SOKOTO: Appointment of Village, District Heads inconsequential

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By Bello Galadi

An open letter to Governor of Sokoto State, His Excellency, Ahmed Aliyu- Sokoto on the controversial Sokoto State Local Government (Amendment) bill

1.     Good day Your Excellency. I hope you are having a pleasant week.

2.     Few days ago, you presented to the Sokoto State House of Assembly, the Amendment Bill of the Sokoto State Local Government Law 2008 and other matters incidental thereat.

Having underwent the legislative procedure, the Bill was subjected to public hearing on Tuesday, 2nd July, 2024. The most controversial parts of the amendment are Sections 75 and 76 of the law which tend to oust the Sultanate Council of some of its powers.

The rationale behind the amendment, according to your Attorney- General and Commissioner of Justice, Nasir Mohammed Binji, was to correct the anomaly associated with the appointment of the District and Village Heads in Sokoto State. Section 76(2) of the law, in the opinion of the Attorney- General is inconsistent with the provision of Section 5(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

3.   If the Bill succeeds, the power to appoint the District and Village Heads will be vested in the governor while the power of the Sultanate Council will be limited to recommendation of persons to be so appointed.

4.   In truth, this is a clear case of misplacement of priority. Issue of appointment of Village and District Heads, as far as I am concerned, is so inconsequential. You need to focus on issues that are more critical and germane, one of which is the issue of security, which is a serious source of concern, more particularly in the eastern part of the state, because security and welfare of the people is the primary responsibility of every government as provided under Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution.

5.     By Section 4(7)(a),(b)&(c) and Section 100 of the Constitution, the House of Assembly of Sokoto State is empowered to make laws for the state for good governance, peace and security of the state or any part thereof.

6.     The above having been said, I hereby, most humbly, present to you my observations for your kind consideration, on the amendment Bill:

i-  Appointments for the position of the Sultan, District and Village Heads should be based on merit, competence, incorruptibility and good track record.

ii-   The Bill should provide for the appointment of the Sultan which should be made by the governor, upon recommendation from the kingmakers.

iii-   The District Heads should be appointed by the Sultanate Council, subject to approval from the Local Government Council.

iv-  The Village Heads should be appointed by the District Head Council, subject to approval from the Sultanate Council.

v-  Candidates for appointment as Sultan, District and Village Heads should undergo security screening and rigorous security underground checks. Successful candidates should be sworn by the Holy Qur’an at their inaugurations.

vi- The Bill should provide for minimum educational qualification for appointment as Sultan, District and Village Heads. The minimum qualification for the Sultan should be degree or its equivalent, diploma for the District Heads and SSCE for the Village Heads. The candidates should also have knowledge of Islamic law.

vii-   The Bill should clearly spell out the duties of the Sultan, District and Village Heads. Their suspension, removal and general disciplinary procedure should be provided under the Bill, with strict adherence to the doctrine of fair hearing as encapsulated in Section 36 of the Constitution. Our traditional rulers represent a revered institution, as such, they need to be secured from political attacks and incursions by politicians.

For instance, Section 17(iii) of the Zamfara State Emirate Councils (Establishment) Law 2000 gives the governor the power to remove and depose an Emir or a District Head even without any reason. This is highly undemocratic.

viii-   The Bill should provide for the rights and privileges of the Sultan, District and Village Heads to include: renovation of palaces after every five (5) years, training, re-training, workshops, seminars on alternative dispute resolution (ADR), annual outfit allowance for their ‘Alkyabba’, standardized salary structure, annual vacations, e- library, farming grants, health insurance scheme, car acquisition scheme, medical leave, study leave, conducive working atmosphere, non- political interference, decent accommodation and general welfare packages.

ix-  The Bill should provide for the composition of the Sultanate Council, District Head and Village Heads Councils as well their duties and powers.

x-  The traditional institution, being the custodian of culture and tradition and the closest to the masses, should be entitled to 5% of the monthly Local Government Allocation of Sokoto State, for the day- to- day running of the affairs of the institution. Any amount standing to the credit of the institution should go directly to them.

xi-  The Bill should empower the Sultan, District and Village Heads the power to arrest over minor offences as well as entertain minor civil disputes.

xii-  The Bill should recognize the Sultan as a member of the Sokoto State Security Council.

7.   Finally, may I, with greatest respect to you, advise that you should do whatever it takes to avoid the Kano scenario in Sokoto State.

8.   As a concerned citizen of Nigeria, consider this letter as my contribution to the wellbeing of your people and development of Sokoto State.

Please accept the assurances of my sincere goodwill, Your Excellency, Sir.

Galadi is a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Gusau Branch (covering Zamfara State). He is the President of Bello Galadi Foundation.

He can be reached on:

Muhammadbel_law@yahoo.com and muhammadbellaw80@gmail.com and twitter handle:@bello_galadi1

3rd July, 2024

 

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