Buea council changes guards at eve of elections

He reportedly stayed loyal and obedient to the boss who is of late today. He stayed on track, playing second fiddle to the boss for political expediency. He is not known to have rocked the boat; not even once. Rather he worked strictly for whatever purpose the Late Patrick Ekema Esunge stood for. He did so with measured abnegation and resignation. He was Second Deputy Mayor and earlier on this year, when Motombi Emmanuel was kicked out, he was kicked up the ladder to take his place of First Deputy. He is Efande John Lyonga. Yesterday, Thursday, October 31, procedural exigencies were said to have been completed for him to occupy the rather big shoes of the late Ekema.

Barely five days earlier the Town Hall chief officer’s office was under seal, following the passing on of the former occupant who dropped dead on Sunday, October 27. We cannot say with certitude if it would be instantly reopened for Efande to safely install in it and take the current tenure to February 2020 when it is due to come to term. What we know for certain is that the sanctity of that office as it were, had to be protected, Ekema’s passing notwithstanding. That an eventual inventory would be carried out before the next occupant physically steps in, to replace the departed one.

Hiring and firing

As has been largely reported by several other media, the late Ekema was iron fisted and brooked no opposition to his authority. He had caused to be fired certain stumbling blocks of his administration, including his direct deputies and other ordinary councilors. Motomby Emmanuel was one such baobab that the portly mayor eased out of office. Yet, in principle, Motomby was still eligible to contest for the vacant seat of mayor, following Ekema’s demise. However, we learnt that when the supervisory authority summoned a council to put the records in order, Motombi didn’t seize the occasion to be there and to effectively contest to replace the very one that ousted him with ignominy months ago. Hence, Efande scraped through with relative legal, tactical ease, so to speak. And he shall remain bona fide mayor of Buea for at least three months.

We couldn’t also confirm the persistent rumour that the late mayor had eased out Motombi because political reckoning time was nigh and he wasn’t feeling too comfortable with his deputy’s “apparent” ambition and popularity. Taking Motombi out, it was being whispered, would have meant less threats of losing out. But then, Motombi himself inadvertently provided Ekema the rope with which to hang him when he was reportedly not being regular at work and he grabbed it. But was the right procedure to oust Motombi adopted or not?

Motombi reportedly stayed away from his duty post for about seven months. But, then, he didn’t skip three consecutive council sessions as to be said to have breached the regulation in force and so might have been surreptitiously and irregularly shoved out of office. Section 48 of Law N0: 2004/018 of July 22, 2004 on rules applicable to councils is pretty clear on this. It makes provision for a councilor to be deemed to have resigned from office if he fails to attend three consecutive council sessions.

What the law says…

Section 48 (1) states:

“Any member of the council duly convened, who, without just cause has failed to attend three successive sessions may, after a request by the mayor to furnish explanations be deemed upon the recommendation of the council to have resigned… by the minister in charge of regional and local authorities.

(2) The decision which shall be notified to the member concerned and to the representative of the state may be appealed before a competent court.

(3) The councilor deemed to have resigned in accordance with the provision of subsection (1) above may not run for the council by- or general council election immediately following such resignation.

 Suspension, termination of duties and replacement of the council executive (Section 94) (1):

In case of infringement of the laws and regulations in force or of serious misconduct, mayors and deputy mayors may be suspended by order of the minister in charge of regional and local authorities for a maximum period of three months after hearing them or requesting them to furnish written explanations on the acts for which they are accused. After such period they shall either be rehabilitated or dismissed.

(2) The dismissal referred to in the preceding subsection shall be by degree of the president of the republic.

(3) The suspension orders and dismissal degree shall give reasons therefore.

(4) The suspended or dismissed mayors and deputy mayors shall maintain their status as councilors.  

98(2) Where the minister in charge of regional and local authorities is informed by the representative of the state, he shall order the mayor or deputy mayor to immediately hand over service to his replacement appointed in accordance with the provision of section 103 (below) without waiting for the installation of his successor.  Where the mayor or deputy mayor refuses to resign, the minister in charge of regional and local authorities shall suspend him by order for a period determined by the said minister. His duties shall be terminated by decree of the president of the republic.

Section 106(1) the provisions of section 94 above, shall, among others, apply in case of the following malpractices:

  • Acts provided for and punishable under the law relating to the auditing of authorizing officers, managers and directors of public funds and of state enterprises.
  • Use of council funds for personal or private purposes (c) forgery as provided for under criminal laws: (d) misappropriation of public funds and corruption (e) speculation in the allocation or use of public lands and other moveable and immoveable property of the council and in the issuing of land parceling or demolition permit.   

(2) In the cases referred to above, administrative sanctions shall not bar legal proceedings to be instituted in accordance with the regulations in force.

Motombi and indeed, other deputy mayors before him and councilors are most likely to have been dismissed in clear breach of the law, if one were to go by the provisions of the legislation cited above. For example it turns out that for a mayor of deputy mayor to be said to have been effectively dismissed must be ultimately sanctioned by the president of the republic. This wasn’t the case with Motomby and others before him.

It is not also clear if the dismissed officials were first queried and suspended before letting the final act of dismissal to fall on them. It is not also not clear if the dismissed officials were first suspended for three months before their sack. More still, it is still hazy why none of the victims ever sought the protection of the law courts as prescribed in the texts quoted above.

What is imminent is that the dismissing party must have taken refuge under the same legislation under which the council budget could bypass the supervisory authority’s visa. The council budget is deemed to have been approved if after 15 days of its submission the supervisory authority stays mute. It is possible that Motomby and co may have been dismissed when the SDO failed to reply to the council’s application to so do after 15 days which is most likely to be out of sync with appropriate texts.     

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