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Does court have power to set aside a registered declaration?

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OBA JACOB OYEROGBA OYEWOLE & ORS v. THE GOVERNOR OF OYO STATE & ORS

CITATION: (2020) LPELR-50387 (CA)

In the Court of Appeal
In the Ibadan Judicial Division
Holden at Ibadan

ON FRIDAY, 24TH JULY, 2020
Suit No: CA/IB/307/2012

Before Their Lordships:
JIMI OLUKAYODE BADA Justice, Court of Appeal
HARUNA SIMON TSAMMANI Justice, Court of Appeal
FOLASADE AYODEJI OJO Justice, Court of Appeal

Between
1. OBA JACOB OYEROGBA OYEWOLE
(THE OLU OF IGBOORA LAND)
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF OTAOBOLA RULING HOUSE)
2. ALHAJI JIMOH KOLAWOLE BELLO
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF AYERIMINA FAMILY)
3. PRINCE OLUSEGUN OLANREWAJU
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF AJIBONA RULING HOUSE)
4. DEACON JOSEPH OYELEKE OYEDIRAN
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF AJAYI RULING HOUSE)
5. PRINCE USMAN SALMON
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF AWAYEETI RULING HOUSE) -Appellant(s)
And
1. THE GOVERNOR OF OYO STATE
2. ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF OYO STATE & COMMISSIONER FOR JUSTICE
3. COMMISSIONER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND CHIEFTAINCY AFFAIRS
4. SECRETARY TO IBARAPA CENTRAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF OYO STATE
5. MR. TITILOYE BAMIGBOSE
(FOR HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF ASORO-OLU FAMILY) – Respondent(s)

LEADING JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY FOLASADE AYODEJI OJO, J.C.A.
FACTS
This appeal is against the ruling of the High Court of Oyo State sitting in Ibadan.The appellant’s case before the High Court was that the Olu of Igboora (formerly titled Baale of Igboora) is a recognised ruling house in Ibarapa Central Local Government of Oyo State to which Part II of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State applies. That in 1957 the Chieftaincy Committee of the then Ibarapa District Council made a Declaration of Customary Law to regulate the nomination and selection of the then Baale of Igboora (now Olu) Chieftaincy which declaration was approved by the Minister of Local Government, Western Region of Nigeria on 25/11/1958. That the declaration recognized only four (4) ruling quarters in Igboora to wit: Agbojojoye, Erubama, Atambala and Ajayi.

They alleged further that the 1957 declaration was flawed and inaccurate for the reasons that it omitted the Omibale Awayeeti ruling house from the Igboora Chieftaincy and failed to resolve the issue of the identity of the common ancestor of the people of Igboora being a crucial factor in determining the legitimacy or otherwise of any claims for recognition as a ruling house in Igboora.

They claimed that in 1976 following a review of the existing Chieftaincy Declaration in Oyo State, the then Military Government set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Chairmanship of Hon. Ademola Adenekan to conduct an inquiry into all the recognized Chieftaincies in the State and suggest guidelines for effecting necessary changes. At the end of the day, the Commission of Inquiry submitted a report which was modified and approved by the government but which remained unregistered since 1976.

They stressed that the Hon. Justice Ademola Adenekan report rather than rectify the glaring inaccuracies of the 1957 declaration created further disaffection and uncertainty in the Chieftaincy, Customs and Traditions of Igboora people and that the Agoro-Olu Family (5th respondent) took undue advantage of the lacuna contained in both documents by inventing a fabricated version of Igboora history, custom and tradition to secure their illegitimate claim to be a ruling house in Igboora.

The appellants further contended that the registration of the 1976 Hon. Justice Adenekan Ademola report if allowed would violate the contemporary customary practices and create an unnecessary tension and acrimony within Igboora Community.

In response, the 5th respondent who was the 5th defendant before the High Court filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection. The grounds of the Preliminary Objection were as follows:
i. The basis of the claim of the claimants arose in 1977.
ii. The claimants’ claim is caught by Statute of Limitation Law of Oyo State, 1978, Edict No. 3 of 1989 and Laws of Oyo State, 2000.
iii. The 2nd – 5th claimants have no locus standi to institute this action, there being no Ruling Houses outside Atambala and Asoro-Olu Ayinla recognised by the government and
iv. The action is caught by Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Law, Law of Oyo State, 2000.

The 1st claimant filed an affidavit that he did not give his consent to the action instituted by the 2nd – 5th Claimants. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Claimants filed separate counter affidavits to the 5th Defendants’ Preliminary Objection.

The Preliminary Objection was argued and upon a consideration of the Affidavits and Written Addresses of Counsel, the trial judge in a Ruling delivered on 30/4/2010 struck out the Appellants’ suit for want of jurisdiction.Dissatisfied with the ruling of the lower Court, the Appellants filed the instant appeal.

Issues for determination
The Court determined the appeal on the following issues:
1. Was the trial Court right when it held the Appellants lack the requisite locus to institute this action?
2. Was the trial Court right when after considering the decision of the Supreme Court in Military Governor of Ekiti State vs. Aladeyelu (2007) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1055) pg 619 still proceeded to decline jurisdiction over the Appellants suit.
3. Was the trial Court right when it held that the appellant’s suit is caught by Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Laws of Oyo State.
4. Was the trial Court right when it relied on Sections 10 and 25 of the Chiefs Law Cap 28 Laws of Oyo State to decline jurisdiction over the Appellants suit.

Appellants’ submissions
On issue 1, counsel to the appellants submitted that the High Court’s finding on locus standi at its very best apply only to the 2nd to 5th Appellants but not to the 1st Appellant. He contended that the High Court by its decision striking out the entire suit shut out the 1st Appellant from ventilating his grievances and thus violated his constitutional right as enshrined in Section 6(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. He relied on the cases of BUHARI & ORS VS. HADDY SMART (NIG.) LTD. & ANOR. (2010) WRN 10; AKANNI VS. OLANIYAN (2007) ALL FWLR (PT. 380) 1534 AT 1547 to support his submission.

He also contended that Section 18 of the Limitation Law of Oyo State which the trial Court relied on to find that the Appellants action was brought outside the 5 years period allowed by that law is a law of general application and does not deal specifically with issues of Chieftaincy. He submitted that it is the Chiefs Law of Oyo State that applies to their case. See SCHROEDER VS. MAJOY (1989) 2 NWLR (PT. 101) PG. 1 AT 21.Counsel emphasized that the issue of Limitation Law does not arise at all because the Appellants commenced their action two years after the 5th Respondent began his attempt to register the 1978 Adenekan report.

On issue 2, Counsel submitted that the facts and legal principles in this appeal are on all fours with that in the Supreme Court case of MILITARY GOVERNOR, EKITI STATE VS. ALADEYELU (2007) 14 NWLR (PT. 1055) PG. 619 in that in both cases attempt was made to register a Chieftaincy Declaration and the defence of limitation was raised in both instances. He argued the High Court came to a wrong conclusion when it distinguished the case at hand from that of MILITARY GOVERNOR, EKITI STATE VS. ALADEYELU (SUPRA), which the High Court was bound to follow in line with the doctrine of stare decisis. He relied on the cases of OWONYIN VS. OMOTOSHO (1961) 1 ALL NLR PG. 304.

On issue 3, Counsel submitted that the High Court erred when it extended the protection offered by Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Law of Oyo State to the 1st to 4th Respondents. He argued that the 1st to 4th Respondents are not Public Officers. He submitted further that even if they are Public Officers, Section 2 would still not be applicable to them. He contended that there must have been an act carried out by a Public Officer in his capacity as such before Section 2 can apply. CitingSOLGRAVE HOLDINGS INC. VS.FGN (2012) 17 NWLR (PT. 1329) PAGE. 309 AT 335. Finally, he submitted the Public Officers Protection law of Oyo State Cap. 106, Laws of Oyo State 2000 is no longer an existing law having been repealed by Section 27 of the State Proceedings Law Cap. 156, Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000.

Respondents’ submissions
Arguing the 1st issue, Counsel to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents submitted there is no ruling house known as Ayerinima ruling house, Ajibona ruling house and Awayeeti Ruling House within Igboora Chieftaincy Declaration and that the 1st Appellant who has the locus to sue did not consent to the action before the High Court.Counsel to the 5th Respondent argued that the Appellants right to maintain the action before the High Court had been extinguished by the Limitation Law. He submitted the Appellants lacked locus standi because they are not part of the Chieftaincy family recognized by the registered Declaration.

On the 2nd issue, counsel to the 5th respondent andthat of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents submitted that the High Court was right when it distinguished the case of MILITARY GOVERNOR, EKITI STATE VS. ALADEYELU (SUPRA) from the facts and circumstances of the case. He submitted the challenge in ALADEYELU case was made within 2 months of the registration of the Chieftaincy Declaration unlike the instant situation.

On issue 3, counsel to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents submitted that the Public Officers Protection law of Oyo State Cap. 106, Laws of Oyo State 2000 has not been abrogated and that Section 27 of the State Proceedings Law Cap 156 Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria relied on by Appellants’ Counsel repealed only Cap 88 and Cap 106 of the 1978 Laws of Oyo State and not of that of 2000. Counsel to the 5th Respondent on his part argued that the Appellants’ suit is statute barred same having been filed outside 3 months of the accrual of the cause of action in contravention of Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Law of Oyo State. CitingIBRAHIM VS.JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMITTEE, KADUNA STATE & ANOR.(1998) 14 NWLR (PT. 584) PG. 1.

Resolution of the issues
Resolving the 1st issue, the Court held that the Appellants lacked the locus standi to institute the action because the 2nd to 5th appellants family are not recognized as ruling houses in Igboora entitled to the Olu of Igboora Chieftaincy. Furthermore, they are not by the 1957 Declaration recognized as Ruling Houses in Igboora and therefore have no right to maintain the action. Going further, the Court held that since the 1st Appellant filed an affidavit indicating that he did not give his consent to the institution of the suit, he also did not have any locus standi to institute the action.

Resolving the 2nd issue, the Court held that the High Court was right when after a consideration of the Supreme Court decision in MILITARY ADMINISTRATOR, EKITI STATE & ORS VS. ALADEYELU & ORS (2007) 14 NWLR (PT. 1055) pg. 619 proceeded to decline jurisdiction over the Appellants’ suit. This is because in the Aladeyelu case, the action was instituted within a period less than three (3) months after the cause of action accrued to the Respondents in line with Section 2 of the Public Officers (Protection) Law of Ekiti State unlike in the instant case. The doctrine of stare decisis therefore did not apply.

On issue 3, the Court defined Public Officer as any person directly employed in government, public service, civil service or any public agency. Relying on OKOMU OIL PALM CO. VS.ISERHIENRHIEN, (2001) 6 NWLR (PT. 710) PG. 660 and EZE VS.OKECHUKWU (2002) 18 NWLR (PT. 799) PG. 348. Applying the forgoing to the instant case, the Court held that the 1st – 4th Respondents are Public Officers. That by virtue of the 1st – 4th Respondents being Public Officers, the Court held that the suit at the High Court was statute barred because the cause of action arose originally in the year 1957. However, in respect of the 5th respondent’s attempt to register the Hon. Justice Adenekan Ademola’s amended Chieftaincy Declaration in August 2009, the cause of action accrued in August 2009.

Thus, the action which was filed on 01/11/2011 was filed outside the three months mandatory/maximum period to institute an action against the 1st to 4th Respondents as dictated by Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Law Cap 137 Laws of Oyo State 2000.

On whether the Public Officers Protection Law of Oyo State has been repealed by Section 27 of the State Proceedings Law Cap 156 Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, the Court held that the law repealed by Section 27 of the State Proceedings Law (supra) is the Public Officers Protection Law Cap 106 Laws of Oyo State. The extant law is the Public Officers Protection Law Cap. 137 Laws of Oyo State 2000, which has not been repealed.

Resolving issue 4, the Court held that what the Appellants sought by their suit is for the 1st to 4th Respondents to set up a Commission of Inquiry to amend or abrogate the existing Chieftaincy Declaration in respect of Baale of Igboora Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957 which recognized only four (4) Ruling Houses. As such, the Appellants had a duty to comply with the law governing the setting up of such Commission of Inquiry as provided for in Sections 10 and 25(1) of the Chiefs Law Cap 28, Laws of Oyo State 2000 and the High Court had a duty to take judicial notice of the law. Citing CHIEF ISRAEL ARIBISALA & ANOR. VS. TALABI OGUNYEMI &ORS. (2005) 6 NWLR (PT. 921) 212 AT 231 PARAS F – H, 232 PARAGRAPHS A – B.Thus, the Court held that the Appellants’ arguments relating to accessory and main claim go to no issue. The same goes for his argument that the High Court raised and/or acted Suomotu without inviting parties to address it on the issue of setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to amend or abrogate the existing Chieftaincy Declaration which recognized four (4) Ruling Houses in respect of the Baale of Igboora stool. The Court also held that the High Court was right when it relied on Sections 10 and 25 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State to decline jurisdiction.

HELD
The court resolved all the issues against the Appellant and dismissed the appeal.
Appearances
S.S. Akinyele with him, A. O. Alabi – for appellants
And Babatunde Afolabi
Adegboyega Salawu, Chief State Counsel, -for 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents
Oyo State Ministry of Justice
P. N. Patrick holding the Brief of B. R. Omotosho – for 4th respondent
Kazeem A. Gbadamosi with him, -for 5th respondent
Ibrahim Kareem-Ojo and Omolara Odeniyi
Compiled by LawPavilion.


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