council Chairmen, Councillors Sparks Reactions In Rivers

The issue of tenure elongation for council chairmen and councillors has sparked legal debate and challenges in various jurisdictions. In light of recent attempts by the Rivers State House of Assembly to extend the tenure of elected officials, it becomes imperative to assess the legality and implications of such actions.

Hence it is pertinent to examine the constitutional framework, legal precedents, and recent judicial decisions that underscore the principle against retrospective laws and the nullity of retroactive amendments. Through an analysis of key cases and legal principles, this discussion aims to shed light on the legal intricacies surrounding tenure elongation for local government officials.

1. The Rivers State House of Assembly’s attempt to elongate the tenure of elected Chairmen and Councillors violates the principle against retrospective laws. Section 4(7) of the Constitution empowers State Houses of Assembly to enact laws, but retrospective laws, which alter past events or circumstances, are generally not permissible. As stated in the case of Hope Democratic Party v Peter Obi & 5 Ors (2011), the law applicable to an action is the one existing when the action occurred.

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2. Retrospective application of laws is discouraged, as emphasized in legal precedents such as University of Jos & Anor v. Aro (2019) and AG Abia State & Ors v. AG Federation (2002). The interpretation act further reinforces this principle, stating that the repeal of an enactment should not affect rights or liabilities accrued under the repealed law. This underscores that the tenure of elected officials under the Rivers State Local Government Law, No. 5 of 2018, cannot be altered retroactively.

3. Recent legal challenges, exemplified by the case in the FCT High Court, affirm the impermissibility of retroactive tenure elongation. Despite initial rulings favoring outgoing officials, subsequent judgments upheld the original tenure provisions. The nullity of retroactive amendments, as articulated by Lord Denning in MacFoy v UAC (1961), underscores the futility of attempting to apply such laws retrospectively.

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4. Section 113 of the Electoral Act 2010, relevant to the FCT High Court case, established a three-year tenure for Area Councils. The attempt to extend this tenure retroactively under the Electoral Act 2022 was legally contested, ultimately resulting in a decision to uphold original tenure provisions.

5. In conclusion, attempts to retroactively amend laws, such as the Rivers State Local Government Law, are legally untenable. As highlighted in legal precedent and supported by constitutional provisions, retroactive laws are deemed null and void, unable to stand scrutiny in the eyes of the law.